While once a pivotal point on the ancient Silk Road, this "Land of Blue Skies" has managed to retain the basic elements of nomadic life and culture. Horses remain at the heart of Mongol culture, shamanic traditions endure, and ancient Buddhist monasteries reflect venerable spiritual traditions. On this fabulous adventure, you'll travel this immense, silent land from the arid semi-desert Khogna Khan Natural Reserve and the Neolithic Ongot monuments near Hustai National Park through seemingly endless rolling steppe to the ochre-colored sands of the Gobi Desert in the south - including the "singing dunes" of Khongoryn Els. 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.
Experience Mongol culture as you meet nomads, witness a Naadam festival, and overnight in traditional gers
Ride a camel through Gobi's dunes, and walk daily through desert, taiga, and steppe environments
Explore Khogno Khan Natural Reserve and UNESCO-listed Orkhon Valley, and see incredible Ongot monuments
Welcome to the energetic Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar! Upon late arrival at Chinggis Khaan International Airport, meet an MT Sobek representative and transfer to the Ramada Ulaanbaatar Citycenter, one of the best hotels in the city. On the way, pass a large suburban area with traditional nomadic felt tents alongside Western-style family homes. In the late afternoon, receive a trip briefing followed by a welcome dinner.
This morning embark on a sightseeing tour of Ulaanbaatar, the "world's coldest capital" and the epicenter of Mongolia's political, economic, and cultural life. Visit the important 19th-century Gandan (Gandantegchinlen) Monastery, one of the country's few Buddhist structures that survived destruction by the Communists in the 1930s. The bejeweled 20-ton Migjid Janraisig statue, a replica of the original copper statue erected in 1911, stands as the monastery's prime attraction. Other tour highlights include the Fine Arts Museum and the National Museum of Mongolia.
Fly to Gobi and drive to Khongoryn Els. Like Mongolia's nomads, travel through an iconic Mongolian desert landscape and along the Altai, or "Golden," mountain range. Stop in Khavtsgait Valley to stretch your legs and observe Bronze Age petroglyphs! After lunch, continue to the spectacular "singing" sand dunes of Khongoryn Els, which rise dramatically 2,600 feet from the desert floor, creating a distinct sound as they shift in the wind. The dunes are part of the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park, Mongolia's largest stretch of sand dunes (over 110 miles).
Enjoy a day at the Khongoryn Els sand dunes, with options for camel riding, hiking, visiting a local family, and tasting camel-milk products! Learn about the two-humped Bactrian camel - a large, even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of Mongolia, used by locals to get from one place to another. After lunch, take an exciting climb up to the top of the sand dunes.
Today explore the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Bayanzag, with its striking Flaming Cliffs - red-rock bluffs reminiscent of areas in the American West. Internationally renowned as the place where celebrated explorer and naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews - on whom the ultimate adventurer Indiana Jones is said to be based - first discovered dinosaur eggs in the 1920s, Bayanzag boasts a treasure trove of important fossils that you can see all over the rocks. Hike from Bayanzag to the saxual "forest" (saxual is the only kind of shrub found in the Gobi).
After a relaxed breakfast, drive to Yolyn Am, or Eagle Valley, about 130 miles from camp. As you walk leisurely through the stunning valley, keep a look out for wild sheep and goats grazing high on the high cliff walls, and soaring eagles hunting for prey. (The best time for spotting wildlife is at dawn or dusk; we'll discuss with the guides which hours are best when we are there.) An interesting local natural history museum at the opening of the valley displays information about the area's animals.
Fly back to Ulaanbaatar and drive to Karakorum, stopping at Khogno Khan Natural Reserve en route. The arid terrain and rocky landscape of this remote, 46,900-hectare reserve is almost surreal. Visit the remains of a small Buddhist monastery tucked away in a well-protected valley, and walk up the hillside to the small Uvguun temple. On arrival in Karakorum, the first and most obvious landmark is the massive wall with 108 whitewashed stupas that surrounds Erdene Zuu Khiid, a Tibetan-style monastery built in 1586. Little else of the original Karakorum remains.
Today take part in an exciting local 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, ridden by children aged 5 to 13, will cover anywhere between 6 and 16 miles. Watch the races, mingle with locals, and sample delicious local food. After lunch, visit the nearby Karakorum Museum.
Enjoy more thrilling events this morning at the Naadam festival. After lunch, drive to Hustai National Park (also known as Khustain Nuruu National Park), famous for the 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. Upgraded to national park status in 1998, today there is a sustainable and growing population of over 1,500 takhi roaming the steppe. Upon arrival, drive out to the rolling hills to see these rare animals.
Enjoy wildlife watching and hiking in the stunning Moilt Valley, with patches of forest and a plethora of flowers. On return, explore the remains of Neolithic graves, known as Ongot monuments, dating back to when Mongolia was part of the Turkish Empire (552 - 742 BC). These are the biggest collection of stone monuments in Asia, with over 30 stones carved into human and animal figures. One legend claims that the stones represent the number of enemies killed; another says that they point to heaven to guide departing human souls.
Drive to the ruins of Manzushir Monastery and hike up to Tsetsee Gun peak (7,406'). The monastery enjoys a beautiful setting, surrounded by Siberian larch forest with a backdrop of natural granite cliffs eroded into huge boulders. It is the ideal place for hiking, trekking, and spotting deer and other wildlife. Visit the local museum before a short walk to the monastery. Established in 1733 and destroyed by Mongolian communists in 1937, the monastery had over 20 temples and was once home to at least 300 monks.
This morning, have the special opportunity to build a traditional Mongolian ger, and see how the wood or shrubs for walls, doorframe, poles, and roof come together to create a comfortable living space. Next saddle up the horses and ride toward mountains and hills! En route, stop and meet a local herder family and learn about traditional Mongolian life. In the afternoon, a representative from the WWF gives a brief lecture about Mongolian wildlife. Tonight enjoy a feast of traditional Mongolian barbecue around the lodge's campfire.
After a relaxed breakfast, pack a lunch and hike to beautiful Bayanzurkh, one of the four mountains that surround Ulaanbaatar. From the top, you'll be able to admire panoramic views of the city, and see how it blends nomadic and modern lifestyles. The easy return walk takes you over small hills, through trees, and along the river. Then drive to Ulaanbaatar and check into your hotel. In the evening, enjoy a cultural program followed by a festive farewell dinner with the group.
Bid farewell to Mongolia and transfer to the airport for your homeward-bound or onward flight.
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MT Sobek has traveled deep into the heart of Mongolia for over 30 years, guiding guests through a rugged, expansive landscape.
Our expert team of local guides offer an immersive discovery journey, nurturing genuine encounters with nomadic cultures.
Adventurers looking to blend daily hiking with interesting cultural insights and UNESCO-listed wonders will love this well-crafted journey.
Our expert guides and trip leaders are truly the key to our trips' success. Many are locals who live in-country year-round; others have made it their second home—all are passionate, enthusiastic and endlessly knowledgeable. Meet a few of the guides that might be on your trip.
Moderate daily hikes up to 4-5 hours per day with cultural touring by private van. Visit local families and explore wondrous sand dunes.
Traditional and comfortable ger camps, and a traditional Mongolian lodge. First and last night in a modern city hotel.
Daytime temperatures range from 70-85°F; nighttime temperatures are cooler and can drop to the 40's. Brief, gentle showers can be expected in the summer.
You will be met by our MT Sobek representative.
If you are a U.S. citizen, you do not need a visa for Mongolia. If you are not a U.S. citizen, please check with the Mongolian Embassy for your requirements.
Only a few airlines offer flights to Mongolia, including Korean, Asiana, Air China, MIAT and Aeroflot.
Yes, you will. We attend a regional Naadam and have the chance to see this on both the July and August departures.
You will have Wi-Fi only at the Ramada Ulaanbaatar Citycenter Hotel and Tuul Riverside Lodge.
Make any of our trips a custom adventure or start from scratch. Take two itineraries and match them up to create a unique third. Add extras and extensions and more...if you can imagine it, we can make it happen!
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MT Sobek Guest
"I did not know what to expect when we decided to go to Mongolia. What I found, with help of our excellent guides, was a beautiful country whose people were warm and friendly; its landscapes expansive and diverse, and its traditions noble and rich."
MT Sobek Guest, Mongolia: Horses, Camels & Nomads