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Mongolia: Horses, Camels and Nomads

From $4,995

  • Get a taste for the friendly and authentic Mongolian culture as you meet local nomads, ride horses, and overnight in classic felt dwellings called <em>gers</em> (Mongolian name for yurt)
  • Experience the golden sand dunes of the Gobi Desert atop a Bactrian camel
  • Trek on horseback through the larch tree covered taiga forest and meet Tsaatan reindeer herders
  • See a regional Naadam Festival up-close—Mongolia’s national games featuring the three manly sports: archery, wrestling, and horse racing
  • Take rewarding daily walks through desert, taiga and steppe environments

In this "Land of Blue Skies," the basic elements of nomadic life and culture have changed little over the centuries. Horses remain at the heart of Mongol culture, shamanic traditions endure, and ancient Buddhist monasteries reflect venerable spiritual traditions. Travel this immense, silent land from the forested taiga and alpine Lake Khovsgol in the north through seemingly endless rolling steppe to the ochre-colored sands of the Gobi Desert in the south. All along the way you'll marvel at the sheer expanse of untamed land, uninterrupted by roads or fences, where there is precious little evidence of human presence save for the nomads' white felt gers which dot the landscape.
 

Day 1: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar (This entire trip is below 6,000')

Upon arrival in Ulaanbaatar, you will be met and transferred to the Ramada City Center Hotel. The rest of the day is free to rest and relax.

  • Accomodation:Ramada City Center Hotel

Day 2: Ulaanbaatar (Red Hero)

Today we embark on a half day sightseeing tour of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s largest city. The ‘world’s coldest capital” was founded in 1639 as a monastery town and was a trading center on various caravan routes between East and West China. Today it is a metropolis with pulsating energy and heavy traffic and is the center of Mongolia's political, economic, and cultural life. Here we'll visit the Mongolian Museum of National History, exlpore Sukhbator Square, and drive up to Zaisan Hill for a great view of Ulaanbaatar before sunset. Enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. (Total walking: 2-3 hours)

  • Dinner
  • Accomodation:Ramada City Center Hotel

Day 3: Khustai Nuuru National Park

Morning visit to the Buddhist monastery of Gandan Khiid. Then drive to Khustai Nuuru National Park--famous for the wild, endangered Przewalski’s horse, locally called the Takhi. The area was designated a Specially Protected Area in 1993 after the successful reintroduction of this last species of wild horse. It was upgraded to National Park status in 1998, and today there is a sustainable and growing population of over 1,500 Takhi that roam the steppe. After lunch we'll hike into the hills near the National Park entrance, visit a small museum, and hear about the project from a resident scientist. In late afternoon we'll drive out to the rolling hills to see the Takhi. (Total driving: 2-3 hours; total walking: 2-3 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Khustai Ger Camp

Day 4: Khogno Khan Natural Reserve to Kharakorum

Drive to Khogno Khan Natural Reserve and visit the remains of Khogno Tarnyd Khiid, a small Buddhist monastery tucked away in a well protected, horseshoe shaped valley. Hike up the hillside to see the small Uvguun temple. Along the way visit a local family and taste aaruul (dried curd), Suutei tsai (salty milk tea), and boortsog (a doughnut like biscuit). Continue to Orkhon Valley, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the 13th century capital of Genghis Khan’s vast empire, Kharakorum. Commissioned and founded by Genghis Khan in 1220, Kharakorum’s location was carefully chosen to be on the major trading route of the ancient Silk Road. It started as a simple supply base and eventually grew into a bustling metropolis. In its heyday it was a major political center and foreign visitors’ accounts spoke of It as a vigorous, cosmopolitan, and religiously tolerant city. It was inhabited for a mere four decades before the capital was moved to Beijing by Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan. Not much remains today of the original Kharakorum, as it was destroyed by clan infighting and its materials were used to build the Erdene Zuu Khiid. On arrival, the first and most obvious landmark is the massive wall with 108 whitewashed stupas that surrounds Erdne Zuu Khiid, a Tibetan-style monastery build in 1586. Hike up to Monument for a birds-eye view of Kharakorum at sunset. (Total driving: 4-5 hours, total hiking: 1-2 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Dreamland

Day 5: Kharakorum

Today we'll take part in an exciting regional Naadam festival. Naadam (short for Eriyn Gurvan Naadam) means "Three Manly Games": horse racing, wrestling and archery. The most impressive of them all is the cross-country horse racing, in which horses of various ages will cover anywhere between 15 and 30 kilometers. These local affairs are smaller in scope than the larger Nadaam festivals, but are always very festive and exciting. Watch the races, learn to play the anklebone shooting game called Shagai, and mingle with locals dressed in their "Sunday best." Sample local foods such as khoshur, an empanada-like, meat filled, deep-fried flat dumpling. (Total walking: 1-2 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Dreamland

Day 6: Kharakorum - Ongii Khiid

After an early breakfast drive to Ongi Khiid, a large monastery complex known as the "Pearl of the Great Desert." Founded in 1660 and built on the steep slopes by the Ongin Gol River, the Nepalese-style monastery was one of the largest Buddhist compounds in Mongolia at the time. Once an important religious center of Southern Mongolia, it consisted of two temple complexes on the north and south banks of the river. The older, southern complex consisted of various administrative buildings and 11 temples. The northern complex was added in a little later, in the 18th century and it originally had 17 temples. In its heyday the monastery was a bustling religious center with 1,000 monks and four universities. After lunch wander through the remaining structures and see the work being done to reconstruct the complex. Take a hike in the neighboring hills before dinner. (Total driving: 4-5 hours, total hiking: 2-4 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Ongii Nuuts Ger Camp

Day 7: Ongii Khiid - Yolyn Am Valley

Travel to Yolyn Am Valley, named loosely after the Lammergeier (which is actually a vulture, not an eagle). Take a hike through the green steep-sided Eagle Valley canyon and see the frozen river (although it may be melted by mid July). There is the chance to see ibex, Arghali sheep. Mongolian gazelle and the Lammergeier. Visit a small museum on local flora and fauna. Continue to Khongor Els, part of the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan (Three Beauties) National Park. This is the largest stretch of sand dunes in Mongolia--measuring over 110 miles in length and over 25 miles in width. At its highest point it can reach 200 meters. The sand makes a soft rustling sound when blown by the wind – hence the Singing Sand dunes name. Walk to the top the towering sand dunes at sunset. (Total driving time:6-7 hours, total hiking time: 3+ hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Gobi Discovery Ger Camp

Day 8: Yolyn Am Valley - Gobi Desert

Option to do a sunrise hike to the dunes. After breakfast visit a local camelbreeder’s family, taste milk products made from camel milk. Take a camel ride by the river along the base of the dunes. After lunch drive to Dream Gobo Ger Camp. Take short walk up the volcanic hill behind the lodge for sunset. (Total driving time: 3-4 hours, total hiking time: 2-3 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Dream Gobo Ger Camp

Day 9: Flaming Cliffs

Take a day trip to the remarkable red rocked Flaming Cliffs. The Mongolian name for this area is Bayanzag which means “rich in saxaul,” the only kind of shrub that can be found in the Gobi. It was discovered and named Flaming Cliffs by the flamboyant American paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews who first came here with a scientific expedition in 1920. This Cretaceous fossil bed is where Andrews found the first ever dinosaur nest proving that dinosaurs came from eggs. Many of the dinosaur fossils excavated here appear to have been buried in sudden and fierce sandstorms indicating that it was a hot, windy and inhospitable place already 65-80 million years ago. Take a hike from the rim down to the valley floor through the Flaming Cliffs buttes to see the fossil beds. Stop at a ‘saxaul forest’ for a short walk. Watch the sunset before heading to Dream Gobo Ger Camp. (Total driving time: 4-5 hours, total hiking time: 3-4 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Dream Gobo Ger Camp

Day 10: Gobi Desert to Dalanzadgad to Ulanbaatar to Terelj National Park

Early morning drive to Dalanzadgad, where we catch our flight to Ulaanbaatar. We then drive to Terelj National Park. Established as a Strictly Protected Area in 1992 Terelj National Park is recognized as a part of the huge Khan Khentii Reserve. Its proximity to Ulaanbaatar make this National Park a favorite weekend getaway for the locals. It is a hiker’s paradise. The park's most spectacular features are its huge granite blocks against a background of pine covered mountains as well as alpine meadows rich in wildflowers, including Edelweiss. We will arrive by lunch and have time to stretch our legs before heading out for an afternoon exploratory hike. (Total driving time 3.5 hours, total hiking time:  1 hour)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Ayanchin Ger Camp

Day 11: Terelj National Park

After breakfast drive to the Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex. The impressive 131 foot tall giant on horseback is wrapped in 250 tons of gleaming stainless steel and can be seen from afar. Designed and built by Mongolian sculptors and architects, it is the largest equestrian statue in the world. According to legend this is where Chinggis Khan found a golden whip, traditionally considered an auspicious omen, that inspired his future conquests. We climb the stairs inside the statue for a panoramic view of the steppe around the complex. We then drive to the to Tuul Riverside Lodge, arriving in time for a late lunch. In the afternoon we will see an archery demonstration. (Total driving time: 3 hours, total hiking time:  1 hour)

  • Accomodation:Tuul Riverside Lodge

Day 12: Terelj National Park

This morning you have the opportunity to take a horse ride and visit a local family. Learn how to make buuz, a traditional steamed Mongolian dumpling filled with meat or vegetables. The rest of the day is free to explore the area. You may wish to take a hike through the rolling hills down to the Tuul River or up the hill behind the lodge. Tonight you'll enjoy a traditional khorhog dinner—mutton and vegetables cooked with hot rocks—followed by a bonfire under the stars. (Optional hiking today)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Tuul Riverside Lodge

Day 13: Terelj National Park to Ulaanbaatar

After breakfast we drive to the trailhead and begin to hike through forests and meadows and a few rocky outcroppings to reach Tsetse Gun (2200 m), the highest point of Bogd Khan Mountain--offering a great view of Ulaanbaatar. We enjoy a packed picnic lunch along the way. Descend a gentle slope on the other side of the ridge and finish the hike at Manzushri, the site of a Buddhist monastery
established in 1733. It was one of the largest and most important monastic centers in the 18th and 19th century with 20 temples and more than 300 monks living there. We visit the small monastery museum and then drive back to Ulaanbaatar by mid afternoon. (Total driving time: 2-3 hours, total hiking time: 5-6 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Ramada City Center Hotel

Day 14: Departure

Transfer to the airport for your flight home or your next destination.

  • Breakfast

Jul 05 - 18, 2016

Aug 03 - 16, 2016

pricing

2015 Prices

$4,995 (10-15 members)
$5,495 (5-9 members)

$250 internal airfare – Dalanzadgad/Ulanbaatar
$600 single supplement

2016 Prices

$5,495 (10-15 members)
$5,995 (4-9 members)

$250 internal airfare – Dalanzadgad/Ulanbaatar
$1200 single supplement

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Ayanchin Ger Camp


Dream Gobo Ger Camp


Dreamland — Kharakorum


Gobi Discovery Ger Camp


Khustai Ger Camp


Ongii Nuuts Ger Camp


Ramada City Center Hotel — Ulanbaatar


Tuul Riverside Lodge


  • Get a taste for the friendly and authentic Mongolian culture as you meet local nomads, ride horses, and overnight in classic felt dwellings called <em>gers</em> (Mongolian name for yurt)
  • Experience the golden sand dunes of the Gobi Desert atop a Bactrian camel
  • Trek on horseback through the larch tree covered taiga forest and meet Tsaatan reindeer herders
  • See a regional Naadam Festival up-close—Mongolia’s national games featuring the three manly sports: archery, wrestling, and horse racing
  • Take rewarding daily walks through desert, taiga and steppe environments

In this "Land of Blue Skies," the basic elements of nomadic life and culture have changed little over the centuries. Horses remain at the heart of Mongol culture, shamanic traditions endure, and ancient Buddhist monasteries reflect venerable spiritual traditions. Travel this immense, silent land from the forested taiga and alpine Lake Khovsgol in the north through seemingly endless rolling steppe to the ochre-colored sands of the Gobi Desert in the south. All along the way you'll marvel at the sheer expanse of untamed land, uninterrupted by roads or fences, where there is precious little evidence of human presence save for the nomads' white felt gers which dot the landscape.
 

DAILY itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar (This entire trip is below 6,000')

Upon arrival in Ulaanbaatar, you will be met and transferred to the Ramada City Center Hotel. The rest of the day is free to rest and relax.

  • Accomodation:Ramada City Center Hotel

Day 2: Ulaanbaatar (Red Hero)

Today we embark on a half day sightseeing tour of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s largest city. The ‘world’s coldest capital” was founded in 1639 as a monastery town and was a trading center on various caravan routes between East and West China. Today it is a metropolis with pulsating energy and heavy traffic and is the center of Mongolia's political, economic, and cultural life. Here we'll visit the Mongolian Museum of National History, exlpore Sukhbator Square, and drive up to Zaisan Hill for a great view of Ulaanbaatar before sunset. Enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. (Total walking: 2-3 hours)

