Central Asia and Beyond

We have carefully selected these destinations as they are places we love to travel to ourselves. Many are so remote that the cost and travel arrangements would just not make it practical to arrange yourself, so we make sure we arrange all of this for you. You just need to sit back and enjoy the journey. A thread of common history and culture connects them, but above all else, we love to take people to meet our friends, family and just share our enthusiasm for these amazing places. Have a look below and explore where your next journey will be. Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

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Why should you choose Koryo Tours?

Choosing to travel to unusual destinations such as North Korea is a big decision, and choosing the right people to take you is an incredibly important part of that. Learn about how we facilitate tourism responsibly in some of the most interesting and unique destinations on our planet, and at the same time ensure you get the most out of your once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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March 21 - March 30 2024

Tajikistan Buzkashi and Persian New Year Tour
2024

Tajikistan Tour from Dushanbe to
Ancient Sogdia and the Fergana Valley.

See Buzkashi, Central Asia’s 'most dangerous sport',
and travel to Tajikistan over the Nowruz Persian
New Year.

From 2,450 USD per person

Please apply by 21st February, 2024.

Tajikistan Buzkashi and Persian New Year Tour 2024

Tajikistan Tour from Dushanbe to
Ancient Sogdia and the Fergana Valley.

See Buzkashi, Central Asia’s 'most
dangerous sport', and travel to Tajikistan
over the Nowruz Persian New Year.

From 2,450 USD per person

  • Overall

    Travel to Tajikistan over the Nowruz Persian New Year and experience Buzkashi ('goat-pulling' on horseback sport), ancient history, and breathtaking scenery.

    As a crossroads of Central Asia and the Silk Road, Tajikistan has a rich and vibrant culture bringing together Persian, Greek, Turkic, Mongol, Russian, and Soviet culture throughout the ages. Beginning from the capital Dushanbe, the centre of modern Tajik culture, we'll explore southern Tajikistan and set out across the countryside to find Buzkashi - goat pulling. Watch as hundreds of horse riders work in teams and as individuals to pull a goat carcass through a goal. Dubbed the 'world's most dangerous sport', Buzkashi is a sight to behold!

    We'll then head north over the beautiful and rugged Fann Mountains in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and Babur, the first Mughal emperor, on the way stopping at the large Khoja Obi Garm Soviet sanatorium - a gigantic Bond villain-like hideout - and the crystal clear waters of Lake Alexander. You'll then pass through the 5 km long Anzob tunnel before reaching the Sughd region, once ancient Sogdia at the mouth of the Fergana Valley.

    This tour will be led by expert tour leader Rich Beal, who has extensive experience planning and leading tours throughout Tajikistan and Central Asia. Because of Rich's close connection to the country, his fellow Tajik guides and friends like to joke that Tajikistan is his third home (China and Mongolia being first and second)!

    Looking to travel the Pamir Highway? See Koryo Tours' Pamir Highway Mountain Crossroads Tour in August from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to Dushanbe, Tajikistan on the M41 Highway through the Pamir Mountains. (Please email to inquire about this tour!). 

    Please see below for the Buzkashi and Persian New Year Tour highlights, itinerary, and additional information.

    Highlights

    • Travel north across the stunning landscape of the Fann Mountains.
    • Experience Buzkashi (goat-pulling), Central Asia's most dangerous sport.
    • Explore the ancient Sogdian culture and the history of the Fergana Valley, the crossroads of the world and once the farthest outpost in Alexander the Great’s empire.
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 10
    1. Thursday 21st March

      Arrival day in Dushanbe

      AM

      • This morning is a free morning for settling in, exploring and acclimatising while we wait for the whole tour group to arrive on different flights.

      PM

      • After our initial pre-tour meeting and briefing, we drive to the Hissar fortress. This massive fort is said to date back to Cyrus the Great (600BC) and to have been captured 21 times by invading forces. The restoration may be a little excessive, but it has a lovely museum that offers a gentle introduction to this fascinating country - a great chance to learn about the country's history and catch up with local people.
         
      • Upon our return to Dushanbe, we will stop by a local school to photograph an impressive statue of Lenin

      Meals | Lunch and Dinner.

      Overnight | Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe. A new hotel located within 5 minutes walk of the central city. This comfortable hotel has beautiful rooms located on a designated floor with free laundry facilities, kitchen area and reading room. Breakfast provided a buffet-style in the main restaurant area.

    2. Friday 22nd March

      Dushanbe City Tour

      AM

      • We begin our day with a morning tour of Dushanbe both by car and by foot, visiting the following locations: 
         
      • Victory Park | Built-in 1975 commemorating the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, this Soviet-built monument offers excellent views of Dushanbe. 
      • Rudaki & Somoni Avenues | are two main streets in Dushanbe which were formally known as Lenin street and Putovskiy street. These grand avenues were renamed in the early 1990s after the poet Rudaki and the ancient king Ismail Somoni, lined with a mixture of past Soviet architecture and modern Tajik grand buildings.
      • Rudaki Park | is a beautifully laid out park with a grand statue of the poet Rudaki, located opposite the brilliant national library building. 
      • Ismaili Somoni Monument | This fantastic statue of the ancient king stands on the former site of Lenin. Somoni's crown atop this impressive monument contains 10 kilograms of Tajik gold making it even more attractive. 
      • Mehrgon market building | With many of the cities old market places now closed in Dushanbe's drive for modernization we visit one of the new areas where local people travel to buy fruit and vegetables as well as other necessities. 

      PM

      • National Museum of Antiquities | this museum gives us a more in-depth look at the complicated history of Tajikistan and the surrounding countries.
      • Botanical Gardens | Popular for wedding groups as well as housing a vast range of Central Asian flora.
      • National Tea house | For end-of-day relaxation, this was once the largest tea house in the world, now been remodelled as an entertainment facility for local people. it houses a cinema, bowling alleys and various shops. We can still visit to view the amazingly intricate work carried out in its construction.  

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch.

      Overnight |  Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe. 

    3. Saturday 23rd March

      Anzob Village and the Varzob Valley

      AM

      • After breakfast, we drive out of Dushanbe following the Varzob River north to the stunning Varzob Valley along the way we pass scenic lakes, stunning geological formations, and bizarre palatial residences of the Tajik elite. 
      • Our destination for the morning is the small village of Anzob, where we join our friends for some traditional Tajik hospitality at their home. For those who wish to, we can hike into the mountains for amazing views of the surrounding valley.

      PM

      • Upon our return to Dushanbe, if there are any local events such as holiday wrestling, dancing or singing, we will stop making the most of our time.
      • Late afternoon is left to free time for your explorations and adventures in Dushanbe - holiday decorations would be up by now and a lively atmosphere on the weekend can be expected.

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch.

      Overnight | Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe. 

    4. Sunday 24th March 

      The Buzkashi, Tajikistan and Central Asia's most exciting and dangerous sport

      AM

      • Today we go to see the most remarkable sporting event imaginable – Buzkashi! Is a flamboyantly violent and aggressive game played by hundreds of men on horseback, wrestling over a goat carcass to try to score goals with it. It merely has to be seen to be believed, the photos you will get will blow the mind of anyone you show them to! Please note that we may have a long drive as the location of this spectacular event does change from year to year. The aim is to arrive when the game is in the throes of setting up watching the competitors arrive. We will stay until the end to make the best use of our time for photography and enjoyment.

      PM

      • The day will be spent at the sports fields, in addition to Buzkashi, there may be wrestling and dancing giving us the opportunity for mingling and people-watching considered to be the friendliest people in all of Central Asia. Snacks and drinks are often available for sale as well as an incredible day is assured.

      Meals | Breakfast and Lunch.

      Overnight | Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe.

    5. Monday 25th March

      The Fann Mountains and the surreal Khoja Obi Garm Spa

      AM

      • After a later start today we will drive through the mountains until we reach our destination; the Khoja Obi Garm Spa, a massive sanatorium built into the mountainside above natural hot springs – like a James Bond villain’s lair meets the hotel from The Shining! An authentic relic of the USSR days.

      PM

      • Once settled in a full range of ‘treatments’ can be enjoyed here, from radon baths to massages, leeches to swimming, or simply explore and relax. One of those large Soviet-era buildings that are hard to find these days; you will love this experience!

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

      Overnight | Khoja Obi Garm Spa, Fann Mountains. The rooms in this Soviet monster are a little more basic and older, although warm and comfortable. Use of many of the health facilities included along with some free time to explore this surreal complex late into the evening (if you’re brave enough.)

    6. Tuesday 26th March 

      Drive to Khujand, farthest extent of Alexander the Great's empire

      AM

      • This morning we bid farewell to our villain's lair and drive onwards to the northern city of Khujand, passing over. Through the Hissar Mountains, the route itself is part of the adventure including a drive into the 5km long Iranian-built Anzob Tunnel. On the way, we will stop at Iskander Kul – Alexander Lake –where Alexander the Great himself stopped for lunch during his advance through Central Asia.

      PM

      • We continue and cross into the Fergana Valley – the ancient crossroads of cross-continental trade and home to some of the great cities of the Silk Road, Arriving in Khujand (previously known as Leninabad) we'll stop at a giant Lenin statue at a hydro-electric dam. Communism personified!

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  

      Overnight | local hotel in the city.

    7. Wednesday 27th March

      Explore Khujand

      AM

      • A day of exploration today as we first stop by the traditional Panjshanbe Market one of the largest in Central Asia. We immerse ourselves in local life while trying to pick up a bargain or two buying everything from local snacks to Soviet memorabilia.
      • Opposite the market sits the beautiful Sheikh Muslihiddin Mausoleum and Mosque. This complex erected on the Tomb of Muslihiddin Khudjandi the sixteenth-century building allows us to learn a little more about Islam in central Asia while also marvelling at the ancient carpentry from inside the main prayer hall.  
      • Before lunch, we have one more stop to visit the Khujand fortress, this Silk Road fortification has been in situ for over 2500 years in its many forms. Its current build includes a fascinating museum looking at the history of not only the area but the whole region.

