For most travelers, budget is a top consideration when planning a trip. But what if money weren’t a concern, and you could spend six figures on a single journey? It might look something like “Cultural Treasures: Around the World by Private Jet,” a 23-day journey across the globe that costs a cool $129,000. Per person.
What does such an over-the-top luxury trip entail?
Limited to 50 guests, the jaunt on a chartered, customized Boeing 757 jet transports guests from Seattle to Japan, Mongolia, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Abu Dhabi, Jordan and Sicily, touching down in Boston. Along the way, experiences include a Bedouin feast under the stars, Zen meditation in Kyoto, a helicopter flight below Everest, watching the sunrise glow on the Taj Mahal from a private balcony and an intimate candlelit dinner at Little Petra.
If you don’t have over a hundred thousand dollars to burn on a three-week trip, read on for a free-of-charge glimpse into how the glitterati travel.
Journey on a Private 757
On board their private jet, guests enjoy service from a dedicated cabin crew providing a crew-to-guest ratio of 1:7. Also on board: an executive chef and a physician. Amenities include an espresso maker, curated entertainment selected to complement the itinerary, a fully stocked, open bar featuring top-shelf wine and spirits, and first-class meal service.
For accommodations along the way, travelers stay in uber-luxe hotels, including Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton properties.
A Taste of Japanese Culture
The longest leg of the trip is the first, Seattle to Osaka, which takes about 12 hours. Guests then transfer to Kyoto, known for its well-preserved temples, traditional tea houses and imperial history (it's where the emperor lived between 794 and 1868).
Here, immersive activities include a guided Zen meditation session, Japanese tea ceremony, lesson in samurai swordsmanship, meeting with an indigo dye maker, kimono fitting by a traditional tailor and gala dinner featuring a private geisha performance.
A Camel Ride Through Mongolia
After three days in Japan, guests are ferried to Mongolia, a relatively little-explored country tucked between China and Russia, known for its nomadic culture.
Revelers discover the Gobi Desert, which lies between the Siberian wilderness to the north and the Tibetan Plateau to the south, and features Bactrian camels, mountain sheep, golden eagles and many endemic reptiles. They also witness how families of nomads still roam the plains as their ancestors did centuries ago – and have the chance to ride woolly camels with the locals.
Sports Contests in Mongolia
A special presentation of the Naadam Games, traditional contests of archery, wrestling and horsemanship, speak to Mongolia’s deep military history. At the contests, arranged exclusively for the trip, travelers test out their skills.
Photography in the Himalayas
Next up: a jaunt to Nepal in South Asia, home to the iconic Himalayas mountains.
In this stunning, sacred region, a Mount Everest summiteer shares a firsthand account of the determination it takes to summit the world’s highest peak, putting real life into unique perspective. There’s also time set aside for taking photos during a short landing at high altitude, in the heart of the Himalayas.
Exploration of Mt. Everest via Helicopter
No trip to the Himalayas is complete with a venture to its crown jewel: Mt. Everest, the highest mountain on Earth.
During a helicopter excursion, guests take in breathtaking views of Everest Base Camp and the mountain itself, as well as other peaks such as Lhotse and Ama Dablam. Also on view is Khumbu Glacier, whose icefall provides Everest-climbers their first formidable obstacle.
Bhutan Dance at Cultural Festival
Just over a couple hundred miles away from Mt. Everest is Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom with extraordinary religious history. Guests reach the destination via private charter plane, and can visit an ancient Buddhist temple and monastery.
The journey culminates with a private tshechu festival, which brings together the local community to share ritual dances illuminating events in the life of eighth-century Buddhist master Guru Rinpoche. The colorful performance is Bhutan’s most important religious event.
Taj Mughal Dinner and Views of the Taj Mahal
The Bhutan leg of the trip is followed by a visit to Agra, India, where local culture takes center stage during a dinner featuring cuisine inspired by the Mughals, a powerful medieval dynasty. Cuisine comes paired with a performance of Kathak dance, a royal, pantomime-like art first introduced to India through the imperial courts of Mughal emperors.
After taking in the cultural performance, guests settle in to their suites at The Oberoi Amarvilás, where private balconies directly face the Taj Mahal.
Visit to the Taj Mahal
The next day includes a trip to, of course, the Taj Mahal itself.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site was begun in 1632 as a marble mausoleum for the favorite wife of Shah Jahan, and it took 20,000 artisans to complete it, at a present-day cost of over $800 million. Guests are given ample time to take in the monument’s impressive artistic details, like spectacular pietra dura (inlaid stonework) in the cenotaph.
Desert Sojourn in Abu Dhabi
This modern desert city, bordering the Persian Gulf, is the next pit stop for intrepid travelers. It offers an entrancing contrast of world-class sights, from the Grand Mosque (82 domes, 1,000 columns, 24,000 gilded chandeliers) to the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the garden city of Al Ain. Guests may also choose to experience a hospital for falcons, or for the active sporting set, participate in a polo match from the back of a camel.
Activities are followed with an exclusive, private sunset cocktail reception and dinner, set up on the dunes.
Journey to Petra
Guests next head west to the kingdom of Jordan and its ancient city of Petra, built between 800 BC and AD 100 by the Nabatean Arabs. Here, they visit the Treasury, aka Al-Khazneh - an ancient mausoleum famously featured in the climactic scenes of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
An archeologist accompanies guests as they explore the city, and a private lunch is provided at a cavern near the Treasury.
Journey to Little Petra
Just north of Petra is “Little Petra” (Siq el-Barid), which as the name suggests, looks like a smaller version of the main site. Only about 380 yards long, it’s crammed with tombs, temples, houses, water channels and cisterns. In this unique destination, guests are treated to a candlelit dinner accompanied by traditional music.
Wadi Rum on a 4x4
Also on the Jordan agenda: a trek to Wadi Rum, known as Valley of the Moon, the country’s largest desert landscape.
If you’ve seen “Lawrence of Arabia,” you’ll doubtless recall the climactic scene where Peter O’Toole, Omar Shariff and Anthony Quinn gallop on camels down Wadi Rum to storm Aqaba. While travelers don’t dash headlong on camels, they are able to explore the landscape by 4x4 - a memorable way to take in the rose-tinted mountains where Bedouin tribes still camp.
Romance in Sicily
The final leg of the trip is all about romance, with a taste of old-world culture in Sicily, Italy. Travelers tour the city’s small artisan villages in their own vintage Alfa Romeo, catching an operatic marionette performance along the way. Other activities include a stop at the ancient Greek theater of Taormina, and a 4x4 journey to Mt. Etna, an active volcano.
The trip culminates with a private dinner at Palace Duchi di Santo Stefano, a Romanesque- and Gothic-styled palace, before heading home.