Expedition Overview

Expedition Overview

  • Soar above the Guatemalan jungle in a helicopter, touching down in the Maya city of El Mirador to explore the active dig site of National Geographic grantee Richard Hansen.
  • Choose to stay at Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World set on the banks of the Madre de Dios River, and explore the Peruvian Amazon on a variety of excursions.
  • By special permission, go on a walking safari in the tropical forests of Panama’s Barro Colorado Nature Monument, site of a National Geographic-supported wildlife-tracking study.
  • Witness vibrant cultural traditions, from an Argentine tango performance to a Peruvian Paso horse exhibition and rehearsals for Rio’s famed Carnival.



Journey across Central and South America—from the lush, tropical jungles of Guatemala to the granite, glacier-carved landscapes of Patagonia—traveling in the comfort of a private jet. Stand atop ancient Maya and Inca ruins, witness the spectacular spray of Iguaçu Falls and the engineering marvels of the Panama Canal, and revel in the delights of colorful and vibrant cities such as Cartagena, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires—all in one extraordinary journey.

Day 1: Washington, D.C.

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.

Meals Included:Dinner

The Hay-Adams

Days 2-3: Tikal and El Mirador, Guatemala

Fly by private jet to Flores, the gateway to Tikal—one of the largest cities in the Classic Maya world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Tour these ancient ruins and wander among iconic monuments, including the Temple of the Great Jaguar and the Temple of the Masks.

Archaeologist and National Geographic grantee Richard Hansen accompanies the flight from Washington, D.C. to Guatemala to give an onboard talk about his Mirador Basin Project. During your stay, opt to board a helicopter and fly deep into the jungle to the massive preclassic Maya metropolis of El Mirador—one of the largest Maya cities ever discovered. Join an archaeologist from Richard’s excavation team for a guided tour, enjoying rare access to this active dig site where researchers are uncovering the city’s elaborate architecture, carvings, and royal burial chambers.

As an alternative to El Mirador, you may instead choose to visit the pyramids and temples at Yaxhá, the world’s third largest known Maya site, and the Maya archaeological site of Topoxté, situated on an island in Yaxhá Lake.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily

Camino Real Tikal (A limited number of upgrades are available at Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel.)

Days 4-6: Panama City and the Panama Canal, Panama

Land in Panama City and visit the historic quarter of Casco Viejo, a walled outpost built on a peninsula in the early 1670s after Captain Morgan and his pirates had sacked the city. Now a World Heritage site, the district is packed with colonial gems and carefully restored homes. Explore the ruins of Panamá Viejo, the first European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas. Then embark on a curated walking tour through Casco Viejo, viewing the Presidential Palace, Plaza Bolívar, and the magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral. Then head to the multicolored Biomuseo, the only building designed by Frank Gehry in Latin America, and peruse its exhibits highlighting Panama’s incredible biodiversity and its impact on the ecology of the planet at large. Enjoy a private dinner in the museum’s atrium.

The following morning, enjoy a specially arranged visit to Barro Colorado Nature Monument in Gatún Lake. Scientists have worked at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island since 1946, studying the 115 mammals found here. The island is also the site of a National Geographic–supported study that tracks tagged animals using automated radio signals and wireless technology. We’ll have the opportunity to meet project researchers and learn about their work.

On our final day in Panama, visit the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center to encounter a kaleidoscope of tropical birds. Then board a private boat and cruise a portion of the Panama Canal—one of the world’s great engineering feats—and learn about its fascinating locks system.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily

American Trade Hotel

Days 7-9: Cusco and Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, or Amazon Rainforest, Peru

Upon arrival in Lima, set out by local air on one of three excursions. Fly to the World Heritage–listed city of Cusco (11,200 feet), the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. Meet with 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. The next morning, travel to Machu Picchu (8,000 feet) on our privately chartered train, which passes through the stunning Sacred Valley of the Inca. Explore the iconic citadel, excavated with support from the National Geographic Society. Discover the ingenuity behind the site’s design and use.

Alternative: If you have previously visited Machu Picchu, you may instead choose to explore Lake Titicaca (12,500 feet), the world’s highest commercially navigable lake. Our base here is a stunning lakefront hotel perched on a secluded peninsula. Cruise to the floating Uros islands, made entirely of reeds, and visit Taquile Island. Go hiking or biking between the quaint villages of the altiplano, or spot birds along the lakeshore with an expert guide.

Alternative Accommodation: Titilaka and Belmond Miralfores Park

Alternative: Head to the Amazon rain forest and travel by motorized canoe to Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World set on the banks of the Madre de Dios River. Join naturalists to explore this incredible ecosystem by foot and dugout canoe, seeking out caimans, river otters, diverse birdlife, and much more. We’ll also go on a canopy walk through the treetops and take a nocturnal tour of the forest.

Alternative Accommodation: Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción and Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily

Belmond Palacio Nazarenas

Days 10-11: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Arrive in Rio de Janeiro and transfer to our hotel on the world-famous Copacabana Beach. In this iconic metropolis, beaches, lush jungles, and towering granite mountains merge to create one of the most dramatic cityscapes on the planet.

Discover this vibrant city in a variety of ways. Stroll Ipanema Beach and perhaps watch a game of altinho futebol on the sand; or visit Samba City, where Carnival performers practice their acts in preparation for the famed annual celebration. Take in jaw-dropping views from Christ the Redeemer, a 98-foot-tall art deco statue standing watch over Rio; or ride to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain in a cable car, and look out over the surrounding beaches, skyline, and tropical forests. The following day, visit the lab of a National Geographic grantee at the Botanical Garden, replete with a variety of species of Brazil’s flora and fauna, including 600 types of orchids. Later, set out to experience Rio’s lively restaurants.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily

Belmond Copacabana Palace

Days 12-14: Patagonia and Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

Continue by private jet to Punta Arenas, Chile and catch a charter flight to Puerto Natales—located outside Torres del Paine National Park. Patagonia is a land apart, beguilingly untamed and spectacularly pristine. Enjoy three days to discover the glacially sculpted landscapes of these rugged wilds, from soaring granite spires to turquoise lakes, and sweeping grasslands. The park is home to an array of fascinating creatures, including eagles, condors, foxes, guanacos, and nandu—an indigenous rhea.

During our stay, tailor your exploration to your interests, choosing from a variety of optional hiking and horseback riding excursions. Discover Grey Lake and its incredible incandescent ice sculptures, see the staggering Paine massif, and hike through beech forests along the shore of Blue Lagoon. Photograph wildlife and sweeping landscapes near the northern limits of the park, and enjoy delicious meals as the sun sets over the mountains.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Explora Patagonia (A limited number of upgrades are available at Awasi Patagonia.)
Days 15-17: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Fly to Buenos Aires and transfer to our hotel in the Recoleta district. Take a walking tour of this stylish neighborhood, including a visit to the Recoleta Cemetery, the final resting place for Eva “Evita” Perón and many of the country’s most notable political and cultural icons.

Spend the following morning discovering the highlights of Buenos Aires. Enjoy a city tour of the historic center that includes Plaza de Mayo and the opulent Casa Rosada—the presidential palace with the balcony where beloved first lady Eva Perón addressed adoring crowds. Explore the city’s diverse neighborhoods, including multihued La Boca and Puerto Madero, a onetime port area now known for its creative use of repurposed warehouses and docks. This afternoon, choose from a variety of excursions. Step in time to a tango lesson, pedal between the hidden street murals of Buenos Aires on an art-themed bike tour, go behind the scenes at the renowned Colón Theater, or enjoy an opportunity to visit the workshop of an expert silversmith.

On our final day, head outside the city to the family-owned Estancia El Rosario de Areco, which spans some 200 acres. Glimpse the gaucho lifestyle during a horseback riding show, barbecue lunch, and polo demonstration.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Alvear Palace Hotel
Day 18: Iguaçu Falls, Brazil

Comprised of 275 cascades and spanning nearly two miles, Iguaçu Falls is one of the world’s most dramatic aquatic displays. The thundering white water is surrounded by the lush jungles of the Atlantic Forest—home to around 20,000 species of plants, as well as thousands of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. As you explore this natural wonder, keep an eye out for tapirs, giant anteaters, sloths, and howler monkeys.

We’ll view this majestic World Heritage site from unique angles along the nature paths that wind across our hotel grounds. Then choose from a variety of ways to experience the falls and the surrounding area. Embark on a thrilling Zodiac ride that goes behind the falls; join a naturalist guide to explore the Macuco jungle; encounter the powerful cascades of the famed Devil’s Throat; or visit the nearby Parque das Aves, home to nearly 150 distinct avian species.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodations:Belmond Hotel das Cataratas
Days 19-20: Cartagena, Colombia

Cross the Equator en route to Colombia, and land in the Caribbean port city of Cartagena. Surrounded by the most extensive fortifications in all of South America and brimming with stunning colonial architecture, this vibrant city was declared a World Heritage site in 1984. Ride a horse-drawn carriage through Cartagena’s cobbled colonial center, once an important gateway to South America, a target of buccaneers, and a refuge for explorers. On a walking tour, stroll atop the city walls and marvel at multihued buildings with flower-draped balconies and vibrant art installations. Peruse the Museum of Modern Art, and enjoy a private visit to the home of sculptor Eladio Gil Zambrana to discover rooms brimming with his work. As an alternative to the walking tour, you may sample Colombia’s rich brews on a city coffee tour. Later, learn about the life and work of Colombian author and Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez, or opt to savor the flavors of Cartagena during a culinary experience. This evening, gather for a farewell dinner in a private colonial-era home.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Charleston Santa Teresa
Day 21: Miami, Florida, U.S.

Following breakfast, fly to Miami, where you’ll connect with your commercial flight home.

Meals Included:Breakfast