Travel with a purpose when you join a science-focused expedition — Photo courtesy of Bkamprath / Getty Images
All travel is rewarding. However, having the opportunity to contribute to science and history makes it even more worthwhile. Fortunately, today’s expeditions are a lot easier to join (and enjoy) than the harrowing journeys undertaken by the explorers we learn about in school.
These no-longer-living legends had to do without creature comforts like memory foam mattresses, gourmet meals and satellite Wi-Fi. In other words, they walked so we could run.
Maybe you’re looking for an alternative spring break vacation, an excuse to take a two-week sabbatical from the office or simply the adventure of a lifetime. Whatever the reason, perhaps it’s time to sign up for a trip with a purpose — a journey more about discovery than downtime.
From the North Pole to the South Pole and several relatively unexplored destinations in between, here are 10 expeditions you can join right now.
Discover highlights of Antarctica with Hurtigruten Expeditions
Hurtigruten Expeditions features a team of award-winning scientists onboard — Photo courtesy of Hurtigruten Expeditions and Dan Avila
With its Norwegian heritage, Hurtigruten Expeditions is the premier expedition cruise company when it comes to polar exploration. Sail from the world’s southernmost city in Argentina to Antarctica with their esteemed expedition team, full of scientists specializing in all things Antarctica. The ship’s Citizen Science Program invites passengers to attend lectures and help with projects like conducting seabird surveys, observing and recording cloud cover, tracking whales and working to promote the conservation of seal leopards. The 12-day trip starts at $8,516.
See Angola, Namibia and Botswana on an African expedition
Natural Selection’s 12-night Angola, Namibia and Botswana Expedition is an exceptional experience — Photo courtesy of Natural Selection
Visit three of Africa’s most breathtakingly beautiful countries on this Natural Selection expedition. It’s hosted by award-winning National Geographic scientists and explorers, including Chris and Steve Boyes. Their goal is to identify and protect the source of several major rivers within these countries. Along the way, don’t be surprised if you’re introduced to new species of insects, frogs and fish. You’ll also make a stop at the battlefields of Cuito Cuanavale to learn about the history of the wars fought there in the not-so-distant 1980s. The 12-day trip starts at $20,500.
Learn about Portugal’s ancient societies with Earthwatch
Help to conserve one of Portugal’s national monuments and answer history’s most perplexing questions — Photo courtesy of Earthwatch Institute
Join archeologists in Portugal’s Tagus Valley as they try to better understand the mysterious Mesolithic-Neolithic transition. Approximately 7,000 years ago, farmers and herders started to replace hunters and gatherers, but there are still many questions surrounding this transition. You’ll work alongside researchers, helping them to excavate for human remains and their tools, which may hold answers to the past. The 7-day trip starts at $2,995.
Climb Lobuche East with Tiff’s Journey
Conquer Lobuche East in this Himalayan climbing expedition designed for beginners — Photo courtesy of Chris Brinlee Jr.
Home to the tallest peaks in the world, the Himalayas are not for the faint of heart. Still, you don’t have to join an Everest expedition to experience them. This far more moderate trek, led by climber and Nepal guide Tiffany Lin, takes you to the top of Lobuche (elevation 20,075 feet), a mountain Lin says is doable for anyone who is “relatively fit.” Along the way you’ll meet local villagers and learn what life is like in one of the world’s most inhospitable places. The 18-day trip starts at $5,700.
Search for Wallace’s Living Treasures with Adventure Life
This cruise brings passengers to the world’s largest archipelago — Photo courtesy of Adventure Life
At the same time Darwin was drafting his theory of evolution in the Galapagos, Alfred Russel Wallace was also doing the same, albeit in Indonesia. This Adventure Life sailing trip celebrates the bicentennial of Wallace’s birth and stops at the places where the lesser-known biologist studied natural selection. Snorkel some of the most biodiverse reefs as you explore the world’s largest archipelago. Your host is Dr. George Beccaloni, a renowned expert on Wallace. The 12-day trip starts at $8,790.
Explore Australia’s wild Northwest with Lindblad Expeditions
This expedition features Peter Hillary, son of Sir Edmund Hillary, as a special guest — Photo courtesy of Ralph Lee Hopkins
Australia’s northwest coast is still relatively unexplored, largely due to its remoteness. On this Lindblad Expeditions cruise and land journey through its untamed landscape, you’ll get to view “otherworldly geological formations,” Aboriginal rock art and mind-boggling acts of nature like horizontal waterfalls. But perhaps the best part of this intimate scientist-led trip is getting to meet, and travel with, Peter Hillary. His father, Sir Edmund Hillary, was the first person to summit Mount Everest in 1953.
The 14-day trip starts at $11,150.
Travel to the Galapagos Islands with Quasar Expeditions
Two cabins on the M/Y Conservation are specifically for research scientists — Photo courtesy of Quasar Expeditions
Discover Darwin’s old stomping grounds (and the birthplace of the theory of evolution) while on board the new Quasar Expeditions’ M/Y Conservation, an eco-friendly expedition yacht scheduled to launch in late 2023. The ship is planning on setting aside two guest cabins for scientists who will get to sail, free of charge, in exchange for their contributions. Help them better understand the archipelago’s famous endemic species, including blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas and giant tortoises. Quasar’s 8-day Galapagos trips, on its current ships, start at $7,300.
Visit East Greenland with Aurora Expeditions
Aurora Expeditions hopes to take guests to the northernmost point of Greenland — Photo courtesy of Tyson Mayr
Unlike other expedition cruises in Greenland, Aurora Expeditions attempts to reach the country’s northernmost tip, an area most travelers never get to see. Weather and ice permitting, you may even be able to visit Kronprins Christian Land, which is home to the dog-sled patrollers of Northeast Greenland National Park. Whether you’re on the ship attending a lecture on wildlife or fjord-hopping by zodiac, you’ll be in good hands with a highly skilled expedition team. The 14-day trip starts at $13,795.
Cruise the wild shores of Iceland and Greenland with Seabourn
A highlight of this 15-day expedition is experiencing the ship’s custom-built submarine — Photo courtesy of Seabourn
Explore Greenland and Iceland on the same trip (and from the comfort of one of 2022’s newest expedition ships) with this adventurous itinerary. While wildlife reigns supreme in these parts, you’ll also discover Norse ruins and get plenty of facetime with a 26-person expedition team, including scientists, historians and naturalists. The ship, Seabourn Venture, boasts 24 zodiacs, two custom-built submarines and a fleet of kayaks for getting up close to the fjords. The 15-day trip starts from $12,374.
Explore the geographic North Pole with Ponant
Set sail on the luxurious Le Commandant Charcot, the first luxury electric hybrid ship to reach the geographic North Pole — Photo courtesy of PONANT-Nicolas Dubreuil
Thanks to its ability to cut through ice up to seven feet thick, Ponant’s Le Commandant Charcot is the only luxury passenger ship capable of reaching the true geographic North Pole. While the well-appointed accommodations are five-star, the vessel also doubles as a very important research center. There are more than 20 scientists working in the ship’s onboard laboratory. They also have a helicopter for scouting landing sites and assisting in research. The 18-day trip starts at $41,198.