The 15 Best Tour Operators

When it comes to an itinerary, Travel + Leisure readers want more than a string of photo opportunities — and the right tour operator makes all the difference in creating a trip of a lifetime versus one that simply checks off a list of sights. This year, our readers were especially drawn to companies that utilize local expertise and experience to thoughtfully design trips that will entertain as well as inspire.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated tour operators and safari outfitters based on their staff and guides, itineraries and destinations, activities, accommodations, food, and overall value.

The top picks were noted for their deep knowledge of destinations and guides who “go the extra mile.” One reader who has been traveling for more than five decades said a trip with Classic Journeys (No. 2) was the “very best” they had experienced. Others noted attention to pandemic safety details, while one who went to Norway was charmed by a “wonderful surprise dinner in Bergen out on the water that was fantastic.”

Tour operators that seamlessly navigated the logistics of a trip also came out on top. Quasar Expeditions (No. 9) was noted “for really planning out every detail” so that “all you have to do is show up and have a great time.” Meanwhile, of TCS World Travel (No. 10), a guest said: “You never lift a finger and just spend your time actually exploring the destination.” They even added that they “learned so much” along the way.

Among the five companies on this year’s list that weren’t on last year’s were two women-only tour operators that cater to travelers of all ages. AdventureWomen (No. 14) has multiday tours designed by women from Bhutan to Yellowstone National Park, while Explorer Chick (No. 15) has everything from day trips — like glassblowing in Baltimore and cave rappelling in St. Louis — to full itineraries in Machu Picchu and the Galápagos. One reader said her Everest Base Camp trip with AdventureWomen was filled with “like-minded women” who “bonded so well,” while another said she felt it was a “safe tour group for women.”

No matter which tour they chose, readers were most taken by the people they met along the way, as one said of Trek Travel (No. 13): “By the end of the trip, a group of strangers felt like longtime friends.” Find out which other companies round out the list of the best tour operators below.

1. DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co.

DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co. bike tour in Mallorca.
Patitucci Photo/Courtesy of DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co.

A tour with DuVine goes far beyond just riding a bike — it’s a way to really see the character of a destination. Case in point: even those who say they’re not necessarily cycling fans have been converted. That’s part of what helped the tour operator — which runs trips in Europe, the U.S., Latin America, and Africa — skyrocket from No. 14 last year to this year’s top spot. Its “top-notch biking equipment” and “challenging but doable itineraries” didn’t hurt either. One reader was especially taken by a guide picking figs off of a local tree in Puglia for an extra energy boost during a tough climb, as well as another guide singing to the group after dinner. As another reader put it simply: “They exceed your expectations.”

Score: 99.12

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2. Classic Journeys

Classic Journeys guests visiting Cinque Terre, Italy.
Courtesy of Classic Journeys

Score: 99.04

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3. Artisans of Leisure

Artisans of Leisure touring Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt.
Courtesy of Artisans of Leisure

Score: 98.38

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4. (tie) Black Tomato

Black Tomato bespoke Blink set up in Jura.
Courtesy of Black Tomato

Score: 98.33

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4. (tie) GeoEx

GeoEx tour operator in Patagonia.
Courtesy of GeoEx

Score: 98.33

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4. (tie) Wilderness Travel

Wilderness Travel guest, hiking across bridge with prayer flags in Bhutan.
Courtesy of Wilderness Travel

Score: 98.33

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7. Inside Japan Tours

InsideJapan Tours visiting Nikko, Japan.
Courtesy of InsideJapan Tours

Score: 98.14

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8. Kensington Tours

Kensington Tours, driving over Sylvenstein Lake, Germany,.
Getty Images/Courtesy of Kensington Tours

Score: 98.03

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9. Quasar Expeditions

Quasar Expeditions trek Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile.
Courtesy of Quasar Expeditions

Score: 97.84

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10. TCS World Travel

TCS World Travel, touring Easter Island heads, Chile.
Courtesy of TCS World Travel

Score: 97.78

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11. Butterfield & Robinson

Butterfield & Robinson guest visiting Amalfi, Italy.
Courtesy of Butterfield & Robinson

Score: 97.33

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12. Tauck

Tauck guests touring Library of Celsus, in Ephesus building, Turkey.
Courtesy of Tauck

Score: 96.95

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13. Trek Travel

bike tours of New Mexico by Trek Travel.
Getty Images

Score: 96.90

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14. AdventureWomen

AdventureWomen touring Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.
Courtesy of AdventureWomen

Score: 96.11

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15. Explorer Chick

Emerald Pool above Vernal Falls; Yosemite visited by Explorer Chick.
Getty Images

Score: 95.87

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