Mongolia - Grasslands, Nomads and the Gobi

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Day 1: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar

Arrive in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and transfer to our centrally located hotel. We gather this evening for our orientation meeting and dinner. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

 

Day 2: Gandan Monastery, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park

In the morning, we visit Gandan Monastery and the National History Museum. In the afternoon, we drive to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, located about 50 miles north-east of the city. At an altitude of 5,250 feet, the area is cool with wonderful alpine scenery. We explore the park on horseback or by foot. Return to Ulaanbaatar for dinner and overnight.

 

Day 3: Fly to Muron, Lake Hovsgol

In the morning, we transfer to the airport in Ulaanbaatar for our short flight to Muron, the capital city of scenic Hovsgol aimag (province). We continue by road to Lake Hovsgol, one of Mongolia's most scenic attractions. Lake Hovsgol is a massive lake fed by the same water supply as its cousin, Lake Baikal. The Mongolians refer to the lake as "Mother", and not only is it home to many species of fish, but the lake itself holds approximately 3% of the world's fresh water. The lake is surrounded by dozens of mountains, thick pine forests and lush meadows with grazing yaks and horses. In the evening, enjoy dinner and overnight in our Ger camp (a Ger is a traditional Mongolian circular felt tent).

 

Day 4: Lake Hovsgol - Hiking, Fishing

Today, we can go for a day hike, go fishing or just relax around the camp. Dinner and overnight in our Ger camp.

 

Day 5: Lake Hovsgol - Horseback and Yak Cart Riding (optional)

Today, we can try horseback riding, yak cart riding or just the yak! Also, for those intrepid swimmers you can go for a dip in the lake! Overnight in gers.

 

Day 6: Fly to Ulaanbaatar - Natural History Museum

In the morning, we return to the airport in Muron, where we catch our flight back to Ulaanbaatar. This afternoon in the city, we visit the Natural History Museum. Dinner and overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

 

Day 7: Fly to Gobi Desert - Yol Valley N.P.

Today, we fly south to the Gobi Desert. The Gobi Desert is a mysterious place that captivates the imagination. It is an extreme area with wide temperature swings, sparse vegetation and a small population of hearty nomads. It is also unique for its fauna and is home to the two-humped Bactrian camel and the world's only desert bear, the Gobi bear. Today, we drive to the Yol Am (Eagle's Mouth) Valley nestled between the beautiful peaks of Guvansaikhan (Three Beauties). We hike through the canyon to a small "glacier" which remains frozen even on summer's hottest days.

After a 2-hour hike, we have a picnic lunch at Yol Valley National Park. The park contains over 200 species of birds, including the Mongolian Desert Finch and Cinerous Vulture, as well as 600 different types of vegetation and plants. Dinner and overnight in our Ger camp.

 

Day 8: Hongor Els - Singing Sand Dunes

Drive to Hongor Sand Dunes (130 miles). Hongoryn Els is the largest accumulation of sand in the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park. The dunes rise abruptly from the plain. The dunes can reach an imposing 2500 feet in height, 5-7 miles wide and stretch for over 100 miles along the Gobi Altai Mountain range. These high dunes are called "singing sands" by locals as it makes various sounds when the wind is blowing.  Leisure hiking, trekking and sliding in the dunes. Dinner and overnight in our Ger camp.

 

Day 9: Flaming Cliffs - Cemetery of Dinosaurs

In the morning, we continue on to see the "Flaming Cliffs". The true name of this site is Bayanzag, first excavated in 1922, the area is world renowned as a "Cemetery of Dinosaurs". The land itself is a rugged desert of colorful rocks, red sands and hearty endemic vegetation. Dinner and overnight in our Ger camp.

 

Day 10: Return to Ulaanbaatar, Bogd Khan Palace

In the morning, we drive to the airport at Dalanzadgad, where we catch our flight back to Ulaanbaatar. In the afternoon, we visit the Bogd Khan Palace, with its bizarre collection of artifacts, including a royal ger made out of snow leopard skins! Dinner and overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

 

Day 11: Bogdo National Park, Mandshir Monastery Ruins

Enjoy a full day tour which takes us to the oldest nature reserve in Mongolia, home to the wild Asian wapiti or elk, roe deer, musk deer and marmots. We stop at the ruins of Mandshir Monastery, established in 1750 which once housed 350 monks within 20 temples, including schools of medicine, astrology and philosophy, before it was destroyed in the 1930s. Dinner and overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

 

Day 12: Naadam Festival - Competition & Ceremony

Today, we enjoy the Naadam Festival. The Naadam Festival is the largest annual celebration in Mongolia and showcases Mongolia's finest in the three "manly sports" of horse racing, archery and wrestling. The festival begins with a fantastic, colorful ceremony outside the State Parliament House. Hundreds of soldiers in bright uniforms play music on brass instruments, and Mongolians dressed in Genghis-like warrior outfits parade around the square, before marching to the stadium. Throughout the day there are archery events, where the targets lie on the ground, horse races with as many as 1,000 horses and wrestling bouts in which there are no time limits. Dinner and overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

 

Day 13: Naadam Festival - Closing Ceremony

Enjoy more of the festival and the Mongolian spectators who come from far and wide to watch the competitions. See how the wrestlers, riders and archers have progressed until one is proclaimed 'Champion'. Tonight we enjoy the closing ceremony and a celebration dinner. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

 

Day 14: To Karakoram - Ancient Capital of the Mongols

In the morning, we depart Ulaanbaatar for Karakoram. We visit Erdene Zuu Monastery on the way. Karakoram served as the Mongolian capital for only 40 years (when Kublai Khaan moved it to what is now Beijing). Most of the city was later destroyed by Manchurian soldiers. The remnants of the city were reputedly used to build the Erdene Zuu Monastery in the 16th century. We spend the rest of the day exploring Karakoram. We can go horseback riding, hiking, or just relax by the river. Dinner and overnight in our Ger camp.

 

Day 15: Local Nomads of Hogno Han

In the morning, we depart for Hogno Han. Here, we have the opportunity to spend the afternoon visiting with local nomads and exploring the area. Dinner and overnight in our Ger camp.

 

Day 16: Przewalski Wild Horses, Return to Ulaanbaatar

Today we drive to the Hustain Nuruu (Pike Hustai) National Reserve to have a view of Przewalski Wild Horses, recently re-introduced back into Mongolia. The 90,000 hectares reserve was established in 1993 and the Takhi (the Mongolian name of wild horses) were brought to Mongolia from zoo parks within Holland. Within the reserve there are a number of Turkish graves and stone statues. The Ongot archaeological complex is also nearby. Tour the visitor's center to learn about conservation projects and current developments. After lunch, continue our drive back to Ulaanbaatar for our Farewell Dinner. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

 

Day 17: Departure

The tour concludes in Ulaanbaatar with a transfer to the airport for your departure flight.

 
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