This Luxury Cruise Around Japan Visits Under-the-radar Destinations — Including Gorgeous Mountain Villages and UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Luxury tour operator Smithsonian Journeys just released a new slate of 2024 itineraries, including cruises in partnership with Ponant.

Kenrokuen Gardens in Ishikawa, Japan during the Fall

Yobab/Getty Images

It might seem like 2023 has just begun, but when it comes to vacation planning, we already have our sights set on 2024 — especially with the announcement of Smithsonian Journeys new itineraries for the year.

The tour operator already has a robust lineup of trips that span land operations, small-ship cruising, and even private jet journeys around the world, covering interests including astronomy, history, and culture. And in 2024, there are some pretty exciting newcomers being added to the roster.

A standout of the 2024 itineraries is the eight-day Cultural and Natural Treasures of Japan by Sea journey in partnership with the luxury small-ship cruise line Ponant. Rather than stopping at some of the more mainstream destinations in Japan, this voyage explores the mountain villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, a UNESCO World Heritage site; the Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi; and the iconic Kenroku-en garden in Kanazawa, one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan. The itinerary even includes a day in Busan, South Korea, where you can visit the Gyeongju Historic Areas, another UNESCO World Heritage site. The trip departs on May 21, 2024.

Among the other new itineraries is Smithsonian Journeys' new seven-day land tour The Life and Work of Van Gogh in France, which has multiple departures throughout the year (and even an early kick-off in October 2023). The itinerary includes stops in Paris and Auvers-Sur-Oise in the north, as well as Avignon, Arles, and St.-Rémy-de-Provence in the south — all important Van Gogh sites. You'll not only see the artist's works in museums, but also visit the places he lived, including the asylum of Saint Paul de Mausole, where he painted Starry Night.

And those trips are just the tip of the iceberg. Other new sea-based itineraries include sailings to New Zealand's South Island; the Mediterranean; and Israel, Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, and Turkey; other new land-based itineraries include journeys to Sicily, Spain, and England and Ireland. You can discover all the options at

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles