Mongolia’s Ancient Mysteries & Modern Marvels - 2020

Seoul, South Korea • Ulaanbaatar and Gobi Desert, Mongolia
  • $584
  • 13
  • 27
Moderate Deluxe
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It is a country of sweeping landscapes and deep history; of impossibly wide skies and captivating nomadic tribes. The mere mention of Mongolia evokes images of Genghis Khan and his hordes, yet this land of the “Eternal Blue Sky” offers so much more than just its most famous and ruthless denizen. On Mongolia’s Ancient History & Modern Marvels, you’ll get a 360-degree view of one of the world’s least densely populated — and most enigmatic — countries.

This Mongolia tour was already a remarkable value, and we’ve enhanced it with an additional day and four new features! Traveling in your small group, you’ll get up close and personal to both the Mongolian landscape and its famously welcoming people, as well as learning about its lesser-known history and its notoriously itinerant culture. You’ll listen to the famed “singing” sands of the Khongor Dunes, marvel at the otherworldly beauty of the Gobi Desert and its titular glacier, seek out its distinctive wildlife, and see its rapidly changing capital, Ulaanbaatar, before it is transformed. You’ll be introduced to the culture here as well, as you get to know some nomadic people to learn about their way of life, not to mention listening to a special performance of Mongolian throat singers, and a special Vantage-exclusive cultural performance by local children. To truly complete your immersion, you’ll even enjoy a stay in a traditional ger tent in the heart of the Mongolian countryside.

Seeing just this fascinating country would make for an unforgettable experience — yet, you’ll also explore the South Korean capital of Seoul. This city is pulsing with a high-tech energy, yet it retains deep roots to its past, as you’ll see when you visit its antique temples, palaces, and hanok villages. This is such a different culture and experience, it will feel as though you’ve received an extra bonus trip!

On this epic journey, you’ll experience 27 included excursions and Cultural Discoveries as well as 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can enhance your already unbeatable value by adding an extension to Beijing, where you can admire another 4 UNESCO sites in one of the world’s most interesting cities. Traveling solo? Enjoy free or low-cost Single Supplements to save big.

Follow in the footsteps of Genghis Khan and delve into a world far from the usual. Experience the blue skies, spectacular steppes, intriguing history, and singular culture of this nation on this behind-the-scenes, small-group adventure in Mongolia.

What memories will you bring home on this adventure? Check out our photography page for inspiration, tips and tricks, and more. Explore now!

Seoul Round-trip

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Beijing, China

FROM: $1599 PER PERSON | 5 DAYS | $320 PER DAY
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DAY 1:

Depart home

Board your flight to Seoul, South Korea today.

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.

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. We’ll take it all in from a revolving restaurant where we enjoy a festive Welcome Dinner.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 4:

Discover the “Five Grand Palaces” of Seoul and visit a hanok village

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 tea houses where you can sample a cup of the local brew. From here we call at the Jongmyo Shrine, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, and conclude our exploration in Namdaemun, Korea’s largest traditional market where you can browse 30 or so buildings and stalls overflowing with clothing, housewares, fabrics, jewelry, accessories, toys, food, flowers, stationery, and appliances. The market is near our hotel, where we will reconvene later for included dinner.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 5:

Experience the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea and fly to Ulaanbaatar

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), which you will be able to visit. 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, and at the end of our tour — transfer to airport directly for flight to Ulaanbaatar.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 6:

Explore Mongolia’s capital and visit the Genghis Khan monument

Today, we embark on a panoramic city tour, which will introduce us to important sights of Ulaanbaatar, including including Sukhbaatar Square (where the leader of the country’s revolution, Damdin Sukhbaatar, declared independence from China in 1921) and the National History Museum. Cultural Discovery: A local historian will guide the way through this museum, Mongolia’s largest, which holds nearly 60,000 artifacts relating to the history of Mongolia and central Asia.

After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll visit the unforgettable Genghis Khan monument. 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.

This evening, we’ll head out to a local restaurant for dinner.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 7:

Enjoy a fascinating nomadic show

Unforgettable Moment: Today will be a memorable occasion as 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 a western-style meal.

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. Cultural Discovery: 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 pica 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:

A Vantage-exclusive cultural festival with local children and a visit with a nomadic family

Cultural Discovery: Today offers you a Vantage-exclusive experience — a special cultural performance by local children. This is a fascinating and heartwarming look at the storied traditions of Mongolia, including traditional song and dance performances, wrestling and archery competitions, and more. Perhaps the best part: Vantage travelers will get to join in on the fun if they so choose and can award the lucky winners with medals. It is a fun, enlightening, and uplifting experience that travelers will remember long after they return home. Cultural Discovery: Later, visit a nomadic family to learn about their lifestyle and customs. Thousands of miles from our home, we gain a deeper understanding of the struggles and joys of locals . . . it is truly a highlight of the journey.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 10:

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

Unforgettable Moment: Today we leave Dream Gobi Camp and embark on a 4x4 desert safari 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 safari 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 dunes. 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 11:

Morning camel races and marveling at the “Flaming Cliffs” of Bayanzag

This morning begins with yet another Vantage-exclusive experience: Camel racing through the dunes of the Gobi. You’ll enjoy the thrill of watching these denizens of the desert strut their stuff in an incomparable setting. Our leisurely morning also includes a ride back across the desert to the Dream Gobi Camp. After lunch we’ll explore Bayanzag to admire 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 a delightful picnic dinner featuring delicious Mongolian barbecue fare — enjoying our delicious meal while watching the sunset.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 12:

Inside Gandan Monastery, Mongolian Farewell Dinner, flight to Seoul

Flying from Dalanzadgad, we arrive back in the Ulaanbaatar and spend the morning at the Gandan Monastery, Mongolia’s most important Buddhist center. Built in 1809, the monastery is one of few institutions that survived the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. You’ll get a chance to see this active monastery, where 600 monks maintain long-standing Buddhist tradition in Mongolia, as well as the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan.

Cultural Discovery: A delicious Mongolian feast awaits tonight as we attend our Farewell Dinner, along with a marvelous musical performance. You will be dazzled by the costumed folk dancers and Mongolian throat singers, masters of an art form in which individual singers are able to produce multiple tones at once.

We’ll also have use of a dayroom to rest and relax before tonight’s transfer to the airport for our overnight flight to Seoul.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

DAY 13:

Board your flight home

Upon arrival in Seoul, you’ll be transferred to your hotel where you’ll have use of a dayroom to rest and relax. After lunch on your own, transfer to the airport for your 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 - 2020

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