©istockphoto.com / Konstantinos Ouzounidis

As an extension of the Smithsonian Institute, custom travel tour program Smithsonian Journeys is known for designing expeditions that not only captivate adventure seekers, but place an emphasis on education, in order to teach as well as entertain. To push the boundaries of educational travel, upcoming tours by Smithsonian Journeys highlight phenomenal events and natural wonders in the art and scientific realms that take guests beyond the limitations of a classroom.

Celebrating The Renaissance Man

In addition to the arts, Leonardo da Vinci excelled in a wide assortment of concentrations, from science and engineering to anatomy and writing. To commemorate this man and the 500th anniversary of his death, participants of “The Genius of Leonardo da Vinci” tour will have the chance to explore da Vinci’s life through the cities that he helped shape, Florence and Milan.

Guests will first explore the city of Florence, walking through iconic locations like the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi Galleries to take an in-depth look at the masterpieces created by Renaissance painters. Those on tour will also have access to the famous Leicester Codex, one of da Vinci’s most important scientific journals, and other writings by da Vinci.

After exploring the Tuscan village of Anchiano near Vinci, guests will engage in a history presentation about The Last Supper before traveling by train to Milan to see the fresco in person, as well as Castello Sforzesco, where da Vinci lived and worked.

Uffizi Galleries. ©istockphoto.com / The_Chickenwing

Along the way, guests will partake in the beauty of the city and countryside, while receiving instruction from experts like Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome, on da Vinci and his many works.

The tour itself will coincide with countless festivals and cultural events celebrating da Vinci, according to Vice President of Program Management Karen Ledwin, a fantastic addition to the tour, which already highlights special access to many historical sights related to da Vinci. The program, she notes, will ultimately focus on how “foresighted” he was and “expand on how his work has influenced mankind.”

Florence. ©istockphoto.com / maroznc

Exploring in Switzerland

Another genius with a huge influence on today’s world was Albert Einstein,
notable inventor and scientist who had a large hand in many scientific discoveries. Einstein’s career as a student and professor is only part of the “Art Meets Science in Switzerland” tour, as art and science enthusiasts will find delight in the excursion by visiting cities in Switzerland that accentuate accomplishments in these concentrations.

Guests will follow Einstein’s life through their tour of Zurich and Bern, where he both learned and taught. Zurich is also home to Zentrum Paul Klee, an architectural masterpiece designed by Renzo Piano that houses the largest collection of works by Paul Klee, which will be offered via a private tour. Whilst visiting the Einstein House in Bern, guests can also take part in discussions in astronomy, medicine and physics at the Sphinx Observatory and Research Institute, perched on a steep cliff in the Alps.

While these excursions focus on Einstein’s “legacy in physics,” says Ledwin, the special access trip to Geneva to visit the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) further emphasizes Smithsonian Journeys’ mission to share “rare phenomenon and rare events that you are not able to take in on any given day.” Located outside Geneva, CERN hosts the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which will be temporarily shut down for maintenance in 2019. At that time, guests on tour will be able to travel five stories down into the center of ATLAS, the largest of LHC’s detectors, for a unique look at the scientific equipment and a presentation on the machine itself.

The Art Meets Science tour is a nearly perfect combination of ideas, as Ledwin mentions that the tour combines the fact that Switzerland has so many wonderful museums and art and science exhibits, all within a lovely region with terrific food and opportunities for cultural experiences. “It’s a very timely, unusual opportunity with some of the most advanced science in the world,” she notes.

Sphinx Observatory and Research Institute. ©istockphoto.com / Leamus

A Total Eclipse of the Heartland

Expert-led discussions are pivotal to Smithsonian Journeys’ tours, as it strives to provide the most well-researched knowledge on every aspect of the expedition. Dr. Michelle Thaller, Deputy Director of Science for Communications at NASA, is a chief expert on the 2019 “Chile Total Solar Eclipse” expedition. Thaller and travelers will venture to the port city of La Serena, Chile, which is home to some of the largest telescopes and observatories in the world. From the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the world’s most powerful radio telescope, to Las Campanas, which features the Magellan Telescopes and future Giant Magellan Telescope, guests can discover astrological and natural wonders from these observatories before the eclipse viewing, directly situated along the path of totality.

Aside from the star-studded events of the tour, Ledwin notes an added bonus of the tour is the interesting landscape that amplifies the space-like themes, particularly with excursions to the Atacama Desert. “The desert has areas that are reminiscent of moonscapes,” she says, as well as dried salt beds and unusual wildlife that offer a “fascinating on-earth experience.” Other earthly experiences include wine tasting at an award-winning boutique winery in the Casablanca Valley, as well as Chilean liquor at a Pisco distillery, and enjoying the hot springs of Termas de Puritana.

Dr. Michelle Thaller, Deputy Director of Science for Communications at NASA

Skies of Paradise

Natural Hawaiian wonders are dangerously interesting, from volcanic and wildlife activity to sights beyond our atmosphere. Guests on the “Astronomy and Natural Wonders of Hawaii” tour will experience the state’s natural history on a geologist-led exploration across several islands, gaining unparalleled access to research centers and unmatched locations along the way.

“Hawaii is a paradise in itself,” notes Ledwin, a paradise with a wide range of interests for those looking to learn more about the natural world. This world is
explored in several areas of the tour, starting in Maui, where travelers will experience marine marvels at the Maui Ocean Center, as well as stargazing from the historic whaling village of Lahaina.

Haleakala Park, Hawaii. ©istockphoto.com / P_L_photography

Stargazing continues in greater quantities throughout the tour, from the Observatory at the Haleakala National Park to exhibits and planetarium shows at the Imiloa Astronomy Center on the Big Island. Guests will learn from local astronomer Richard Wainscoat from the University of Hawaii as he presents a more in-depth look at the astronomical phenomena throughout Hawaii.

Volcanoes are a main focus of the tour, as one of the state’s most incredible natural wonders. Guests will travel throughout Hawaii Volcanoes National Park exploring the land and observing the dramatic change in botanic and volcanic scenery. From exploring astronomy, volcanology, and marine biology, Ledwin agrees that this tour especially highlights “a tremendous trio in natural beauty” that exists in Hawaii, in the sky, on water and on land.