Primates interact with the world by exploring visual objects; they seek opportunities to view novel objects even when these have no extrinsic reward value. How the brain controls this novelty seeking is unknown. Here we show that novelty seeking in monkeys is regulated by the zona incerta (ZI). As monkeys made eye movements to familiar objects to trigger an opportunity to view novel objects, many ZI neurons were preferentially activated by predictions of novel objects before the gaze shift. Low-intensity ZI stimulation facilitated gaze shifts, whereas ZI inactivation reduced novelty seeking. ZI-dependent novelty seeking was not regulated by neurons in the lateral habenula or by many dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra, traditionally associated with reward seeking. But the anterior ventral medial temporal cortex, an area important for object vision and memory, was a prominent source of novelty predictions. These data uncover a functional pathway in the primate brain that regulates novelty seeking.