Join National Geographic Explorer and New York Times best-selling author Dan Buettner on a journey inspired by the “blue zone” areas, places in the world where higher percentages of people enjoy remarkably long, full lives. Meet with elders in an Okinawan village to discover how their traditional lifestyle has led to longevity and happiness; speak to a local government official in Bhutan to learn more about the country’s Gross National Happiness measure and hike to the iconic Tiger’s Nest monastery; and enjoy a tasting at a vineyard in Sardinia, Italy and find out how wine is a critical part of the local diet—and well-being. Immerse yourself in the Danish way of life as you cycle through the streets of Copenhagen, one of the happiest cities in the world.
Travel to longevity hot spots with "blue zone" areas expert Dan Buettner to learn about the three P’s—pleasure, purpose, and pride—the three strands of experience that, when woven together, make for true happiness.
Attend an almsgiving ceremony at a temple in Luang Prabang, Laos, and converse with a monk about his life of meditation.
Discover the dietary secrets to longevity in Ikaria, Greece, and dive into the aquatic life of Crete on snorkeling or boating excursions.
Itinerary - 18 Days
Days 1 & 2 — Seattle, Washington
Meet experts, staff, and fellow travelers for a welcome reception and dinner. Enjoy a night at your hotel, located in the heart of downtown near Pike Place Market and the Seattle Art Museum. The next day, depart for Japan.
Fairmont Olympic Hotel (D)
Days 3, 4, & 5 — Tokyo and Okinawa, Japan
After losing a day crossing the international date line, land in Tokyo and spend an
afternoon exploring the capital of Japan. Find peace and solitude in this bustling
metropolis at the Meiji Shrine—Tokyo’s most important Shinto shrine—and the gardens
of the Imperial Palace, built around the moats and stone walls that once defended the
old Edo Castle. Experience a traditional tea ceremony or simply relax at our hotel in
the city center. The next morning, travel by private jet to Okinawa, part of a Pacific
archipelago that’s home to the world’s longest lived women.
Eating a healthy diet, finding purpose, and maintaining a strong social network (called
a moai) are three reasons the people of this subtropical island live such long and happy
lives. Visit with Okinawan elders in a local village to hear what they eat, how they work,
what they believe, and how they structure their society. Learn about their plant-based
diet (including goya champuru, a traditional stir-fried dish using bitter melon); their use
of medicinal plants such as mugwort and turmeric; and the 2,500-year-old Confucian
mantra of hara hachi bu, which locals repeat before meals as a reminder to eat only until
their stomachs are 80 percent full.
Witness how ancient and modern customs intersect in everyday life as you visit with
artisans, observe centuries-old rituals, and listen to traditional music. Along the way,
embrace moments of calm, and cultivate your understanding of ikigai—your reason for
getting up each morning—as you follow other hallmarks of Okinawan culture, such as
soaking up plenty of sunshine, enjoying simple pleasures, and engaging in low-impact
The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo and The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa (B, L, D Daily)
Days 6 & 7 — Luang Prabang, Laos
Continue by private jet to Luang Prabang, a stunning city nestled in a
dramatic mountain setting at the confluence of the Mekong and Khan
Rivers. Due to its splendor and historical significance, as well as its
intricate Buddhist temples and French colonial architecture, UNESCO
has designated the entire town a World Heritage site.
Explore the Royal Palace, built for King Sisavang Vong in the early 20th
century. This beautiful estate now houses the Royal Palace Museum,
which features the sacred Phra Bang, a golden Buddha statue for which
the town is named. Visit the area’s most revered temples, including the
Wat Xieng Thong temple, layered with gold leaf and an elaborate mosaic
depicting the fabled Tree of Life. Cruise the Mekong River to the cave
temples of Pak Ou, home to thousands of lacquered and gilded Buddha
figures. Then walk along Luang Prabang’s charming boulevards, and
browse the central market where members of the local hill tribes offer
their fine wares.
