The Human Journey: Tracing Legendary Peoples & Sacred Places

National Geographic Expeditions Preferred
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
Travel Style: Array Relaxed
Physical Level: Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment. Easy
Lodging Level: You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping. Comfort (4*)
24 days
From: $ 67,950 $ 2,831 / day
Checking price


Highlights (Bullets)

  • See the world with National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Spencer Wells
  • Travel in a private Boeing 757 jet
  • Go off the beaten path to discover some of the most incredible legacies of legendary civilizations
  • Enjoy a private tour of the Georgian National Museum
  • Explore the vibrant bazaars of Samarqand in Uzbekistan
  • See the land of Genghis Khan – Mongolia
  • Be amazed by 1,000 year old structures in Myanmar (Burma)
  • Visit several World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka
  • Explore the National Museum of Ethiopia
  • See Jerusalem, a city that holds a rich spiritual meaning to many faiths
  • Enjoy a farewell dinner in London

Short Description

Join geneticist, anthropologist, and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells on an extraordinary private jet expedition, venturing off the beaten path to discover the enduring legacies of legendary civilizations that have shaped our shared human history. Following a specially crafted itinerary we developed with Spencer, explore sacred sites, ancient cities, and astonishing cultural treasures from Uzbekistan and Mongolia to Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, and beyond.

Style Private guided tour
Off the beaten track trips will stretch your comfort zone. They don't always feature tourist highlights, but dive deeper into local life and culture.
Itinerary Focus Off the Beaten Path
You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Lodging Level Comfort (4*)
Flight & Transport Inclusions All internal transport included (including local flights)
Start City London, England
End City London, England


Days 1 & 2: U.S./London, England

Meals: Dinner

Accommodation: Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane

Depart the U.S. independently on an overnight flight to London. The next day, meet experts, staff, and fellow travelers during a welcome reception and dinner.

Days 3, 4, & 5: Tbilisi, Georgia

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Daily)

Accommodation: Marriott Tbilisi Hotel

Get acquainted with Tbilisi’s Old City, visiting the Georgian Orthodox Sioni Cathedral. At the Georgian National Museum, enjoy a private tour and reception with paleoanthropologist and National Geographic grantee Dr. David Lordkipanidze, the museum’s director. Join David on an optional excursion to the archaeological site of Dmanisi, where he led the discovery of the earliest-known hominid remains outside of Africa. Explore the historic churches and monasteries of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mtskheta, or travel to the ancient cave town of Uplistsikhe and visit Gori, the birthplace of Joseph Stalin.

Days 6 & 7: Samarqand, Uzbekistan

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Daily)

Accommodation: Registan Plaza Hotel, Samarqand

The fabled city of Samarqand flourished in the 14th and 15th centuries under the rule of Tamerlane and his successors, who commissioned spectacular mosques and madrassas covered in blue tiles. Discover the city’s vibrant bazaars, and examine some of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in the world on a stroll through Registan Square. Venture into Gur-e Amir and the Shah-i-Zinda complex of mosques and mausoleums; and see the turquoise domes of the Bibi Khanum mosque.

Days 8, 9, & 10: Ulaanbaatar and the Gobi, Mongolia

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Daily)

Accommodation: The Blue Sky Hotel, Ulaanbaatar and Three Camel Lodge or Terelj Hotel

Our next stop is the land of Genghis Khan, where one of the world’s last nomadic cultures lives amid the stark beauty of the steppe. In Ulaanbaatar, explore the Gandan Monastery, one of the few monasteries to survive the anti-Buddhist attacks of the 1930s. Then take a private local flight to the majestic Gobi, where we’ll spend two nights at a traditional ger camp. In addition, visit with a nomad family and experience their way of life firsthand. At the fossil quarries of Bayanzag, also known as the Flaming Cliffs, hunt for dinosaur fossils with a local paleontologist. Or discover the stunning landscapes of Gorkhi Terelj National Park.

