Retracing Hoof Steps of the Pony Express

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Seek out Nevada treasures on a six-day prospecting tour May 14 visiting historic sites and scenic areas that retrace the footsteps of Pony Express riders in Nevada's heartland. Participants visit Stateline and Ely, and ride the "Ghost Train Old Ely." From a base in Wendover, Utah, the group will enter the Great Basin National Park and tour the Lehman Caves. Also seen: Bonneville Salt Flats, the area famous for land speed records.

Cost: $525 per person, double occupancy, including accommodations, round-trip motor-coach transportation from Los Angeles, four meals, attractions and gratuities. Contact: Main Street Tours, 1751 W. Torrance Blvd., Suite N, Torrance, CA 90501; telephone (800) 300-6246.

Let It Rain Forest

Join a professional biologist to the rain forests of Sumatra on three 14-day tours that leave July 1, Aug. 1 and Sept. 1. The Indonesian archipelago is home to the Sumatran tiger, sun bear and the Sumatran rhinoceros. The tour starts with two days of rest on the island of Bali. In Sumatra, participants will sail to the village of Kaur Gading where the trek begins. Over the next 10 days, the group will hike through deep rain forests, witness traditional dances and explore white sand beaches. At the Elephant Training Center, everyone learns to ride and care for their own elephant. Group size is limited to 12.

Cost: $2,595 per person, double occupancy, including accommodations, travel within Indonesia, most meals and guide. Not included: air fare to Indonesia. Contact: Natrabu Travel, 433 California St., Suite 630, San Francisco, CA 94104; tel. (800) 628-7228.

Black Forest Cycling

Cycle through the scenic wine regions of France and Germany Aug. 12 for nine days. Daily cycling distances of 38 or 50 miles along the Route du Vin in Alsace, France, which winds through medieval villages and vineyard-covered hillsides. On the German side of the border, the Badische Weinstrasse connects storybook villages along the historic trail of cuckoo-clock traders through the Black Forest. This is the land of the Black Forest cake and famous smoked ham. Two nights will be at the Relais & Chateaux Wehrle Hotel in Triberg. Hemingway stayed at this 17th-Century inn when he came to fish in the Black Forest in 1922.

Cost: $1,850 per person, including hotels, meals and a support vehicle. Not included: international air fare. Group size is limited to 20. Contact: Gerhard's Bicycle Odysseys, P.O. Box 757, Portland, OR 97207; tel. (503) 223-2402.

Good Greece

Two tours to Greece depart May 2 and Oct. 1. The May tour, called Pegasus, is 24 days and includes rarely visited sites, such as the villages of Zagorohoria, King Nestor's Palace at Pylos, Monemvasia at the southernmost tip of the mainland, plus several days on the islands of Crete, Rhodes and Symi. The Oct. 1 trip is a 20-day tour called Alexander, which explores the northern Greece province of Macedonia. All the sites associated with Alexander the Great are visited: Thessaloniki, Pella and Delphi. In addition, visits are made to Sparta and Byzantine Mystras and conclude with a four-day Aegean islands cruise.

Cost: $4,580 per person, double occupancy, for Pegasus, including round-trip air fare from New York, hotels, some meals and sightseeing. Cost for the Alexander tour starts at $4,390 with air from New York. Contact: Opa Tours, 9345 Glory Ave., Tujunga, CA 91042; tel. (800) 672-7155.

Treasure Hunt

Discover California treasures (architectural, cultural, culinary, historic and scenic) during an 11-day motor-coach tour to San Francisco, the Napa Valley, Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Mother Lode country and Yosemite National Park. Departing May 20, the "Golden State Treasure Trail" includes tickets to the Monet exhibit at the M.H. de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, the brand-new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and opening-day festivities of the 22nd annual Sacramento Jazz Jubilee. Unique dining experiences include an early California cuisine served in a 137-year-old San Juan Bautista adobe home, a Chinese banquet on Grant Avenue in San Francisco, an Italian feast, a traditional English-pub-style lunch, the "Forrest Buffet" atop Harrah's Lake Tahoe and a Basque dinner in Bakersfield. Guided tours with wine-tasting have been arranged at five Sonoma and Napa Valley wineries also noted for their art, architecture or history collections. In Sacramento, tour-goers will visit the State Capitol and Governor's Mansion, in addition to attending a choice of concerts by 100 jazz bands. Memorial Day will be spent traveling the '49ers trail from Placerville to Mariposa with free time for gold panning at Columbia State Historic Park. A two-hour tram tour is planned through Yosemite Valley to see waterfalls and blossoming dogwoods.

Cost: $1,245 per person, double occupancy, including motor-coach transportation from Los Angeles, hotels, 12 meals, admissions, sightseeing and tram tour. An Alcatraz Island tour, Lake Tahoe cruise and gourmet dinner at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite are optional. Contact: S.T.E.P. Inc. Tours, 6719 Abbottswood Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275; tel. (310) 377-1601.

Renaissance Revived

Three "Heart of Renaissance Italy" tours leave May 25-June 7, Sept. 14-27 and Oct. 5-18. Like the Renaissance, the tours begin in provincial Perugia and Siena and continue in the centers of Florence and Rome. Art historian Bruce Jonas will present a series of encounters with artistic masterpieces by Michelangelo, Botticelli and other artists who decorated the recently restored Sistine Chapel. Travelers see the Vatican and the Uffizi, as well as less-frequently visited sites, including the Ducal Palace in Urbino and Lorenzo de Medici's villa.

Cost: $3,679 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare from New York to Rome, hotels, most meals, ground transportation by coach and all museum admissions. Contact: Italian Art Ventures, P.O. Box 1036 Village Station, New York, NY 10014-0706; tel. (800) 482-5963.

Victory Tour

A 15-day tour to commemorate V-E Day, the World War II Allied victory in Europe, begins in London on May 6. Following London sightseeing, participants visit Duxford, a WWII Battle of Britain airfield to view historic aircraft, and Portsmouth to visit Gen. Eisenhower's headquarters and the D-day Museum.

A ferry crossing to France follows with visits to D-day beaches and the Memorial Museum at Caen; the town of Argentan and the Mont-Ormel Monument, where the last part of the Battle of Normandy was fought in 1944; Paris sightseeing; Reims, site of Eisenhower's headquarters in France; Epernay, and Champagne for Champagne tasting. The itinerary continues to Bastogne, Belgium, with a visit to the Battle of the Bulge Memorial; the Liberation Museum at Nijmegen, Holland; Remagen, Germany, to view its famous bridge, and a Rhine cruise.

Cost: $2,214 per person, including round-trip air from LAX, hotels, all breakfasts and some dinners, motor coach, baggage handling, hotel tips and service charges. Other departures are available through September. Contact: Bonar Travel, 24 Whitewater Drive, Corona del Mar, CA 92625; tel. (714) 640-7402.

Going on a Safari

A tented safari Sept. 12 through "Africa's last frontier" will explore Botswana's Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park, home to some of the largest elephant herds in the world. The 17-day safari of 14 participants will travel in safari vehicles with detachable roofs and sides and 12-volt video hookups for each seat. Also planned: a London stopover and two nights at the Mowana Lodge on the Chobe River for game walks and sunset cruises.

Cost: $2,882 per person, double occupancy, including hotels, ground transportation, some meals, guides and tours. Not included: international air fare. Contact: Acacia Travel, 4250 Pacific Highway, San Diego, CA 92110; tel. (800) 243-6996.

The Times is not responsible for changes in prices, dates or itineraries. These should be confirmed with travel agents or tour operators.

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