If you wish, rise early to experience the ancient Buddhist tradition of
the morning almsgiving. Leaving their temples to the sound of drums,
saffron-robed monks silently walk single file through the city to receive
offerings of food that they will eat that day.
Then meet with a monk to learn about different types of meditation
techniques. Such methods of daily stress reduction make up a
fundamental element of blue zone living. Research shows that such
daily “downshifting” reduces the chronic inflammation that leads to
disease and premature aging.
Belmond La Résidence Phou Vao and Amantaka Resort, Luang Prabang (B, L, D Daily)
Days 8, 9, & 10 — Paro and Thimphu, Bhutan
Fly by private jet to Kathmandu, Nepal and then take a local flight to
Bhutan, the last remaining Buddhist kingdom of the Himalaya. Arrive in
Paro, situated deep in a valley dotted with hilltop Buddhist monasteries
and brightly decorated fortresses, or dzongs. In the 1970s, this secluded
kingdom, tucked high in the mountains, famously began charting “gross
national happiness” to measure the country’s well-being. Speak with a local
government official about this fascinating social and economic indicator,
guided by four central pillars—equitable socioeconomic development,
environmental protection, cultural preservation, and good governance.
As you explore, discover commonalities between Bhutan’s pursuit of
happiness and the blue zones, such as the intrinsic focus on reducing
stress through prayer as well as the sense of belonging that imbues the
At the serene 16th-century Choeding Temple, witness a Buddhist prayer
chanting ceremony. Visit Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, to observe
pilgrims circling the National Memorial Chorten, a whitewashed stupa
topped by a golden spire. See the Royal Textile Academy and Museum,
which celebrates and preserves the artistry of traditional Bhutanese
weaving, as well as the 12th-century Dechen Phodrang monastery
(literally, “palace of great bliss”), part of the larger Tashichho Dzong.
Or, weather permitting, choose to set out on a vigorous hike to the Tiger’s
Nest monastery, also known as Taktsang Lhakhang, one of Bhutan’s most
sacred and spectacular pilgrimage sites, which clings to a vertical granite
cliff more than 10,000 feet above sea level. From up here, take in sweeping
views across the Paro Valley.
Zhiwa Ling Hotel (B, L, D Daily)
Days 11, 12, & 13 — Crete and Ikaria, Greece
From some of the world’s highest peaks, we head to the balmy
shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Land on the history-rich island of
Crete and, the next morning, take a charter flight to Ikaria, another
destination where people tend to live much longer than most other
places on Earth and also boast low rates of dementia.
Discover the secluded coves, rocky cliffs, steep valleys, olive groves,
and peaceful rhythm of life of this idyllic Greek isle. Here on the
Aegean Sea, mid-afternoon naps are the norm, time urgency is rare,
family and social connections are paramount, and clean air, warm
breezes, and rugged terrain encourage an active lifestyle. Learn how
Ikarians eat and drink for longevity—including strong red wine,
antioxidant-rich herbal teas and wild greens, and a Mediterranean
diet rooted in seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans,
potatoes, goat’s milk, and cholesterol-lowering olive oil.
Meet with a local representative of the municipality and enjoy a
festival organized for our group. Hallmarks of the island’s social
scene are lively 24-hour festivals, known as panigiria, that bring all
ages of the community together to dance through the night. Browse
Ikaria’s tiny shops, many of which operate entirely on the honor
system. Then return to Crete in the evening and take advantage of
a full day to soak up island life, taking to its crystalline waters with
snorkeling excursions, water sports, or a scenic cruise. If you wish,
visit the archaeological site of Knossos, once the ancient capital of
Minoan Crete, or delve into the nuances of Greek cuisine during a
hands-on cooking class.
Blue Palace Hotel and Spa (B, L, D Daily)
Days 14 & 15 — Sardinia, Italy
Next we head to the mountainous highlands of Sardinia, where
archaeological sites are tucked within olive groves, and the coast
is edged with dramatic geologic formations. The world’s highest
concentration of centenarian men live among the enduring wonders
of this distinctive place. Sardinians enjoy long and happy lives in part
because they stay active and enjoy red wine. Historically, the island’s
wild landscape, cut by deep valleys, was not hospitable for large-scale
farming, so locals looked to shepherding to earn a living—a relatively
low-stress form of work that required several miles of walking each day.
Residents of this isolated island keep to a traditional, healthy lifestyle that
includes hunting, fishing, and harvesting their food. Immerse yourself
in Sardinian traditions with a visit to a local vineyard, learning about
Sardinia’s native Cannonau—a heart-healthy, antioxidant-rich, robust
red wine that many locals drink daily. Then enjoy an easy hike or a round
of golf, taking the opportunity to soak up the amiable Mediterranean
climate. As you enjoy a leisurely introduction to the island, meet some
of the locals, known for their sardonic sense of humor, who gather in the
streets each afternoon to laugh together and socialize.
Board a private boat to stunning La Maddalena island, the gateway to
a secret string of deserted islands, sparkling turquoise lagoons, and
some of the Mediterranean’s most pristine beaches. Visit La Maddalena
Archipelago National Park, a geo-marine protected area where it is said
that the sky merges with the sea.
Hotel Cala di Volpe and Hotel Romazzino (B, L, D Daily)
Days 16 & 17 — Copenhagen, Denmark
Fly north to Denmark, a perennial front-runner in the annual Happiest
Country in the World rankings. Learn some of the secrets the laid-back
people of Denmark have figured out to cultivate joy, deeper meaning,
and increased satisfaction in their lives—from relaxed work schedules
that allow a healthy work-life balance to hygge, a cozy Danish concept of
spending quality time together with loved ones.
Cruise the harbor of the picturesque capital of Copenhagen, enjoying
the long daylight hours of the midnight sun. See the charming Nyhavn
waterfront, lined with colorful houses and boats bobbing in the harbor.
Enjoy mood-lifting endorphins as you cycle the city streets like the locals
do; half of the city’s residents commute by bike every day on an urban
network of 220 miles of safe cycling paths.
Or take a culinary tour to discover some of the inventive cooking techniques
that have put Danish restaurants on the world stage, along with an awardwinning
wave of New Nordic cuisine based on organic and seasonable
vegetables, locally caught fish, and cured or smoked fish and meats.
As you explore this enticing city, discover how creativity flourishes in
Denmark’s egalitarian society—incubating a tradition of world-class
design and architecture—and how locals flock to public parks and beaches
whenever the sun is shining.
Cap off the journey with a memorable farewell dinner at the landmark
Ledreborg Palace, a private family home since the 18th century filled with
fine paintings and furniture and surrounded by beautiful terraced gardens.
Nobis Hotel Copenhagen (B, L, D Daily)
Day 18 — Copenhagen/U.S.
Following breakfast, connect with your commercial flight home.
A world-class team of experts will accompany this 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 this special trip.
Dan Buettner is an internationally recognized researcher, explorer, and New York Times best-selling author. He founded Blue Zones®, a company that puts the world's best practices in longevity and well-being to work in people's lives. Dan's November 2005 National Geographic article on longevity, "The Secrets of Living Longer," was the cover story of one of the magazine's top-selling issues in history and made him a finalist for a National Magazine Award. His books The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest, Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way, and The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People appeared on many best-seller lists and were featured on Oprah. In 2009 Dan and his partner, AARP, applied principles of "The Blue Zones" in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and successfully raised life expectancy and lowered health care costs by some 40 percent. Dan has also worked with Healthways to implement the program in the beach cities of Los Angeles. Their strategy focuses on optimizing the health environment instead of individual behavior change. Buettner holds three world records in distance cycling and has won an Emmy Award for television production. Dan will accompany the expedition from Seattle to Greece.
Content is courtesy of Blue Zones, LLC and is used by permission. Blue Zones® is a registered trademark of Blue Zones, LLC.
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $9,945. Transportation by private Boeing 757 jet and other conveyance, as noted in the itinerary, is included in the expedition cost.
Airfare to Seattle and from Copenhagen is not included in the expedition cost.
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 54 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.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.