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Experience the World’s Most Legendary Civilizations
Imagine visiting the cultural capitals of nine of the world’s great civilizations—all in less than three weeks. That’s exactly what you’ll do on TCS World Travel’s Epic Kingdoms by Private Jet itinerary departing September 29, 2020—beginning in Athens and stopping in places as varied as Jaipur, India; Paro, Bhutan; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  

On this fascinating journey, you’ll dive into cultures that have changed the course of world history. In some places, you’ll see legendary monuments—like at the tombs and temples of Luxor, Egypt. In other places, the kingdoms you’ll visit have vanished, like the Lanna kingdom of northern Thailand, which had Chiang Mai as its capital. 

As you fly around the world visiting glittering palaces, TCS World Travel will get you there in royal style. You’ll travel in a Boeing 757, specially configured with 52 flatbed first-class seats (compared to the typical 239 seats on a commercial 757). Privacy screens, personal ottomans, noise-canceling headsets, and mood lighting make it easy to rest. And the delicious food, bottomless beverages, and expert service will help you fuel up for the next stop. And everywhere you go, you’ll enjoy the comforts and service of some of the world’s legendary luxury hotels.  

Accompanying you on your journey will be Andrew Evans, a prolific writer for National Geographic, who will bring each destination and its history and culture to life. He, along with the rest of the TCS World Travel team, will make your journey a seamless and unforgettable exploration into some of the world’s great cultures.
  • Original tcs epic kingdoms athens  greece.jpg?1580600318?ixlib=rails 0.3
    Day 1
    Athens
    Given that the word “odyssey” comes originally from Greek, the city of Athens is an especially fitting place to start your epic journey through some of the world’s many and varied civilizations. Unlike Odysseus, however, your travels will be free of drama or obstacles, as TCS World Travel will take care of all the logistics.  

    You’ll have the day free to explore on your own, perhaps climbing the Acropolis to visit the Parthenon or wandering through some of the other sites of the city that’s most famous for the flourishing of philosophy, art, and drama in the fifth century B.C.E.  

    Your hotel in Athens is the Grande Bretagne, which first opened in 1874 and is the capital’s grande dame, long the address of choice of visiting dignitaries and celebrities. At the rooftop restaurant, Mediterranean dishes are paired with Acropolis views. Here, you’ll get to meet your fellow guests at dinner at the hotel and learn more about the plans for your 19-day journey.
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    Days 2 to 4
    Jaipur, India
    One of the best features of flying private is that you’ll almost always fly nonstop—cutting out transfers, layovers, or awkward routes and making your trip as efficient as possible. Today you’ll get your first taste of this premium experience by flying to India. Your destination is Rajasthan, long ruled by the Rajput kings whose palaces and forts still dot the landscapes here. The colorful capital of the state, Jaipur, was founded in 1727 by one of those kings, Maharajah Jai Singh II. Its famous nickname, the Pink City, was bestowed more than a century later, in 1853, when the then-king ordered that all buildings be painted a sandstone color in preparation for a visit by the Prince of Wales.  

    You’ll stay in one of the homes of the Rajput rulers, the Rambagh Palace. First built in 1835, it was converted to a hotel in 1957, but the royal grandeur lives on in its 78 rooms and suites. All are decorated with antiques and period décor and overlook the palace’s gardens.  

    During your stay in Jaipur, you can visit the Amber Fort—a 16th-century complex of palaces, temples, and gardens. The most famous building there, the 17th-century Amber Palace, reflects a unique hybrid Rajput-Mughal design with a richness of decorative elements. Jaipur isn’t only famous for its royal history, but also for its handicraft and culinary traditions, which can be experienced on a tour of Jaipur’s bazaars or at a cooking class. End your day of exploring by enjoying the sport of kings, with a gala polo evening on the grounds of the Rambagh Palace. Cocktails, folk music, and a polo match are on the agenda.
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    Day 5
    Kathmandu, Nepal
    A quick hop of less than two hours to Kathmandu, Nepal, set high in the Himalayas. The country is a crossroads of faiths and cultures, with influences from both its Buddhist neighbors and Hindu India, to its south. Your hotel in Kathmandu, Dwarika’s Hotel, was never a royal palace, but its visionary founder was inspired by the buildings of the Newari kings, erected from the 15th to 17th centuries. Hiring woodcarvers, stone carvers, and other craftsmen, the hotel helped sustain traditional Nepali design and craftsmanship when it was constructed—and it continues to have an on-site workshop employing local artisans.  

