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Mongolia’s Ancient Mysteries & Modern Marvels - 2019

Seoul, South Korea • Ulaanbaatar and Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Moderate Deluxe
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Munkh Khukh Tengri. It means “Eternal Blue Sky” and when you first lay eyes on the clear, cerulean blue heaven that unfurls above the Mongolian steppes, or gaze at a Milky Way so dense with stars you feel you could scoop them with your hands, you’ll understand why the Mongolians worshipped the sky and named their country for it. Travel in the footsteps of Genghis Khan into the Gobi Desert (where you will interact with nomadic people and also stay in a traditional ger tent), and greet the surprisingly modern face of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar, with its rich cultural offerings. As a bonus, you’ll also explore the South Korean capital of Seoul, a mix of high-tech marvels and antique temples, palaces, and hanok villages where time has stood still. Another locale frozen in time is the Demilitarized Zone where, for 60 years, North and South Korea have held the peace in a tenuous truce. Thought-provoking history, dazzling culture, deluxe accommodations, breathtaking beauty — it all awaits on a journey as epic as the eternal blue Mongolian sky.

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Round-trip Seoul

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DAY 1:

Depart home

Board your flight to Mongolia today.

Please note: Arrive to your destination or home rested and refreshed! Convenient gateway city stopover options mean you can break up longer flights easily — just ask our Flight Experts for assistance.

DAY 2:

Arrive in Seoul, South Korea

We arrive in Seoul tonight and transfer directly to our deluxe hotel in the heart of South Korea’s capital. An evening arrival affords us the luxury of settling in and getting a good night’s rest before beginning our discoveries.

DAY 3:

A leisurely morning on your own followed one of Korea’s “Five Grand Palaces”

We’ll enjoy breakfast at the hotel, followed by a morning at leisure. In the afternoon, meet for a welcome briefing and reception as well as some afternoon exploring. Our focus will be Changdeokgung, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Korea’s “Five Grand Palaces.”  The entire complex of halls, pavilions, gardens, gates, bridges, and shrines was designed to harmoniously blend with the park-like setting. You'll also explore the Namdaemun Market — Korea's largest traditional market where you can browse 30-plus buildings and stalls overflowing with clothing, housewares, fabrics, jewelry, accessories, food, flowers, and more.

This evening we’ll adjourn to the N Seoul Tower, a radio tower atop Mount Namsan that is the symbol of Seoul and a favored spot for its scenic city views, restaurants, shops, and exhibit spaces. Enjoy a festive Welcome Dinner at a traditional Korean restaurant.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 4:

Seoul, South Korea

Built in 1395 as the main residence of the ruling Joseon dynasty, but abandoned for nearly 300 years after the Japanese destroyed it in a 1592 fire, the complex has undergone several restorations as well as repeated destruction during WWII and the Korean War. But the splendor of what remains is enough to explain why Gyeongbokgung is called “the palace greatly blessed by Heaven.” Cultural Discovery: While here we will visit the on-site National Folk Museum where you will learn about everyday Korean life through the ages, admire costume and crafts displays, and try your hand at using everyday implements.

You’ll also savor a special lunch which will introduce you to this country’s famous barbecue dishes. Korean barbecue has become immensely more popular around the world, and you’ll get to see (and taste!) the reason why during this delicious meal.  You’ll not only enjoy some of the delectable dishes that have garnered such fame for this east Asian cuisine, you’ll also learn more about their preparation and prevalence in Korea.

Delve further into traditional Korean life when we walk through Bukchon, an authentic hanok village of antique houses, courtyards, and alleys that is nestled between two royal districts. Our walk leads us to the Insadong neighborhood, a popular enclave of shops and old teahouses where you can sample a cup of the local brew. From here we call at the Jongmyo Shrine, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dinner will be a Western-style buffet dinner at a local restaurant.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 5:

Seoul / Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) / Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Today’s excursion will be both electrifying and sobering, as we travel to the world’s most heavily armed border, the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea at roughly the 38th parallel. The DMZ was formed in 1953 when the North and South Korean governments agreed to an armistice (with prodding from their respective Chinese and American allies). On average, the buffer zone is about 2.5 miles wide and though it is lined with troops, electric fences, land mines, and tank traps, it has also become a pristine nature reserve. When the two Koreas need to negotiate, they enter the DMZ at the village of Panmunjom and confer at the JSA (Joint Security Area). Heavily armed North and South Korean soldiers stand off here in a tenuous truce, and this is as close as you can get to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka North Korea). You will also have the chance to enter one of the four tunnels beneath the DMZ that were secretly dug by the North Koreans and later discovered. Also featured is the Dorasan Station Observatory where you can peer through binoculars across the border into the North. You’re going to want to have your camera or GoPro ready — the entire experience is thrilling and is filled with opportunities to take great photos to show friends and family back home — a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience! We’ll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant here, before heading for our evening flight to Ulaanbaatar.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 6:

