Tours for the Thinking Person
10 Top Head Trips

Sure, you could go lie by the beach for a few days somewhere on your next vacation. But this year is also your chance to see Siberia with a scientist, Chichén Itzá with a museum curator, baseball with the Smithsonian, Petra via private jet.

Those are a sampling from the hundreds of tours offered to the thinking traveler by museums, other cultural institutions and for-profit tour operators. Having recognized educational and cultural travel as a growth field, those organizations have been steadily adding alternatives to the marketplace.

For the last four years, this section has run a January roundup of 10 top tours sponsored by museums. This year, we're relying on the same expert for our top 10 trip picks - Ann H. Waigand, publisher of The Educated Traveler newsletter-but we've broadened the field to include all thinking trips, no matter the sponsor.

Tours are in chronological order. Prices listed here are per person, presuming double occupancy, and are subject to change. Some prices include many meals and excursions, some don't. Also bear in mind that tour operators generally reserve the right to cancel or change itineraries.

Every year, Waigand lists hundreds of thinking trips in a Directory of Museum sponsored Tours and a separate Directory of Special Interest Travel. The directories come with the cost of a subscription to The Educated Traveler, P.O. Box 220822, Chantilly, VA 20153; telephone (800) 648-5168. Cost is $48 yearly for six issues.

Island Hopping In the Cyclades:  a Family Trip

July 2 to 18. Hellenic Adventures, a tour operator based in Minneapolis. Price. $3,995 to $4,385, excluding air fare to and from Athens. Most meals included. For more information, contact the tour operator at (800) 851-6349 or (612) 827-0937.

This is a family tour in every sense: The leaders are Hellenic Adventures owner Leftheris Papageorgiou, his wife Jane, and their son, Alexandros (age 12). There's a good mix of activities on this tour (essential when traveling with children), such as holding a footrace at the original Olympic site; visiting the oracle at Delphi; sailing on a 70- foot motor-sailer (children might enjoy watching, or helping with, the sails); snorkeling, swimming, fishing, walking in and around on an island itinerary that includes Kea (a.k.a. Keos), Syros, Tinos, Mykonos, Delos, Paros, Ios and Santorini. There are five days of cruising in all.

© 1998 Los Angeles Times. Reprinted by permission.