Expedition Overview

Expedition Overview

  • Encounter world-famous landmarks, from Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion to the Moscow Kremlin as you circumnavigate the Northern Hemisphere by private jet.
  • Meet with Mongolia’s nomads, polar farmers in Svalbard, and villagers in the Faroe Islands to learn how northern cultures interact with their environments.
  • Delve into history in Kraków’s World Heritage-listed old town and the magnificent madrasas and Silk Road sites of Samarkand.
  • Gain unique insights into history, culture, ecology, and geography while traveling with a team of world-renowned National Geographic experts.

Itinerary

Itinerary

Circle the northern realms of the globe by private jet, exploring rich cultures from Kyoto to Kraków and frontier communities from Mongolia to the Faroe Islands. Experience the desert landscapes of the Gobi and watch for whales among the ice floes of Svalbard. Visit the onion-domed cathedrals of Moscow, the mosaic-covered mosques of Samarkand, and Edinburgh’s medieval castle; and venture into exquisite chambers inside 700-year-old salt mines in Poland. With a variety of excursions in each destination, discover culinary, musical, and artistic traditions across the Northern Hemisphere.

Days 1-2: Seattle, Washington

Arrive in Seattle and meet your experts and fellow travelers at a welcome reception and dinner. The next morning, board the private jet for our flight to Japan, losing a day as we cross the international date line.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Four Seasons Seattle
Days 3-5: Kyoto, Japan

Arrive in Kyoto, a former capital of imperial Japan. Explore this historic city, 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. You'll then have the option to learn about traditional Noh theater or visit Tenryuji temple for a private Zen meditation lesson followed by a stroll through the tranquil Sagano Bamboo Forest. Gather for a dinner featuring world-class Japanese cuisine accompanied by a traditional maiko, or apprentice geisha, performance.

Then choose to take the bullet train to Hiroshima on a full-day excursion. Visit the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, a tribute to the victims of the world’s first nuclear attack, set on tranquil parklands that were once the bustling heart of the city. Continue to the island of Miyajima, best known for its World Heritage-listed Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, originally built in the 12th century. The shrine’s iconic wooden torii gate, built over the water, appears to float at high tide. Or stay in Kyoto to attend a cooking class or learn shibori indigo-dying techniques before a traditional tea ceremony or a visit to a craft center.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Four Seasons Kyoto
Days 6-7: Gobi or Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Fly by private jet to the legendary land of Genghis Khan, who conquered most of Central and East Asia with his formidable horsemen in the 13th century. Land in the capital Ulaanbaatar, and choose one of two options. Take a private charter flight to the Gobi and continue by 4x4 to Three Camel Lodge, where we’ll settle into traditional ger tents set amid sweeping plains. Meet with a traditional shaman, and follow in the footsteps of Genghis Khan on a walk along the mesmerizing Moltsog Els sand dunes. In the company of a nomadic family, 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: bareback horse riding, archery, and wrestling.

Or spend a day in Gorkhi- Terelj National Park. Experience a traditional shaman ceremony to learn about the role of Buddhism in Mongolian life. Go horseback riding across the park’s beautiful landscapes, and meet with a local family to hear tales of nomadic life. Later, visit the Genghis Khan Statue Complex with a local historian. Return to Ulaanbaatar on the second evening. The following morning, pay a visit to the Gandan Monastery, one of the only Mongolian monasteries to survive the religious purges of 1938.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Three Camel Lodge or Terelj Hotel and Spa and Shangri-La Hotel, Ulaanbaatar
Days 8-9: Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Since the 14th century, when the legendary conqueror Tamerlane declared Samarkand the capital of the world, tales of this glorious city have drawn people from around the world. A vibrant outpost on the Silk Road, Samarkand was an oasis where science, music, religion, and commerce thrived. Walk in the footsteps of explorers of old in this World Heritage site, a crossroads of world cultures whose history can be traced back to 1500 B.C.

