Circle the globe with top National Geographic experts on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Traveling in the comfort of a private jet, encounter legendary places from Machu Picchu and Tibet to the Pyramids and Marrakech. Experience natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Serengeti Plain, and the island paradise of Samoa.
We begin this extraordinary adventure with a welcome reception at National Geographic Society headquarters, followed by dinner at our hotel.
The Hay-Adams, Washington, D.C. (D)
This morning, our private jet takes us to Lima, once a thriving capital in Spain's New World empire, where we arrive in the late afternoon. Visit the renowned Larco Herrera Museum, notable for its extensive pre-Columbian ceramic collection, and enjoy a fine dinner at our hotel.
Miraflores Park Hotel (B,L,D)
We take a local flight to Cusco, where Inca and Spanish cultures intermingled, leaving many Spanish colonial buildings constructed on early Inca foundations. Explore the imposing cathedral in the Plaza de Armas, considered by many to be one of the finest combinations of Spanish Renaissance style and legendary Inca stonemasonry. Marvel at the treasures of the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, where we will meet with National Geographic grantee and master weaver Nilda Callanaupa, who works with traditional weavers throughout Peru to preserve the rich textile arts.
Discover the remains of the great fortress Sacsayhuaman overlooking Cusco, where enormous blocks of stone—some weighing more than 200 tons—were used to build the walls. Assembled without the use of mortar, the blocks fit together so tightly that a knife blade cannot be inserted between them.
Then travel on the Hiram Bingham, our privately chartered train, to Machu Picchu, passing through the spectacular Urubamba Valley, known as the Sacred Valley of the Inca. Still clouded in mystery, Machu Picchu was abandoned by the Inca and lost to history until it was rediscovered by American explorer 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.
Hotel Monasterio (B, L, D daily)
Alternative: Instead of visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu, head to northern Peru to visit the temples of Trujillo and Chiclayo, where the richest burial chambers in the Americas were discovered. See where the ancient Moche and Chimu peoples lived, and explore Chan Chan, the largest adobe city in the world.
Libertador Trujillo (B, L, D daily)
Fly to Easter Island, located 2,300 miles off the coast of Chile. Scattered with mysterious, colossal stone statues called moai, the island is an open-air museum of the ruins of a lost culture. The island has been a subject of debate since it was first seen by Europeans on Easter Sunday in 1722. How did its native people first arrive? What transpired over the centuries? What do the tall, brooding statues mean? Learn the hidden stories of the island's wonders with renowned archaeologist Edmundo Edwards, and marvel at the many moai that dot the island's windswept landscape. Along the way, discover the ancient ceremonial centers, volcanic craters, petroglyphs, lava formations, and fascinating clues to the Orongo birdman cult. Then enjoy a splendid performance by the Kari Kari Rapa Nui dance troupe.
Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa (B, L, D daily)
From Easter Island we continue our voyage across the Pacific, crossing the international date line. We lose a day en route and arrive in Samoa the following evening. (B, L, D)
Samoa is one of the few places where pure Polynesian culture remains essentially intact—tribal rituals and hierarchies are little changed from ancient times. This beautiful island world is well known for its hospitality, traditional ceremonies, and distinct communal customs (known as fa'a Samoa, or "the Samoan way"). Enjoy a fia fia—a colorful performance of Samoan dance and song.
Aggie Grey's Lagoon Beach Resort & Spa (B, L, D)
Fly to Cairns and transfer to the charming seaside town of Port Douglas. Explore the Great Barrier Reef, the largest known coral reef in the world and home to an exceptionally rich variety of marine life. Snorkel among rainbow-colored corals with schools of unicornfish, surgeonfish, bumphead parrot fish, and sea turtles.
Or discover the natural wonders of the Daintree, a rain forest that is approximately 90 million years older than the Amazon rain forest. Go on a Dreamtime walk in Mossman Gorge with an aboriginal guide, a member of the Kuku Yalanji, who will share his people's legends and take you to sacred sites.
Sea Temple Resort & Spa (B, L, D daily)
Fly by private jet to Siem Reap, our base for exploring Angkor, the heart of the ancient Khmer Empire. Delve into the magnificent Angkor Wat temple complex, one of humankind's greatest architectural triumphs; and discover the massive towers, carved murals, colonnades, and courtyards that exemplify classic Khmer architecture. At Angkor Thom, explore the Bayon Temple and the Terrace of the Elephants. Then set out on a cruise to nearby floating villages on Tonle Sap lake (water levels permitting), or explore the temple of Ta Prohm, still tangled in the thick roots of banyan trees. In the evening, enjoy a classical Apsara dance performance during dinner at our fine hotel.
