The Real Deal: Seven nights' accommodations, guided sightseeing tours, hiking, and kayaking from $1,890 per person—including taxes and fees.
When: Depart June 8, July 6, Aug. 17, Sept. 14, 28, Oct. 12, 2008.
The fine print: The $1,890 price reflects a local payment of $195 (Can. $200) to be paid to your tour leader in cash on the day of your arrival. Hotel taxes and service charges, breakfast daily, one lunch and one dinner, transportation by minibus, and the services of tour guides are included. Guided walking city tours, nature hikes, and kayaking are also part of the package. Prices are per person, and there is no single supplement; solo travelers will be matched with a roommate. Adventure Center also recommends that you have access to an additional $200 for emergencies. Travel insurance is mandatory and can be purchased from USI Travel Insurance Services through Adventure Center for $6 per day. Average group size is nine; trips are limited to 14 people. To book the trip, use the code NCQH. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Adventure Center, 800/228-8747, adventurecenter.com.
Why it's a deal: For comparison purposes, rates at the Auberge l'Autre Jardin, where you'll stay during the trip, start at $110 per person from May 1 to June 30 and Sept. 1 to Oct. 15; and to $115 per person from July 1 to Aug. 31. This works out to about $770-$805 per person for seven nights. For roughly an additional $1,100, the Adventure Center package covers the seven-night stay as well as local transportation by minibus, guided city tours, hikes, kayaking, and one lunch and one dinner—plus the time-saving convenience of one-stop shopping.
Trip details: The Quebec Hike and Kayak package includes seven nights' accommodations at a variety of hotels chosen by Adventure Center. The trip begins and ends in Quebec City, with an overnight stay in the St.-Roch neighborhood, a short walk from the historic center, at the Auberge l'Autre Jardin, whose 27 cozy rooms are decorated in earth tones.
A guided sightseeing tour of Old Quebec will fill you in on the rich and varied neighborhoods and a history that dates back 400 years. You'll stroll to urban parks and occasionally perform a series of exercises, such as stretching and speed walking, to get your body ready for the upcoming hike.
The next morning you'll set out by bus (for about an hour and ten minutes) to Baie-Saint-Paul on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River in the Charlevoix region. You'll stop along the way at historic Montmorency Falls and Canyon Ste.-Anne, where you can go on an optional zip-line ride (U.S. $19-$78/ Can. $20-80).
From Baie-St.-Paul, you'll drive about 45 minutes to Parc national des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivia re-Malbie, home to deep valleys formed some 12,000 years ago, in mountains that tower over the Malbaie River. Before a 40-minute drive to La Malbaie, a riverside community that dates back to the 17th century, you'll have the option of joining the guides on a strenuous hike to the Acropolis des Draveurs summit (included in the package price) or to take a walk along the Malbaie River.
Next on the itinerary is Tadoussac, located at the mouth of the Saguenay Fjord, about an hour's drive from La Malbaie. You'll visit the Marine Mammals Interpretation Center, the sand dunes, and the fjord.
Then drive about 20 minutes to Les Bergeronnes for a daylong kayak expedition accompanied by professional guides. This area of the St. Lawrence River is known for whales, and if you're lucky, you might catch a close-up glimpse of beluga, minke, fin, humpback, or blue whales. You can also join an optional Zodiac whale-watching cruise (U.S. $63/Can. $65).
An early morning shuttle will take you from Tadoussac to the trailhead in Saguenay St. Lawrence Marine Park on the north shore of the fjord. You'll join the trail and hike back to Tadoussac, enjoying spectacular views of the area.
From Tadoussac, you'll drive about three hours back to Quebec City, stopping along the way at Café Chez Nous in the charming town of La Malbaie. You'll be free to explore Quebec City for the remainder of the day before joining your group for a farewell dinner.
Please note that Adventure Center works with a network of local hotels and that the specific properties are subject to change until close to the departure date. (The hotels are not the selling point for this particular trip.)
Summers in Quebec are warm and sunny, with temperature highs in the upper 70s Fahrenheit, dropping to about 50-55 at night—so bring a few long-sleeve shirts and pants in addition to your summer gear. Before you go, check the weather forecast.
Getting there: According to a recent Kayak search, the lowest round-trip fares to Quebec City, departing on June 8 and returning on June 15, are $561 from Chicago (Continental), $561 from L.A. (Air Canada), $576 from D.C. (Continental), $577 from New York City (Continental), $671 from Seattle (Continental), $784 from Houston (Continental), and $802 from Miami (multiple carriers).