Rick Steves' Ideal Ireland Itinerary Hits All The Must-Visit Destinations

If anyone is qualified to curate the perfect, all-inclusive tour of Ireland, it's Rick Steves. The travel expert, author, and TV personality is a specialist when it comes to traversing Europe's diverse cityscapes and backcountry, and Ireland is no exception. According to Irish Central, Ireland is one of the world's top five best countries to visit, and for a good reason! With so many coveted cities and coastal escapes, it can be hard to squeeze in the best of this country in the short amount of vacation time we have to spend. Steve's personalized itinerary doesn't skip out on any of Ireland's trendy locations, crafty pubs, seaside cities, and charming historical sites. Kinsale, the Dingle peninsula, the Aran Islands, Galway, and Belfast are all part of this legendary 14-day excursion through the Irish countryside and picturesque coastlines.

The journey begins in the heart of Dublin, one of Ireland's most fascinating cities. From there, travelers will move through Killarney National Park to the northern tip of Ireland and ending in Belfast. This tour is available from Spring until Fall, so travelers can budget for the time of year that works best with their schedule. Spring and Fall tend to be the best times to travel to this nation, given the reduced crowds in the shoulder seasons. Yet, Steves recommends summer because of the longer daylight hours, allowing you to pack in all the best sights, tastes, and smells. Fortunately, the Irish landscape is captivating year-round, with a fresh canvas of wild, untamed wilderness to explore.

Dublin and Kinsale

What better introduction to Ireland than beginning in the nation's capital? Day one of this tour educates travelers about the history of Ireland, from Viking raids to British slavery. Of course, members still have plenty of time to wander the city on their own agenda, taking in the wonder of this vibrant town. If you want the expert's opinion, Steves recommends perusing iconic promenades like O'Connell Street, Temple Bar, and 14 Henrietta Street, as well as historic sites like the 700-year-old Dublin Castle and the Chester Beatty Library, which houses intricate artifacts from Asia and medieval Europe.

The five-hour bus ride from Dublin to Kinsale directs travelers through sweeping emerald plains and medieval ruins that form part of Ireland's ecclesiastical heritage. Upon arriving in Kinsale on Ireland's southeast coast, guests will be enamored at this town's colorful streets and breathtaking harbor. According to Steves, Kinsale is the culinary capital of Ireland, so indulging in some of the city's local favorites is a necessity. Jim Edwards and the Whitehouse are two of his favorites for seafood!

Killarney National Park and Dingle

The rugged mountains and glistening lakes of Killarney National Park might just be one of the most enamoring sights along the entire tour. Embracing 24,710 acres, this national park is home to Ireland's largest forests and has become a designated Biosphere Reserve. The Mossy Woods, Old Kenmare Road, and Derricunnihy Church are just a few of the gems nestled inside this sacred preserve.

Taking the famous Slea Head Drive (Steve's pick for the most beautiful road in Ireland), journey through some of Ireland's most photogenic landscapes in the Great Blasket Centre, leading to the Dingle Peninsula. Situated on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way, this remote stretch of paradise has been coined as "the most beautiful place on earth," according to National Geographic. Creative energy runs wild on this peninsula, and Holden Leather Goods is a local artisan favorite run by a local creative. Given its flourishing dairy industry, high-quality products like milk and ice cream are ubiquitous on this coastline. Murphey's Ice Cream, in particular, delivers some of the best ice cream you'll ever taste, crafted from local dairy cows native to the region.

Moher and the Burren

On the road to Galway, stop in County Clare to walk atop the towering Cliffs of Moher. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, these mesmerizing bluffs are coated in a rich layer of greenery that contrasts beautifully with the aquamarine seawater. The spectacular views are met with a thriving music scene in Ennis, the leading city of County Clare. Less than an hour from Ennis in County Clare, The Burren possesses an unparalleled diversity of flora and fauna, according to Steves. The topography houses several unique indigenous species and rocky moonscapes that support its bountiful ecosystem. With a limestone-heavy topography, locals in The Burren engage in what they call the "Winterage, ” where cattle are turned out to graze during the wintertime, encouraging them to prepare fresh soil and foliage for spring life to bloom. Like many cities in Ireland, the warm, hospitable culture of The Burren is complemented by a strong agriculture scene, with a particularly famous history of producing smoked salmon.

Galway and the Connemara Countryside

When visiting the Aran Islands in County Galway, Steves recommends heading straight to Inishmore, the largest of these islands that's home to iconic landmarks such as the ancient Celtic fortress, Dun Aengus and several enchanting castles. Just up the coast from the Aran Islands is the unspoiled scenic vista of the Connemara countryside. Located on the northwestern corner of county Galway, it's a region untouched by human hands, its natural beauty preserved over the centuries. Lakes, rivers, woodlands, and meadows coalesce on the vast, open landscape. Given its stunning organic scenery, this region is rich in outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, cycling, and horseback riding. It was also the filming site for "The Quiet Man" in 1951. Some of the highlights Steves guides travelers through are Ashford Castle, the town of Cong, and Westport in County Mayo. Heading north on the backend of this trip, wander through the lush seaside resort town of Portrush, which is home to sandy golden beaches as well as the famous Dunluce Castle.

The Antrim Coast and Belfast

Steve's Irish tour concludes along the Antrim Coast and Belfast. According to Steves, this region of Ireland is famous for it's captivating imagery and rugged beauty that's grabbed the attention of iconic news outlets. Old Bushmills Distillery is a must-visit when in this Irish county, as it's the oldest distillery in the world! The main highlight of this coastal region is the Giant's Causeway, a series of basalt columns formed by volcanic activity more than 60 million years ago. What better way to close out a well-traveled road trip than in the historic town of Belfast? Fun fact — this is also the town where the famous Titanic ship was built, and the Titanic Belfast tour is not one to be missed! With a lively arts scene, make sure to check out some of the city's most famous murals before sitting down to dinner or drinks in an authentic Irish pub. After a group dinner, the last day of the tour is left in the hands of guests. Strolling through St. George's Market or touring the sacred halls of Belfast Castle are just two of the town's most coveted attractions that won't disappoint!