  • Dinner
  • Accomodation:Ramada City Center Hotel

Day 3: Khustai Nuuru National Park

Morning visit to the Buddhist monastery of Gandan Khiid. Then drive to Khustai Nuuru National Park--famous for the wild, endangered Przewalski’s horse, locally called the Takhi. The area was designated a Specially Protected Area in 1993 after the successful reintroduction of this last species of wild horse. It was upgraded to National Park status in 1998, and today there is a sustainable and growing population of over 1,500 Takhi that roam the steppe. After lunch we'll hike into the hills near the National Park entrance, visit a small museum, and hear about the project from a resident scientist. In late afternoon we'll drive out to the rolling hills to see the Takhi. (Total driving: 2-3 hours; total walking: 2-3 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Khustai Ger Camp

Day 4: Khogno Khan Natural Reserve to Kharakorum

Drive to Khogno Khan Natural Reserve and visit the remains of Khogno Tarnyd Khiid, a small Buddhist monastery tucked away in a well protected, horseshoe shaped valley. Hike up the hillside to see the small Uvguun temple. Along the way visit a local family and taste aaruul (dried curd), Suutei tsai (salty milk tea), and boortsog (a doughnut like biscuit). Continue to Orkhon Valley, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the 13th century capital of Genghis Khan’s vast empire, Kharakorum. Commissioned and founded by Genghis Khan in 1220, Kharakorum’s location was carefully chosen to be on the major trading route of the ancient Silk Road. It started as a simple supply base and eventually grew into a bustling metropolis. In its heyday it was a major political center and foreign visitors’ accounts spoke of It as a vigorous, cosmopolitan, and religiously tolerant city. It was inhabited for a mere four decades before the capital was moved to Beijing by Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan. Not much remains today of the original Kharakorum, as it was destroyed by clan infighting and its materials were used to build the Erdene Zuu Khiid. On arrival, the first and most obvious landmark is the massive wall with 108 whitewashed stupas that surrounds Erdne Zuu Khiid, a Tibetan-style monastery build in 1586. Hike up to Monument for a birds-eye view of Kharakorum at sunset. (Total driving: 4-5 hours, total hiking: 1-2 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Dreamland

Day 5: Kharakorum

Today we'll take part in an exciting regional Naadam festival. Naadam (short for Eriyn Gurvan Naadam) means "Three Manly Games": horse racing, wrestling and archery. The most impressive of them all is the cross-country horse racing, in which horses of various ages will cover anywhere between 15 and 30 kilometers. These local affairs are smaller in scope than the larger Nadaam festivals, but are always very festive and exciting. Watch the races, learn to play the anklebone shooting game called Shagai, and mingle with locals dressed in their "Sunday best." Sample local foods such as khoshur, an empanada-like, meat filled, deep-fried flat dumpling. (Total walking: 1-2 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Dreamland

Day 6: Kharakorum - Ongii Khiid

After an early breakfast drive to Ongi Khiid, a large monastery complex known as the "Pearl of the Great Desert." Founded in 1660 and built on the steep slopes by the Ongin Gol River, the Nepalese-style monastery was one of the largest Buddhist compounds in Mongolia at the time. Once an important religious center of Southern Mongolia, it consisted of two temple complexes on the north and south banks of the river. The older, southern complex consisted of various administrative buildings and 11 temples. The northern complex was added in a little later, in the 18th century and it originally had 17 temples. In its heyday the monastery was a bustling religious center with 1,000 monks and four universities. After lunch wander through the remaining structures and see the work being done to reconstruct the complex. Take a hike in the neighboring hills before dinner. (Total driving: 4-5 hours, total hiking: 2-4 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Ongii Nuuts Ger Camp

Day 7: Ongii Khiid - Yolyn Am Valley

Travel to Yolyn Am Valley, named loosely after the Lammergeier (which is actually a vulture, not an eagle). Take a hike through the green steep-sided Eagle Valley canyon and see the frozen river (although it may be melted by mid July). There is the chance to see ibex, Arghali sheep. Mongolian gazelle and the Lammergeier. Visit a small museum on local flora and fauna. Continue to Khongor Els, part of the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan (Three Beauties) National Park. This is the largest stretch of sand dunes in Mongolia--measuring over 110 miles in length and over 25 miles in width. At its highest point it can reach 200 meters. The sand makes a soft rustling sound when blown by the wind – hence the Singing Sand dunes name. Walk to the top the towering sand dunes at sunset. (Total driving time:6-7 hours, total hiking time: 3+ hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Gobi Discovery Ger Camp

Day 8: Yolyn Am Valley - Gobi Desert

Option to do a sunrise hike to the dunes. After breakfast visit a local camelbreeder’s family, taste milk products made from camel milk. Take a camel ride by the river along the base of the dunes. After lunch drive to Dream Gobo Ger Camp. Take short walk up the volcanic hill behind the lodge for sunset. (Total driving time: 3-4 hours, total hiking time: 2-3 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Dream Gobo Ger Camp

Day 9: Flaming Cliffs

Take a day trip to the remarkable red rocked Flaming Cliffs. The Mongolian name for this area is Bayanzag which means “rich in saxaul,” the only kind of shrub that can be found in the Gobi. It was discovered and named Flaming Cliffs by the flamboyant American paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews who first came here with a scientific expedition in 1920. This Cretaceous fossil bed is where Andrews found the first ever dinosaur nest proving that dinosaurs came from eggs. Many of the dinosaur fossils excavated here appear to have been buried in sudden and fierce sandstorms indicating that it was a hot, windy and inhospitable place already 65-80 million years ago. Take a hike from the rim down to the valley floor through the Flaming Cliffs buttes to see the fossil beds. Stop at a ‘saxaul forest’ for a short walk. Watch the sunset before heading to Dream Gobo Ger Camp. (Total driving time: 4-5 hours, total hiking time: 3-4 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Dream Gobo Ger Camp

Day 10: Gobi Desert to Dalanzadgad to Ulanbaatar to Terelj National Park

Early morning drive to Dalanzadgad, where we catch our flight to Ulaanbaatar. We then drive to Terelj National Park. Established as a Strictly Protected Area in 1992 Terelj National Park is recognized as a part of the huge Khan Khentii Reserve. Its proximity to Ulaanbaatar make this National Park a favorite weekend getaway for the locals. It is a hiker’s paradise. The park's most spectacular features are its huge granite blocks against a background of pine covered mountains as well as alpine meadows rich in wildflowers, including Edelweiss. We will arrive by lunch and have time to stretch our legs before heading out for an afternoon exploratory hike. (Total driving time 3.5 hours, total hiking time:  1 hour)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Ayanchin Ger Camp

Day 11: Terelj National Park

After breakfast drive to the Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex. The impressive 131 foot tall giant on horseback is wrapped in 250 tons of gleaming stainless steel and can be seen from afar. Designed and built by Mongolian sculptors and architects, it is the largest equestrian statue in the world. According to legend this is where Chinggis Khan found a golden whip, traditionally considered an auspicious omen, that inspired his future conquests. We climb the stairs inside the statue for a panoramic view of the steppe around the complex. We then drive to the to Tuul Riverside Lodge, arriving in time for a late lunch. In the afternoon we will see an archery demonstration. (Total driving time: 3 hours, total hiking time:  1 hour)

  • Accomodation:Tuul Riverside Lodge

Day 12: Terelj National Park

This morning you have the opportunity to take a horse ride and visit a local family. Learn how to make buuz, a traditional steamed Mongolian dumpling filled with meat or vegetables. The rest of the day is free to explore the area. You may wish to take a hike through the rolling hills down to the Tuul River or up the hill behind the lodge. Tonight you'll enjoy a traditional khorhog dinner—mutton and vegetables cooked with hot rocks—followed by a bonfire under the stars. (Optional hiking today)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Tuul Riverside Lodge

Day 13: Terelj National Park to Ulaanbaatar

After breakfast we drive to the trailhead and begin to hike through forests and meadows and a few rocky outcroppings to reach Tsetse Gun (2200 m), the highest point of Bogd Khan Mountain--offering a great view of Ulaanbaatar. We enjoy a packed picnic lunch along the way. Descend a gentle slope on the other side of the ridge and finish the hike at Manzushri, the site of a Buddhist monastery
established in 1733. It was one of the largest and most important monastic centers in the 18th and 19th century with 20 temples and more than 300 monks living there. We visit the small monastery museum and then drive back to Ulaanbaatar by mid afternoon. (Total driving time: 2-3 hours, total hiking time: 5-6 hours)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accomodation:Ramada City Center Hotel

Day 14: Departure

Transfer to the airport for your flight home or your next destination.

  • Breakfast

Ayanchin Ger Camp


Dream Gobo Ger Camp


Dreamland — Kharakorum


Gobi Discovery Ger Camp


Khustai Ger Camp


Ongii Nuuts Ger Camp


Ramada City Center Hotel — Ulanbaatar


Tuul Riverside Lodge


Dates and Pricing

Jul 05 - 18, 2016

Aug 03 - 16, 2016

pricing

2015 Prices

$4,995 (10-15 members)
$5,495 (5-9 members)

$250 internal airfare – Dalanzadgad/Ulanbaatar
$600 single supplement

2016 Prices

$5,495 (10-15 members)
$5,995 (4-9 members)

$250 internal airfare – Dalanzadgad/Ulanbaatar
$1200 single supplement

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