Alternative: Instead of Angkor Wat, explore the lost jungle temple of Beng Mea Lea (water levels permitting), among the largest Khmer temples, and the ninth-century Roluous temple complex of Hariharalaya, the first capital of the Khmer Empire, which predates Angkor Wat by some 300 years.
Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor (B, L, D daily)
Today, fly by private jet to Chengdu, China, where we will see the area's giant pandas at the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center. Then enjoy dinner and a night's rest before departing for Tibet.
(B, L, D)
This morning, take a local flight to Lhasa, Tibet's capital, located on one of the world's highest plateaus. Once a "forbidden city," this Himalayan center of Buddhist pilgrimage—with the spectacular Potala Palace dominating its skyline—still retains a mystical atmosphere. Visit the Jokhang Temple, the region’s oldest and most revered; and explore the colorful Tibetan markets, known for their finely crafted ornaments, rugs, religious paintings, and carvings. The next day, venture into Potala Palace, a highlight of our time in Lhasa. The palace, with its hundreds of rooms, lavish decor, and labyrinthine corridors, was once the winter residence of the Dalai Lama and served as the seat of the Tibetan government for more than 300 years. Stop by the nearly 600-year-old Sera Monastery, where we may see monks in the debating courtyard. You may also visit the Tibet Museum or a local nunnery.
St. Regis Lhasa Resort (B, L, D daily)
Alternative: Instead of visiting Lhasa, fly from Chengdu to Xi’an, China by local air and enjoy a two-day excursion in this former Chinese capital. View the famous 7,000-strong army of life-sized terra-cotta warriors; and visit the Ming dynasty walls, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and the impressive Yangling Tombs of Emperor Liu Qi and Empress Wang.
The Westin Xian (B, L, D daily)
Return to Chengdu by local flight and continue on our private jet to Agra. Discover the iconic Taj Mahal, built in the 17th century by Shah Jahan as a tribute to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. A masterpiece of the Mogul empire, the monument soars majestically above the banks of the Yamuna River. Wander the site, admire its form among the reflecting pools and gardens that surround it, and examine its intricate mosaics made of precious stones. In the afternoon, you may explore the imposing sandstone Red Fort of Agra, where Mogul emperors lived in splendor. Or you may choose to venture into Kachhpura, a village in Agra inhabited by the Harijan people, otherwise known as "untouchables." Meet with local families and visit a school. If you wish, rise early to join our National Geographic photographer to capture images of the Taj Mahal at sunrise.
Alternative: Instead of visiting the Taj Mahal, explore Fatehpur Sikri, Emperor Akbar's crowning architectural achievement, an exquisite red-sandstone city that served as the Mogul capital from 1572 to 1585. Stroll through well-preserved pavilions, courtyards, tombs, and palaces—most notably the emperor's private quarters, a "palace of dreams" richly decorated with Persian calligraphy and murals.
The Oberoi Amarvilás (B, L, D daily)
Fly by private jet to Kilimanjaro International Airport and transfer to a smaller aircraft for the flight to Serengeti National Park. In the local Maasai language, Serengeti means "extended place"—an appropriate name for this vast wildlife sanctuary, which is one of the most complex and least disturbed ecosystems on Earth. Go deep into the savanna to witness Africa's greatest concentration of wildebeests and zebras, as well as lions, cheetahs, and leopards.
Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti (B, L, D daily)
Alternative: Instead of exploring the Serengeti, descend into the Ngorongoro Crater to observe the permanent population of almost 25,000 animals in one of the largest unbroken calderas in the world. Along with herds of wildebeests, gazelles, and zebras, we may also see the "big five" (rhinoceroses, lions, leopards, elephants, and buffaloes). Spend your nights here at a well-appointed lodge perched on the crater's rim. During our stay, travelers will have the opportunity to meet either Meave or Louise Leakey, both National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence whose family of renowned anthropologists has discovered many important fossils in the area.