      PM

      • After a local lunch, we continue the tour of the city by visiting the giant statue of Lenin (the biggest in Central Asia,) and on to the bizarre Arbob Cultural Palace originally housing the former headquarters of a Soviet collective farm. It was designed as a recreation of the St. Petersburg Winter Palace and built during the Soviet 1950s; is a fantastic local curiosity.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. 

      Overnight | Local hotel.

    8. Thursday 28th March

      Drive to ancient Panjikent

      AM

      • Departing Khujand, we retrace some of our steps back over the Fann Mountains before following a stunning river valley on to the ancient city of Panjikent. The drive is a real treat as apricot blossoms dot the countryside our only other distraction as we’re dwarfed by the enormous geological features evident in this part of the world. 
      • We will make a detour en route to visit the tomb and Museum of Rudaki – (Panjikent is the birthplace of Abu Abdullah Rudaki, considered by many to be the father of Persian poetry)

      PM

      • This afternoon we have a historic tour of ancient Panjikent, viewing ruins of the Sogdian town founded in the 5th century and finally abandoned in the 8th century by the Arabs after their conquest of the region. Foundations of houses, a citadel city bazaar, and Zoroastrian fire temples are all visible as we walk around this UNESCO listed site. Dinner tonight will be a traditional style in a beautiful local home.

      Meals: | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

      Overnight | Sugd Hotel, Panjikent. This locally owned and run hotel is a small guest house with comfortable rooms, beds and warm showers. The owner is always happy to engage guests in conversation, often sharing the travel stories of his visits to Europe. 

    9. Friday 29th March

      Return to Dushanbe

      AM

      • This morning we bid farewell to Panjikent but not before a stop as its exciting and colourful local market. Driving out back to the Fann Mountains, we will visit an old Soviet Cognac factory, we have the opportunity to sample its produce and photograph this large partially abandoned site.

      PM

      • By mid-afternoon, we arrive back into Dushanbe where you can make the use of your free afternoon for some last-minute sightseeing into one of the history museums, local shopping or browsing one of the unique Soviet-era antique shops

      Meals: | Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.

      Overnight | Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe. 

    10. Saturday 30th March

      Departure day 

      • All group members will be taken to the airport for their flights as we bid each other a fond goodbye after this eventful epic journey!

      Extensions are possible to other regions of Tajikistan and beyond– please speak to your Tour Manager to discuss options.

      End of Tour

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Airport pick up and drop off to and from Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe
    • Hotel accommodation
    • Tajiki tour guides
    • A driver per group
    • A member of Koryo Tours
    • All transportation in the country
    • All entry fees for attractions and sights

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Flights to Tajikistan Single room supplement unless otherwise specified (US $50 per night)
    • Early check-in US $50 per night
    • Spending money for drinks and souvenirs
    • Tajikistan visa fees at other embassies vary
    • Tip for the guides (approx. US $15 per day)
    • Not all meals are covered but we will make recommendations if needed
    • We occasionally have the opportunity to visit a performance which is extra
  • Notes

    **This tour will be accompanied by a western tour leader if there are over five passengers booked**

    VISA APPLICATION TO TAJIKISTAN

    It is now possible to purchase your visa online, which makes our visit to Tajikistan a lot easier. Please see the following link for more information: https://www.evisa.tj Upon booking we will help should any further information be required.

    IMPORTANT NOTE TO TOURISTS

    This tour is a group trip designed to have a good amount of free time. We will give you ideas if you want to go out exploring or just take it easy at a café. Please be on time and return to that the hotel in the evening. Please note we will be driving relatively long distances, and seats can be hard, so we suggest bringing a travel pillow/neck support – the view and experience more than make up for a little discomfort though. Khoja Obi Garm Spa - please note this is a Radon spa which has radioactive properties. There are various thoughts on whether this is good for you or not! - please read up beforehand and make your own decision. The different types of treatment with steam sauna and water jets, massage etc. It is in a beautiful mountain area and worthwhile even for those not taking the spa treatments. The Russians built the spa over a religious shrine – for those of you not taking a sauna go pop out and try and find it in this beautiful mountainscape. Massage is 60 somoni head body arms, just need to wear pants or towel provided (radon shower included if you want! ) Carry a colour photocopy of your passport with you at all times.

    USEFUL TIPS

    Taxis – In 2017 most journeys cost around 20-30 somoni but make sure you agree to a price beforehand. Segafroid Café in Dushanbe is a good place for internet, and Western food- open for billiards and ten pin bowling cost 120 somonis per hour. The Segafroid Café is about a 20 somoni taxi ride from the Hotel Lotus. Dushanbe has the world’s largest tea house open for billiards, and ten-pin bowling cost 120 per hour. Bring sun protection cream. Bring hand sanitiser and toilet paper.

    WEATHER

    Early Spring weather so bring a light jumper and jacket; however, we will be heading into the mountains so have some warm clothing also as there will be snow.

     

    If fewer than 6 to 7 passengers book, this tour will be led by a local leader only.

Please apply by 21st February, 2024.

April 18 - April 25 2024

Run Dushanbe

Dushanbe International
Half Marathon Tour

7-night tour exploring unknown Tajikistan and run in the AIMS certified Dushanbe
Half Marathon. Marvel at its scenery, discover its history and meet the friendliest
people we know!

From 1,700 USD per person

Please apply by 1st April, 2024.

Run Dushanbe

Dushanbe International
Half Marathon Tour

7-night tour exploring unknown Tajikistan and run in
the AIMS certified Dushanbe Half Marathon. Marvel at
its scenery, discover its history and meet the friendliest
people we know!

From 1,700 USD per person

  • Overall

    Incredible yet relatively unknown, Tajikistan indeed an astonishing country that should be visited.

    Sitting in Central Asia, it not only has a fascinating history as a former Soviet bloc country but the friendliest people you will ever meet and the most incredible breathtaking scenery.

    This tour will not only get you there to experience all of this, but to also join in the local Tajik celebrations for their 'Day of the City' running in the 2024 Dushanbe International Half Marathon - an AIMS certified race. Learn more about the marathon and Tajikistan at www.rundushanbe.com

    This tour will be led by one of our most experienced tour leaders, Rich Beal. Rich has led tours all over the world since 2004 and has personally designed and researched all our Tajikistan tours. Because of his close connection to the country, his fellow Tajik guides and friends like to joke that Tajikistan is his third home (China and Mongolia being first and second)!

    Highlights

    • Participate in the little known Dushanbe half marathon, as the streets are lined with locals cheering you on
    • Explore the UNESCO-listed ruins of ancient Panjikent Journey across the beautiful snow-capped Fan mountains
    • Camp on the shores of stunning glacial Lake Alexander 
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 8
    1. Thursday 18th April

      AM

      The tour group meets at 13.30 in the hotel reception for an orientation & introduction meeting.

       

      PM

      We'll meet the marathon preparation committee operatingh under the City Mayor of Dushanbe in the Olympic committee of Tajikistan, sportsmen and Olympic games participants. Our special guests will include an Olympic champion and the first female boxer from Tajikistan who brought the country home an Olympic medal!

      Overnight | Hotel Vatan – newly built and with an excellent location. This comfortable hotel has beautiful rooms located on a designated floor with free laundry facilities, kitchen area, and a reading room. Breakfast provided a buffet-style in the main restaurant area.

    2. Friday 19th April

      AM

      We begin with a half-day walking tour of the sleepy capital of Dushanbe, including Victory Park, Rudaki Street, Dushanbe Flag, Monument of Ismaili Somoni. We will also follow the route of the Dushanbe Marathon. Along this route, we will learn about the development of the city over the years. From its ancient origins to the Soviet-era (when it was called Frunze), to modern-day Dushanbe

       

      PM

      This afternoon is free for further exploration or training for tomorrow’s big event; we have secured the use of Dushanbe’s premier gym should you wish to work out and get ready for the adventure ahead!

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

    3. Saturday 20th April

      AM

      Today is our main event! We make an early start to arrive in time for the surreal yet great Dushanbe International Half Marathon! This race gives an excellent opportunity to run with local athletes and amateurs, winding through the city, this event will be unique – medals and prizes for finishers and winners!

       

      PM

      After the morning’s exertions, you deserve some rest! Therefore the afternoon will be free for relaxation or further exploration with your tour leader visiting the nearby local market for some local flavours and experiences.

      We also expect celebrations in some local parks to mark the City Day Holiday. So we will find them and join in, the most welcoming people in the world will show you a good time on this occasion – be ready for some socialising and great photo opportunities too!

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

    4. Sunday 21st April

      AM

      The tour continues as we depart Dushanbe and follow the Varzob river into the mountains, driving up through the Varzob Valley where we will stop on the way for photos of this scenic area.

      Our goal for this morning the small village of Takob. Upon arrival, we will hike for 30 minutes through this hamlet where we will visit a local family whose home has fantastic views of the surrounding area

       

      PM

      We will have lunch given to us in the local Tajik way; sitting on the floor. You will lose count of the number of courses!

      We continue our drive through the mountains until we reach our destination;  the Khoja Obi Garm Spa, a massive sanatorium built into the mountainside above natural hot springs – like a James Bond villain’s lair meets the hotel from The Shining! An authentic relic of the USSR days.

      A full range of ‘treatments’ can be enjoyed here, from radon baths to massages, leeches to swimming, or simply explore and relax. This is one of those large Soviet-era buildings that are hard to find these days; you will love this experience!

      Overnight | Khoja Obi Garm Spa - the rooms in this Soviet monster are a little more basic and older, although warm and comfortable. Included are many of the health treatments along with enough free time to explore this surreal complex late into the evening (if you’re brave enough.)

    5. Monday 22nd April

      AM

      We begin with a long drive from the health resort over mountain roads out across the Fan Mountains working our way up through the ‘Tunnel of Death’ – an Iranian-built long road tunnel burrowing under he mountains, the nickname overstates the danger. Still, it can be nerve-wracking, although it is very safe in reality.