On Registan Square, admire the exquisite artistry, fluted domes, and minarets of some of the most breathtaking jewels of Islamic architecture in the world. Admire the astonishing mosaic-covered ceilings of the 17th-century Tilla Kari Madrasa, and venture into the interior of the sparkling turquoise Gur-e Amir mausoleum, the tomb of Tamerlane. Explore the sacred Shahi Zinda complex of mosques and mausoleums and learn about medieval astronomy at the Ulugbek Observatory. Then visit the Afrosiab Museum and attend a papermaking workshop, or see the Bibi Khanum mosque, one of the city’s towering landmarks, and stroll through the bustling Siab Bazaar, where fresh bread and stacks of dried fruits and nuts compete for space next to household goods and vibrant textiles.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Hotel Dilimah
Days 10-12: Moscow, Russia

Fly to Russia, where we’ll spend two days discovering Moscow’s legendary grandeur and soaking up its vibrant contemporary culture. On our way into town, stop at the immense Moscow State University, whose present campus was commissioned by Stalin and, until the late 20th-century, was one of the highest buildings in world. From atop Sparrow Hills, take in expansive views of the city and the Moskva River. Then get another perspective on Moscow on an early-evening river cruise through the heart of the city. The next day, walk through historic Red Square to the mighty Kremlin, the locus of Russian and Soviet power since the 12th century. Start your guided tour before opening hours, visiting the cathedrals where tsars were baptized, crowned, and buried. View an extraordinary collection of weapons, jewels, and Faberge eggs at the State Armory, and learn about the architecture of the iconic onion-domed St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square.

Later, choose between several excursions. Wander through the State Tretyakov Gallery, which houses one of the most important collections of Russian art in the world. Take a tour of Moscow’s most ornate metro stations, decorated in marble and mosaics and showcasing Socialist art; or enjoy a private tour of the historic Bolshoi Theater. Alternatively, visit the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Get a close-up look at Russian space exploration during an excursion to Star City the next day. Tour the cosmonaut training facility and see the Soyuz simulator and a full-sized replica of the Mir Space Station. Or stay in Moscow and enjoy a number of activities: a cooking class, a walk through the open-air Izmaylovskiy market and Arbat Street, or a visit to the former home of Leo Tolstoy.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Four Seasons Moscow
Days 13-14: Kraków, Poland

Kraków’s history is one of dramatic highs and lows: the city served as a royal capital for five centuries, was sacked by the Tartars, became a thriving center of Catholicism and Judaism during Hapsburg rule, and was a forgotten outpost during the Communist era. Today it is one of central Europe’s most exciting cities, full of incredible architecture and a vibrant contemporary culture. On a walking tour of the World Heritage-listed old town, view its imposing defensive structures, Florian Gate and the Barbican. Visit St Mary’s Basilica and Market Square, and head to Wawel Hill to see the Royal Castle, the symbol of an independent Poland. Later, venture into the 700-year-old Wieliczka Salt Mines, where underground tunnels stretch almost 200 miles. Encounter underground salt lakes, medieval mining equipment, and salt monuments; and step into the breathtaking Chapel of St Kinga, carved out of rock salt. Cap off the visit with a private dinner and a performance by the Miners Orchestra inside a rock-salt chamber.

The next day, you may choose to visit the World War II concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, now a World Heritage site. Walk among poignant exhibitions and prison blocks on a guided tour, hearing the stories of prisoners and seeing haunting vestiges of the atrocities committed here. Alternatively, delve into Polish culture on a tour that explores the country’s musical and culinary heritage. In the afternoon, embark on one of the following excursions: Explore the historic Jewish neighborhood of Kazimierz and visit Oskar Schindler’s Factory—featured in the movie Schindler’s List—now an excellent museum dedicated to the Nazi occupation of Kraków. Join a local expert for a vodka tasting tour, or learn to make pierogis during a hands-on cooking class.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Sheraton Grand Krakow
Days 15-16: Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway

Touch down far above the Arctic Circle on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. These nine islands, located nearly 600 miles from the Norwegian coast, are covered in snowfields and glaciers, carved by fjords, and home to more polar bears than people. Upon arrival, we’ll take a guided walking tour of its main city, Longyearbyen. Visit the wooden Svalbard Church, said to be the northernmost church in the world, and see the site of the Global Seed Vault, where the seeds of around one million different plant species from around the world are preserved deep inside a mountain. In the evening, a Polar Bear Guard joins us for dinner to share stories and insights about working with this iconic species.

The next day, explore Svalbard on a variety of excursions. Hike alongside Longyear Glacier to hunt for plant fossils that date back up to 60 million years. Take a cruise on a cutting-edge hybrid expedition ship, spotting wildlife as you silently skirt fjords and glaciers on the way to the abandoned Russian mining town of Pyramiden—named one of the world’s top ghost towns by National Geographic. Explore roads leading into the wilderness by electric bike, visit Svalbard’s first brewery, or meet Arctic farmers on a polar permaculture tour to learn how food is grown this close to the North Pole. On our final evening, board the M.S. Bard for an electric-powered midnight sun cruise on the Isfjord.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Funken Lodge
Days 17-18: Faroe Islands, Denmark

Fly by private jet to Edinburgh, where we’ll board a charter flight to the Faroe Islands, a far-flung archipelago north of Scotland that is part of the kingdom of Denmark. Covered in magical landscapes of emerald pastures, sweeping moors, and plunging sea cliffs, the islands are home to a hardy community with Viking roots and a vibrant music and arts scene. Set out on a walking tour of the tiny capital city of Tórshavn, strolling past the colorful houses along the harbor and the turf-roofed buildings of Tinganes, one of the oldest Parliamentary meeting places in the world.

Discover the wonders of these islands on a full-day tour of the sites along the Golden Circle. Wander among the charming cottages of Saksun, perched on a lagoon surrounded by slopes, and visit the village’s turf-roofed church. In the seaside village of Tjørnuvík, set in a steep-sided natural amphitheater, enjoy lunch in a local home. Take in incredible views of waterfalls, sea stacks, and deep gorges as we make our way around two of the archipelago’s glorious islands: Streymoy and Eysturoy.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Hotel Foroyar
Days 19-20: Edinburgh, Scotland

Return to Edinburgh by charter flight. This enchanting city blends medieval monuments with Georgian neighborhoods and modern architecture—a combination that has earned it World Heritage designation. Discover Edinburgh’s lively character and historic past on a guided walking tour of the old town from Edinburgh Castle along the Royal Mile. Venture into Greyfriars and see the stained-glass windows of St. Giles’ Cathedral, founded in the 1120s. Our walk ends at the top of Calton Hill, where we’ll take in extraordinary city views.

The following day, explore the side of Edinburgh that interests you most. We’ve arranged tours that cover everything from literature to whiskey. Return to the Royal Mile to explore Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace—and Scottish history—in depth. Or set out on a foodie tour, sampling Scottish specialties like haggis, neeps, and tatties as well as wild boar sausage and smoked salmon. Enjoy tastings of spirits and beer along the way, visiting culinary destinations across the city. Get outside on a hike to the summit of Arthurs Seat, taking in fantastic views as you go. Take a literature-themed tour in this city of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Walter Scott, and J.K. Rowling, and visit the home of Robert Lewis Stevenson. Compare and contrast Scottish whiskeys on a tasting tour, or explore the musical heritage of the city on a tour that culminates with live folk music at the famous Waverley Bar. On our final night, toast our adventure across the planet’s northern realms during a farewell dinner.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Daily
Accommodations:Intercontinental, The George
Day 21: Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.

Embark on our final private jet flight to Boston, where you’ll connect with your commercial flight
home.

Meals Included:Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner