Creating travel experiences that intrigue, inspire, and teach for 25 years.
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Steal away to Italy and be dazzled by beauty as you enjoy private openings of major museums, churches, palaces, private homes, and historic gardens. Encounter the charisma of prestigious Italians in their own personal settings—a famed restorer in his laboratory, a garden historian on her private estate, an internationally-acclaimed artist on his Tuscan farm. Gaze out over the medieval skyline of Siena while unwinding with cocktails on the terrace of a beloved noble-woman's city home. See what tourists rarely see as you move from private villa to private villa in the romantic countryside of the Veneto, experiencing privileged views of Palladio, Veronese, Tiepolo, and other masters as you go. Expand your Italian horizons by going off the beaten track, sampling the great food and art of Emilia Romagna, the Greek-influenced landscapes and charms of Puglia, or the romantic castles and famous vineyards of Piedmont. Explore the rich variety of Italy’s inspired regional cuisines dining in divine company in fine restaurants, hidden osterias, and the charming homes of leading cooking instructors.
But other great Mediterranean destinations await as well on ISDI's custom-designed educational group travel programs. Be moved by the wistful strains of the fado in a tile-covered club in the heart of old Lisbon. Sample delicious port wine while being regaled with local legends and spectacular stories in the elegant country home of a former Portuguese ambassador. Examine the amazing new museum architecture of sunny Spain—from the Guggenheim Bilbao to soaring Calatrava buildings in Valencia to the new wing of the Prado in Madrid. Relive the glories of distant battles and royal courts at the incomparable Alhambra, where gates will open exclusively for you. Follow in the footsteps of Pablo Picasso, Julia Child, Henri Matisse, and Napoleon while meandering from village to village in Provence and the French Riviera. Explore art history in cosmopolitan Athens, where the sculptural and architectural relics of the ancients blend with world-renowned private modern art collections to create a thrilling synergy.
A stunning ivy-covered castle and its gardens in Italy
The awe-inspiring interior and dome of the Granada Cathedral in Spain
International Seminar Design, Inc. (ISDI) was one of the very first cultural tour operators to work in Mexico, and our 30+ years of experience there makes us unrivaled experts at building custom-designed group travel programs there. Celebrate with local families during Mexico’s Day of the Dead when the spirits of loved ones return to greet the living in a feast of music, food, and crafts. Take in grandiose museums, vibrant murals, stunning private homes and gardens, and elegant restaurants in ever-more-sophisticated Mexico City. Amble through incredibly lush jungle clearings to gawk at recently excavated temples and palaces at newly discovered Maya ruins in the Yucatan.
But we also work extensively in South America and Central America. Explore the spectacular archaeological site of Peru’s Machu Picchu, royal dwelling of the Incas, beneath mesmerizing moonlight. Examine the incredible holdings of Argentinean art collectors in exclusive visits to magnificent private homes. Meet with up-and-coming contemporary artists in studios across Mexico. Dance the Argentinean tango to a vibrant Latin beat in a vivacious Buenos Aires nightclub. Go behind the scenes in Rio to meet with the float designers who bring Carnaval to life and see their top-secret creations. Meander through sumptuous tropical gardens, the realization of the extravagant dreams of Rio’s modernist landscape architects. Join expert naturalist guides to experience the pulsating power of South America’s Iguaçu Falls—taller than Niagara and twice as wide. Mingle with indigenous locals hopping between Guatemala's charming colonial villages and remarkable archaeological treasures.
A vibrant woven textile in Mexico / Rosa Menkman >
Inca storehouses over breathtaking Ollantaytambo in Peru / Kenneth Moore >
The organic, modern Pampulha Chapel in Brazil / Antonio Thomás Koenigkam Oliveira >
Unravel the ancient traditions of Japan from the tangle of cutting-edge contemporary culture as you travel by high-speed trains through neon-edged cities to Shinto shrines, Samurai villages, and treasured sacred gardens. Understand the intricacies of Japanese arts by attending a private Kabuki theater performance, meeting with national living treasures as they perform their creative magic, and enjoying the company of geishas as they describe their lives and time-honored educations. Try your hand under the guidance of masters at indigo dying, papermaking, and flower arranging as you learn a new definition of perfection. Dine with Buddhist monks in their private temple garden in Kyoto.
Ponder the compelling imagination of the ancient Chinese while following in the footsteps of Emperors along China’s Great Wall. Stand in awe overlooking the 2,200-year-old terracotta warriors in Xi’an as an archaeological expert discusses Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s remarkable vision. Marvel at the treasures created during China’s golden age by artists, sculptors, writers, and craftspeople in the Shaanxi Provincial Museum as a curator describes the philosophical underpinnings of these creations. In Shanghai, be among the first to appreciate China's rising contemporary art stars during private receptions in galleries, studios, and collectors’ houses. In Beijing, join the empress dowager’s chef for a regal lunch in your honor inside his historic home. Experience the extremes of China’s ecological and anthropological diversity by journeying from icy Manchuria to the steamy jungles along the Burmese border.
