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Extraordinary Cultures: Around the World by Private Jet
Sorry. There are no scheduled departures for this expedition.
Below please find the day-by-day itinerary for this expedition. Unless otherwise noted, daily excursion options are included in the cost of the trip. We do our best to adhere to the scheduled itinerary, but in the spirit of our expeditionary style of travel we may deviate slightly to take full advantage of encounters with the destination and its people, culture, and wildlife.
An itinerary from a previous expedition is displayed below.
Day 1-2 Seattle, Washington
Meet fellow travelers, the Smithsonian expert team, and expedition leaders at a welcome dinner at our fine hotel. The next morning, board our private jet and fly over the Pacific Ocean, crossing the International Date Line. We lose a day en route and arrive in Osaka, Japan on Tuesday, March 19. Four Seasons Hotel Seattle
Day 3-5 Kyoto & Nara, Japan
Upon arrival in Osaka, transfer to Kyoto and check in to our hotel. Explore historic Kyoto—Japan’s imperial capital for nearly 1,000 years. Kyoto abounds with shops, theaters, teahouses, and UNESCO World Heritage sites that vividly recall the glory of Old Japan. Visit Kinkaku-ji golden pavilion, the centuries-old wooden temple of Sanjusangendo, and the palaces and gardens of Nijo Castle. In the evening, enjoy a gala dinner and a traditional dance performance by a geisha and her apprentice, known as a maiko.
Discover the well-preserved treasures of ancient Nara, Japan’s first imperial capital. See the 800-year-old Todai-ji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building; gaze at Yakushi-ji Temple’s ‘Medicine Buddha,’ a powerful deity believed to have the power to cure earthly suffering; and stroll along the enchanting path to the Kasuga Grand Shrine, passing by more than 3,000 stone and bronze lanterns. Hyatt Regency Kyoto
Alternative: If you wish, visit the Nishiki street market, and take a class in Japanese calligraphy or ikebana flower arrangement with an experienced instructor.
Alternative Accommodation: Instead of spending all three nights at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, enjoy one night at a traditional inn known as a ryokan. This alternative accommodation is limited to a small number of travelers and will incur a separate cost. Please contact us for details.
Special Guest: Noriko Aikawa, former director of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Section of UNESCO and professor of cultural studies at Kanda University in Japan, will discuss recent conservation efforts that have protected this region’s cultural heritage.
Day 6-7 Bali, Indonesia
From Osaka, fly by private jet to Bali—one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands. Immerse yourself in one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, and discover the essence of Bali in bamboo forests, rice paddies, and the green hills of the central highlands. Take in the beauty of Bali’s historic temples and the refreshingly spiritual perspective of the people. Explore the village and surrounding areas of Ubud, the island’s cultural and artistic capital. Royal Pita Maha, Ubud, Bali
(A limited number of optional accommodation upgrades are available at Amandari.)
Alternatives: Ride on an elephant through the countryside, near Ubud and small villages, along pathways through dense jungle foliage. Or join a thrilling whitewater rafting excursion to waterfalls and through gorges, and visit temples where reliefs carved into their walls by modern artists depict scenes from the ancient Ramayana myths.
Special Guest: Mickey Hart—drummer for the legendary Grateful Dead, and Grammy Award-winning musician, producer, ethnomusicologist, and sonic explorer—will join us for a Balinese gamelan performance and percussion expositions. He will invite us to participate and create unforgettable musical fun.
Day 8-10 Ha Long Bay & Hanoi, Vietnam
Our private jet takes us to Vietnam, landing in colorful Hai Phong, a historic port city. Take a scenic drive along the coast to Tuan Chau Island, where we board our privately chartered, luxurious versions of traditional Vietnamese junks. While aboard these vessels, explore Ha Long Bay—a spellbinding wonder of craggy karst towers that rise hundreds of feet from jade green waters. Enjoy your choice of onboard activities or simply relax on the sundecks. In the evening, enjoy a gala dinner inside one of the bay’s most spectacular grottoes. In the morning, visit Hang Sut Sot, the Grotto of Surprises. Disembark our vessels and drive to Hanoi, the bustling capital of Vietnam which boasts a fascinating mix of ancient, colonial, and modern cultures. Visit the Museum of Ethnology and enjoy dinner at one of Hanoi’s finest restaurants. Paradise Cruises ships & Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
Alternatives in Hanoi: While in Hanoi, you may choose from several activities. Embark on a colonial city tour of Hanoi via cyclo (a three-wheeled, bicycle trishaw), then drive to the Temple of Literature, the Ho Chi Minh Complex, and the infamous Hanoi Hilton (Hoa Lo Prison). Or visit the 1,400-year-old Tran Quoc Pagoda on beautiful West Lake. Or see ancient stone sculptures, remnants of the Bronze Age, antique pottery, and ethnic minority painting at the Fine Art Museum, and visit abstract artist Bui Hien’s house and private gallery. Or stroll the Old Quarter of colonial Hanoi and browse the colorful wares at a local market.
Special Guests: Dr. Nguyen Van Huy is the Founding Director of Vietnam’s Museum of Ethnology and has worked closely with the Smithsonian on projects in his home country and Washington, DC. Dr. Vo Quang Trong is the current Director of the museum. They look forward to welcoming you to the museum.
