Grand Tour of Madeira, the Pearl of the Atlantic

Grand Tour of Madeira, the Pearl of the Atlantic

20 Views
12 Days
From

$3312

Grand Tour of Madeira, the Pearl of the Atlantic

12 Days

Visiting: Portugal

Tour operator:

Riviera Travel

Tour code:

MDM6

From:
$3312 (USD) including Flights from the UK

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Tour Overview

Just 600 miles southwest of Lisbon is the subtropical paradise island of Madeira. It captures the heart of all who visit - even the difficult-to-please Winston Churchill was seduced by its charms!  

Alongside learning more about the culture and history of this Portuguese island, we'll uncover its enormous diversity - from imported, purple-blossomed jacaranda trees, orchids and bird of paradise plants to its native Laurisilva forest. This really is a plant lover's dream, with fertile volcanic soil and beautiful landscapes. 

We stay in picturesque Funchal which boasts architectural charm and a rich maritime heritage rivalling the island's natural splendour. This holiday is ideal for those who want to see more of Madeira with plenty of time for relaxation. 

Highlights

  • Guided walking tour of the old town of picturesque Funchal, often called ‘Little Lisbon’

  • Enjoy a tasting of the delicious and world-famous Madeira wines

  • Visit to the beautiful Palheiro Gardens, featured in The Gardener’s Garden showcasing a collection of inspirational gardens

  • Visit to the mysterious Curral das Freiras or the 'Valley of the Nuns', and see why this was the ideal sanctuary for a convent of nuns

  • Visit to Câmara de Lobos, the inspiration for some of Sir Winston Churchill’s paintings

  • Guided visit of superb Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, where local flora species thrive alongside exotic blooms

  • Discover the eastern coast, seeing Ponta do Rosto the easternmost point

  • the UNESCO-listed Ribeiro Frio forest park

  • and Pico do Arieiro, Madeira’s third highest peak with astonishing views

  • Explore the western area of the island, including Cabo Girão, Europe’s highest cape at 580m

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Itinerary

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Day 1

Arrival in Funchal

Our adventure in Madeira starts with a flight to Funchal Airport. On arrival, we'll transfer to our hotel, where we stay for 11 nights. Starting our holiday as we mean to go on, tonight we’ll enjoy our first Signature experience.

Spend time settling into your hotel before joining your fellow explorers on the hotel's terrace. Here, we’ll enjoy an aperitif and canapés as you soak up views of the intoxicating turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Signature experience:

Spend time settling into your hotel before joining your fellow explorers on the hotel's terrace. Here, we’ll enjoy an aperitif and canapés as you soak up views of the intoxicating turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Day 2

Guided tour of Funchal

After breakfast, we'll follow a local guide on a walking tour of the historic centre of Funchal. Often called 'Little Lisbon’, as it overlooks a spectacular harbour and boasts grand 18th-century buildings with shaded courtyards, we'll explore the narrow streets that wind through the centre as they broaden out into lively squares and tree-lined walkways.  

Our guide will point out Funchal's highlights, including the Igreja do Colégio, a deceptive church with a plain exterior that hides its intricately decorated Baroque interior. The historical and artistic heritage on display here is virtually priceless, but it's not the island's main religious building - that honour falls to the 15th-century Sé cathedral, one of the few buildings dating from colonial times. With imposing arches and ornate gold-framed paintings - as well as a Mudéjar style ceiling made entirely from local wood - it's one of Portugal's most beautiful. 

Devotees of modern architecture will love the Art Deco Mercado dos Lavradores or farmers’ market, a hive of activity as shoppers fill their baskets with the island’s sun-ripened produce. Look out for the patterned pavements, typically Portuguese and painstakingly pieced by hand, and for the colourful street art on the doors of buildings. 

Madeira wine

Next up is a real treat: a tasting of the island’s best-known export, Madeira wine. The process of heating the wine originated by accident when 16th-century sailors discovered that wines picked up in Madeira tasted richer after the casks had been heated and cooled during passage through the Tropics.  

Today, the styles of this fortified wine range from dry to lusciously sweet. You might be more familiar with the more medium, Verdelho, which is the variety we Brits traditionally serve with the crumbly sponge cake named after the wine.

