CULTURAL EXPLORATIONS

In The Footsteps of Marco Polo

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TRIP SUMMARY

As we all know Marco Polo went to China, becoming the first European to give a detailed description of the great Chinese civilization. But Marco Polo didn’t just go to China, he went to a China that was a part of the great Mongol empire, an empire that wiped clean the map of Eurasia in the thirteenth century, and inaugurated a new age. The Mongol dynasty in China reunified the north and south that had been divided for centuries, made Beijing the country’s capital , created the modern provinces of China, and introduced into the country religions and cultures—Muslim traders, Tibetan-style Buddhist lamas, and Mongol soldiers—that have formed part of China’s multi-ethnic nature to the present day. Modern China was made by the Mongol empire, and Marco Polo was there when it was being born, moving in elite circles where Mongol, Turkic, and Persian were more often spoken than Chinese. He praised the brilliance and abilities of the great Mongol Khan Kubilai, admired the hardiness of the Mongols, men and women alike, who had built the empire, and was dazzled by the wealth and sophistication he found among the Chinese inhabitants of “Taidu” and “Quinsai” (today’s Beijing and Hangzhou). Join us as we explore the world of Marco Polo and his legacy in China and Mongolia.

Brief Daily Itinerary

Day 1. Arrival in Beijing

Arrive in Beijing, welcome and transfer to your hotel to check in.  Enjoy a welcome Peking Duck dinner at Xiao Wang’s Home Restaurant inside Ritan Park.

Day 2. Beijing

Visit Lama Temple and the legendary Great Wall. One of its highlights is the well preserved Yuntai (literally, Cloud Platform), the remaining marble foundation of a tower from late in the Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

Day 3. Beijing / Chifeng

In the morning, explore the Tian’anmen Square and the majestic Forbidden city. This late afternoon, transfer to the airport for the flight to Chifeng.After check in, enjoy a buffet dinner at hotel.

Day 4. Chifeng

Morning visit to the Chifeng Museum which is an outstanding museum displaying the mixed nomad and sedentary cultures of Inner Mongolia, China’s Mongol autonomous region. This afternoon, drive to Ningcheng county (100km /~2hrs) and visit the site of “Middle Capital” of the Kitan Liao dynasty.

Days 5. Chifeng / Xanadu / Xilinhot

Early this morning, drive to the site of Shangdu, Marco Polo’s “Xanadu” (290km /~6hrs).

Spend the afternoon touring the urban layout of Shangdu, Kubilai Khan’s “Upper Capital,” and learn the history of the Mongol Empire in China and its unique synthesis of Mongol, Chinese, and Middle Eastern political traditions. Afterwards, continue the drive to Xilinhot (also spelled Shiliinhot) (260km /~4hrs), the seat of Xilingol (also spelled Shiliingol) League in Inner Mongolia.

Day 6. Xilinhot / Beijing / Hangzhou

Transfer to the airport, and fly to Hangzhou via Beijing.  Hangzhou, a city of “Heaven on Earth”, captures the essence of the beauty of mountains and water, and the harmony of green nature and fine living. It was the capital of South China from 1125 to 1276 when it was conquered by the Mongols.The Mongols took the city peacefully and it continued to be southern China’s greatest metropolis throughout the Mongol Yuan dynasty, famed in European, Arab, Persian, and of course Chinese accounts. Marco Polo’s account of Hangzhou’s wonders will be our constant companion as we tour the city.

Day 7. Hangzhou

This morning, we will visit the China National Tea Museum and gain an in-depth knowledge of the tea-making process and China’s venerable tea culture. Afterwards, we will head to the Longjing tea village.
After lunch at a nice local restaurant, we will visit the famed Linyin Temple (literally, the Temple of the Soul’s Retreat).

Days 8. Hangzhou/Yangzhou

Visit the Phoenix Mosque this morning, still functioning as a center of prayer for Hangzhou’s Muslims. Afterwards, tour the West Lake which Marco Polo so admired, and have a private paddle boat ride on the lake.

Day 9. Yangzhou

This morning, we will visit the Marco Polo Memorial Hall. Afterwards, we will take a leisurely stroll along the Slender West Lake. Considered the soul of Yangzhou’s charm, Slender West Lake is known for its picturesque and idyllic scenery, many unique arch bridges over the waterways, and picturesque gardens and historic buildings along its bank. Enjoy dinner at a nice local restaurant by the Slender West Lake.