Day 11-13 Himalayan Kingdoms of Nepal & Bhutan
Our jet takes us to the Himalaya Mountains in Nepal, home to eight of the ten tallest peaks in the world. The colorful capital city Kathmandu—at once ancient and modern, Buddhist and Hindu, natural and urban—will serve as our base for commercial flights to and from the Kingdom of Bhutan. While in Nepal, we visit the ancient city of Bhaktapur, which boasts a vibrant culture, and beautiful temples, palaces, and squares.
After one night in Kathmandu, we take a commercial flight to Bhutan that provides rare up-close views of mighty Mount Everest (weather permitting) and the surrounding awe-inspiring landscape. We land in Paro, deep in a valley dotted with mountaintop Buddhist monasteries and gaily decorated fortresses, or dzongs. Visit the great Paro Dzong at the Paro River, home to a monastic community of 200. Witness Buddhist monks reciting ceremonial prayers, and visit a Bhutanese farmhouse. At the National Museum, admire a superb collection of textiles, ancient weapons, and classical thangka paintings depicting Buddhist cosmology. Enjoy a special dinner at our hotel with Bhutanese dignitaries. Hyatt Regency or the Dwarika, Kathmandu; Zhiwa Ling and Uma Paro, Bhutan
Alternative: While in Kathmandu, you may visit the ancient Bodnath Stupa at the largest Buddhist temple in Nepal. In Bhutan, you may choose to visit Thimphu, and see the Memorial Chorten that dominates the skyline. Instead of exploring Thimphu, hearty travelers may hike up to Tiger’s Nest Monastery, some 10,000 feet above sea level. It is one of the country’s most revered sites, named for the flying tigress that is said to have carried the Guru Rinpoche there in the eighth century.
Day 14-15 Jodhpur, India
Return by commercial flight to Kathmandu and continue by private jet to Jodhpur, an ancient capital of Rajasthan nestled in the Great Indian Desert. Visit the Mehrangarh Fortress, a magnificent structure that towers above the plains and holds priceless art—including delicate lattice work, profusely painted ceilings, marble coronation seats, beautiful armor, and fine inlay work. Stroll the Old Quarter’s lively Sardar Bazaar to see handcrafted rugs and exquisite clothing and other goods made from antique royal saris; or take a guided tour of the museum within our historic palace hotel. In the evening, dine at our home for the night—one of the world’s grandest royal residences, and still occupied by a maharaja. Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
Alternative: If you wish, visit the Jal Bhagirathi Foundation, to learn directly from the foundation’s director how water harvesting benefits the desert region.
Special Event: We will be treated to an extravagant performance produced by world-class sceneographer Rajeev Sethi, featuring exemplary musicians, dancers, artisans, and craftspeople in a marvelous display of Rajasthan's cultural traditions.
Day 16-18 Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda
Travel to Rwanda, a land of lush green mountains, majestic volcanoes, and grassy lowlands. Hidden deep in the high slopes of the Virunga volcanoes are the endangered mountain gorillas, which the late Dian Fossey famously studied. At Volcanoes National Park, we set out in intimate groups of eight, hiking up through thick bamboo forests in search of these magnificent creatures in the wild. In addition to an exciting adventure in the forests of Rwanda, you may visit the Kigali Memorial Center, a meaningful tribute to those who perished in the genocide of 1994. Mountain View Lodge, Volcanoes National Park and Kigali Serena Hotel, Kigali
(Accommodation upgrades are available near Volcanoes National Park, at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge and Virunga Lodge.)
Note: Because hiking at Volcanoes National Park occurs at high altitudes (7,000-10,000 feet) and is especially arduous and challenging, a doctor’s approval to participate is required. A porter will be available to each traveler.
Alternatives: Travelers whose health conditions do not permit gorilla trekking and those who would prefer a more relaxing stay in Rwanda can instead visit the Akilah Institute for Women, the first vocational training and leadership organization for young women in Rwanda. Then take an exciting helicopter ride over the Virunga volcanoes. Or, visit a Rwandan organization that empowers local rural women to achieve economic stability by working collaboratively to produce exquisite woven goods. Kigali Serena Hotel, Kigali
Day 19-20 Dakar & Gorée Island, Senegal
Fly by private jet to Dakar, the capital city of Senegal. Take a short ferry to visit tiny Gorée Island, one of the first places in Africa to be settled by Europeans, and a vital place in the development of the African Diaspora and French Creole culture of the New World. Since the 15th century, waves of Portuguese, Dutch, and French colonizers established Gorée Island as a center of the West African slave trade and a key post for exporting traditional African goods.
A walking tour of the island will include visits to a sand painting art gallery, a historic church, and museums. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Maison des Esclaves (House of Slaves), a moving memorial and museum that has become a place of pilgrimage for many, including President Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II. Back in Dakar, drive along the Corniche, a long boulevard on the west side of the city that hugs the Atlantic coastline and features the colossal African Renaissance Monument. Enjoy a fine dinner and a private performance of traditional Senegalese music. Radisson Blu Hotel, Dakar
Special Event: Meet acclaimed Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow and enjoy a discussion about his work.
Day 21-22 Lisbon, Portugal / Washington, D.C. / Homeward
On Saturday, fly by private jet to Lisbon, Portugal, for a festive farewell dinner with traditional fado music and a good night’s rest at our fine hotel. The next day, after breakfast, depart Lisbon by private jet and fly to Washington, D.C. to connect with your regularly scheduled commercial flight home. Four Seasons Lisbon