Included experience:

Guided walking tour of Funchal and a tasting of Madeiran wine.

Day 3

Cabo Girão

Today we'll venture out to the western side of the island. Our first stop is Cabo Girão, not only is it the island's highest sea cliff, but it's also the highest cape in Europe with a sheer drop of 1,980 feet. The awe-inspiring transparent platform which extends over the cliff edge offers incredible views of the Madeira coastline, Funchal and the town of Câmara de Lobos. It's truly exhilarating.

Ribeira Brava

Next, we'll visit the charming Ribeira Brava, a small town set in a steep valley carved out by the ‘wild river’ that gives the settlement its name. Here, we’ll stop to visit the 16th-century church of São Bento with its giant crystal chandeliers.

Porto Moniz

Madeira’s tropical climate is perfect for growing bananas and in the fishing village of Madalena do Mar, you can take a short walk through the banana plantation, where work is still carried out by hand. Turning inland, we ascend nearly 5,000 feet to the flattest part of the island, Paúl da Serra plateau. In the distance, you might spot Porto Moniz, located at Madeira’s northwestern tip - it's our next destination. 

Remarkable enough for its edge-of-the-world feeling, Porto Moniz is also blessed with natural saltwater pools formed from solidified volcanic rock and replenished by the waves as they break against the rocks. It’s the perfect place to stop, gaze out over the waves and drink in the invigorating ocean air from the terrace of a café or restaurant. 

Bridal Veil Waterfall

We’ll head back along the northern coastal route via the village of Seixall to see one of Madeira’s most famous waterfalls – the Bridal Veil – which cascades down the side of the mountain into the sea.

São Vicente

Our final stop is São Vicente, a village nestling in a deep verdant valley and believed to be the volcanic birthplace of the island. It's home to a distinctive black-and-white church, scenic houses and a network of caves – all adding to its reputation as one of Madeira’s loveliest settlements. Keep your eye out for the tiny 17th-century chapel located on a giant basalt outcrop on the shore here.

Then, after a day exploring, it’ll be time to return to our hotel.

Included experience:

Visit Cabo Girão, Ribeira Brava, and São Vicente.

Day 4

Free day in Funchal

Today is yours to spend at leisure in Funchal and the surrounding area.  

You could go in search of Funchal’s traditional craft shops and browse their artisan tiles, wickerwork and embroidery for a truly authentic souvenir. Or perhaps, stroll along the Lido promenade and stop for a seafood lunch.  

For art lovers, the Sacred Art Museum is located in the 17th-century former bishop’s palace. It houses one of the finest collections of religious art in the world, commissioned for their local churches by wealthy Madeiran merchants seeking salvation. Among the works are masterpieces by influential 15th- and 16th-century Flemish painters, such as Pieter Coeck van Aalst.

Day 5

Monte

We'll ascend to Monte by cable car, looking out over the green spaces and terracotta-coloured roofs of Funchal and out to sea. Our destination is Monte Palace Tropical Gardens where we’ll enjoy a guided tour before free time to wander at leisure. These oriental gardens are exquisite, complete with Asian-style bridges, arches and a pond filled with koi carp; they also house a historic tile collection gathered from Portuguese palaces, churches and private residences.

Free afternoon

This afternoon, we'll return to Funchal by cable car, and spend the rest of the day at leisure exploring the city or you may wish to return to the hotel by coach.

Included experience:

Cable car ride and visit to Monte Palace Tropical Garden.

Day 6

Curral das Freiras

Our morning begins with a short drive north to Madeira’s dramatic interior and the Curral das Freiras or Valley of the Nuns. To appreciate the solitude of this place, we'll drive to Eira do Serrado, over 3,500 feet above sea level, part of a natural cauldron of jagged peaks and chasms, with time to soak up the glorious views down to the village of Curral das Freiras itself. 

Descending towards the village, you can see why, in 1566, the nuns of Funchal’s Santa Clara convent relocated to this almost inaccessible valley to flee a pirate attack. Today, it is also known for the sweet chestnuts cultivated on its terraced hillsides – try to sample some, we’re sure you’ll enjoy these tasty treats. It even hosts an annual festival celebrating this versatile nut, used in products from cakes to soups to liqueurs. 