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge (B, L, D daily)
Arrive in Luxor and head to the Luxor Museum to view its stunning collection of statues, figures, bas reliefs, and mummies. Spend the next morning in the Valley of the Kings, where we visit the tombs of divine pharaohs, including King Tutankhamun. Stop at the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the longest reigning female pharaoh and one of history's great leaders. See the Colossi of Memnon, two enormous statues that are all that remain of the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III, who commissioned many of the monuments and temples in Luxor. Visit Medinet Habu, the best preserved mortuary temple in the area; and gaze up at colorful reliefs detailing the triumphs of Ramses III, often considered the last great pharoah. Enjoy lunch on a felucca (traditional sailboat) as you cross the Nile River. Then visit the Great Hypostyle Hall and temples at Karnak, one of the largest ancient religious sites in the world, described by the ancient Egyptians as "the most perfect of places." In the evening, enjoy a gala dinner at the Luxor Temple.
Luxor Hilton (B, L, D daily)
Alternative: Instead of exploring Luxor, you may choose to visit Petra, the lost city of the Nabataeans. Hidden in Jordan's deep canyons south of the Dead Sea, this remarkable site was founded more than 2,000 years ago, and consists of elaborate buildings and tombs carved from sheer rock walls.
Mövenpick Petra, Jordan (B, L, D daily)
On our last day in Egypt, we board our private jet and fly to Cairo. Transfer to Giza to visit the Pyramids, including the 4,500-year-old Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops). Then enjoy a private luncheon with a view of the Sphinx. We continue to Marrakech this afternoon.
After our morning visit to the Pyramids, arrive in Marrakech and transfer to our hotel. The next day, explore this fabled city, located in an oasis of palm and olive groves, and steeped in ancient Berber tradition. See the Koutoubia Mosque, Ben Youssef Madrasa, and the grand Bahia Palace. Wander through the medina, a jumble of colorful suqs; and stroll the Djemaa el Fna, a lively square where snake charmers, acrobats, and magicians enchant the passsersby. If you wish, immerse yourself in the lush blue-and-green paradise of the Majorelle Garden, a delightful combination of traditional Moroccan architecture, Islamic art and artifacts, rare plants from five continents, and North African birds. On our last evening, celebrate our adventure at a farewell banquet with traditional entertainment.
Alternative: Instead of exploring Marrakech, spend the day in the spectacular Atlas Mountains, the highest mountain range in North Africa. Visit a Berber village, share tea with a village elder and his family, and enjoy a delicious picnic lunch. In the evening, rejoin the group in Marrakech for our farewell dinner.
La Mamounia (B, L, D daily)
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 Dulles Airport Hotel for the night. For the December and January/February departures which end in Orlando, complimentary accommodations will be provided at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport Hotel for one night. (B, L)
A world-class team of experts will accompany each expedition to share their knowledge and insights with you and bring each destination to life. The expert featured below will be part of the expedition team on the date noted.
National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis is an anthropologist, writer, photographer, and filmmaker whose work has taken him from the Amazon to Tibet, from Africa to Australia, and from Polynesia to the Arctic. He has lived for extended periods among indigenous communities, learning and recording their complex rituals and customs. Wade is the author of 17 bestselling books including The Serpent and the Rainbow (1986), One River (1996), The Wayfinders (2009), and The Sacred Headwaters (2011). His latest book, Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest, won the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize, the top non-fiction prize in the English language. His many film credits include Light at the Edge of the World, an eight-hour documentary series produced for the National Geographic Channel. Wade is one of 20 Honorary Members of the Explorers Club. In 2009, he received the Gold Medal from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society for his contributions to anthropology and conservation. He is the 2011 recipient of the Explorers Medal, the highest award of the Explorers Club, and the 2012 David Fairchild Medal, the most prestigious award for botanical exploration.
Wade will join the following departure:
Dec 28, 2014 - Jan 20, 2015
ALT indicates a departure that has a slightly different itinerary than the one shown on this page. Click the ALT icon to see the day-to-day itinerary.
The itinerary at left reflects the October 2014 departures. The December 2013, January and December 2014, and January 2015 departures begin and end in Orlando, Florida, but otherwise follow the same itinerary as the October departures.
Prices are per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $8,650. Transportation by private Boeing 757 jet and other conveyance, as noted in the itinerary, is included in the expedition cost. Airfare to and from Washington, D.C. or Orlando, Florida is not included.
Our specially outfitted Boeing 757 is ideally suited for this extraordinary expedition. Its long-range capabilities and ability to land in smaller airports afford us unmatched flexibility. We set our own schedules, flying direct and avoiding layovers, which allows us the freedom to make the most of our adventures on land. Instead of the standard 233 seats, the jet’s interior has been customized and refitted to accommodate just 77 passengers in two-by-two, VIP-style leather seating.
For your protection, all payments are secured in a bank escrow account. See special terms and conditions for these expeditions.