Explore Mongolia’s capital on a comprehensive tour

After breakfast we’ll begin exploring Mongolia’s capital city, starting with Chinggis Square. Today it is named for the most famous Mongol of all, Genghis (Chinggis) Khan, but the square is also still referred to as Sükhbaatar, named for a hero of the 1921 revolution that declared Mongolia’s independence. The square is lined with government buildings and memorials to the most important Khan and revolutionary heroes. It was also here that massive protests against Soviet oppression took place during the Democratic Revolution of 1990.  Nearby we will also visit the Museum of Mongolian History, with a historian docent as our guide. After our lunch at a local restaurant, visit Chinggis Khan statue. Standing 131 feet high atop a 33-foot-high coliseum, this stainless steel behemoth is the world’s largest equestrian statue and a fitting tribute to a man who stood larger than life. Exhibits within the coliseum depict important events in Chinggis’ life, including his legendary discovery here of a golden horse whip that foretold his destiny. You can ride an elevator and emerge from between his legs to gaze at the lush Mongolian steppe from a deck atop his steed’s head. Tonight, we'll have dinner at local restaurant.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 7:

Exploring Ulaanbaatar

Unforgettable Moment: Today we'll visit a nomadic encampment on the edge of town. Here, we’ll get the unique opportunity to see how a typical Mongolian family lives in a ger (wood and felt tent) dwelling, as well as enjoying a demonstration of traditional horsemanship, livestock management, domestic crafts, and distilling. Later, visit Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, whose collection of Mongolian art from prehistory through the early 20th century is the best of its kind. It is also a repository of works by Zanabazar, a 17th-century artist and Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader who is known as the "Michelangelo of Asia." Dinner tonight will be at the hotel.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 8:

Fly to the Gobi Desert to experience its beauty and wildlife

A morning flight brings us to the South Gobi Desert and our first desert camp resort, Dream Gobi. Here you will take in the stupendous beauty of the steppes from your own ger, a round Mongolian tent made of felt and wood. Settle in, relax, and explore the facilities before we ride out to the Yolyn Am Gorge. Here, we behold a rugged oasis of sheltered canyons, unique wildlife, and a river of ice known as the Gobi Glacier. Keep your eye out for furry pike and birds of prey like the golden eagle or saker falcon. Before returning to camp we’ll also peek into the nature museum at the park’s entrance. Tonight after dinner, relax by the fire or do some stargazing beneath Mongolia’s “eternal blue skies.”

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 9:

Singing Sands and two safaris: 4 x 4 Desert Safari and Camel Safari

Unforgettable Moment: Today we leave Dream Gobi Camp and travel by 4x4 vehicles to Khongoryn Els, a dreamscape of shifting dunes whose colors change with the light and whose sand particles emit a hypnotic “singing” sound.

In this more westerly location, you’ll enjoy a different desert perspective from your lodgings at the Gobi Erdene Camp.  In the afternoon you will ride back across the magnificent dunes on a “ship of the desert,” a two-humped Bactrian camel. This camel-riding excursion takes about half an hour and allows you to experience this unique form of transportation amid the sand dunes of the Gobi Desert. Should guests not wish to ride a camel, there is also an opportunity to do some light trekking near the oases at the Khongor sand dune. Before taking the ride, we’ll visit with a camel-herding family, who we’ll have a chance to interact with and share some camel milk products (if you'd like). Later, enjoy a relaxing evening.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 10:

Marvel at the “Flaming Cliffs” of Bayanzag

Our leisurely morning includes a ride back across the desert to the Dream Gobi Camp. After lunch we’ll have a rest before exploring Bayanzag and its flaming “Red Cliffs.” It was here that the American paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews unearthed the world’s first-discovered dinosaur eggs and other important fossils such as the velociraptor and protoceratops. (Andrews was said to have been an inspiration for the Indiana Jones character of Steven Spielberg’s epic adventure films.) We’ll enjoy a bit of light trekking around the site before savoring a delightful picnic dinner. Imagine the scene: the light of the fading sun painting the cliffs as we enjoy our meal with local whiskey, perhaps recounting the day with fellow travelers as you soak in the stunning scenery. It’s the perfect ending to a remarkable day.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 11:

Explore Gandan Monastery and the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, then savor a Farewell Dinner

Flying from Dalanzadgad, we arrive back in the capital to explore Gandan Monastery, Mongolia's largest and most important Buddhist center. Built in 1809 and expanded in 1838, Gandan was one of about 100 monasteries in Ulaanbaatar at the beginning of the 20th century. Much of Mongolia’s religious heritage was laid waste during the purges of the 1930s, but Gandan was spared as a “showpiece” for foreign dignitaries until the 1990s, when the people began to once again openly practice Buddhism. Today, about 600 monks serve here. We will also visit the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, where Mongolia's eighth living Buddha, and last king, lived for 20 years.

After an included lunch, we'll have time to recharge ourselves at the hotel where we'll have use of a day room. Tonight we'll enjoy a delicious Mongolian feast for our Farewell Dinner, along with a marvelous musical performance. You'll be dazzled by the costumed folk dancers and Mongolian throat singers, masters of an artform in which individual singers are able to produce multiple tones at once. Later tonight, we'll transfer to the airport for our overnight flight to Seoul.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 12:

Fly home

After arriving in the early morning hours you will have use of a Deluxe day room near the Incheon airport. Take some time to rest and enjoy a leisurely breakfast before we transfer back to the terminal for our return flight home.

Please note: Arrive to your destination or home rested and refreshed! Convenient gateway city stopover options mean you can break up longer flights easily — just ask our Flight Experts for assistance.

Included Meals:


Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert.

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Mongolia’s Ancient Mysteries & Modern Marvels - 2019

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