Explore Mongolia, a country three times larger than France, full of open grasslands and vast skies.
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Activity adventure | Escorted tour | Natural world
Day by day itinerary
Flight to Mongolia
Depart the UK for your flight to Ulaanbaatar.
Arrive in Ulaanbaatar
Arrive at he airport and transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to spend at your leisure.
Spend a full day in Ulaanbaatar; meaning ’Red Hero’, Ulaanbaatar is the capital city of Mongolia. Situated on the Tuul River, it is a mixture of traditional and modern. The ornate flowing eaves of the monastery temples stand beside communist planned
courtyards and modern sky scrapers. Visit the excellent Museum of National History and gain an understanding of Mongolia’s remarkable past, a worthwhile introduction to your stay in this fascinating country.
Ulaanbaatar - Dalanzadgad - Khongoryn Els
Dalandzadgad is the principal centre of sparcely populated Omnogovi aimag (province) in the south gobi. Khongoryn Els are some of the largest sand dunes in Mongolia, 180 kilometres long and up to 800 metres high. A climb to the top gives amazing views across the dunes and the surrounding desert. This desert area is inhabited by traditional camel herders. It is a great place to learn about these fascinating animals and ride them across the desert.
Rise early for your transfer to the airport and flight to Dalanzadgad. From here, journey west to Khongoryn Els, which takes you across the desert north of, and then through, the Gurvan Saikhan mountains to your ger camp (the traditional Mongolian felt tents) not far from the dunes. Keep an eye open for herds of gazelle, and Ibex. Settle into the camp before driving across to the dunes and trek to the top for one of the most spectacular views in Mongolia.
In the morning drive to the camel breeder Yondon’s family in Adag Nuur. Enjoy the traditional nomadic hospitality in their ger, learning more about the life of camel breeders and the camels themselves before heading off for a bactrian trek across the desert landscape. Around 285,000 Bactrian camels, some 30% of the world’s population, live in Mongolia. Opinions (and camels) vary but to spend time with these remarkable creatures is to get to know Mongolia. Spend the afternoon at your leisure.
Khongoryn Els - Yoln Am (Eagle Gorge)
Yoln Am (Eagle Gorge) means "Lammergeyer’s mouth" after the huge raptors that inhabit this deep ravine in the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains. Even in the heat of the summer months, one can find ice in shaded corners of this valley. The rare and shy snow leopard still prowls these mountains, though you are more likely to see ibex tiptoeing their way across the sheer rock faces above. Meanwhile, hordes of Pallas’s Pikas scamper around at ground level. In the morning, head to the stunning East Beauty Mountain in Gurvan Saikhan National Park. We suggest you take the longer, but more scenic route, along the south of the mountain ridges. En route you will pass close by Yoln Am, and although you could stop here today, the best time to see it is at first light - see tomorrow’s itinerary for details. You can discuss the timing preferences with your guide.
Yoln Am (Eagle Gorge) - Bayanzag
Bayanzag is one of the most famous palaeontological sites in the world. Roy Chapman Andrews discovered the world’s first nest of dinosaur eggs here in 1922 and unearthed over 100 dinosaurs. The area is nicknamed the "Flaming Cliffs" after the red sandstone buttes and cliffs that glow at sunset, accentuating the sureally beautiful and dramatic features of the valley of the dinosaurs.
Head to Yoln Am (Eagle Gorge) in time for sunrise where you may witness Argali sheep and Ibex picking their way across sheer cliffs and lammergeyers soaring above hunting for prey. In the afternoon head to Bayanzag, known as the ’Flaming Cliffs’, for a walk in this stunning location, before returning to camp. You could also visit the dunes at Moltsog Els and/or the petroglyphs at Khavtsgait.
The ruined monastery of Ongiin Khiid lies in two halves on the banks of the Ongiin river. It was destroyed by the communist purges of the 1930s and is being restored by a number of monks. It is an amazing site and stretches across the valley in the mountainous area around the river. Drive north to Ongiin Khiid and take a look around the monastery site including the small ger museum and the rebuilt temple. This halfway point is a convenient stop en route to the central heartland of Mongolia.
Ongin Khid - Kharkorin
Kharkhorin, formerly known as Karakorum, was the once the capital of the Chinggis Khaan’s Mongol empire in the 13th century. Artisans from all across the empire were brought here to embellish the city. Famed for their religious tolerance, the Khaans split their time equally between the different faiths and twelve religions co-existed within the town. Foreign and Mongol coins were both legal tender. After the move to Beijing, and the fall of the empire, Karakorum was abandoned and then destroyed by vengeful Manchurian soldiers in 1388.
After breakfast, travel north to Kharkhorin. As you head north you will notice the change from the flatter, earthy and more arid landscape of the Gobi to the greener steppeland and rolling hills of central Mongolia. Upon reaching Kharkhorin, stop at the aptly-titled fertility stone just outside of town. Arrive at your camp on the banks of the Orhon River, before walking up to the monument of the 3 Empires. After dinner, enjoy a concert of Mongolian music that includes the art of Khoomi (throat) singing.
Kharkhorin - Erdene Zuu Monastery - Tsenkher Valleys - Refugio Homestay
The remains of Kharkhorin, destroyed by the Manchurians, were used to help build Erdene Zuu (Hundred Treasures), the first Buddhist monastery, in the 16th century. 108 stupas are spaced evenly along the walls which enclose an area of 1,600 square metres and several temples which escaped the communist purges of the 1930’s.
Nestled in the foothills of the Khangai mountains, the Tsenkher Valleys contain some of the lushest green forested countryside of mountains and rivers in Mongolia.
In the morning visit Erdene Zuu Monastery in time to hear the young monks calling the other monks to prayer. Enter and watch the proceedings and hear the chanting in the beautifully decorated Tibetan Style temple. Afterwards continue north through fertile valleys to a remote countryside spot and ’refugio’ consisting of our gers maintained by our nomadic family friends Chuluun and Adiya. Enjoy a walk or horseride in the surrounding hills, or visit the nearby hot springs at a local ger camp. Return to the refugio before tucking into some homecooked food.
Tsenkher Valleys - Refugio
Today, you have a day to relax or indulge in outdoor pursuits and experience the daily life of your hosts. Perhaps they will teach you how to milk their lifestock or to make traditional Mongolian food. You will also have an opportunity to ride or trek into the surrounding hills and countryside. You may also like a trip to the hot springs. If you haven’t already had it before, hopefully you’ll have a chance to eat ’khorkhog’,a traditional Mongolian feast of lamb and vegetables cooked over a fire in a pot with hot stones, which sears and cooks the meat from the inside.
Tsenkher Valleys - Chuluut Gorge - White Lake
The dramatic Chuluutin Gol Gorge runs along a fault line and the river below is a great fishing spot. Nearby, an ancient forest protects a vast tree covered in offerings including blue Khadags (ceremonial scarves). This is a famous tree and local legend tells that if you have lost something, when you sleep beneath the branches you will wake and remember where it is. Leave the refugio after breakfast and drive west, perhaps stopping in the town of Tsetserleg where you can visit the market and pick up any supplies you may need. Drive across rolling hills to the Bronze Age "deer stone", sacred forest and the dramatic Chuluutin Gol Gorge. Continue to tonight’s ger camp in a valley east of White Lake, surrounded by mountains and an imposing volcano. The area is home to traditional yak herding families, their way of life unchanged for centuries in many ways.
White Lake (Tsagaan Nuur) was formed by lava flows many millenia ago. Rare species of flowers and pine trees grow in the black volcanic soil and ancient lava flows streak out across the meadow which is home to alpine wildlife. This astonishingly beautiful crystal clear lake is renowned for its fish and birdlife, including the Ruddy Shellduck and Great Cormorant. Walk from the camp along the local nomad trail over the back of the mountains to see the lake for the first time. Visit nomadic families and gain an understanding of their nomadic culture, their resilience and resourcefulness. Watch
or take part in herding and milking the yaks.
White Lake - Khorgo Volcano
Khorgo volcano was reponsible for creating Tsagaan Nuur thousands of years ago and is now extinct. The crater is accessible by foot or on horseback, providing excellent views of the lake and surrounding basalt-covered countryside. Local wildlife is also abundant and the area is a haven for birdwatchers. In the morning climb to the summit of the volcano and walk around the crater rim. You will also have time to go
riding, walking or just relaxing at the camp. If you are keen on fishing, it may be possible to arrange an evening fishing trip to one of the rivers that flows out of the lake.
Jargalant - Muron
Muron is the lively capital of Khovsgol province and bears the hallmarks of being a trading outpost close to the border with Russian Siberia, in that it is slightly wild and rough around the edges. However, this adds to its charm and unique atmosphere - none more so at the bustling market in the centre of town. Local hero Davaadorj, who
fought against the Japanese at Khalkhiin Gol in 1939, is immortalised with a statue in the town’s main square. The road north to Muron is one of Mongolia’s less traveled routes and takes you through some stunning territory. Beautiful valleys and high mountain passes make for wonderful panoramic views.
Ushigiin Uver - Khatgal - Lake Khovsgol
The gateway to Khovsgol, the small charming town of Khatgal, is located on the Southern tip of the lake. Wooden houses are the norm here due to the abundance of timber from the surrounding mountain forests. Known as the Blue Pearl of Mongolia, Lake Khovsgol is surrounded by mountains covered with pine forests and lush meadows. Containing between 1% and 2% of the world’s fresh water it is the second largest lake in Central Asia. It is 136 kilometres long and 36 kilometres wide and at 1645m above sea level it’s whole length is frozen from January to May.
Visit the bustling market in Muron town and stock up on supplies, before a short drive west to the ancient deerstone site of Ushigiin Uver to see the carved stones and burial grounds. Drive north to Khatgal, and have a lunch of Mongolian buuz and hushuur at a guanz (cafe) before heading slightly further north to the lake and to your camp
situated on the western shore. In the afternoon maybe a leisurely horseride or walk along the shore, before relaxing with a drink overlooking the sunset across the water.
Lake Khovsgol - Khoridol Saridag Mountains
The Khoridol Saridag Mountains to the west of Lake Khovsgol are home to 68 species of mammal including musk deer, brown bear, lynx, marten, beaver, elk, reindeer, moose, argali, ibex and wolf. Here the teepee dwelling Dukha folk herd reindeer, and the region has strong shamanic roots. Spend 2 days by the lake, relaxing or doing some of the activities on offer. Ride or hike with local Darkhat guides up through the meadows and Siberian forests into the Khoridol Saridag Mountain range. Fishing and kayaking are usually also possible, and there are some good hiking routes.
Lake Khovsgol - Ulaanbaatar
Wake up early to head back to Muron in time for your midday flight back to UB. Perhaps you will have time for some shopping, before a farewell dinner at one of our favourite restaurants rounds off your Mongolian journey
Transfer to the airport for your journey home.
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