Travel to Mongolia to witness a selection of the country’s fascinating festivals.
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Activity adventure | Escorted tour | History & culture | Natural world | Winter
Three of the most celebrated events in Mongolia are the Eagle Festival, the Camel Festival and the Ice festival; see all three of these very different but equally exciting winter spectacles on this adventurous itinerary in the company of expert local guides.
Day by day itinerary
On arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is free to spend at your leisure.
Ulaanbaatar, meaning ’Red Hero’, 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. Spend a full day exploring the city including a visit to the Natural History Museum.
Ulaanbaatar - Muron - Lake Khovsgol
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. Head to the airport for your flight to Muron (time tbc). Drive on up to the ger camp where you will be staying on the shore of Lake Khovsgol.
Lake Khovsgol - Ice Festival
The Ice Festival is held over 2 days at Lake Khovsgol. In winter the lake freezes over, with ice around 1.5m thick, and forms the venue for the festival’s events, including ice skating races, ice sumo, tug-o-war, ice rally-driving, and horse sled races. Temperatures below -20°c are common, dropping to up to -40°c at night, so a warm Mongolian deel (coat) comes in handy! Dress up warm for frosty festivities on the ice - watch the horse-sleds charge across the frozen waters, grit your teeth at the tug-o-war tussles, cheer on the sliding rally cars and get your gloves around a drink at the ice ger bar. Simultaneously to the festival, there is a 100km Ice Marathon split into 2 sections over the 2 days - so you will have an opportunity to watch some of the action.There will also be evening entertainment - a traditional music performance, and a shaman demonstration and bonfire.
Lake Khovsgol - Ulaanbaatar
After breakfast head back to Muron in time for your flight back to UB. Spend the afternoon and evening at your leisure.
The Eagle Festival showcases the art of hunting with eagles practised by the Kazakh inhabitants of Western Mongolia. Eagle hunters from the province of Bayan-Ulgii will compete in sporting activities and competitions West of Ulaanbaatar in Nukht. There will be cultural exhibitions, demonstrations and handcrafts on display as well.
The festival will start with a flamboyant colourful parade before the main festivities start. Dressed in full regalia and mounted on groomed decorated horses, the eagle hunters compete for various awards including Best Eagle at Hunting Prey. Other ’manly’ sporting activities you’ll watch include horse racing, camel racing, archery and the highly entertaining Bushkashi - goat skin tug-o-war on horseback. In the late afternoon return to UB.
Ulaanbaatar - Gobi - Yoln Am (Eagle Gorge) - Bayanzag (Flaming Cliffs)
Yoln Am 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. 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 in the light - accentuating the sureally beautiful and dramatic features of the valley of the dinosaurs. Fly down to the Gobi (time tbc) and head to the Yoln Am Gorge, where you may witness Argali sheep and Ibex picking their way across sheer cliffs and lammergeyers soaring above hunting for prey. An ideal location for a long walk through the gorges and gullies, before visiting the national park museum. Afternoon at leisure - perhaps you may want to indulge in a massage at the ger camp. Head to the spectacular Flaming Cliffs at Bayanzag in the late afternoon and stroll around the dramatic rock formations.
Gobi - Camel Festival
Officially billed as the "Thousand Camel Festival", this annual celebration in the heart of the Gobi is organised by a local organization whose remit is to protect and preserve the Bactrian camel population, which has been steadily declining over the past twelve years. Visitors get the chance to interact with and learn about these intriguing animals and the camel herders’ nomadic way of life. From your base at the comfortable 3 Camel Lodge ger camp you will cross the plains to witness the events of the camel festival. Highlights include camel races, camel polo, performances by traditional Mongolian musicians and dancers, and visits to significant paleontological and cultural sites of the Gobi such as the petroglyphs at Khavtsgait
Gobi - Ulaanbaatar - Gandan Monastery
Gandantegchinlen Khiid (Gandan for short) is the largest and most important monastery in Mongolia. The monastery’s main attraction is the magnificent Migjid Janraisig Temple which houses a 25m high, 20 ton guilded statue. It is a working monastery with ceremonies every morning and 150 monks in residence. After breakfast head back to Dalanzadgad in time for your flight back to UB. Visit Gandan Monastery, hopefully in time to watch the ceremonies which take place mid-morning. Before you leave Mongolia you may want to stock up on some of the things that have caught your eye during your stay and other items that can be purchased at very
reasonable prices. From cashmere jumpers, Mongolian boots and fur hats to caviar, cheap North Face jackets and traditional music, UB’s shops and markets have it all. We’ll be on hand to guide you around the State Department Store, and Gobi Cashmere, among others. In the evening enjoy a farewell dinner at one of our favourite local restaurants.
Transfer to the airport for your flight home.
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