Days 11 - 14: Yangon (Rangoon), Bagan, and Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma)

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Daily)

Accommodation: Traders Hotel, Yangon; Aureum Resort & Spa, Inle Lake; and Aureum Palace Hotel,

Our visit begins at Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, a dazzling structure that has dominated the city’s skyline for more than 1,000 years. Then take a private local flight to remote Inle Lake, home to the floating gardens, stilt houses, and markets of the Intha people. Learn about their traditional weaving and blacksmithing methods; watch fishermen poling their skiffs with one leg; and visit Nga Phe Chaung Monastery. Then fly to the ancient capital of Bagan and explore its extraordinary plain, dotted with thousands of temples, stupas, and monasteries.

Days 15, 16, & 17: Dambulla, Sri Lanka

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner ( Daily)

Accommodation: Amaya Lake, Dambulla

We fly next to Colombo, Sri Lanka’s colorful capital. Take a private local flight to Habarana and continue overland to Dambulla. From our base at a stunning lakeside hotel, set out to visit several World Heritage sites: the rock fortress of Sigiriya, a wonder of ancient engineering; the cave temples of Dambulla, a Buddhist pilgrimage site; and the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, where many ruins date from the 12th century.

Days 18 & 19: Addis Ababa and Lalibela, Ethiopia

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Daily)

Accommodation: Sheraton Addis

Ethiopia is home to diverse religions, distinct tribal cultures, evidence of some of the earliest humans, and an array of archaeological treasures. In the capital city of Addis Ababa, pay a visit to the National Museum of Ethiopia. Then travel by local air to the northern town of Lalibela, an important pilgrimage center of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church—one of the oldest Christian sects in the world. At this fascinating World Heritage site, stroll among 11 breathtaking subterranean churches that were carved out of bedrock in the 13th century.

Days 20, 21, & 22: Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Daily)

Accommodation: King David Hotel, Jerusalem

Fly by private jet to Tel Aviv and continue overland to Jerusalem, a city that holds a rich spiritual meaning to many faiths. We will visit a number of holy sites in the Old City and learn about their significance to Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Face the Western Wall, one of the most sacred of Jewish sites, and touch its ancient stones; and wander through the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which, according to tradition, houses the tomb of Jesus.

Days 23 & 24: London, England/U.S.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (Day 23); Breakfast (Day 24)

Accommodation: Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane

Return by private jet to London and celebrate our adventure with a farewell dinner. The next day, transfer to the airport for your commercial flight home.


Checking price
Price From $ 67,950
Price Per Day: $ 2,831 per day
  • Single Supplement: $ 8,250

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28 National Geographic Expeditions Travel Reviews & Ratings

3.6 out of 5 (100+ reviews)
Excellent 16
Great 0
Average 3
Disappointing 3
Terrible 6

The Human Journey: Tracing Legendary Peoples & Sacred Places

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Company Reviews


Firstly, it was my understanding, and confirmed in a phone conversation with the company’s representative prior to our departure, that the schedule of events would go at our pace. We found this to not be the case. For example; we arrived in Cairo on October 25th, from Tel Aviv, Israel, later in the night than scheduled due to an airline delay. We were met at the airport by your representative and taken to a hotel 45 minutes from the airport. We checked in shortly after midnight. The representative said that we would “meet at 4:00” to be picked up to fly to Luxor. I thought he meant 4:00 PM, but no, it was 4:00 AM!!! We had less than 3 hours sleep before we were whisked off to our next destination. (By the way, the representative spent those few hours waiting in the hotel lobby; he didn’t even get a night’s rest.)

We arrived in Luxor, were taken to the hotel, deposited our luggage (the room wasn’t ready), had breakfast, and then met our tour guide at 10:00 AM for our first tour. We were exhausted, but mustered our energy for the occasion.

Is there a good reason why Cairo wasn’t the first city on our tour? In retrospect, it should have been for many reasons, not the least of which was the logistics described above.

All right, so now we’re in Luxor, and by afternoon we’re ensconced in a luxurious hotel with a magnificent view of the Nile River. There’s a swimming pool that we’re looking forward to relaxing by the next day during some much needed down time during the free time described in the itinerary; exactly what we expected from National Geographic. But instead, that evening we were told by our guide that we needed to have our luggage ready to check out of the hotel the next morning to relocate to the Nile River ship Minerva (coincidentally, owned by the same company as the hotel). We obliged, and in the morning we were taken on a tour with the luggage in the car, and then brought to the ship in the early afternoon. Our four suitcases were put in a room that was barely large enough to contain the bed, but the view of the river from our room was good enough to overlook this inconvenience, at least for the moment. I looked forward to resting in our cabin in the afternoon because I was exhausted. In fact, I was so tired that I have little recollection of that morning’s tour until I look at the photos to affirm that I was actually where the itinerary said I would be.

We went to lunch in the ship’s dining room and returned to our cabin to find that our view of the Nile was obliterated by a ship that had tied up alongside our own. This is now our view (see photo) and the blackout drapes that were drawn to hide it made the small cabin a crowded, dark dungeon.

Furthermore, that ship’s bunker oil fumes were now in the air conditioning system of our ship and flowing freely into our cabin making me nauseous and giving me a headache. I complained but there was nothing to do about it.

And if this wasn’t bad enough, the sound of the neighboring ship that accompanied the smell was intolerable.

Other issues I had with our cabin on the ship included;
- The bypass closet door wouldn’t stay shut
- There was a leak under the bathroom sink
- The carpet in the area near the bathroom was wet
- The toilet seat lid came off repeatedly
- Wifi on board the ship was only in the main lobby area, and was poor at best

I talked to the ship’s desk clerk, and he assured me that things would be taken care of shortly. They never were.

This doesn’t take into consideration that the buffet style food served on board was repetitive if you didn’t take the offered main course, which was usually meat (I don’t eat meat).

Oh, and I didn’t yet mention that our ship wouldn’t be leaving its mooring until the next day! We had traded a luxurious hotel for this!

With that said, it begs the question of why we were taken out of a luxurious hotel 24 hours in advance of the ship sailing away from Luxor? No pool to sit by, no view of the sunset over the banks of the Nile, no quiet room in which to sleep, and no dinner of delicious food. Certainly not what we expected from a Nat Geo Private Tour for which we had paid a premium price!

Unrelated to these issues, NatGeo’s survey asked if we felt that our health was well-protected. “No” is the short answer. A fuller reply is that we both got Covid on this trip; my husband first, then inevitably, myself three days later. We had avoided catching it for more than 2.6 years, and now we had it. I realize that one takes risks when going out in the world, and I certainly don’t blame NatGeo for our getting sick. But their people weren’t wearing masks until I asked them to, mostly to protect themselves from us. One agent who met us at the airport when we arrived back in Cairo from Aswan, now openly sick with Covid, disappeared for 10 minutes to purchase a mask when I told him in no uncertain terms that he needed to wear one around us.

Overall, NatGeo profited from our illness as we were too unwell to utilize the dining allowance at the Cairo Ritz Carlton or to go to out for most meals offered with our guide. The one restaurant I was taken to for dinner without my husband was a touristy place with fake grapes leaves hanging from fake arbors. When a 35 person tour group trouped in past us it told me all I needed to know. My bowl of pasta with a tomato sauce not much thicker than tomato juice certainly couldn’t have cost more than $10, if that much. Then, the next day I was too sick to go out at all, my husband, who was feeling better by then, went out alone with the tour guide for the day, but it’s my understanding that they skipped all meals.

All in all, there were many aspects of the trip that were memorable for all the right reasons, but also memorable for the above mentioned wrong reasons. For us to have paid as much as we did begs the question, “Was it worth the expense for this private tour experience?” As seasoned world travelers, I’m hard pressed to reply in the affirmative.
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Best Part of Trip was Cancelled

signed up to travel the Columbia-Snake River to visit Hell's Canyon. That part of the trip was cancelled by Nat Geo without notifying the passengers. Instead we visited a farm market. Wow, big deal, I can do that at home. It was a major disappointment and of course NG did not give any refunds for leaving out a major part of the trip.
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Cancel my trip but no refund

This company canceled my trip due to COVID but failed to refund all money so I am out $1500 for Lindblad portion, and will never travel with NatGeo again. They have lost my trust as a company that puts travelers best interests first.
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I booked a trip to South Africa with National Geographic... what I thought was a reputable company. A couple weeks before I was supposed to go, they canceled the tour.

They have not refunded any portion of my money. They said the airfare was non-refundable and that I couldn't even have a flight credit. But they are the ones that canceled the trip. However Delta told me that a refund check was sent to the agency. Then they said they would refund the other portion of the trip expense, but it may take 6 months. It is completely unacceptable. The entire 100% of the trip should be refunded and should have been refunded the day they canceled the trip.

The business is not responsive to this. I filed a complaint with the BBB and they did not respond. I sent a 30 day demand letter in preparation of filing in court against them. So far no resolution.

I expect a 100% refund AND I share this story to strongly advise against anyone ever booking a national geographic trip of any kind.

I will be posting this review online in every spot I can find.
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Highly recommend! It was a trip of a lifetime!

We had not had the pleasure of traveling with National Geographic and was not sure what to expect. The trip went beyond what we could have possibly imagined! The staff were attentive and the guides were knowledgeable. There was not a time that we felt unsafe or that our needs were not being met. The trip was very fast paced which allowed us to experience each destination. Their timing was perfect with scheduled excursions and meals. We took the trip in October 2019 and then COVID entered our world and brought our trips to a stand still. I am now planning some trips for this year with hopes of a healthier world to travel!
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Not worth the money very disorganized and didn't pat attention to details

First we had a great guide but he was an independent contractor and for much less money we could have done everything we did for much less money with one of the other tour groups he leads. They also would have included all meals. This was a private tour so we were based nearby and had a car but the tour started day one at the airport in Fresno, CA where we stayed overnight and our guide met us there. We pleaded with Nat Geo to let us enter the park and meet our guide there would have saved hours of additional driving and we would have spent our first night in the park instead of at an airport hotel. . For very expensive $22,700, for four, private tour, it didn't include dinners which were wherever we were staying because there was nowhere else to go. The last night we were supposed to eat at the exclusive Ahwahnee Lodge on Nat Geo's dime but they didn't make reservations and they couldn't seat us so we had to scramble to find a place to eat which is very difficult in the park especially when we had no reservations. Day 7 of our tour was to be our tour guide taking us back to the airport but since we had our own car he just left on day 6. All in all definitely not worth the money and NatGeo could care less about the particulars and the quality of the tour.
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Flight & Transport Inclusions

All internal transport included (including local flights)

Group Size

Intimate Group - 12 max


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 76 passengers in two-by-two, VIP-style leather seating.


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 trip.

Spencer Wells
Geneticist, anthropologist, and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Spencer Wells has analyzed the DNA of thousands of people living in isolated tribes around the world. He leads the landmark Genographic Project, a multi-year endeavor to chart the journey of our early ancestors as they populated the planet. Spencer earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University and conducted postdoctoral work at Stanford and Oxford. He is the author of three books, The Journey of Man, Deep Ancestry, and Pandora’s Seed. His fieldwork has taken him to more than 80 countries, where he has worked with everyone from heads of government to tribal chieftains in places as remote as Chad, Tajikistan, and Papua New Guinea.

Spencer will join the following departure:
May 12 - Jun 04, 2016

Trip ID#:


What's excluded

  • Commercial airfare from your home city to London, England, and from London, England, to your home city
  • Optional and additional accident/baggage/cancellation insurance
  • Passport and visa fees
  • Personal expenses such as laundry, telephone, and fax fees
  • All beverages not mentioned above as included
  • Hotel minibar charges
  • Meals not scheduled by the Tour Operator
  • And inoculation and medication costs of any kind
  • Any tips or gratuities not specifically mentioned as included in the total expedition price will be at your discretion

Meals Included

21 Breakfasts, 21 Lunches and 21 Dinners

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