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The Emperor's Bedroom

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40 trips of a lifetimeCondé Nast
You can delve deeper into an unfamiliar culture when you're able to gain access to places, events, and people that are normally off-limits. Below are 40 examples of such extraordinary experienced worldwide, ranging in price from $80 to $12,000? Because of their nature, these opportunities are subject to change and even cancellation. Not all are available every day, some only in limited quantities, and most cannot be booked á la carte but only as part of a larger itinerary. This list is not exhaustive, either: the very act of publicizing some rare experiences offered by the most well-connected travel forms would burn the bridges that make them possible.(Prices quoted are estimates for two people and include just the elements listed.) 

Reported by Kathryn Maier and Brook Wilkinson

CHINA The Emperor's Bedroom
Take a tour of Chonghuagong-Qing dynasty emperor Qianlong's private chambers within Beijing's Forbidden City, which are normally closed to the public. The emperor, who ruled from 1735 to 1796, was known for his literary prowess, and his calligraphy adorning the walls is of particular interest.(He was also a major patron of the arts, commissioning a 36,000-volume catalog of every important work in Chinese culture.) You'll see fine examples of imperial jade, ceramics, and rosewood furniture. Cost $500. Source: Guy Rubin, Imperial Tours, San Francisco (888-888-1970; imperialtours.net).

Saddle Up In Gyalthang take your position on horseback among racing champs, heroes in this horse-dependent culture. Watch as they perform tricks-such as sliding down the side of the galloping horse to pick up a ceremonial scarf-in a festival timed to your summer arrival, and participate in race down the valley if you dare. Cost $700. Source: Guy Rubin (see China).

© Nov 2007 Condé Nast Traveler