- Marvel at world-famous landmarks, from the Winter Palace of St. Petersburg to the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, as you circumnavigate the Northern Hemisphere by private jet.
- Learn about the vital relationships between northern cultures and their environments, meeting with Mongolia’s nomads, Norwegian farmers, and Japanese artisans.
- Hike through deep desert canyons and descend into a dormant volcano to gain new perspectives on the wonders of the northern wilds.
- Gain unique insights into history, culture, ecology, and geology while traveling with a team of world-renowned National Geographic experts.
Explore vestiges of ancient empires, fathomless lakes and fjords, and spectacular accomplishments of art and architecture as you circumnavigate the Northern Hemisphere by private jet. Revitalize your spirit in the tranquil gardens and exquisite temples of the one-time imperial Japanese capitals of Kyoto and Nara. Learn nomadic traditions in Mongolia, and delve into the rich history of Russia’s rulers and revolutionaries in Irkutsk and St. Petersburg. Venture further north to discover Norway’s pristine fjords, the remarkable geology of Iceland, and the otherworldly realm of Greenland’s vast glaciers.
Arrive in Seattle and transfer to our hotel for a welcome reception and dinner, where you will meet your fellow travelers and accompanying National Geographic Experts. The next day, depart for Japan and cross the international date line. We lose a day en route and arrive in Kyoto the following evening.
Arrive in Kyoto, a former capital of imperial Japan. Explore historic Kyoto, where the ancient wooden temples and exquisite gardens have collectively been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit the iconic Kinkakuji, or Golden Pavilion, and gaze at its gleaming reflection in the Mirror Pond as you wander the surrounding garden. Tread carefully across the famed nightingale floors of Nijo Castle, designed to give away intruding enemies. This impressive castle complex is one of the best surviving examples of palace architecture from Japan’s feudal era. Later, visit the Tenryuji temple for a private Zen meditation lesson. You'll then have the option to either share tea with a local family and learn about traditional Noh theater, or stroll through the iconic Sagano Bamboo Forest, listening to the sound of the stalks creaking in the wind. Gather for a dinner featuring world-class Japanese cuisine accompanied by a traditional maiko, or apprentice geisha, performance.
Venture to ancient Nara and marvel at the 50-foot-tall Buddha statue in the soaring main hall of Todaiji temple, one of the largest wooden buildings in the world. Alternatively, explore Kyoto further, visiting the centuries-old Nishiki Market to sample fresh seafood and Japanese sweets, then learning techniques of Japanese cooking from a local chef.
Situated on the banks of the Tuul River amid rolling steppe, Ulaanbaatar was founded centuries ago as a transportable gathering place for nomadic Mongolian princes. Take a private charter flight to the Gobi and arrive at Three Camel Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, where we’ll settle into traditional ger tents set amid sweeping plains.
Hike into the desert to enjoy dramatic vistas and spot black-tailed gazelles and wild Bactrian camels. Follow in the footsteps of Genghis Khan on a walk along the mesmerizing Moltsog Els sand dunes, and meet for tea with a nomadic family to learn about their close relationship with this extreme environment. Venture between the towering canyon walls of Yol Valley, ride horseback across the steppe, or learn how to construct a ger. Visit the Flaming Cliffs, a spectacular sandstone escarpment that harbors a treasure trove of dinosaur fossils; then participate in a demonstration of the traditional sports of the Naadam festival. Join our National Geographic photographer on a sunset photo shoot to document this fantastic landscape ablaze in fiery shades of orange.
Alternative: You may choose to remain in Ulaanbaatar and attend a special dinner with a government minister and a distinguished community leader. We’ll also visit the Gandantegchinlen Monastery, where monks live in accordance with the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism, and delve into history at the National Museum of Mongolia. Venture outside the city to Gorkhi- Terelj National Park and experience a traditional shaman ceremony to learn about the role of Buddhism in Mongolian life. Visit the Genghis Khan Statue Complex, meet with a local family to hear tales of nomadic life, and enjoy a traditional Mongolian musical performance over dinner.
At the confluence of the Angara and Irkut Rivers lies the city of Irkutsk, the administrative and cultural center of Siberia’s Irkutsk region. Founded as a winter camp for fur traders and miners in the 17th century, the city grew in importance after the construction of the Tran-Siberian Railroad and today is one of eastern Russia’s major economic centers. A tour takes us to the baroque-style Church of the Savior and the World War II Memorial of the Eternal Flame. Then we’ll step back in time at the Decembrist Museum, featuring two manor houses meticulously restored to the period following the 1825 Decembrist Revolt, when Russian artists, military officers, and aristocrats were exiled to Siberia and initiated Irkutsk’s artistic and intellectual renaissance.