Days 10. Beijing

After breakfast this morning, transfer to the airport and fly to Beijing. Upon arrival, transfer to hotel to check in. The rest of the day is allocated to free time. A farewell dinner, before we leave China for Mongolia, will be arranged at a branch restaurant of Haidilao Hot Pot, one of the most famous hot pot restaurants in China, known for its outstanding hospitality and its authentic Sichuan cuisine.

Day 11. Beijing en-route to Mongolia

This morning, transfer to the Beijing Railway Station for your international train to Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator) (provisional train schedule, K3, 11:22 /15:20+1, departing on every Wednesday in 2017). Dinner is served aboard.

Day 12. Mongolia / Choir

In the morning, we will watch the famous Gobi Desert go by our windows until we disembark at the small town of Choir. In the afternoon, we will visit a traditional Mongolian family and experience the generosity and hardiness that Marco Polo admired in the Mongols. Also, enjoy riding Mongolian horses. Overnight in gers.

Day 13. Tonyukuk Monument / Ulaanbaatar

In the morning, we will begin traveling north to Ulaanbaatar. En route, we will stop at a vast statue of Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, erected by a private businessman as a symbol of both national pride and as an inspiration to the Mongols. Overnight at hotel.

Day 14. Ulaanbaatar

In the morning, we will visit Gandan Monastery, the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia. Next, visit the National History and Fine Arts Museums, where we will see some of the unique finds of Mongolia’s flourishing archeological expeditions, in addition to one of the greatest collections of Tibetan-style Buddhist art in the world. Overnight at hotel.

Day 15. Farewell

In the morning, transfer to the airport for your departure to home.

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Trip Highlights:

  • Explore China and Mongolia as Marco Polo did
  • Visit some of Chinese and Mongolian most famous historical and natural monuments
  • Enjoy meeting ordinary Chinese and Mongolian people and learn about their culture
  • Visit Chinese less visited and unknown towns which played important historical roles
  • Explore Mongolia’s diverse and rich flora and fauna at Gun Galuut Nature Reserve
  • Enjoy traveling by train on the Trans-Mongolian railway.

Post-Trip Naadam Festival Extension

Why not extend your journey and witness Mongolia’s largest summer festival, the Naadam games? Each year, Mongolians celebrate their age old festival for two days in the middle of July. Our trip takes you to Lake Hovsgol, where the games are much more authentic and personal than the big city ones. Naadam Festival is an occasion for re-unions and big feasts and is a chance to capture Mongolian culture and traditions at its best.

Trip Date: July 3 – 12, 2018; Price: from $2,600; 

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DATES & PRICING

Trip Date:

June 19 – July 3, 2019

Price:
6-9 travelers:

$7,900 per person, standard twin occupancy

10-12 travelers:

$6,890 per person, standard twin occupancy

13 and more travelers:

$6,370 per person, standard twin occupancy

Single supplement:

$950 per person

Post-Trip Lake Hovsgol Extension

Why not extend your journey and explore Mongolia’d highest national park and roof of Mongolia. The majestic Altai Tavan Bogd, or the “Five Peaks of the Altai Mountains”, located on the very edge of the western border with Russia and Kazakhstan. It is home to the local kazakh who came to settle in the area in the late 1800. Kazakhs train Golden Eagles for hunting and Kazakh embroideries are some of the finest in Central Asia. During this trip, we will also meet and explore the ethnic Uriankhai and Tuvan nomads and learn how archery is still practiced among them. Come to explore this unique land while enjoying trekking at this majestic national park.

ACCOMMODATIONS & TRANSPORTATION

Novotel

Beijing Novotel Xianqiao

Located in Chongwenmen in Beijing’s city center, Novotel Beijing Xinqiao is just a short walk away from the Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square, the Temple of Heaven and Wangfujing pedestrian street. Metro Lines 2 and 5 are right in front of hotel.

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Hotel Ulaanbaatar

Hotel Ulaanbaatar is conveniently located in downtown Ulaanbaatar and is a well established accommodation with its 20th century characte-ristics and friendly staff. All major attractions of UB are located within walking distance from the hotel.

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Ger camps

During the rest of the expedition in Mongolia, we will be staying at tourist class, cozy ger camps with western bathroom and restaurant facilities. Most visitors find staying in gers as one of the highlights of their trip to Mongolia.

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Land Transportation:

Land transportation is provided by Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps seating  3 passangers per vehicle. Some roads can be bumby and hard but our drivers are some of the most experienced and reliable in the country.