- 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: one situated deep within the Peruvian Amazon, and the other on the rim of Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater.
Set out on the adventure of a lifetime with top National Geographic experts and discover some of the world’s most celebrated treasures—all in one extraordinary journey. Explore the architectural marvels of Machu Picchu, Petra, and the Taj Mahal; encounter the incredible creatures of the Amazon rain forest, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Serengeti Plain; and experience diverse cultures from the Buddhist monasteries of Tibet to the Polynesian paradise of Samoa.
We begin this extraordinary adventure with a reception at National Geographic headquarters, followed by a welcome dinner on the rooftop of our historic hotel. Get to know experts, staff, and fellow travelers as you take in breathtaking views of the White House and the Washington Monument illuminated at night.
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, discovering its blend of Inca and Spanish colonial sites. Then head north into the spectacular Urubamba Valley—also known as the Sacred Valley of the Inca—to explore the ruins of Moray, believed to have been an agricultural laboratory where Inca priests tested soils and crops. Make our way to the white salt mines of Maras—a seemingly endless hillside of terraced salt pans. Later, if you wish, embark on a spectacular hike along a section of the Inca Trail, winding your way amid Andean peaks. Meet National Geographic grantee and master Andean weaver Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez, who works with traditional weavers throughout Peru to preserve her country’s rich heritage of textile arts. We’ll also join archaeologist and National Geographic grantee Peter Frost for a talk on his archaeological expeditions in Peru, which have been featured in National Geographic magazine.
You may 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. Examine the artfully cut stone altars, temples, foundations, staircases, and terraced gardens that make this one of the world's most extraordinary archaeological treasures. Then enjoy an elegant dinner aboard our train as we return to Cusco.
Alternative: Instead of visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu, fly to Puerto Maldonado. Enjoy a scenic motorized canoe trip down the meandering Madre de Dios River to arrive at Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World nestled deep in the Amazon rain forest. Over the following days, learn about the complex ecosystem of the Amazon as you take part in an array of activities. Explore the property’s trails for an introduction to the local flora and fauna, which includes hundreds of bird species. Walk among the treetops on hanging bridges; paddle your way around a tranquil oxbow lake in a dugout canoe; and explore the rain forest after dark with an expert guide, seeking out nocturnal species.
Fly 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 Cassanova, 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.
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.
Adorned with waterfalls, jungles, and white-sand beaches, the tropical paradise of Samoa is a place of astounding natural beauty. This idyllic island world, 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.
Fly to Cairns and transfer to the seaside town of Port Douglas. Here, we have an opportunity to explore the extraordinary marine ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef—one of the most biologically rich places on the planet, spanning more than 1,200 miles of islands, submerged reefs, and vast expanses of coral. 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 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 rain forest 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.
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 100,000 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. Alternatively, 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. In the evening, enjoy traditional Cambodian music and dance during a private dinner on the grounds of a magnificent temple.
Fly to Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, and enjoy a brief tour of the city’s historic highlights. Gather for a special dinner accompanied by traditional entertainment, including a private performance of bian lian, or “face-changing.” This classic Chinese art form—a central element in Sichuan opera—features actors rapidly and seamlessly changing masks by sleight of hand.
Take a local flight to Lhasa (12,000 feet), the capital of Tibet and an important center of Tibetan Buddhism. Situated on the stark Tibetan Plateau, this holy city attracts thousands of pilgrims each year. Visit Jokhang, Tibet’s most sacred temple; and delve into the timeless atmosphere of old Tibet at Barkhor, the oldest street situated in the center of Lhasa that serves as a popular circumambulation for pilgrims and commercial center. Learn about traditional healing practices and customs during a talk with a Tibetan doctor. Later, venture up to the World Heritage–designated Potala Palace—seat of the Tibetan government for more than 300 years and home to the Dalai Lama until 1959. Explore the palace’s labyrinthine corridors to discover lavish rooms adorned with thangka paintings, statues, and frescoes. We’ll also visit the 600-year-old Sera Monastery, where monks can often be seen debating Buddhist philosophy in the courtyard.
Alternative: Instead of Lhasa, remain in Chengdu for further exploration. Sichuan is home to more than 30 percent of the world’s giant pandas—considered a national treasure in China. Spend a day observing these beloved animals at a local panda reserve. Here, we’ll learn about the care and conservation of pandas, and efforts to reintroduce them to the wild. Later, delve into local culture during a variety of activities. Learn the age-old Chinese game of mah-jongg; take part in a traditional tea ceremony; and soak up the sights, sounds, and scents at a local market. In the evening, enjoy a savory, spice-infused hot pot—a Sichuan favorite—at a local restaurant; and attend a Sichuan opera—a dramatic performance incorporating vivid masks and costumes, singing, and acrobatics.
Continue by private jet to Agra, where we check in to our luxurious hotel, which offers stunning 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. Alternatively, join local youth on a heritage walk to Agra’s lesser known monuments—part of a project to improve livelihoods in poorer communities.
If you wish, join our National Geographic photographer the following morning to capture images of the Taj Mahal at sunrise. 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, constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife after her death. Alternatively, visit the impressive red-sandstone city of Fatepuhr Sikri, once a Mughal capital and now a World Heritage site. In the afternoon, encounter the exquisite tomb of Itmad-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.
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, Serengeti National Park is home to the legendary “big five”: rhinoceroses, lions, leopards, elephants, and Cape buffalo. Over the following days, take in the grandeur of the Serengeti, which means “extended place” in the local Maasai language. Head deep into the savanna on game drives to witness Africa’s greatest concentration of wildebeests and zebras. During our stay, meet Louise Leakey, a National Geographic Explorer at Large whose family of renowned anthropologists has discovered many important fossils in the area. 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, where volcanic slopes shelter more than 25,000 animals. The crater is home to wildebeests, gazelles, zebras, incredible birdlife, as well as endangered black rhinos. Spend your days on safari with local guides; 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 for a private tour of Olduvai Gorge, where her family discovered Homo habilis on a National Geographic–sponsored expedition. Enjoy a bush lunch on the floor of the Crater and a festive evening with local musicians.
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—perhaps due to earthquakes and changes in trade routes. 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 site continue today, and include the pioneering work of National Geographic Explorer Sarah Parcak, who has used satellite imagery and aerial drone photography to document the structure.
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, including royal tombs, houses, and a monastery. 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.
The following day, depart Petra and drive south to Wadi Rum, an otherworldly desert landscape made famous by T. E. Lawrence and the 1962 epic film Lawrence of Arabia. Explore the desert in 4x4s, traveling below red sand dunes and towering arches, and see the spectacular rock formation known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Enjoy tea with Bedouin villagers amid this spectacular backdrop. In the afternoon, fly by private jet to Marrakech and check in to our hotel.
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 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 soaring 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.
Following breakfast, board our private jet and fly 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.