      We stop along the way from breathtaking shots of this beautiful mountain range. Our destination is Panjikent. We will make a detour en route to visit the tomb and Museum of Rudaki – (Panjikent is the birthplace of Abu Abdullah Rudaki, considered by many to be the father of Persian poetry)

       

      PM

      This afternoon we have a historic tour of ancient Panjikent, viewing ruins of the Sogdian town founded in the 5th century and finally abandoned in the 8th century by the Arabs after their conquest of the region. Foundations of houses, a citadel city bazaar, and Zoroastrian fire temples are all visible as we walk around this UNESCO listed site. Dinner tonight will be a traditional style in a beautiful local home.

      Overnight | Sugd Hotel - this locally owned and run hotel is a small guest house with comfortable rooms, beds and warm showers. The owner is always happy to engage guests in conversation, often sharing the travel stories of his visits to Europe.

    6. Tuesday 23rd April

      AM

      This morning we bid farewell to Panjikent but not before a stop as its exciting and colourful local market. Driving out back to the Fan Mountains, we will stop at an old Soviet Cognac factory, we have the opportunity to sample its produce and photograph this large partially abandoned site.

       

      PM

      We drive along small mountain roads past local villages, abandoned factories, and past stunning views. We eventually arrive at the remote and secluded Iskanderkul (Alexander Lake – named after Alexander the Great).

      We have the option of hiking or relaxing by its beautiful shores. The lake sits at an altitude of 2195 metres; a stunning turquoise gem in the heart of the Fann Mountains.

      Overnight | Local village homestay - we stay in a small village house at the base of one of the soaring mountains. there will be some time for light hiking or exploration (recommended!)

    7. Wednesday 24th April

      AM

      After a relaxing morning for photos, further hiking or sleeping, we return over the mountain pass to Dushanbe.

       

      PM

      We should arrive back into the capital mid-afternoon. You can make the use of your free afternoon for some last-minute sightseeing into one of the history museums, local shopping or browsing one of the remaining Soviet-era antique shops.

      Overnight: Hotel Vatan, Dushanbe

    8. Thursday 25th April

      End of tour. All group members will be taken to the airport for their flights as we bid each other a fond goodbye after this eventful epic journey!

      Extensions are possible – please speak to your Tour Manager to discuss options.

  • Extras

    • Insurance (7 to 9 nights)

      We're unable to take you on one of our tours if you do not have medical insurance that covers the destination in question. Issues of isolation and infrastructure where we go mean it would be irresponsible of us to do so. We can provide this if you do not have it — or you can use your own.

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Airport pick up and drop off to and from Vatan, Dushanbe
    • Hotel accommodation
    • A Koryo Tours leader, Tajiki tour guides and a driver per group
    • Warm-up in Dushanbe's no 1 Gym pre-marathon
    • All transportation in the country All entry fees for attractions and sights
    • All meals on the tour

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Flights to Tajikistan
    • Single room supplement (unless otherwise specified, US $50 per night)
    • Spending money for drinks and souvenirs
    • Tajikistan visa (visa fees vary at different embassies) Tip for the guides (approx. $15 per day)
    • We occasionally have the opportunity to visit a performance - this is to be paid on the spot

Please apply by 1st April, 2024.

May 11 - May 18 2024

Turkmenistan Tour (May) 2024: Ashgabat, Darvaza Gas Crater & Beyond

7 nights exploring
Turkmenistan

Featuring the white marble fantasy-capital of Ashgabat, a night camping
at the bizarre Darvaza gas crater, the ancient Silk Road ruins of Konye-Urgench,
and much more!

From 2,250 USD per person

Please apply by 20th April, 2024.

Turkmenistan Tour (May) 2024: Ashgabat, Darvaza Gas Crater & Beyond

7 nights exploring
Turkmenistan

Featuring the white marble fantasy-capital of Ashgabat,
a night camping at the bizarre Darvaza gas crater,
the ancient Silk Road ruins of Konye-Urgench, and
much more!

From 2,250 USD per person

  • Overall

    Join experts in Turkmenistan travel, Koryo Tours, on this epic journey to Central Asia’s most enigmatic and least-visited country; Turkmenistan.

    We will see history unfold as we travel from ruined ancient cities to gleaming modern marble-clad towers. From flaming pits deep in the desert to deep subterranean pools of health-infusing water. We will make sure to visit the main sites during our time in Turkmenistan such as Ashgabat and the Darvaza Gas Crater (Gates of Hell), but also take you off the beaten path to really experience and understand Turkmenistan. Meet local people, learn about their lives and history, their differences and commonalities.

    We look forward to sharing it with you in Turkmenistan!

    This tour will be led by our Destinations manager and travel specialist Rich Beal, who first travelled to Turkmenistan more than ten years ago. Over many trips, he has made close friends there, explored widely, and maintained a deep interest in the country and region. Rich now lives in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia - the perfect home for his many forays into the Central Asian region. You can rest assured that you will be in safe hands during your Turkmenistan tour and that you will get the most out of your trip into this unexplored land!

    If dates don’t suit you, check out our Turkmenistan tour in October, or contact us to organise a private tour.

    Scroll down for an overview of the Turkmenistan Tour highlights, tour itinerary, transport options, Turkmenistan visa information, and extra add-ons.

    Highlights

    • Nisa Fortress – UNESCO listed archaeological site.
    • Darvaza Gas Crater - The ‘Mouth of Hell’.
    • Kow Ata Underground Lake - Natural hot spring 80m under the ground.
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 9
    1. May 11th - Saturday

      Arrival

      • Assemble in Ashgabat - Airport pickups will be arranged wherever you fly in from and we will have a group dinner to get introduced and start the adventure! 

      Meals: Dinner

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat - Built for the 2017 Asian indoor martial arts game this well-located and modern hotel allows access to malls, shops, restaurants, and provides guests with quality facilities in a fascinating part of the city
    2. May 12th - Sunday

      Ashgabat

      • Tolkuchka Bazaar - The nation’s largest market, built outside the city and home to various sections selling household goods, clothes, the famous Turkmen carpets, camels & other animals, and much more!
      • Ashgabat Hippodrome – Sunday is a day at the races, with the sacred Ahal-Teke horses in full display.
      • Afternoon city tour including Independence Park and Monument, Arch of Neutrality topped by the gold statue of Turkmenbashi, Ahal-Teke Horse Monument, Earthquake Monument and Museum.
      • This evening is free for further exploration of Ashgabat

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat
    3. May 13th - Monday

      Darvaza Gas Crater & Bokhurdag

      • Desert adventure! We head off in a fleet of 4x4s into the deep desert today.
         
      • Bokhurdag: This Semi-nomadic village affords us a great look at what desert life is like today. The visit here is made even better as we enjoy lunch in a local family home.
         
      • Onwards to the bizarre mud and water craters, scenes of accidents that opened sinkholes in the desert.
      • Finally, we arrive at the stunning and unforgettable Darvaza Gas Crater in the centre of the country and the scene of a 40-year-old industrial accident that ended with a giant flaming pit burning to this day. A hypnotic sight and one of the strangest and most spectacular things you can see.
      • We camp tonight beside the crater; it is best seen at night. Dinner cooked on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Camping at the Darvaza Gas Crater - Camping in the desert with tents, sleeping bags and roll mats provided. We will also provide tents based on your rooming options. Camping affords us the best opportunity to view the fantastic gas crater from before sunset to sunrise.

    4. May 14th - Tuesday

      Ashgabat

      • Once back in the capital the rest of the day is yours to do with as you please; explore, relax, shop, take a side-trip (drivers are available for hire), we and our local guides can advise on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast 
      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

    5. May 15th - Wednesday

      Dashoguz & Konye-Urgench

      • We take a morning 1-hour flight from Ashgabat to the northern city of Dashoguz, in the Uzbek-majority part of the country.
      • We’ll see the local bazaar and a taste of life in this very different city.
      • The ancient silk road ruined city of Konye-Urgench, ravaged by successive invaders over the centuries and now hope to minarets, impressive mausoleums, and all manner of historical tales and stories – one of the most important sites on the old silk-road.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Uzboy, Dashoguz - This local hotel may be basic although there are not many options in this far-flung town. It does offer us the chance to walk out into the local streets and experience life away from the marble city of Ashgabat.

    6. May 16th - Thursday

      Ashgabat & Kow Ata

      • We’ll fly back to Ashgabat and get on with some more touring activities straight upon arrival.
      • Ahal-Teke horses considered as heavenly and sacred beasts in Turkmenistan; this stud farm visit will show you why. Have a ride on one of the horses if you like.
      • We then drive on to the bizarre Kow-Ata underground lake. A Sulphur-heated lake 100m deep underground. Take a swim, explore the cave, and then have lunch at a shashlik restaurant on the spot.
      • After lunch, we will visit a couple of large mosques; first, the Geok Deppe Mosque, built on the site of a late 19th Century massacre that marked the beginning of Russian dominance in the region.
      • Then we see the even more massive Gypjak Mosque, built on the site of the 1949 Earthquake that devastated the city; this is also home to the Turkmenbashi Mausoleum which we will visit.
      •  Back to the city for a relaxing evening before beginning the final day of this adventure!

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat
    7. May 17th - Friday

      Ashgabat & Kopet Dag Mountains

      • Free morning in Ashgabat for any final shopping, wandering, or relaxing that you want to do, and then we meet for a packed last afternoon.
      • A cable car ride into the Kopet Dag mountains to see a view of the city from above.
      • The world’s largest indoor Ferris Wheel – yes, indeed! A bizarre and quite fun trip to this oddity at the edge of town.
      • An evening drive around the marble city, stopping at some viewpoints for some great photos of the nighttime illuminations which are very impressive.
      •  Final dinner of the tour, time for goodbyes and the last night out if you’ve got the energy!

      Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat
    8. May 18th - Saturday

      Departure day

      • Departure day – airport transfers are provided for everyone regardless of the time of flight or where you are going

      End of tour, OR;

      OPTIONAL EXTENSION (+550 EUR)

      Extension day 1: Mary & Margush

      • Flight from Ashgabat to Mary, in the centre of the country and the nearest city to the ancient Silk Road metropolis of Merv.
      • Visit Gonur-Deppe (Margush); another ancient city in this area, with some lovely extent architectural features.
      • Back to Mary City and explore this modern town, mix with the locals, go to parks, bars, etc. as you like, a sleepy area with welcoming and friendly locals.

      Meals: Breakfast

    9. May 19th - Sunday

      Extension day 2: Ancient Merv

      • Excursion to Ancient Merv. Merv was once one of the most important cities in the world at certain times of its history. This ancient site is now a place where you will learn a great deal about the history of Central Asia, the rise and fall of dynasties and cities, the silk road, and human civilisation in this part of the world. Animals, travellers and archaeologists now roam the existing building, ruins, etc. All contribute to a sense of the dynamism of the ancient silk road.
      • In the afternoon you fly back to Ashgabat for a final rest/night out before departure.

        Please let us know if you wish to book an extra night in Ashgabat. The flight should return to the capital at around 8 - 9 PM.
  • Extras

    • Upgrade to your own room in Turkmenistan

      The default rooming option for this tour is shared hotel room or tent (one night). Each hotel room on tour has two separate beds. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $50 USD per night

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English speaking guide
    • Western tour leader
    • Meals
    • Accommodation
    • Internal flights
    • All included sight seeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to protected areas

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Optional extension to Merv is USD 550
    • Optional single supplement: USD 55 per night
    • Visa issuing fee - USD 80 to USD 140 depending on nationality
    • Room extension - USD 120
    • International flights to/from Turkmenistan not included
    • Return flights from Beijing to Ashgabat
  • Notes

    **This tour will be accompanied by a Western tour leader if there are over five passengers booked**

    HOW TO APPLY

    Please email Rich Beal at [email protected] to begin your tour application. We do require a deposit paid upon booking the tour as we start paying tour costs when your visa application process had begun. We ask for a deposit of 50% of the tour fee. You must apply at least four weeks before the tour departure date as the Letter of Invitation that we need to obtain to facilitate the visa can take several days to be issued by the Turkmenistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Most travellers opt to have the visas issued upon arrival into Turkmenistan. If you would prefer to have the visa issued before your arrival or have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. The LOI will be issued to coordinate as closely as possible with the tour dates if you need extra days at each end of your journey please do let us know in advance of your application. If you are joining the tour from somewhere other than Beijing and buying a ticket via Koryo tours; We will email the e-ticket voucher to you as soon as it has been received into our office. If you are purchasing your flight ticket via other airlines or agents, we need these flight details ASAP. We, unfortunately, can not accept any liability for delayed flights and any issue associated with times associated letters of invitations. It is entirely possible to join the tour by flying in from other destinations also. We can also accommodate people joining the tour after entering by land or sea, and a range of exit methods are available to those joining this tour. Single supplement is accessible on this tour at 50 USD per night; if you are travelling alone and wish to share a room to avoid this fee, we will attempt to match you up with another traveller. You will also have to pay the visa issuing fee, at Ashgabat airport this ranges from US$80 to $130 (depending on nationality) payable in cash only.

    CANCELLATION & REFUNDS

    Please note: The visa fee for this tour is not covered in the tour cost and you will be responsible for this. Due to the extended amount of time that it takes to have a visa authorised and sent to an Embassy of Turkmenistan, it is much simpler to collect the visa on arrival at Ashgabat Airport, the fee payable here varies according to your nationality, it's usually around US$100. The visa is stamped in your passport and is the same as it would be if issued at a Turkmen Embassy. If you insist on having your visa issued at an Embassy, then please be sure to apply for the tour as early as possible. The deposit is non-refundable if the tourist cancels himself. If however we cannot arrange visas or for whatever reason, it is not possible to travel at the specified time (or you cannot make rescheduled dates) a full refund will be issued. Should the client wish to cancel after the visa application has been submitted, charges imposed on us will be paid out of the 50% deposit with the balance being returned to the client. If you have paid in full, we will return 50% plus the balance of what is left after the cancellation fee we pay to our partners in Turkmenistan. If you book and cancel a plane ticket through us, we charge only the airline's cancellation fee. In all cases, we return as much as we can, and we do not take a fee for the client's cancellation. Please be sure that you will be joining the tour when you send all the application details.

Please apply by 20th April, 2024.

May 18 - May 24 2024

Soviet Mongolia May Tour

Exploring abandoned Soviet sites around
Mongolia: Airbases, abandoned towns, and
more!

This 6 night tour is an exploratory adventure
looking at remains left from the Soviet period
in Mongolia.

From 2,100 USD per person

Please apply by 1st May, 2024.

Soviet Mongolia May Tour

Exploring abandoned Soviet sites around
Mongolia: Airbases, abandoned towns, and
more!

This 6 night tour is an exploratory
adventure looking at remains left
from the Soviet period in Mongolia.

From 2,100 USD per person

  • Overall

    Exploring Mongolia's Soviet past.

    A new Mongolia tour in 2023, now improved for 2024!

    Mongolia was never part of the Soviet Union, but as a Soviet satellite it received guidance, money, expertise, and infrastructure; the latter of which remained long after the country's independence.   

    This adventure takes us in and around Ulaanbaatar as well as down to the Gobi desert, looking at the Soviet history of Mongolia.

    We start within this nomadic nation's capital Ulaanbaatar where we'll explore dusty Soviet-era museums, wonder at bold 1950s architecture, and gaze at statues erected to red heroes and Russian giants. 

    Travelling on part of the trans-Mongolian railway, the tour will trundle south and explore abandoned apartments and once-sprawling Soviet bases. Built at the time of the Sino-Soviet split these large military installations were prepared for a war that was never to happen.

    Read more on the tour here

    Highlights

    • Experience Mongolia's little-known communist past. 
    • Wander around deserted Soviet-built apartments, explore abandoned military bases, and peer behind Ulaanbaatar's rapidly growing modern facade. 
    • Find hidden statues of Lenin, Marshal Zhukov, and the Mongolian leaders of their day. 
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 7
    1. Saturday, May 18th 

      For all of those joining this adventure, you will be met at the airport upon arrival and transferred to our group hotel. The meeting time is 18.00, although for those of you who arrive early we will meet for an orientation walk.

      • Hotel Ulaanbaatar: Built in 1961, is a hotel of many firsts constructed during the Communist period. It was the first hotel in the country, the first public building with running hot water, and the first 5-star hotel in Mongolia too. Designed by the wife of Mongolia's then communist leader Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal.
      • Sükhbaatar Square: Named after Mongolian's revolutionary hero Damdin Sükhbaatar shortly after his death in 1923, although in 2013 the square's name was briefly changed to Chinggis Square much to the ire of many local people. 2016 saw a change back to the original title which has remained. In the centre of the square stands an equestrian statue of Damdin Sükhbaatar himself, while a large monument dedicated to Genghis Khan sits atop the steps of the government palace.
      • National University of Mongolia: established in 1942. We pay a visit to view its Soviet architectural style and to catch a glimpse of the statue of Khorloogiin Choibalsan. Choibalsan was referred to by some as the 'Stalin of Mongolia' as he oversaw the purges of the 1930s of which it’s estimated over 35,000 people were killed.
      • State Department Store: established in 1921 this relic from the Soviet period has seen many changes but is worth the visit as it still has a few older retro corners to be visited. As well as its history, it houses everything you may need from money changers to supermarket and souvenir vendors.
      • The Beatles Statue: the Beatles never visited Mongolia, but there is indeed a beautiful statue erected for them. The story goes that local people raised money to have it built after the Soviet period, in memory of the music they illegally listened to during that period.
      • As we walk back to the hotel, we will pass the National Academic Drama Theater, Mongolian Stock Exchange and The National Theater: all excellent examples of Russian design and construction.

      Hotel: Hotel Ulaanbaatar

      Meals: Dinner

    2. Sunday, May 19th

      This morning, after breakfast, it is straight out as we explore the city on foot and by bus.

      • Mongolian Military museum: this ageing museum is home to Russian MIGs, rocket launchers, anti-aircraft guns, and tanks - and that's only on the outside! The museum interior covers history from the Mongol empire right the way through to its more recent Soviet past. After our visit, it's on to the former home (now a museum) of Marshal Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov.
      • Marshal Zhukov House Museum, this small but exciting museum wasopened in 1979 in the same house where Zhukov stayed from 1939-1940 as he directed Soviet troops in the battle of Tavan Gol. We get to view his living quarters as well as pictures, maps and weapons from around the time of the Soviet defeat of the Japanese army at this little known but crucial battle.
      • Marshal Zhukov statue: Located in a small square next to the Zhukov Museum is a rather splendid figure of the man himself.
      • Lenin statue: for those interested in Lenin statues (and who isn't?), we have quite a treat as we pay a visit to the Lenin statue once located in front of the Ulaanbaatar hotel. This statue, commissioned in 1951, stood for many years until it was taken down in 2012 by the then-mayor of Ulaanbaatar. It has found a few homes since that time and now resides within a local residential area.  

      After lunch, we continue with our tour as we visit further into the city, stopping at local apartments to view mosaics found still in place at the end of traditional Soviet apartment blocks. Our last visit of the day prepares us perfectly for our overnight train

      • Ulaanbaatar open air Railway museum: this pre-dinner visit sets us up perfectly for tonight's overnight train journey. The museum houses six locomotives used throughout the last 65 years. Many of the engines still have their soviet detailing and imagery, including a large image of Joseph Stalin.
      • Ganden Monastery: One of the few remaining Buddhist Temples which survived the Soviet purges of the 1930s and 40s - today the largest monastery in the city, home to enormous statues, hundreds of monks, and some beautiful traditional Mongolian architecture.

      After an early dinner, we board our local train to SainShand town, Dornogovi province. We have four-berth cabins as we trundle along part of the trans-Mongolian railway.

