Board your flight to Seoul, South Korea today.
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.
A full-day exploration of Seoul
We’ll enjoy breakfast at the hotel before meeting for a Welcome Briefing and reception, and then spend the day touring Seoul’s historical monuments. Your first stop is 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.
We then turn our attention to Gyeongbokgung: built in 1395 as the main residence of the ruling Joseon dynasty. This palace complex has undergone several restorations as well as repeated destruction during the 16th-century Japanese invasions of Korea, WWII, and the Korean War. However, the splendor of what remains is enough to explain why Gyeongbokgung is called “the palace greatly blessed by Heaven.” While there, we will visit the on-site National Folk Museum where you’ll learn about everyday Korean life through the ages. Later, attend a class on making traditional bamboo Hanji fans at Insadong.
Today’s special lunch — Korean barbecue, or galbi — has become immensely more popular around the world, and you’ll see (and taste!) why during this delicious meal. Delve further into traditional Korean life when we walk through Bukchon, a village of traditional Korean houses known as hanok. This evening, join your fellow travelers for a Welcome Dinner at a traditional Korean restaurant.
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, is 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! We’ll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant here, and at the end of our tour, we transfer to the airport for our flight to Ulaanbaatar.
Explore Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, and step into nomadic life at its fringes
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.
After lunch we embark on a panoramic city tour, which will introduce us to important sights of Ulaanbaatar, including Sukhbaatar Square (where the leader of the country’s revolution, Damdin Sukhbaatar, declared independence from China in 1921) and the National History Museum. A local guide will lead the way through Mongolia’s largest museum, which holds nearly 60,000 artifacts relating to the history of Mongolia and central Asia.
This evening, join your fellow travelers for dinner at hotel.
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 Gob Campi. 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 pika 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.”
A Vantage-exclusive cultural festival with local children and a visit with a nomadic family
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. 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.
Singing Sands and two safaris: 4 x 4 Desert Safari and Camel Safari
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. Later, enjoy a relaxing evening.
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 himself 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.
Inside Gandan Monastery and the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts
Flying from Dalanzadgad, we arrive back in Ulaanbaatar and spend the morning at 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 traditions.
After lunch we continue to 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 a local restaurant.
Visit the Genghis Khan Statue Complex, Farewell Dinner, and flight to Seoul
Today, we’ll start with the unforgettable Genghis 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. We then wade through Naran Tuul Market, Ulaanbaatar’s largest market, to explore the mind-boggling array of goods on sale. This is where people from all over the country come to get textiles, equipment for their horses and livestock, jewelry, and even entire gers! Then, we stop by a cashmere boutique where you may acquire a souvenir — Mongolia is the world’s second-largest producer of the prized wool, so you’ll find cashmere scarves, hats, and coats in abundance here.
A delicious Mongolian feast awaits tonight as we attend 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 art form in which individual singers are able to produce multiple tones at once.
After dinner, we transfer to the airport for our overnight flight to Seoul.
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.
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.