    On an excursion to the Palace of Fifty-Five Windows in Bhaktapur (eight miles from Kathmandu), you’ll learn about the Malla kingdom, which had its capital there. Its preserved and restored palaces and temples with their wood, stone, and metalwork details have earned the city a place on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage sites. Other excursions on offer include visits to temples that provide insights into the spiritual life of the people of Nepal. The Boudhanath Stupa is the center of worship for the country’s Tibetan Buddhist community, while Pashupatinath, another UNESCO World Heritage site, is dedicated to Shiva. And Durban Square in Lalitpur (25 minutes south of Kathmandu by car) is a remarkable architectural assembly, with a royal palace and a number of temples overlooking the busy heart of the city.
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    Days 6 and 7
    Paro, Bhutan
    Though it measures under 15,000 square miles and is home to less than a million people, the Kingdom of Bhutan has managed to capture the imagination of much of the world. That’s in large part thanks to its king’s forward-looking plans for his country, with carefully controlled development and a commitment to the principle of “gross national happiness.” Instead of measuring success simply in terms of a growing GDP, the government also promotes conservation, sustainable development, equality, and good governance.  

    You’ll stay in one of two hotels in Paro, either the Zhiwa Ling Heritage Paro or the COMO Uma Paro. Both celebrate traditional Bhutanese design—at the 45-room Zhiwa Ling, wood was incorporated from a nearby monastery, while every element was carved and painted by a team of artisans over five years. There’s a tea house serving traditional Bhutanese teas, and you can meditate while admiring the views of the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery. The COMO Uma Paro has a more contemporary look while still featuring traditional elements like hardwood floors and hand-painted Bhutanese designs in the rooms. The sweeping views of the Paro Valley are a highlight.  

    During your stay in Bhutan, you can visit the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery, built into a mountain cliff. The massive Rinpung Dzong, or “Fortress on the Heap of Jewels,” dates from the 17th century, and its buttressed walls loom over the town of Paro. The highlight of a visit to Thimpu, the country’s capital, is the Dechen Phodrang monastery, home to historic paintings and the National Textile Museum. You’ll also learn about the efforts of RENEW, a non-governmental organization dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged women and girls.
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    Days 8 to 10
    Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai
    You’ll continue traveling east today, with four hours of flying from Paro to Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand. The city was long the capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom, which flourished from roughly the 13th to 18th centuries, when it was effectively incorporated into the Kingdom of Siam. While it is no longer the capital of an independent state, it remains one of the country’s cultural capitals, known for its handicraft traditions and unique regional cuisine.  

    Your base for your visit will be the Four Seasons Chiang Mai, set in a rice paddy, with rooms in pavilions inspired by traditional Thai architecture. During a class at the on-site cooking school, you can enjoy a savory introduction to the flavors and ingredients of northern Thai cuisine, followed by dining on the dishes you’ve prepared while enjoying views of the nearby mountains.  

    At every stop on a TCS World Travel itinerary, you’re always free to venture out on your own. If you’d rather join one of the curated small-group excursions, you could take a temples and market tour, which starts at the ancient Wat Chedi Luang and then continues on to Wat Phra Singh, where you can make an offering to monks asking for alms. Afterwards, a tuk-tuk tour of Chiang Mai ends at the bustling Warorot Market. If you want to learn more about the royal family of the Lanna Kingdom, the Dara Pirom Palace, now a museum, was the 19th-century home of one of the last princesses of the family, Dara Rasami.  

    Your itinerary does have some flexibility—you can choose instead to visit another Thai city, Chiang Rai, for two nights, and then rejoin the group in Chiang Mai. Located farther north near the triangle where Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand meet, the area around Chiang Mai is remote rain forest. Here you’ll spend two nights in one of Asia’s most celebrated properties, the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle. The décor of the 15 luxurious tents was inspired by the 19th-century European explorers who visited and mapped the region. Choose from excursions visiting local villages, a Mekong River cruise, or learning about the care of elephants at a local sanctuary.
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    Days 11 and 12
    Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
    You’ll travel west today to reach your next stop: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Though no longer a kingdom, Ethiopia was ruled by one of the 20th century’s most fascinating monarchs, Haile Selassie, until 1973.  