      Hotel: Overnight train

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    3. Monday, May 20th

      • Sainshand Town | We’ll arrive in the early morning at Sainshand Town. After alighting the train, for those awake enough, we will pause to view the small, but well-appointed Soviet outpost train station before heading into town for a basic breakfast.
         
      • Sainshand Town is the capital of Dornogovi Province and lies due southeast of Ulaanbaatar, sitting to the east of the Gobi desert surrounded by scrub and flat arid terrain. This remote town is a real mix of old and new. Only 130 miles from the Chinese border, this position made Sainshand an essential military base during the Sino-Soviet split.
         
      • Sainshand was once home to the air-missile intelligence stations of the Soviet Union; these would protect the underbelly of Russia from possible attack from a hostile China. The town was separated into three distinct areas: north, south, and east. Unfortunately, in modern times, the northern section has been destroyed and used to construct newer buildings; the east was sealed off for use by the Mongolian Air Force.
         
      • Soviet Past | Following breakfast, we will see what remains of the town’s Soviet past as we look to the southern area of this frontier settlement. Luckily for us, a little still remains, mainly used for habitation and business for local people.
         
      • Shivee-Ovoo | After lunch, we drive 2 hours north to the village of Shivee-Ovoo. This small habitation was once home to the Soviet motorised rifle division; believe it or not, there were up to fifteen thousand soldiers once here. These days all that remains in this desolate windswept area are the former homes built for the servicemen and their families and the officer’s mess. A little exploring will also reveal a few fascinating mosaics.
         
      • Choir | Once we have finished our Soviet exploration for the day, we have our final drive to the provincial capital, Choir. Once here, we locate a local restaurant for our evening meal and then head to our hotel for tonight situated in one of the former Soviet district block apartments.

      Accommodation: Art Hotel

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    4. Tuesday, May 21st

      • Choir | After breakfast, we’re ready to continue our exploration of Choir, heading to the Soviet-style Choir Railway Station, outside of which is a Statue of Yuri Gagarin built to commemorate the flight into space of Mongolia’s first cosmonaut Jügderdemidiin Gürragchaa in 1981.
         
      • During the Soviet period, Choir housed the most extensive military base for the Soviet Union, but that has long gone with many of the buildings dismantled. We will explore what is left and make sure to visit the 25-meter high statue erected in honour of the USSR’s war heroes.
         
      • Former Airbases | Upon leaving Choir, we’ll continue north, and, after a while, we’ll make a stop at one of the region’s former airbases. Here it gets even more interesting as we have the opportunity for a bit of ‘urbex’ (urban exploration) and see one of the abandoned MiG monuments (a former MIG fighter jet raised pointing skyward). We will also be permitted to enter the former base to see some of the remaining airfield buildings if we’re lucky.
         
      • Bagakhangai | From here, we’ll drive onwards to check on another former Soviet airbase located in the town of Bagakhangai; we plan to access the area and its abandoned aircraft hangers. Around the town, there are also some derelict buildings worthy of our time and attention for a bit more exploring.
         
      • Baganuur | Next, we drive across the rolling countryside to the city of Baganuur. Baganuur was created to serve the Soviet military base, which was home to the 12th Motor Rifle Division. The Russians have gone now, but the city retains much of its former Soviet design and currently serves the nearby Baganuur coal mine.
         
      • As we arrive late today, we head straight to our hotel for dinner and then some well-deserved rest.

      Accommodation: TBC

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    5. Wednesday, May 22nd

      • Urbex 12th Motor Rifle Division | We’re up and out early, driving out of Baganuur further east to have a look at what remains of the base that once belonged to the 12th Motor Rifle Division. Much of this has now gone; taken down and recycled, although some of the living quarters remain and offer us a little more ‘urbex’.
         
      • Ulaanbaatar | Once we have finished exploring the remains of the Soviet base, we board our vehicles and begin to make our way back to the Red Hero City, Ulaanbaatar. As we journey back, we will stop at one of the small towns that serve the still functioning aerodrome. The MiG 21 in the children’s play area here is a particular highlight!
         
      • Genghis Khan Statue | As we make our way back, we’ll stop at a more modern statue built for the ancient leader, and most famous Mongolian; Genghis Khan. Finished in 2008, the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue makes for a great visit, offering views over the surrounding countryside.
         
      • Ulaanbaatar Resident | Once we return to Ulaanbaatar, we will visit the home of a resident who has, over the years, amassed an impressive array of Lenin statues and memorabilia. He loves to meet interested visitors to show off and talk about his collection proudly.
         
      • Once we’ve arrived and checked back into our hotel, you’ll have the rest of the day to rest and relax.

      Accommodation: Ulaanbaatar Hotel

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

    6. Thursday, May 23rd

      • Mongolian National Gallery | Today is another day of exploring the nation’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. This morning, we’re out on foot to visit the nearby Mongolian National Gallery. This impressive building houses many of the artworks of Mongolia. As well as the art, the architecture here is terrific, incorporating some fantastic mosaics and stained glass windows from the country’s communist past.
         
      • From art to dinosaurs, we’ll walk further into the city to view some of the small city squares that would have once been adorned with monuments commemorating Mongolia’s socialist neighbour but have since been replaced with more nationalistic Mongolian figures and symbols.
         
      • Mongolian Dinosaur Museum | Our destination is the Mongolian Dinosaur Museum. This building once housed the nation's Lenin Museum built especially for the father of communism. The outside is adorned with brass reliefs depicting the great man himself as well as Engels and Marx. Although once inside, you may need to use your imagination a little! The architecture remains, although where Lenin's statue once stood now stands Mongolia’s very own T-Rex!
         
      • Zaisan | After a spot of lunch, we’ll head across the city to the upmarket Zaisan area; we’re not here to drink an overpriced coffee but to climb the 612 steps up the hill to the famed Zaisan monument. Built in 1956, the monument commemorates the friendship between the USSR and Mongolia.
         
      • Revolutionary Mongol Tank Brigade Monument | The lower reaches of Zaisan incorporate the Revolutionary Mongol Tank Brigade Monument; this monument combines an original T-34 tank and a map of its journey from manufacturing in the Soviet Union to Berlin. Following our tour of the remaining Soviet sites in Ulaanbaatar, we’ll return to our hotel before heading out into the city for our last group meal.

      Accommodation: Ulaanbaatar Hotel

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    7. Friday, May 24th

      Departure day

      We end our adventure in the morning, with transfers to the airport for international flights. Pack your souvenirs, your dirty clothes, and your memories, and have a safe trip home!

      Included Meals: Breakfast

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • All Listed Meals
    • All Listed Accommodation
    • Local Guide / Tour Leader
    • Visa Assistance
    • Transport & Driver
    • Water
    • National park entrance fees 
    • Site entrance fees

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Flights to/from Mongolia
    • Travel Insurance
    • Snacks/Drinks/Extra Expenses
    • Tips for crew 
    • Meals not listed

Please apply by 1st May, 2024.

May 22 - May 31 2024

The Beauty of Mongolia Tour

Explore the wilds of Central
Mongolia and the Gobi Desert

Explore Beautiful Mongolia
with 9 Nights in Central Mongolia

From 2,200 USD per person

Please apply by 8th May, 2024.

The Beauty of Mongolia Tour

Explore the wilds of Central
Mongolia and the Gobi Desert

Explore Beautiful Mongolia
with 9 Nights in Central
Mongolia

From 2,200 USD per person

  • Overall

    This 9-night Mongolia tour adventure starts in Mongolia's bustling capital Ulaanbaatar and strikes out into the country's rolling heartland.

    Calling at the ancient former imperial capital of Karakorum and the sacred Orkhon Valley, we will head south to Mongolia's famed Gobi Desert. This is a remote region synonymous with adventure and excitement...

    Once the stomping ground of explorers, fossil hunters, and invaders, this part of Mongolia now welcomes modern travellers searching the Gobi for the experience of a lifetime.

    So, travel with us as we glimpse once-nearly-extinct horses, temples dating to Kublai Khan's grand empire, roaring waterfalls, rolling dunes, and flame-coloured cliffs.

    Highlights

  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 10
    1. Wednesday 22nd May

      Arrival. 

      • Sukhbaatar Square & Exploration | Once you've had a chance to relax, we'll head out into the city for a bit of light exploration. Visiting the nation's heart, Sukhbaatar Square, surrounded by important buildings such as the government palace, central banks, theatres, and the post office, all in their original Soviet design. There is an equestrian statue of Sukhbaatar and a massive bronze monument of Genghis Khan flanked by two of his many sons and two of his most important generals.
         
      • Dinner | After a brief look around the city centre, it's off to dinner for our first group meal.

      Meals | Dinner

      Overnight | Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar

    2. Thursday 23rd May

      • Mongolian Countryside | This morning the adventure begins as we leave Ulaanbaatar and drive out into Mongolia’s beautiful countryside, making our way to Hustai National Park.
         
      • Hustai National Park (Khustain Nuruu) | This has been a protected area since 1993 - a unique landscape containing both mountains and steppe within a relatively small area. The national park is home to the rare Mongolian wild horse known as Perzevalski or Takhi; once extinct in the wild, the Perzevalski Horse is a true conservation success story with captive breed horses released into, and then surviving in, the wild.
         
      • Local Herder Family | On the way to the park, we'll visit a local herder family and pay a visit to an area known as the ‘Mini Gobi’: a collection of exotic rolling dunes that look evocatively out of place surrounded by green steppe.
         
      • Ger Camp & Lunch | Once we arrive at the park, we'll check into our Gers before grabbing a spot of lunch at the camp restaurant.
         
      • Following a hearty welcome meal, we'll have a little time to view the onsite visitors centre to learn a little more about the region, the horses and various other flora and fauna native to Hustai National Park.
         
      • Takhi Horses | Mid-afternoon offers us the best time to catch a sighting of the beautiful Takhi horses. So we'll pile into our trucks, drive out into the rolling terrain, and spot these amazing beasts coming down from the mountains for water at the nearby river. As well as the famed Perzevalski horse, it is also possible to see foxes, red deer, roe deer, eagles, and other native animals in this area.
         