Find yourself in the company of literary spirits—the likes of Conrad, Maugham, and Coward—during a private high tea in one of Bangkok’s historic hotels. Search the countryside of Northern Thailand for wild elephants and precious orchids, while taking in the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding hills. Circumnavigate the walled city of Sukhothai, encountering Si Satchanalai’s evocative Khmer ruins. At sunset in Chiang Mai, stand in silence before the mountaintop temple of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep before visiting the cacophonous Night Bazaar. In sun-kissed Pattaya on the Gulf of Thailand, meet a prominent Thai horticulturalist for a personal tour of his superlative garden—450 acres of palms, tropical plants, and exotic blossoms.
Visit remote craft centers in Laos or the Vietnamese hill country, where the rhythm of life continues to be measured by the weaver’s loom or the storyteller’s tale. Make the acquaintance of major Vietnamese historians, chefs, and artists in their homes, markets, and studios. Encounter Cambodia’s Angkor Watt—undisputed jewel of Southeast Asia—joined by the international scholars and lifelong experts specializing in the World Heritage Site. Experience cultural and archaeological wonders of East Asia on a custom-designed educational travel program.
The harmonious Fushimi Inari Shrine in Japan / Chee Hong >
The shining gold Kinkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan / Joe deSousa >
The distinctive Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom / Donald Macauley >
Northern & Eastern Europe
Wander ancient pathways in bucolic Wales, tracing the legendary footsteps of King Arthur. Immerse yourself in the charm and beauty of the English garden, highlighted by stops at the Chelsea Flower Show, private historic gardens, and the garden home of a famed British author. Spend an enchanted week with famed Impressionist masters in thatched villages and along the precipitous coastline of Normandy, before a grand finale in the City of Lights.
Enjoy insider opportunities on one of ISDI's custom-designed educational travel programs, as you catch the excitement of innovation and change in the thriving and quickly developing cities of Central Europe—Berlin, Budapest, and Prague. Indulge yourself in the most luxurious and exclusive New Year’s celebrations in the world—partying with European nobility at imperial galas in St. Petersburg and Vienna, entering hallowed halls usually closed to the public. Spend a beautiful week in Amsterdam, exploring art icons, tulip fields, hydraulic engineering, and 21st-century social issues.
Be mesmerized by the raw natural beauty of Iceland’s geysers, glaciers, volcanoes, and hot springs, while also taking the time to understand the country's modern culture—meeting writers, designers, artists, and chefs.
Charming estate gardens in England
The Frank Gehry DZ Bank atrium in Berlin
The United States
International Seminar Design, Inc. (ISDI) was one of the first educational tour operators to invest heavily in custom-designed academic travel programs in the United States, and our experience all over our beautiful country makes us a great partner for customized journeys to American destinations.
Explore ISDI’s hometown of Washington, D.C., in creative fashion, meeting our many personal contacts in the fields of art, architecture, music, science, politics, and more. Enjoy a weekend winter opera getaway in art-filled Sarasota, Florida. Discover the historic houses and traditional arts and crafts of North Carolina, with private openings of prized museums and extraordinary homes. Enjoy a reception with the governor’s wife in her glorious private home in Richmond. Luxuriate in the crown jewel of the Old South—Charleston, South Carolina—meeting prominent preservationists, gardeners, artists, and writers. Celebrate a century of architectural innovation in breezy Chicago, moving from Louis Sullivan to Frank Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry, enjoying exclusive lectures and openings all along. Marvel at the unique mixture of history and cultures in New Orleans, where plantation owners and jazz musicians will open their homes for you. Stand in awe of wonders both natural and man-made while exploring Santa Fe and Taos. Join fellow art lovers on cultural getaways to remote meccas of American art such as Marfa, Texas, and Crystal Bridges in Arkansas.
El Santuario de Chimayo in New Mexico
India & The Silk Road
Let India’s cultural complexity envelop you as tranquility and chaos vie for your senses, and peacocks and brahman cows cross your path. In the sultry stillness of India’s western desert, join master carpet weavers who invite you to participate in the dance of warp and weft, and dine with majestic maharajas who spin tales of the days of the British Raj. In the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikri, study Emperor Akbar’s vision for a multicultural, tolerant nation through a combination of Hindu and Islamic architectural motifs. In sacred Varanasi, India’s site of redemption, travel by rickshaw to the Ganges’ edge as pilgrims bathe in the holy water. In the shadow of the Taj Mahal, travel back in time to ponder Shah Jahan’s devotion to his beloved, whom he memorialized in this tomb. Travel to unexpected, tucked-away architectural jewels of India that few Americans visit—the Golden Temple of Amritsar, which rivals the Taj Mahal; the rational designs of modernist architecture in Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh; or Madurai’s sacred, multi-colored Meenakshi Temple, the only temple in India dedicated to a woman. Dine in regal splendor in the gracious home of an Indian general, at the country retreat of a spice farm entrepreneur, or at a feast in your honor on the romantic rooftop of an elegant hotel.
In Central Asia, meditate on the sheer contrast of bright-colored splendor and solemn desert emptiness while exploring the Silk Road. Few places in the world are more romantically remote from our overstimulated modern lifestyles. Be dazzled by the great art, archaeological, and architectural treasures of Samarkand, Khiva, and Merv while following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Marco Polo, and Tamarlane. Go beyond the great monuments with ISDI on a custom-designed educational travel program to discover local living spaces—markets, schools, and artisan workshops.
The ancient Hampi village and temple in India / Hajo Schatz >
The rolling Munnar tea plantations in India / Kerala Tourism >
The ornate Shah-i-Zinda site in Samarkand, Uzbekistan / Fulvio Spada >