Free afternoon

This afternoon is yours to spend at leisure. You could relax by the pool which overlooks the brilliant blue of the sea below, maybe settle down with that book you've been meaning to read or just enjoy the Portuguese sunshine. Alternatively, you could continue to explore Funchal.

Included experience:

Visit to Curral das Freiras.

Day 7

Câmara de Lobos

Our morning begins with a short drive to Câmara de Lobos, a fishing village built around a bay with Europe’s highest cliffs forming a breathtaking backdrop. Winston Churchill stayed here to paint the harbour during his visit to Madeira in 1950 and was no doubt inspired by its location, the colourful boats and the whitewashed buildings with distinctive terracotta roofs. 

Câmara de Lobos is still a working port, with boats pulled up onto the beach after night fishing for the local black scabbard fish known as espada. It’s a charming village to saunter, exploring the cobbled streets and visiting the simple Saint Anthony’s Chapel, where fishermen’s wives traditionally said prayers for their husband's safe return. 

Or you can relax in a harbour café enjoying lunch with a glass of poncha, an elixir of sugar cane spirit, honey and lemon juice enjoyed by the fishermen returning to land their catch in the morning – and said to cure the common cold! 

This afternoon, we’ll enjoy another Signature experience with a visit to Fajã dos Padres.

Fajã dos Padres

This afternoon, we'll visit Fajã dos Padres, a unique location in Madeira which is often described as Madeira's Eden. Descend to the pebble beach of this narrow strip of land by cable car with views of the sea and turquoise waters that are clear enough to see to the bottom. The area's tropical fruit trees - mango, banana and avocado trees - provide lush natural beauty all year round. On our visit, we'll take a guided tour of the organic plantations and taste the delicious produce grown here.

Included experience:

Visit to Câmara de Lobos.

Signature experience:

This afternoon, we'll visit Fajã dos Padres, a unique location in Madeira which is often described as Madeira's Eden. Descend to the pebble beach of this narrow strip of land by cable car with views of the sea and turquoise waters that are clear enough to see to the bottom. The area's tropical fruit trees - mango, banana and avocado trees - provide lush natural beauty all year round. On our visit, we'll take a guided tour of the organic plantations and taste the delicious produce grown here.

Day 8

Palheiro Gardens

This morning, we'll visit the Palheiro Gardens, world famous for its variety of flora and its beautiful setting in the hills overlooking Funchal. Palheiro was laid out in the early 19th century by a French landscape architect for the Count of Carvalhal before being acquired in the early 20th century by the Blandy family, famous wine producers.  

Over the next decades, the gardens were populated with thousands of plants from around the world, from North American sequoia trees to South African proteas, all flourishing in Madeira’s rich soils and clement weather. This is a blissful place to explore at your leisure, taking in all the colours and fragrances, with plenty of time to linger when a particular specimen catches your eye. 

Free afternoon

The rest of the afternoon is free to explore at leisure.

Included experience:

Visit to Palheiro Gardens.

Day 9

Free time

Today is free for you to relax and explore Funchal and Madeira at leisure.  

This afternoon, we’ll gather for our next Signature experience: afternoon tea at Reid’s Palace.

Signature experience:

Enjoy an afternoon of luxury and nostalgia at Reid's Palace. This iconic luxury hotel has been welcoming guests for 130 years and its setting, in beautiful subtropical gardens overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, is magnificent. Here we'll indulge in a delicious afternoon tea - freshly baked scones, dainty sandwiches and mouth-watering cakes and pastries are all served with your choice of the Reids signature blend tea or coffee.

Day 10

Porto da Cruz

Today we'll explore the east coast, passing diverse landscapes from craggy coastlines to ancient forests. Ponta do Rosto is Madeira’s easternmost point, on a sliver of land jutting out into the Atlantic and offers dazzling panoramas. On clear days, the island of Porto Santo shimmers in the distance. 

Following the northern coast, we'll call at sleepy Porto da Cruz, named after a large cross, displayed to identify it to passing sailors. Dominated by the sheer-sided Penha d’Aguia or Eagle Rock, this 16th-century parish is renowned for producing sugar cane spirit and a dry red wine made from the Americana grape.

Santana

We'll leave the village and track the coastline, where, incredibly, every patch of land is farmed to provide food for its isolated communities. There’s further proof of Madeirans’ capacity for self-sufficiency in Santana, a town notable for its A-frame thatched houses. 

Made from stone, wood and anything else to hand, they have brightly painted doors and windows and each sits on its own plot of land used to grow food. As you enjoy a stroll around these well-preserved 16th-century dwellings, you get a sense of what it was like to live here when villagers relied solely on their own toil for survival. We’ll enjoy our Signature lunch here before continuing to Ribeiro Frio. 

Ribeiro Frio National Park

After a delicious lunch at a local winery - today’s our Signature experience - we'll head towards the mountainous interior and one of the highlights of the tour – the UNESCO-listed Ribeiro Frio National Park. Around 90 per cent of the park is covered by ancient Laurisilva or laurel trees, and the area features much endemic flora and fauna, such as ferns and the trocaz pigeon. 

The region also plays a vital role in Madeira’s ecosystem, as moisture captured by the trees feeds into a 1,355-mile network of channels that distribute water across the island for drinking, agriculture and hydroelectric power.  

Ascending slopes cloaked in fragrant eucalyptus and swirling mists, we emerge at Pico do Arieiro, Madeira’s third-highest mountain at 5,930 feet. Here, above the treeline and sometimes even higher than the clouds, the vistas are some of the most memorable you’ll ever see. You may even spot the Valley of the Nuns way below. On clear days almost all of Madeira is visible, including its highest summit – the 6,100-foot Pico Ruivo.

Included experience:

Visits to Ponta do Rosto, Porto da Cruz and Ribeiro Frio National Park.

Signature experience:

At a renowned island winery discover the remarkable hillside terraces, overlooking the Atlantic and taste a selection of superb wines. Then take in more glorious views over lunch as we dine on typical Madeiran cuisine at the winery.

Day 11

Funchal Botanical Gardens

Mardeira's brilliant blooms, will enjoy our visit to the Madeira Botanical Gardens today. 

First planned in the 18th century, and finally created in 1960, the botanical gardens in Funchal are synonymous with Madeira. With over 2000 exotic plants from all continents set within five different landscaped areas, it is a must-see. Here we'll enjoy time to peruse the orchids, lawns and ornamental shrubs on display but even if plants aren't your thing, the views over Madeira and the amphitheatre are still well worth the visit.  

This afternoon, we’ll head to Quinta do Largo for our next Signature experience.

Quinta do Lago

This afternoon, we'll visit Quinta do Lago situated on one of the hills surrounding Funchal, just a mile from the city centre. The 18th-century manor-house-turned-hotel oozes colonial charm, but the real jewel in its crown is the extensive gardens. 

Built in the 18th century, it has been home to prominent French and English families, as well as the Commander of the English forces during the Napoleonic War, General Bersford. Now this historic manor house is a hotel surrounded by lush botanical gardens which we'll explore on a guided tour. We’ll see more than 600 varieties of plants, including rare species and ancient trees, before sitting down to a glass of wine and a few delicious canapés. While we're relaxing in this picturesque setting, keep a lookout for Colombo, the beloved giant tortoise that has lived on the property for almost 50 years. 

Included experience: 

Visit the Funchal Botanical Gardens.

Signature experience:

This afternoon, we'll visit Quinta do Lago situated on one of the hills surrounding Funchal, just a mile from the city centre. The 18th-century manor-house-turned-hotel oozes colonial charm, but the real jewel in its crown is the extensive gardens.

Built in the 18th century, it has been home to prominent French and English families, as well as the Commander of the English forces during the Napoleonic War, General Bersford. Now this historic manor house is a hotel surrounded by lush botanical gardens which we'll explore on a guided tour. We’ll see more than 600 varieties of plants, including rare species and ancient trees, before sitting down to a glass of wine and a few delicious canapés. While we're relaxing in this picturesque setting, keep a lookout for Colombo, the beloved giant tortoise that has lived on the property for almost 50 years.  

Day 12

Return home

After a lovely holiday exploring Madeira, it's time to head to the airport for your flight home, returning the same day.

What's Included

  • The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Double sole occupancy rooms are available at the relevant supplement. The price includes: Return flights Seven nights' four-star superior;accommodation Daily breakfast and seven dinners Return transfers All touring as mentioned All local accommodation taxes The services of a Riviera Travel tour managerIncluded excursions are a guided walk of Funchal, visit and entrance to Palheiro Gardens, guided visit to Monte Palace tropical gardens and entrance to Monte church, wine tasting, visit and entrance to Ribeira Brava, visit to a banana plantation in Madalena, visit to Curral das Freiras and a visit to Câmara de Lobos.

  • The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Double sole occupancy rooms are available at the relevant supplement. The price includes:; Return flights; Eleven nights’ accommodation; Daily breakfast, dinner and 1 lunch at local restaurants; All local taxes and transfers; All tours & entrances as mentioned,; The services of a Riviera Travel Tour Manager;

Check out our Q&As

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    For almost 40 years

  • I have reduced mobility; can I still travel?

    We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to contact us to discuss these concerns

  • Do I require travel insurance?

    It is a condition of booking that you carry suitable travel insurance.

  • What is my luggage allowance?

    You will receive details of your luggage allowance with your final travel documents, which are sent approximately 10 days prior to your date of departure.

Reviews of this Operator

David Clarke (Google Reviewer)  

This review is for the...

08-Aug-2023

This review is for the italian Lake Como trip Aug 1-8 Wow what a trip. Riviera from start to finish were excellent the booking and help line answering questions were very good and clear. The travel booklet you get is laid out that it is simple to read and follow with step by step info from booking in to flights to meeting the guides. Our guide Matt Purse was just the best guide and real credit to Riviera with his knowledge and straight forward approach to running the trips. Matt kept us informed and told us all the sort of info you want to know without going over the top....This chap should teach other reps ..thank you so much. The coaches they use are all clean and well equipped with usb chargers and have aircon. The places chosen to visit were well researched even down to where coaches park or drop you off. The Bernina Express was the highlight for our family and matts photo tip was welcomed. The only down point was the hotel,a little dated and evening meal in main restuarant was a bit of a let down. I think we were lucky with our room on level 7 and with balcony as the walls are very thin and noise travels. We would book again with riviera

Barbara Shillaker (Google Reviewer)  

I have been on three...

11-Jan-2024

I have been on three trips with Riviera Travel so far, with two more booked during 2024. Highly recommended. Excellent tour guides. Great program of visits. Great hotels used.

Valerie Pascoe  

We would go again in a heartbeat

22-Jan-2022

Oh my goodness, what a relief it was to actually get away! Full marks to all at Riviera for keeping us up to date before our trip and for the help so cheerfully and patiently given with the extra admin that Covid brought our way. We felt totally safe with the measures taken on board, thank you very much for this. Without exception, Staff were fantastic and our every need was attended to. The additional Covid testing ran smoothly, organised by our Riviera Reps. The guided tours were most interesting: the guides very knowledgeable and more importantly, interesting to listen to. We loved this trip and would do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you again Riviera, you were FAB!

Chris Wilson (Google Reviewer)  

Second escorted tour with this...

25-Jul-2022

Second escorted tour with this company. Did 5 days in Iceland tour. Everything went smoothly, excellent tour guide, Per. Extremely knowledgeable and interesting guy. Very friendly too. Highly recommend. Just let down by the room given at the hotel, but I guess the travel company doesn't have control over this.

Kathryn Jurin, GB  

Riviera South Africa tour - awesome

21-May-2021

Riviera have amazing holidays and tours to choose from. The one we chose was South Africa and wow! It turned out to be our best trip ever - incredible memories we will never forget. We’ve been all over the world which was because of all our experiences, this one was awesome. The organisation of the holiday, the guide and the travel was e cells that. The choice of hotels, meals, restaurants, trips was absolutely fantastic - very good quality and character - nothing bland or boring! The Riviera guide was permanently with us along with a South Africa guide and they were both extremely friendly, professional, informative and you could ask any questions you want! I would massively recommend this holiday/trip and when you’ve experienced it, you realise how reasonable the price is. We reflect on this trip a lot and thank you Riviera for giving us such a wonderful experience.

Trustpilot
Barry, GB  

Rhine Christmas markets cruise

09-Dec-2019

Just completed a 5 day trip on the Rhine. Our first river cruise and a tester for future cruises. The boat was well appointed and the cabin and public areas were spotlessly clean. The staff were attentive and contributed to the very relaxed atmosphere on the boat. The quality of the food surpassed that which we have experiened on sea cruises in recent years. I have written little because it was a faultless experience. We have booked a further cruise (in France) on the basis of our experience.

Trustpilot
Joan Yarker (Google Reviewer)  

My first cruise and I...

23-Sep-2023

My first cruise and I couldn’t have done better than my recent Seine River cruise. Carmen the tour organiser was excellent and always willing to go the extra mile to sort out any problems. The crew were amazing , friendly and helpful, the captain was great when explaining the controls on the bridge. Everything was very clean, food truly delicious and the pianist a delight and I was able to indulge my passion for dancing. My fellow guests were a delight and I made many new friends. Thank you Riviera

Christine Hardy (Google Reviewer)  

Although most people seem to...

10-Mar-2024

Although most people seem to book and pay for their holidays online, because we live close by we prefer to make a personal visit. In my opinion if they are offering this as an option they should be better equipped to accommodate visits in person. We have not been on our river cruise yet, so can't comment on that yet.

Rob Steele (Google Reviewer)  

My 3rd Riviera trip within...

16-Feb-2024

My 3rd Riviera trip within a year and I wasn't disappointed 😁 This time it was https://www.rivieratravel.co.uk/escorted-tours/southern-india-coastal-route-solo-travellers This trip, although not cheap, it really offers exceptional value for money as you see a lot of Tamil Nadu and Kerela, stay in fantastic hotels, excellent breakfasts every day as well as some lunches and dinners also included. George Bareham, our "Tour Manager" was brilliant, very professional, but also friendly and diligent. Satheeshan, our local guide was helpful and picked me up antibiotics when I got ill, he was a nice chap, if (for my taste) went on a bit and used 20 words when 1 would suffice. Mr Sweeny, our coach driver was fantastic,really professional and an exceptionally good driver. His assistant, Murgon wad a delight, always smiling and attentive. This is a full on trip, early morning starts and quite a packed itinerary, but still leaving time to laze around some brilliant hotel swimming pools. Only a couple of suggestions to improve the holiday. More shopping time in Cochin and change carriers from Etihad who, unfortunately aren't the excellent airline they used to be. But, will I use Riviera Travel again - Yes 😁

Barbara Parkes (Google Reviewer)  

Presently in Croatia staying at...

22-Sep-2023

Presently in Croatia staying at Arauana Hotel, supposedly a 4 star property, but wouldn't give it any star rating. Rooms are small and dirty. Wallpaper blistering. Meals served in a shed like lean-to. Food like warm, greasy and always self service. Second holiday with Riviera this year and neither at standard advertised. Have travelled with them previously and everything was fine, but standards have really dropped. Have booked a holiday with them next year and now dreading it. Certainly don't provide the standard advertised. We have never stayed in such a hovel and have visited youngsters in back packers accommodation which was far better than this supposedly 4 star accommodation. There are no indoor bars or lounges only a shed as a so called restaurant. Absolutely disgusting. Won't be boking with them again

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Mar 24, 2025 - Apr 04, 2025
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Sep 22, 2025 - Oct 03, 2025
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Oct 09, 2025 - Oct 20, 2025
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Book with Confidence

  • Low Deposit

    Riviera Travel requires a minimum deposit of 200 GBP per person or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 75 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of riviera travel charges.

    Up to 75 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 74 days before tour starts: Forfeit 50% of booking price.

    At 60 days before tour starts: Forfeit 70% of booking price.

    At 30 days before tour starts: Forfeit 90% of booking price.

    At 14 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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