Travel to Listvyanka and embark on a private cruise across the glassy waters of Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume. At over a mile deep, the lake holds about one fifth of the world’s unfrozen fresh water—more than the North American Great Lakes combined. Baikal is also home to many species of flora and fauna that exist nowhere else in the world, including the Baikal seal, or nerpa— the only species of freshwater seal. Savor a hearty barbeque lunch on shore accompanied by a folklore performance. Return to Irkutsk by way of a historic Trans-Siberian steam train, followed by a private hydrofoil trip up the Angara River.
Since its founding in 1703 by Peter the Great, St. Petersburg has held a place as one of the world’s great cities—an epicenter of imperial splendor, revolutionary fervor, and artistic innovation. Here, we’ll see the gold-domed St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and discover treasures of Russian fine art at the State Russian Museum or tour the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood. Step into the Peter and Paul Fortress, explore the world’s largest collection of Carl Fabergé works—including his famed eggs—at the Fabergé Museum, or visit the Museum of Political History of Russia for a primer on contemporary Russian politics.
Travel by private hydrofoil to Peterhof, a series of seafront palaces and gardens known as the Russian Versailles. Tour the red-roofed Monplaisir Palace, a favorite residence of Peter the Great; then see the iconic Grand Cascade, a magnificent series of gilded fountains, and enjoy a special opportunity to step inside the heart of the structure to view its complex mechanics. We’ll also enjoy an evening visit to the magnificent Catherine Palace, commissioned by Peter the Great for his wife, Catherine. Tour the spectacular Amber Room, and ramble through the vast formal gardens of Catherine Park, dotted with sculptures and historic monuments.
Our group will gain an exclusive, early entrance to the State Hermitage Museum, housed in the spectacular Winter Palace. Highlights include the grand Twenty-Column Hall, the famous Venus of Tauride, and countless works by European masters. During our time in St. Petersburg, we’ll also be treated to a myriad of special dining experiences, including a private ballet performance and gala dinner in the lavish Yusupov Palace, as well as a dinner at a traditional dacha (rural cottage) or a curated literary- or Soviet-themed experience.
Our next stop is the Norwegian port of Bergen, once the center of a bustling maritime economy ruled by the powerful Hanseatic League. Today, this colorful city is more commonly known as the gateway to Norway’s world-famous fjords. Set out on a walking tour of the World Heritage–listed Bryggen, choosing to cap off your exploration of this historic wharf with one of three available experiences: a visit to the Hanseatic Museum, a wander through the bustling waterfront fish market, or a funicular ride to the top of Mount Fløyen for unparalleled views of the cityscape and coastal fjords. In the evening, we’ll enjoy a private piano concert at our stunning heritage hotel.
The next day gather for a cruise across Hardangerfjorden, one of the region’s most breathtaking fjords. As we glide along mirror-like waters, gaze up at towering cliffs laced with waterfalls, and spot historic fishing villages along the shoreline. Our destination is the private island of Vestre Steinsundholmen, home to a family of fishermen who provide seafood to Michelin-starred restaurants across the globe. Tour the property, then taste the daily catch at a special lunch. After returning to Bergen, you’ll have the option to visit the KODE Art Museums or explore Troldhaugen, the former home of famed composer Edvard Grieg. Or, if you wish, take some time to explore this delightful city at your own pace.
Founded by Viking settlers in the ninth century, Reykjavík is the world’s northernmost capital. Tour the historic district, characterized by colorful timber houses and overlooked by the distinctive Hallgrímskirkja Church, visible from almost every part of the city.
On a daylong tour of the celebrated Golden Circle, visit the Geysir geothermal area to glimpse signs of the volatile activity occurring deep underneath the island. Hear the roar of the Gullfoss waterfall, then explore Thingvellir National Park, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet at the deep fissure of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Thingvellir is also the ancient gathering place of the Althing, the oldest democratically elected parliament still in operation today.
Choose to soak in the mineral-rich, geothermal waters of the famed Blue Lagoon, or opt to venture into the mouth of the dormant Thrihnukagigur volcano and descend alongside expert guides to the floor of the vast magma chamber. Alternatively, visit an Icelandic horse farm and learn training techniques before heading out on a trail ride over the vast rolling hills outside of Reykjavík. Afterward, join the farmers for lunch and share stories over home-cooked Icelandic fare.
Our next stop is Kangerlussuaq in western Greenland, a small village founded in 1941 as a U.S. Air Force base and designated as part of the early warning network to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War. Continue by private charter flight to Ilulissat, where the population of sled dogs is near equal to that of humans. Houses painted in every color of the rainbow cluster around the base of soaring gray mountains at the mouth of the Ilulissat Icefjord, a World Heritage site.
Cruise among fantastically sculpted icebergs in Disko Bay, and go flightseeing over the Jakobshavn Glacier to witness the precipitous calving front of one of the fastest and most active glaciers in the world. Follow a wooden boardwalk over the heath to a viewpoint situated directly north of the glacier, offering spectacular views of the icy expanse. Explore the site where the ancient settlement of Sermermiut once stood.
Fly to Boston and celebrate your adventure with a farewell dinner. The next day, connect with your commercial flight home.