    Ethiopia’s intriguing history stretches back millennia, however. One of its earliest kingdoms rose to power in the 10th century B.C.E., and Christianity was established here in the fourth century—long before it reached much of Europe. The 11 below-ground churches of Lalibela, carved out of granite, are some of the country’s most famous sites. Pilgrims spend days making the journey to them on foot, and you’ll be able to visit them on a 60-minute charter flight from Addis Ababa.  

    In Addis Ababa itself, a city tour includes Mount Entoto (at an altitude of 10,500 feet), the Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral, and the Ethnological Museum. Or you can choose to see some of Ethiopia’s remarkable archaeological finds at the National Museum. Your hotel in Ethiopia’s capital will be the Sheraton Addis, a 295-room property on a hilltop overlooking the city and located between the National Palace and the residence of the Prime Minister. Its spa, fitness center, and many restaurants have made it a favorite of visitors to Ethiopia.
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    Days 13 to 15
    Luxor, Egypt
    The Great Pyramid at Giza, in Egypt, has been on travelers’ must-visit lists since at least the days of Herodotus, the fifth-century B.C.E. historian. The only one of the seven ancient Wonders of the World that still stands, it and the other pyramids nearby remain as compelling as ever.  

    You can visit them, and the Great Sphinx, on a day trip by jet during the Egyptian leg of your itinerary, though your base will be Luxor—a pleasant alternative to often-chaotic Cairo. This ancient city on the Nile is conveniently located for visiting many of ancient Egypt’s most famous sites, like the Temple of Karnak—built over 1,000 years and long the country’s largest temple complex. On the opposite bank of the river, the Valley of the Kings was the burial site of many of Egypt’s pharaohs, and you can see some of the glittering artifacts found in their tombs when you stop at the Luxor Museum. A sail along the Nile in a traditional felucca offers unforgettable views from the water of some of ancient Egypt’s most famous monuments.  

    You’ll stay at the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa, just minutes from the Temple of Karnak on the banks of the Nile. At the end of a day exploring ancient ruins, the resort’s infinity pool is an ideal place to cool off before dinner at one of a choice of restaurants on the property.
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    Days 16 and 17
    Sicily
    You’ve now been traveling across three continents, stopping at the centers of a variety of cultures and civilizations. When it comes to your next stop, however, it’s the civilizations that did the traveling, with many making their way to Sicily. Greeks, Romans, Normans, Muslims from North Africa, and other cultures have all left their mark on the island at the center of the Mediterranean.  

    During your time in Sicily, you’ll stay at the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, which has been welcoming visitors since 1873. With its setting amid terraced gardens, its heated pool, and its classic Italian style, the hotel will offer you your first taste of the indulgent pleasures of Sicily. When you’re ready to venture out, you can choose to explore by yacht, on an Ionian Riviera cruise, or make your way on two wheels, on a bicycle tour to local wineries that take advantage of the mineral-rich volcanic soil common in Sicily. The source of much of that soil is Mount Etna, an active volcano that rises to a height of 10,912 feet. As you explore it in a 4x4 vehicle, you’ll see evidence of old and new eruptions, extinct craters, and recent lava flows.  

    Sicily is perhaps an ideal place to take it slow and sip a glass of a local wine on an especially appealing piazza, or to spend some time on a beach splashing in the Mediterranean. Feel free to embrace that Italian love of dolce far niente—the sweetness of doing nothing.
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    Days 18 and 19
    London
    If Sicily was the cultural crossroads of the ancient Mediterranean, London is one of the cosmopolitan centers of the world today. It makes a fitting final stop, where you can reflect on all you have seen and experienced with your fellow travelers. 

    You’ll stay at the Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, which opened in 2017 after a six-year renovation of the landmarked art deco Port of London Authority building. Located just to the north of the Tower of London, it’s convenient to the cool neighborhoods of East London, the historic sites of the City of London, and the attractions of the West End, from theater to shopping.  

    While there are no planned excursions in the city, but should you choose to extend your trip, the Four Seasons concierges and the TCS World Travel team can assist with everything from reservations at Michelin-starred restaurants to tickets to the hottest shows. After London, you’ll return home—but having had a taste of private jet travel, you may soon be booking your next adventure.