Experiences of a Lifetime

Traverse the globe on this 17-day adventure by private jet, touching down at some of the planet's most spectacular sites, including the Rose Red City of Petra, the stunning Taj Mahal, the island paradise of the Maldives, and the forests of Rwanda, home to the famed Mountain Gorilla.

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 Shangri-La's Villingili Resort and Spa  The renowned Treasury at Petra  The Siq to Petra  The "Blue City" of Jodhpur with Mehrangarh Fort on the hilltop  Wadi Rum  Inside the Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur  Experience a traditional Jodhpur dance  Traditional paintings in Jodphur  Camels of the Thar Desert  The Manvar Camp  Smithsonian travelers relax on the sand dunes. Credit: Amy Kotkin  Sunset over the Taj Mahal  Traditional dance in India  Father and son in Rajasthan. Credit: Linda Currie  Seaside huts in the Maldives  Seaside hut in the Maldives  Uganda's renowned Mountain Gorilla  The Virunga Mountains  Traditional dancers in Rwanda  Adult Silverback Mountain Gorilla  Aït Ben Haddou  Lanterns in Marrakech  Djemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakech

Traverse the globe in a private jet, touching down at some of the planet’s most spectacular sites. Survey the Rose Red City of Petra, once lost to the shifting sands of time. Visit the palaces of the Blue City of Jodhpur. Follow your bliss in the island paradise of the Maldives. This aptly named 17-day adventure is sure to provide the travel experience of a lifetime.

October 31 — London, England

Meet in London. Your home for the night is the stylish Claridge’s hotel in one of London’s most fabulous neighborhoods. If you fancy a stroll after your flight, head to nearby Bond Street to browse sophisticated boutiques, or wander sprawling Hyde Park, a welcome refuge in a city known for its gorgeous public parks. This evening, meet fellow travelers and expedition staff at a reception and welcome dinner. Afterward, retire to your elegant guest room, soak away the cares of the world in a marble bathroom and dream of desert landscapes of the Near East.

November 1-2 — The Lost City of Petra or Wadi Rum, Jordan
The ancient city of Petra was half-built, half-carved into red sandstone cliffs by the mysterious Nabataean people more than 2,000 years ago. Later buried in the sands of the forbidding desert, this “lost city” was known only to local Bedouins until its rediscovery by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.

Your entry point into Petra is the Siq, a narrow chasm that winds its way through the rock. Two millennia ago, this route was well traveled by Roman soldiers, Silk Route caravans and nomadic Bedouin. Many archaeologists believe Petra was one of the richest cities in the world for several hundred years, a sprawling metropolis of lush gardens, fountains and villas built with the profits from overland trade.

As you wander the ruins, you’ll see elaborate buildings and tombs carved from sheer rock walls in a blend of Eastern and Hellenistic architecture. Your comfortable hotel sits just minutes from the entrance to Petra and off the main streets of the town of Wadi Musa.

Alternate: Instead of visiting Petra, go on a jeep safari to Wadi Rum, a haunting lunar-like landscape made famous to Westerners by T.E. Lawrence and director David Lean’s masterpiece "Lawrence of Arabia".

November 3-5 — Jodhpur, Thar Desert and the Taj Mahal, India
Once home to feuding Rajput warrior clans, India’s largest state, Rajasthan, is dotted with the massive fortresses they built to repel invasion from their bellicose neighbors. The Blue City of Jodhpur boasts the most impressive fort in the region, Mehrangarh, which Rudyard Kipling dubbed “the work of giants.” An exploration of the old quarter’s lively Sadar Bazaar gives explorers a taste of everyday life.

The starkly beautiful Thar Desert offers a look at life that few outsiders have experienced. Home to traditional chili and mustard farmers, carpet weavers, metal smiths and potters, this arid landscape stretches over four Indian states and west into Pakistan. Evening falls quickly in the desert, and the setting sun paints the dunes and scrubland in rich shades of orange, red and violet. You’ll see it all from camelback on your way to a festive dinner. Of course, no Indian sojourn is complete without a visit to the Taj Mahal, the astounding tribute Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned for his beloved third wife.

We stop en route to the Maldives on November 6.

November 6-8 — The Maldives
The Maldives is an island paradise of white-sand beaches, palm trees and brilliant turquoise lagoons. Averaging about 5 feet above sea level, you’ll appreciate the view while gazing out over the dazzling, blue-green sea from your overwater villa on the tiny islet of Villingili. The pristine coral reef teems with more than 700 fish species, including anemones, sweetlips and nurse sharks. Swim or snorkel among delicate corals and the colorful creatures that inhabit them, including the gentle, graceful manta rays, some of which have a wingspan of up to 20 feet.

Do some surfing, scuba diving, kayaking, deep-sea fishing or just relax on the blissful beach. Another option is to explore the island’s flora and fauna among the three natural lagoons and nature trails surrounding the resort. However you spend your time in this country that’s endangered by rising sea levels, you’ll emerge refreshed and revitalized—and ready to venture into the jungles of Africa. Be sure to catch the sunset one night at Manzaru, your resort’s beachfront lounge, which is framed by swaying palm trees.

November 9-11 — Rwanda
No one knew that mountain gorillas existed until 1902, when a German explorer stumbled upon a family of what he called “big, black monkeys,” shot two and brought them back to a museum in Berlin. The subsequent history of human interaction with the mountain gorilla has been similarly checkered, but the current wild population of these majestic animals is estimated around 880, up from around 250 at the time of Dian Fossey’s death in 1985. Hike through the beautiful bamboo forest of Volcanoes National Park to get up close and personal with a family of gorillas. Spend an hour watching these peaceful giants munch leaves, groom each other and play in the forest.

Kigali is the cultural heart of Africa’s most densely populated country. From your base on one of the capital’s boulevards, watch motorcycle taxis zip through the streets and tap your feet to the rhythms of local music. The 1994 genocide seems far away now, but it tore a ragged hole in the fabric of the country. At the Kigali Memorial Center hear survivors’ stories and learn how Rwandans are creating an environment for unity and healing. The nation looks toward the future with programs like the Akilah Institute, an inspiring college that trains young women for careers in fast-growing industries including tourism and information systems.

Alternate: If you prefer a more relaxing stay, spend time in Kigali and take a spectacular helicopter ride, weather permitting, over the Virunga Mountains.

November 12-14 — Marrakech, Morocco
Morocco’s great imperial city was founded in 1062, and the Berber dynasties that ruled it held sway over an area from Algiers in the north to Senegal in the south. From the essential Islamic art in the Saadien Tombs of the Kasbah to the orange- and jasmine-scented Majorelle Garden, Marrakech will delight the senses. Sip a sweet mint tea on a balcony overlooking the wild and captivating Jemaa el-Fna Square, a living diorama of fire eaters, snake charmers, musicians, dancers and entertainers.

For a day in the countryside, head to the Atlas Mountains, still home to members of the Berber tribes who founded Marrakech. In the foothills and the fertile valleys dotted with olive groves, you may be embraced by the locals who are famous for their legendary hospitality.

November 15-16 — London Home
Celebrate and reflect upon our incredible journey during a casual dinner at your elegant hotel. The following day, connect with your independent flight home.