Expedition Overview

Expedition Overview

  • Alongside a team of National Geographic experts, embark on a globe-trotting expedition featuring 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites, from Easter Island to the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Visit with National Geographic explorers and grantees in the field and learn about their groundbreaking research in marine biology, anthropology, archaeology, and paleontology.
  • Gain insight into local cultures as you visit a women’s cooperative in Samoa, cook alongside a Cambodian chef, and sip mint tea with a Berber family in Morocco.
  • Stay at world-class accommodations, with options that include two spectacular National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, in the hills of Bhutan, and on the rim of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater.

Itinerary

Itinerary

Day 1: WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.

Our extraordinary adventure begins with a reception with experts, staff, and fellow travelers at National Geographic headquarters, followed by a welcome dinner at our historic hotel, just steps from the White House.

Meals Included:Dinner
Accommodations:The Hay-Adams
Days 2-4: CUSCO AND MACHU PICCHU OR TRUJILLO AND CHICLAYO, PERU

Fly by private jet to Lima, where we board a local charter flight to Cusco (11,200 feet)—the gateway to Peru’s Inca heartland. The next morning, set out on a tour of this charming city. Then head north into the Sacred Valley of the Inca and explore the intriguing ruins of Moray, believed to have been an Inca agricultural laboratory, and the terraced salt mines of Maras. If you wish, embark on a spectacular hike along a section of the Inca Trail. Meet master Andean weaver Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, a National Geographic grantee who has helped revive traditional weaving practices throughout Peru. We’ll also join National Geographic grantee Peter Frost or one of his colleagues for a talk on his archaeological expeditions in Peru, which have been featured in National Geographic magazine.

Opt for an early-morning visit to the former Inca stronghold of Ollantaytambo before we board our privately chartered train to Machu Picchu (8,000 feet). Accompanied by private guides, explore this legendary 15th-century Inca citadel, which was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911 and excavated with support from the National Geographic Society. Then enjoy an elegant dinner aboard our train as we return to Cusco.

Alternative: Travelers who may have already visited Cusco and Machu Picchu can choose to explore Peru’s sun-soaked northwestern coast. Visit the historic cities of Chiclayo and Trujillo, the second oldest Spanish city in Peru. Discover remnants of the ancient Moche and Chimú cultures, including the towering Temples of the Sun and Moon and the sprawling ruins of Chan Chan, the largest adobe city in the world.

Alternative Accommodations: Wyndham Costa del Sol Trujillo Center and Belmond Miraflores Park

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Belmond Palacio Nazarenas or Belmond Hotel Monasterio
Days 5-6: EASTER ISLAND, CHILE

Fly by private jet to Easter Island, located 2,300 miles off the coast of Chile. Questions still linger about this isolated island’s ancient Polynesian society and the mysterious moai—colossal stone statues—that they left behind. Discover its ancient ruins with resident archaeologists Edmundo Edwards, Patricia Vargas Casanova, and Claudio Cristino. If you wish, rise early for a photo shoot with our National Geographic photographer, capturing the sun as it rises over this enigmatic landscape. Explore volcanic calderas, lava fields, and windswept grasslands; and delve into the theories surrounding the stone behemoths, which archaeologists believe were carved in honor of ancestors or chiefs. Visit the stone village of Orongo, the ceremonial center of the island’s intriguing Birdman cult, which was defined by a treacherous annual competition to retrieve a rare egg. Later, enjoy a splendid performance by the Kari Kari dance troupe.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa
Day 7: CROSS THE INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE

From Easter Island we continue our journey across the Pacific, crossing the international date line. We lose a day en route and arrive in Samoa the following evening.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 8: APIA, SAMOA

This idyllic island, known as “the heart of Polynesia,” is one of the few places where Polynesian culture remains little changed from ancient times. Here, you’ll find a deep reverence for hospitality, tradition, and community (known as fa’a Samoa, or “the Samoan way”). Check in to our beachfront hotel set within lush gardens, and take in dazzling views of the Pacific. Enjoy a memorable introduction to the island during a fiafia—a lively performance of Samoan dance and song. The next day, opt to spend time at a local women’s cooperative or visit the former homestead of Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, now a museum dedicated to the final years of his life.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodations:Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort
Days 9-10: GREAT BARRIER REEF OR DAINTREE RAINFOREST, AUSTRALIA

Fly to Cairns and transfer to the seaside town of Port Douglas. Here, we have an opportunity to explore the unparalleled marine ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef—spanning more than 1,200 miles of islands, submerged reefs, and vast expanses of coral, it is one of the most biologically rich places on the planet. Experience this UNESCO World Heritage site aboard a privately chartered vessel, accompanied by marine biologist and National Geographic grantee Dr. Jamie Seymour. Snorkel among rainbow-colored corals with schools of unicorn fish, surgeonfish, bumphead parrotfish, and sea turtles. In the evening, join Jamie for a talk about his work.

Alternative: Instead of exploring the Great Barrier Reef, discover the natural wonders of the Daintree Rainforest—a place of staggering biodiversity and beauty that is estimated to be 180 million years old. The Earth’s oldest rainforest is home to the greatest diversity of plants and animals found anywhere in Australia. Explore this World Heritage site and its Aboriginal culture on a walk through the forest with local guides.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort Port Douglas
Days 11-12: ANGKOR OR BENG MEALEA, CAMBODIA

Fly by private jet to Siem Reap, our base for exploring the stunning Angkor temple complex, once the capital of the Khmer Empire. One of civilization’s greatest architectural achievements, this vast temple complex spans some 500 acres. Spend a morning exploring Angkor Wat’s soaring towers, carved murals, and courtyards, which reflect the ambition and ingenuity of the Khmer dynasty. In the afternoon, opt to embark on a cruise to nearby floating villages on Tonle Sap lake (water levels permitting), visit an artisan market, or delve into Cambodian cuisine during a hands-on cooking class. In the evening, enjoy traditional Cambodian music and dance during a private dinner on the grounds of a magnificent temple.

Alternative: If you have already visited Angkor Wat, enjoy a full-day excursion to the lost jungle temple of Beng Mealea (water levels permitting), one of the largest Khmer temples, and get immersed in the colorful cacophony of a local market.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor
Days 13-15: KATHMANDU, NEPAL AND PARO, BHUTAN

Fly by private jet to Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city. Our visit starts at the iconic Bodhnath, the largest stupa in Nepal, which represents the Buddha’s path to enlightenment. In the evening, gather for a talk with Ben Ayers, a climber, writer, and documentary filmmaker based in Kathmandu who documents isolated and threatened Himalaya cultures and has been featured in National Geographic magazine. Continue by local charter to Bhutan and arrive in Paro (7,200 feet). Settle into our hotel—a National Geographic Unique Lodge nestled in the hills outside of town. Explore the historic Paro Dzong, where we will meet monks and learn about their daily lives. In the evening, don traditional Bhutanese clothing and join locals for a religious festival attended by masked dancers and a high-ranking lama. The next day, opt for a vigorous hike up to the cliff-side Taktsang Lhakhang, or Tiger’s Nest Temple (10,200 feet)—Bhutan’s most famous pilgrimage site. Alternatively, spend the day in the capital city of Thimphu (7,900 feet), discovering highlights including the Royal Textile Academy and the largest sitting statue of Buddha.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Dwarika’s Hotel; Zhiwa Ling Heritage
Days 16-17: TAJ MAHAL, AGRA, INDIA

Continue by private jet to Agra and check in to our luxurious hotel, offering views of the Taj Mahal from every room. This afternoon, you may explore the sandstone Agra Fort, a maze of palaces, courtyards, mosques, and private chambers modified by Mughal rulers over hundreds of years. Or you may choose to join local youth on a heritage walk to Agra’s lesser known monuments—part of a project to improve livelihoods in disadvantaged communities.

If you wish, join our National Geographic photographer to capture images of the Taj Mahal during an early morning photo shoot. Then take a guided tour of the Taj, the most iconic site in all of India. Explore the palace’s exquisite construction and serene garden, built by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife. In the afternoon, encounter the exquisite tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah—also referred to as the “baby Taj”—the first Mughal structure in India made entirely from marble. Or visit the tomb of Akbar, one of the most famous Mughal emperors, and examine this architectural marvel built of red sandstone inlaid with white marble.

Alternative: On a full-day excursion, visit the impressive red-sandstone city of Fatehpur Sikri, once a Mughal capital and now a World Heritage site. Founded in 1569 by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, this renowned site—which blends both Muslim and Hindu architectural styles—reveals a vast complex of royal homes and pavilions, elegant courtyards and grand gateways, as well as a beautiful mosque.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:The Oberoi Amarvilas
Days 18-19: SERENGETI PLAIN OR NGORONGORO CRATER, TANZANIA

Fly by private jet to Kilimanjaro International Airport and continue by private charter aircraft to Serengeti National Park. One of the world’s greatest wildlife destinations, the Serengeti Plain is home to the legendary "big five"—rhinoceroses, lions, leopards, elephants, and Cape buffalo. Head out across the savanna on game drives to witness Africa’s greatest concentration of wildebeests and zebras. During our stay, meet National Geographic Explorer-at-Large Louise Leakey or one of her colleagues to hear about the many important fossil discoveries made by the Leakey family in the region. Celebrate our visit with a traditional singing and dancing performance.

Alternative: Instead of exploring the Serengeti, travel by private charter aircraft to the Ngorongoro Crater (8,000 feet), where volcanic slopes shelter more than 25,000 animals. Spend your days on safari with local guides, and in the evening, return to your luxury villa at a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World perched on the crater’s rim. Meet National Geographic Explorer-at-Large Louise Leakey or one of her colleagues for a private tour of Olduvai Gorge, where the Leakey family discovered Homo habilis on a National Geographic–sponsored expedition. Enjoy a bush lunch on the floor of the crater.

Alternative Accommodations: andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti
Days 20-21: PETRA, JORDAN

Petra, the once thriving capital of the Arab tribe known as the Nabataeans, is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites. Situated between Arabia, Egypt, and the Levant, it was an important crossroads of trade before the city was mysteriously abandoned in the seventh century. Half-built, half-carved into rose-red sandstone cliffs, Petra was left to the winds and sands until it was rediscovered in 1812. Excavations of the city continue today, and include the pioneering work of National Geographic Fellow Sarah Parcak, who has used satellite imagery and aerial drone photography to document a long-unknown structure twice the length of a tennis court and six times as wide at the site.

Enter the city along a winding path through the Siq—a narrow canyon flanked by sheer cliffs—and arrive at the Treasury, the most iconic of Petra’s sites. Discover many other intriguing buildings chiseled from rock walls. As we explore, you may encounter members of the local Bedouin community—Arabic-speaking nomadic peoples of the Middle Eastern deserts who reside here. Learn more about the traditions of this tribal society tonight, when we gather for a festive dinner accompanied by a Bedouin folklore performance.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Mövenpick Resort Petra
Days 22-23: MARRAKECH OR ATLAS MOUNTAINS, MOROCCO

Set out on a morning tour of Marrakech, Morocco’s legendary “pearl of the South.” Examine historic Moroccan architecture at the 14th-century Ben Youssef Madrasa, the splendid Koutoubia Mosque, and the exquisitely carved Bahia Palace. Then venture further into the labyrinthine streets of the medina—a World Heritage site lined with market stalls and craftspeople. Visit the Museum of Perfume to learn about the olfactory history of Morocco, and meet with a renowned perfume-maker to create your own scent. Alternatively, sample local Moroccan delicacies on a food tour of Djemaa el Fna square, where snake charmers, magicians, and musicians entertain passersby. Later, stroll amid exotic plants in the lush Majorelle Garden, once owned by Yves Saint Laurent.

Alternative: Instead of exploring Marrakech, venture into the Atlas Mountains—the highest mountain range in North Africa, which presents a dramatic contrast to the surrounding desert. Take in sweeping views of this enduring terrain, known for its deep gorges, dense forests, and Berber villages. Experience Berber traditions during lunch at a local home, and sip mint tea while soaking up the timeless atmosphere of rural Morocco. In the evening, rejoin the group in Marrakech for a farewell dinner celebrating our adventure.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:La Mamounia
Day 24: WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.

Following breakfast, fly by private jet to Washington, D.C. Upon arrival, you may connect with your commercial flight home; or, if you wish, we will provide complimentary accommodations at the Hyatt Regency Dulles for the night.