      • Once we've finished our Mongolian safari, it's back to the camp for dinner and to spend our first night under canvas in an authentic Mongolian Ger.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Hustai National Park

    3. Friday, 24th May

      • After breakfast, we’ll continue the adventure with a drive to the ancient capital of Karakorum and Erdenezuu Monastery.
         
      • Karakorum |  The capital of the Mongolian Empire at its height. It was from Karakorum that Genghis Khan's son, Ogedei Khan, would rule the largest land empire the world has ever known.
         
      • During Karakorum's golden age, much of the city was comprised of tents, and, as the Mongolian Empire went into decline, the city's decay was rapid. These days, all that remains of this once-great settlement is the impressive Erdene Zuu Monastery, as well as a few scattered but not unimpressive archaeological finds.
         
      • Erdene Zuu Monastery | Once we arrive at Karakorum, our first stop will be Erdene Zuu Monastery; impressive even if a shadow of its former self. We'll see the resident monks in their afternoon prayer rituals here. Following our monastery visit, we will visit the unique archaeological museum to see some recent historical finds.
         
      • These days Karakorum has a real melancholic feel to it, and before we head to our Ger camp for the evening, we'll be sure to cut through its centre so that you can gain a snippet of life in this once grand settlement.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Ger Camp

    4. Saturday, 25th May

      • Orkhon River | Today we depart our Ger camp early, stopping at a nearby shop to stock up on supplies for the journey. We continue south, following Mongolia's ever-changing scenery trailing the famed Orkhon River and its UNESCO-listed valley.
         
      • Khangai Mountain Range | The drive to Orkhon takes us through the Khangai mountain range, offering beautiful landscapes comprised of gorges, river valleys, and green steppe.
         
      • Tovkhon Monastery | We leave the main track for a small mountainous trail that leads to the Tovkhon Monastery.
         
      • Perched atop the sacred Shireet Ulaan Mountain, Tovkhon Monastery is only reachable on foot. It is from this monastery in 1686 that the first religious leader of Mongolia, Zanabazar, composed the Soyombo script. This is what we know as the traditional Mongolian writing system that is present on the Mongolian flag today and is the source of much national pride. 
        (Bonus: can also be used to write Tibetan and Sanskrit!)
         
      • At 2312 meters above sea level, the monastery offers breathtaking views of the Khangai mountain range and the surrounding area.
         
      • Orkhon Waterfalls | From the monastery, we continue the adventure with a final visit of the day to the Orkhon Waterfalls. They were formed more than 20,000 years ago by a combination of earthquakes and volcanic activity; these 16-meter-high waterfalls are Mongolia's largest, and are rarely visited and simply magical.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Ger Camp

    5. Sunday, 26th May

      • The Gobi Desert | Today, we move from the green mountains of Khangai into the Gobi landscape. As we journey, the scenery still impresses as we pass lush green winding river valleys that transition into the Gobi region's scrub-filled desert region.
         
      • Saikhan Ovoo | We pass into Saikhan Ovoo, a small province in Mongolia's heartland patchworked with green steppe, rugged rock formations and almost Martian terrain.
         
      • Ongi Temple & Museum | A place of quiet solitude on the Ongiin Gol River known as Ongi Temple. The ruins of two monasteries, Barlim and Khutagt, remain on the north and south shores of the river. We visit this site, commonly collectively known as the Ongii Lamasery and its little museum.
         
      • Ongi used to be one of Mongolia's most extensive monasteries and home to over a thousand monks, until its destruction in 1937 by the Soviet army. In 2002, some monks returned and began restoration work with a small budget, making up for what they lacked monetarily with inspiring spiritual fervour.
         
      • This evening, our Ger camp is located only a stone's throw from the temple and offers a chance for serene relaxation, further hiking, or exploration.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Secret of Ongii Camp

    6. Monday, 27th May

      • Three Beauties | After breakfast, we depart our Ger camp and head into the Gobi Desert proper. We journey past the "Three Beauties", mountain range derived from the three subranges, the easternmost ‘Zuun Saikhan', the central ‘Dund Saikhan' and the westernmost ‘Baruun Saikhan'.
         
      • The Gobi Desert is vast, and our foray onto its plains today only gives us a snippet of its actual size; for the Gobi Desert reaches into six Mongolian aimags (provinces) and also crosses into China. The Gobi is the sixth-largest desert globally and the second in Asia; a wide-open place of extremes; our first stop is one of the signature sights of this incredible region.
         
      • Bayanzag – (the Flaming Cliffs) | Stunningly beautiful, with its flame-coloured sandstone cliffs and canyons. Aside from its obvious wow factor, Bayanzag is also where American palaeontologist Roy Chapman Andrews discovered the world's first-ever recorded dinosaur eggs and a mighty haul of various other fossils. A walk along the cliffs here is a walk in the footsteps of the man on whom Indiana Jones was modelled!
         
      • Once we have finished our exploration, it's off to the nearby Ger camp where we can relax, drink, and maybe return to the cliffs to catch the changing colours as sunsets, making a perfect end to an exciting day.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Gobi Oasis

    7. Tuesday, 28th May

      • Khongor Sand Dunes | The adventure continues as we bid farewell to the Flaming Cliffs, board our vehicles and journey onwards through the wilds of the Gobi Desert to the Khongor Sand Dunes (Khongoryn Els) also known as the Singing Sands.
         
      • Along the route, we pass some of the typical Gobi terrain, a loose mix of pebbles, gravel and fine sand; however, we will cross a fertile area of steppe where we'll visit one of the traditional nomadic families who call this desolate region home.
         
      • The Khongor Sand Dunes, as the name suggests, are a dune system found within the Gobi; as only around 3% of the Gobi desert is covered in sand, the sight of these 300-metre-high gigantic dunes is something to behold. The shifting sands of Khongoryn Els stretch out for over 180 km, although we arrive in the most impressive area and stay at a Ger camp with views across these giants.
         
      • Khongor's Camel Herders | Once we have eaten lunch and waited for the day to cool a little, we'll continue our adventure and visit one of Khongor's resident camel herder families. We can think of no better way to approach these monstrous dunes than atop a camel. After arriving, we will have time enough to climb and explore the dunes; a tiring, but incredibly rewarding, effort when one reaches the top!
         
      • If you are fortunate, you may also experience why the Khongor Dunes are known as 'the singing dunes'. When the wind blows across the sand's surface in the right direction, an eerie sound is emitted, sounding like an aircraft to some, and a sinister monstrous being to others.
         
      • Another day nears its end, but as with much of the Gobi Desert's natural scenery, the Khongor Dunes come alive at sunset. View them from the top of the dunes themselves, or from the comfort of our relaxing Ger camp while enjoying a cold drink after dinner.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Gobi Erdene Ger Camp

    8. Wednesday, 29th May 

      • After enjoying a filling breakfast in our Ger camp, it's back aboard our vehicles as we continue the adventure.
         
      • Yol Valley | This morning it's bumpy going as we leave the Khongor area, making our way to the Yol Valley.
         
      • As we travel, we will stop for photos along the way as the landscape transitions from a typical sandy desert, hard clay, rock, stone and steppe; summing up how diverse the Gobi Desert really is.
         
      • Gurvansaikhan Mountains | We'll eventually arrive at the Gurvansaikhan Mountains heading into the Yolyn Am Gorge. Meaning 'Vulture's Gorge' Yolyn Am is a magnificent mountain valley 40 km long and offers an exciting path to anyone willing to experience part of its length on foot.
         
      • We begin at the valley's wide entrance, following the small river into the canyons, with cliffs narrowing around us. As the steep-sided walls cut the sun from the canyon's bottom, we will catch a glimpse of the locally famous frozen river. Over the winter months, the river builds up a thick layer of ice, which thaws slowly and often remains long into the summer months. As you follow the winding path, eagles rise to circle in the thermals high above the canyon, whilst wild goats can be seen perched on the high valley walls and pikas (desert rodents) scurry through the rocky terrain.
         
      • For those who may have used all of their energy climbing the dunes yesterday, or who wish to make the walk a bit easier, there are plenty of horses for rent at the entrance of the canyon.
         
      • Once we have finished at the Yol Valley, we will drive to our accommodation for tonight - another well-appointed Ger camp where we will have a chance to chat about our adventures over a drink or two.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Gobi Oasis 1

    9. Thursday, 30th May

      • Internal Flight | After an early morning start, we say a fond farewell to the Gobi Desert and board a flight returning to Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar.
         
      • Gandan Monastery | However, our tour isn't over as we're off into the city to explore some of Ulaanbaatar's must-see sites - the first stop is the Gandan Monastery.
         
      • Gandan Monastery is Ulaanbaatar's largest and most impressive Buddhist monastery; a complex comprising temples from different periods and eras; one particular highlight is viewing the 26-meter-high gold-coated indoor Buddha.
         
      • National Museum of Mongolian History | From temple to museum, we head further into the city and stop at the National Museum of Mongolian History to see artefacts from Mongolia and Central Asia dating as far back as the Stone Age. Very useful for understanding the context of this fascinating region as well as the depth of its geological and human history.
         
      • Folklore Show | In the evening, we have one last visit, the " Wonders of Mongolia" folklore show fronted by the locally famous Tumen-Ekh ensemble. One of the country's most famous and successful folk art groups, performing traditional Mongolian music.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar

    10. Friday, 31st May

      • Departure | Today, it's time to bid goodbye to Mongolia.
         
      • We'll head to Genghis Khan International Airport to see you off. Although the tour is over, you'll be flying home with a head full of memories and stories to share with your friends and family!

      Meals | Breakfast

      Overnight | N/A

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • All Listed Meals
    • All Listed Accommodation
    • Internal Flights
    • Local Guide / Tour Leader
    • Visa Assistance
    • Transport & Driver
    • Water

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Flights to/from Mongolia
    • Travel Insurance
    • Snacks/Drinks/Extra Expenses
    • Tips for Guides / Tour Leader

Please apply by 8th May, 2024.

