For many people, discovering the beauty of a country’s culture can be the original spark for lifelong dreams about traveling there. Before December 2014, when President Barack Obama announced that he would finally restore full U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba, most Americans could only fantasize about traveling to Cuba.

At its zenith, the Inca Empire was a highly advanced society with an economy based on agriculture, pottery, metallurgy and textiles. By 1533, rumors of Inca cities filled with unimaginable riches had reached the Spanish conquistadors.

The Galapagos Islands are best known for the distinctive wildlife found on their shores, and the impact animals such as the Galapagos Tortoise and Galapagos Finches had on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Significantly less discussed are the remarkable wonders to be found in the surrounding waters.

Though not as popular as the Andean highlands or Torres Del Paine National Park, the Chilean fjords are simply marvelous. In fact, many visitors consider this “edge of the world” location at the southern tip of Patagonia to be one of the most underrated places on the continent.

The world has been fascinated by the Galapagos Islands ever since Charles Darwin published his groundbreaking book on evolutionary theory, On the Origin of Species, in 1859. But the fragile ecosystems of this extraordinarily unique archipelago have been in danger even longer, dating back to the 17th and 18 centuries, when whalers and pirates began depleting the whale and tortoise population.

Ninety-eight percent. That's the number you’ll read or hear about as you prepare for tracking gorillas in Uganda. In 2012, after four years of research, geneticists from the U.K.'s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute published a study declaring a 98% overlap between the human and gorilla genomes. "Most of our genes are very similar, or even identical to, the gorilla version of the same gene," said a researcher.

Juan Venado Island (located near Las Penitas, Nicaragua) is a very special place. Here, you’re more likely to find sea turtles relaxing on the beaches than the sun-seeking tourists seen on almost every other strip of sand in the region. In fact, the beach – known locally as Playa Tamarindo – is considered one of the most important sea turtle nesting sites found anywhere on the Pacific Coast.

Amazon cruise Expedition Leader Angel checks-in from the Peruvian Amazon with updates on this week's exciting wildlife sightings.

It wasn’t until 1910 that the outside world first discovered Komodo dragons. For millions of years these ancient reptiles had ruled supreme on their Indonesian islands. Without any natural predators, they dominated the ecosystem, and their survival was virtually guaranteed.

Amazon River cruise Expedition leader Freddy Avalos checks-in from the heart of the Peruvian rainforest with an update on wildlife sightings.

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