July 1 - July 13 2024

Naadam Festival Mongolia Tour: Beyond the Steppe
2024

Ulaanbaatar to Hovd and Bayan
Olgii in far western Mongolia

Explore Mongolia’s Wild West over the Naadam Festival. Meet Kazakh eagle hunters, hike
in the stunning Altai Mountains, and experience Mongolia’s largest holiday celebration.
Go beyond the Steppe!

From 2,950 USD per person

Please apply by 1st February, 2024.

Naadam Festival Mongolia Tour: Beyond the Steppe 2024

Ulaanbaatar to Hovd and Bayan
Olgii in far western Mongolia

Explore Mongolia’s Wild West over the Naadam Festival. Meet
Kazakh eagle hunters, hike in the stunning Altai Mountains,
and experience Mongolia’s largest holiday celebration. Go
beyond the Steppe!

From 2,950 USD per person

  • Overall

    The summer Naadam Festival is one of the best times to travel to Mongolia for the annual games of horse racing, archery, and wrestling. It is also the busiest time to visit the country. We’ll get you to Mongolia’s far west to see how the Naadam Festival is celebrated away from the crowds. Starting in Ulaanbaatar, we’ll fly west to Hovd and travel overland to Bayan Olgii. Along the way, we’ll experience not only traditional Mongolian life but also the culture of the Kazakh and Tuvan people. Meet and chat with eagle hunters, shamans, and nomads who live in the region.

    Travelling off-road and sleeping in ger and tents, we'll also get our hands dirty in the great outdoors of the Altai mountains and have the chance to try out horseback riding. Come along for 12 unforgettable Mongolian summer nights over the Nadaam festival.

    Koryo Tours’ tour leader Rich Beal has been leading tours in Mongolia for 15 years and frequently travels beyond the capital Ulaanbaatar to the country’s far west, far north, and south into the Gobi Desert. Looking to see more of Mongolia? Come along for Koryo Tours’ Gobi Explorer right after Naadam.

    See below for highlights, a full itinerary, and additional information about the Naadam Festival Western Mongolia Tour - Beyond the Steppe.

    Read more about the Naadam Festival in Mongolia.  

    Highlights

    Experience Nadaam -- the biggest festival of the year for Mongolians
    Visit Mongolian, Kazak and Tuva nomadic families
    Enjoy horseback riding Hike the high mountains (with views across to Russia and China)
    Swim in mountain lakes and rivers
    Explore the Altai and Bayan Ulgii region of Mongolia
    Construct and sleep in a traditional Mongolian ger (yurt)
    Marvel at the skill of local eagle hunters
    Stay with and learn from local Yak herders

  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 13
    1. Monday 1st July

      Arrive in Ulaanbaatar

      • Check-in | Upon landing in Mongolia’s capital, we make our way to our centrally located hotel to recharge before our adventure begins. If you’re feeling energetic, you can take our optional walking tour to get your first taste of this fascinating city before returning for our 4 pm hotel briefing.
         
      • Introduction | Here, we’ll give you an overview of the country and culture along with some etiquette tips for visiting the homes of the Shamans, Kazakhs, and Tuvan people we’ll meet along the way. Then join us for a city walk, this time by night. Get a glimpse of Sükhbaatar Square, named after the revolutionary hero Damdinii Sükhbaatar; the statues of Genghis Khan and other Mongolian generals are even more impressive when lit up at night.

      Meals | Dinner

      Overnight | Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar. A local hotel situated in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, within a 5-minute walk from the main square. This hotel offers a great location from which to step out and explore the city.

    2. Tuesday 2nd July

      Tour of the city, and then fly to Bayan Olgii

      • Gandantegchinlen | We start our day with a visit to Gandantegchinlen, Ulaanbaatar’s largest Buddhist monastery, where we can see practising monks and learn about the role of Mongolia’s largest religion.
         
      • State Department Store | After visiting Ganden Monastery, we’ll head back to the city’s heart, stopping for supplies at the State Department Store. Today privately owned, this is a throwback to the old Soviet sales system where everything is under one roof and you pay with multiple receipts before returning for your purchases. This is an ideal opportunity to stock up on trip supplies, even outdoor gear, so if you’ve discovered your sleeping bag has a hole, now’s the time to upgrade.
         
      • Internal Flight to Bayan Olgii | After lunch, we’ll take a two-hour flight to Bayan Olgii and pile into our UAZ 452s. We’ll begin our drive as soon as we arrive, heading out into the Altai Mountains to Khar Us Lake.
         
      • Bayan-Olgii (or Ulgii) Province, known locally as the ’Roof of Mongolia’, is a remote land of glaciers and mountain peaks; travellers can go for days without seeing a soul. This area is home to the Kazakh people, practising Muslims and Mongolia’s most significant ethnic group; here, we’ll learn how nomadic life in the mountains differs from that on the steppe.
         
      • We’ll stop by mud-brick winter houses that Kazakhs use when the temperature drops below -30*C in the winter months and the famed Kazakh yurts can’t keep out the cold. As we journey, we will cross high passes and trundle through beautiful picturesque summer valleys made all the more stunning as herds of yak frolic in the sun.
         
      • Arrive at Host-Family | We will arrive at our host eagle-hunting family in the late afternoon in time to pitch our tents before learning a little more about the Kazakh way of life.
         
      • Most families keep their golden eagles for hunting rabbits, hares, and even small deer; it is even claimed that many eagle hunters treat their eagles as well as their children.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight |  Camping / Tent. We will build tents as a group next to a local family on this night with the assistance of our local team. 

    3. Wednesday 3rd July

      Khurgan and Khoton Lakes

      • Western Mongolia | Today’s journey takes us through the western Mongolian wildlands, over moraines (glacial debris) and ancient burial sites, with stone-age rock carvings of animals and hunting scenes covering the mountainside. The spectacular Khurgan and Khoton Lakes lie at an altitude of 2,073 metres, surrounded by snow-capped mountains.
         
      • Camp at Khoton Lake | We’ll set up camp not far from the shore of Khoton Lake amongst the trees of the high alpine forest alongside a local family. Once the tents have been erected and our friendly hosts have greeted us, it’s time to relax.
         
      • You may wish to spend the afternoon relaxing, exploring, or swimming in the crystalline waters of the nearby lakes. After dinner, should you wish, we will interact a little more with our Kazakh hosts, enjoying their hospitality around an evening bonfire all the while the mighty snow-capped Altai mountains silhouette our stay.
         
      • The Altai Mountains | A rocky border that divides the untamed nomadic lands of Mongolia from its vast southern neighbour, China.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Camping / Tent. We will build tents as a group next to a local family on this night with the assistance of our local team.

    4. Thursday 4th July

      Exploring the Khoton Lake region

      • For some, today may be a day of leisure and further relaxation whilst for others a day of exploration, adventure and excitement in this beautiful yet secluded part of the world. For those who wish, it’s an early wake-up to help our host family round up the herd to complete the morning milking.
         
      • Hiking | After breakfast, you’ll have a chance to enjoy some independent hiking in the surrounding hills, go for a dip in one of the glacial streams that run past the family’s yurt, or head back to the lakes with one of the drivers and try your hand at a spot of fishing. (If you don’t catch anything, don’t worry, neither do they!)
         
      • Mongolian Horse Riding | For those who wish, this afternoon is your opportunity to ride the Mongolian horse most famed of all Mongolian animals. Our journey takes us on a three-hour round trip as we ride up into the foothills of the Altai mountains. We’ll pass local nomadic encampments, bubbling brooks and raging rivers, our destination, one of Mongolia’s largest waterfalls, ­­­Turgen Falls.
         
      • Turgen Falls | The falls sit in a most picturesque setting surrounded by alpine forests, lush green summer meadows, and framed by the snow-capped peaks of the Altai range. If the weather is good, you may feel that you have just entered a chocolate bar commercial.
         
      • After returning to camp we’ll have a chance to repack and prepare for tomorrow’s long drive to Tavan Bogd National Park. ­­­

      Meals |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight |  Camping / Tent. We will build tents as a group next to a local family on this night with the assistance of our local team.

    5. Friday 5th July

      Tsagaan Gol and Shiveet Khairkhan Mountain

      • Tsagaan Gol | After breakfast, we’ll bid farewell to our host family and work our way through the mountains to reach the mouth of Tsagaan Gol (White River), a mighty water source with enough limestone deposits to give the Milky River its name.
         
      • Shiveet Khairkhan | We’ll stop for pictures at the stunning Shiveet Khairkhan, home to some of the best rock carvings in Mongolia. Shiveet Khairkhan is an important mountain, especially to the indigenous Tuvan people and the wide variety of animals that call this remote mountain their home. Each year Tuvan shamans climb to Shiveet’s summit and perform various rituals, making offerings to the local ghosts and paying ancestral respects. The Tuvan are traditional herders found across the region renowned for their archery skills.
         
      • Tavan Bogd | As we draw nearer to the National Park entrance, we’ll begin to catch glimpses of Tavan Bogd (Five Saints), a mountain massif on the border of Mongolia, China and Russia, our destination.
         
      • Once we have passed through the park entrance, completing the formalities as needed, we’ll build our camp for the night. The area is beautiful, surrounded by the region’s most beautiful peaks, along with the roaring sound of the white river. After a bit of exploration and a visit to a local Tuvan family, we will tuck into another fine meal, served up in the warmth of our very own Ger.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Camping / tent. Camping on this night will be based around a pre-booked ger, offering us the chance to prepare meals and equipment ready for tomorrow's hike. The scenery here is amazing, surrounded by snow-capped mountains while listening to the roar of the white river.

    6. Saturday 6th July

      Hike to the base camp of Altai Tavan Bogd

      • Trek up Tavan Bogd | We’ll leave our vehicles and non-essential luggage at the foot of the mountains today. The kit needed for our overnight stay is to be carried by our camels. We will then begin our trek up Tavan Bogd with the help of our local Tuvan guide.
         
      • Potanin Glacier | The journey to the camp is around 15 kilometres, located next to the stunning Potanin Glacier, Mongolia’s largest. The hike is truly unique as we walk across lush alpine tundra, through mountain valleys and cross bubbling mountain brooks, all the while rewarded by views of untouched mountains. Once at our camp, we can relax and soak up the area’s ambience; the distant rumble of mountain avalanches and the crackling can be heard in the distance.
         
      • After lunch and a good old cup of tea, we’ll follow our local guide for a hike up over the moraines to look at the natural marvel of the Potanin Glacier. From a distance, the moraines look small, but it will take over an hour to reach the glacier. Once there, should you wish, we would only advise walking on its frozen surface with the assistance of the local guide. Around the glacier, the ring of mountains makes this breathtaking journey truly awe-inspiring.
         
      • Once we have finished our exploration, it’s back to camp for a well-deserved meal and rest as we bed down early, making use of our warm sleeping bags before the evening chill sets in.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. 

      Overnight | Camping / tent. Camping at the Tavan Bogd base camp. Toilet facilities are provided, and we will build a restaurant tent for dinner and breakfast. This area is remote, yet beautiful being at the base of the main mountain range and only a stone’s throw from the main glacier.

    7. Sunday, 7th July

      Return trek to Tsagaan Gol (White River) and on to Tsengle

      • Today we’ll make the journey back down the valley. For those who rented horses yesterday, you have the option again today, or you can walk with the others back to the Tsagaan Gol ranger station, where our trucks and drivers will be waiting.
         
      • As we walk down through these mountain valleys, it is truly amazing to see the small rivers and streams from the glacier forming into the mighty White River. Once repacked and refreshed, we’ll continue the adventure and board our UAZs.
         
      • We’ll retrace some of our journeys down the long valley, eventually passing small local villages, now sparsely populated if at all. At one of these small habitations, we will stop to visit one of the caretaker families, with whom we will enjoy a cup of tea and see his central ward, the local school. We’ll drive on to make camp in the beautiful Tsengle Valley tonight, close to the Khovd River, where we camp near another local family we have known for several years.
         
      • Tonight, our host family are locally known wrestlers, so should you be thinking about entering Naadam as a wild card entrant, I am sure our host will oblige with a few tips and pointers.
         
      • Before dinner tonight, there is the possibility of washing and freshening up in one of the small tributaries and enjoying a few drinks or snacks from the nearby village.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. 

      Overnight | Camping / Tent. Tonight we pitch tents with another local family located near to the town of Tsengle in a low river valley. We look at life here and experience yet another regional variation in hospitality.

    8. Monday 8th July

      Drive through Bayan Olgii

      • Kazakh Tourist Camp | We bid farewell to our Nomadic friends and take a scenic drive back to Olgii, where we’ll spend the night in a Kazakh Tourist Camp, stopping for pictures and greeting nomad families along the way. We may also catch a local festival nestled in this mountainous region if we’re lucky. This afternoon we will have time to explore Bayan Ulgii’s capital, Olgii city. Olgii is an exciting place with a mix of Soviet-period architecture and more recent builds.
         
      • Olgii Market | A perfect site to pick up a few bargains and souvenirs and if you don’t need to shop, then people-watching and photography is also an excellent option.
         
      • Central Mosque | From the market, we will continue to the Central Mosque, a great way to learn a little about the religion in this region. The Central mosque is a newer building, brightly coloured and welcoming, a true reflection of the people in this part of remote Mongolia.
         
      • The city centre is also interesting to explore the home to an ageing yet interesting Soviet period history museum and numerous newer built but refreshing coffee shops. After exploring the town, we will make one final stop at an impressive mountain viewpoint offering views over Olgii city and the surrounding countryside.
         
      • Our ger camp tonight is a real treat after the past few days under canvas – hot and cold running water, showers, and beds. This evening after an authentic regional Kazakh meal, we’ll have the chance to listen to some traditional Kazakh music from a group of musicians trying to keep part of their Kazakh culture alive. They will serenade us by playing Dombra and Jetigen.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger (yurt) Camp. We'll stay in one of the tourist ger areas found on the outskirts of Ulgii city. This camp offers a shower block with warm running water and wash facilities as well as a restaurant area from where our chief can provide some more delicious food.

    9. Tuesday 9th July

      Drive to and enjoy Tolbo Lake

      • Tolbo Lake | We’ll leave Olgii City at a more leisurely pace, our drive made all the easier on one of the country’s newer roads as we head east to the picturesque Tolbo Lake. Tolbo sits at an altitude of 2,080 meters. It is famous for its remote beauty, and as the site of a crucial 1921 battle between the Bolshevik and White Russian forces – the locals still find belt buckles and buttons in the field.
         
      • We will not only spend the night in gers by the side of the lake but have the chance for further enjoyment of the area. You’ll have time to swim or bathe in the lake’s clear waters, or just unwind and take in the mountain views. The site also boasts lovely hiking routes around the shoreline and over the protruding rocky outcrops, perfect for a bit of exercise or to catch some fantastic photos of the gorgeous surroundings.
         
      • In the evening our team will provide another delicious meal, after which you may choose to visit the on-site sauna or take an early night before tomorrow’s adventure.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

      Overnight | Tourist Ger (yurt) Camp. We'll stay in a tourist ger camp found on the shores of the lake where you may swim relax or enjoy a sauna. 

    10. Wednesday 10th July

      A morning swim, a Shaman visit and an afternoon around Hovd market

      • Khovd | This morning, the hardy amongst you may want to take a chilly early morning dip in the lake or sip on a coffee and watch the sunrise above Tolbo; no matter your choice, after breakfast it’s back into our trucks as we journey on to the last leg of our adventure. We’ll head east, leaving Bayan Olgii behind us and entering Khovd, our destination is Khovd city which will be our home for the next few nights.
         
      • Khovd city is the province’s capital, established in the early 17th century. Khovd has a rich history and it is home to 10 ethnic groups and not commonly on the tourist trail so it makes for an interesting stop on our adventure.
         
      • Uriankhai Shaman | Once we have pulled into town and checked into our gers, we’ll immediately use our time by visiting the local Uriankhai Shaman.
         
      • Although predominantly a Tibetan Buddhist country, Shamanism is still an essential part of many people’s everyday life in Mongolia, especially in these more rural parts. We will witness some of the ancient and mysterious rituals that the community still holds dear such as mirrors that repel evil spirits or sacred fire and water.
         
      • Monestary | Following our Shamanistic introduction to Khovd, we will also call at the local monastery, which is in a picturesque setting on the city’s outskirts, home to a few resident monks, and a perfect stop to learn further about the religion of the region.
         
      • Khovd Market | From temple to market we go as we stop at another important local institution; Khovd Market is found at the heart of the city and will likely be busy as many locals prepare for tomorrow’s big holiday, Naadam. Naadam sees most locals wanting to look their best, opting to wear their traditional dress, the Deel, and prepare a few meals for friends and family from afar. We will call at the local market and check out the best dress shop in town, perfect for photographers and those into local traditions alike. They may not have time to suit and boot you, but it's great to see.
         
      • After our slice of local life, we’ll return to our ger camp in time to charge those all-important batteries ready for tomorrow’s big day, Nadaam!

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist ger (yurt) Gamp. One of only two camps found around the city of Hovd. This camp has fantastic views over the surrounding countryside while being situated on the outskirts of the central city. It has a separate shower block and facility for our chef to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    11. Thursday 11th July

      Experience the local Mongolian Naadam Festival

      • Naadam Festival | Although there have already been many highlights on this adventure, today is an important one as it is the Naadam Festival; this annual event takes place all across the country drawing many nomadic folk from their isolated existence to designated hubs to celebrate.
         
      • Naadam is held in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, provincial capitals, small towns and even pre-arranged points out in the middle of nowhere.
         
      • Ulaanbaatar’s Naadam is the most widely known, but that is now the domain of overcrowded tour buses, overpriced tickets and a tad sterile. For us, a world-famous cultural event such as this should be celebrated at its roots with the real, local people. Khovd’s Naadam is still a truly local affair, virtually unchanged over generations. Khovd town is a rural town for many Mongolians gather for this fantastic event.
         
      • Naadam in Khovd draws people from all over the region, with some locals even returning from overseas. To compete in traditional events is a real honour – especially wrestling, horse racing, archery and even lesser-known events such as ankle bone shooting.000 Naadam is also a time for families and friends to reconnect, share their news eat their favourite foods, and maybe even find a future husband or wife.
         
      • Whilst attending, we’ll learn a lot more about the events, such as the unusual wrestling costume of undershorts and an open waistcoat. Legend has it that a woman in disguise once outwrestled all the men and so, to prevent future humiliation, the outfits were altered.
         
      • Our aim today is to view the opening ceremony and watch the wrestling, archery and ankle bone shooting which all take place in the same location. Following a local Naadam lunch, we will head out of town to catch a few of the long-distance horse races.
         
      • Once all of the excitement is over, we will head back to our ger camp for one more treat of local Mongolian Throat Singing.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Ger (yurt) Tourist Camp.

    12. Friday 12th July

      Fly to Ulaanbaatar

      • Internal Flight to Ulaanbaatar | Leaving our horses, camels, and Russian jeeps behind for good, we’ll board our plane and return to Ulaanbaatar. The flight takes us out across central Mongolia, from where the views from the plane will drive home how vast this country is.
         
      • We should arrive back in Mongolia’s capital around lunchtime; after we have transferred to our hotel, you’ll have the rest of the day free.
         
      • State Department Store | This afternoon, time permitting, you can shop ’til you drop at the city market, the State Department Store or search out one of the many souvenir shops. Cheap cashmere, felt curios, leather bags and purses, and Soviet antiques are often the pick of the day.
         
      • Museums | History lovers can stop by one of the many museums found in the capital or walk to the beautiful Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan (1869-1922), who became Khagan (theocratic ruler) when the country split from China in 1911.
         
      • If none of the above appeals after our nomadic expedition, you may just wish to chill and relax with a coffee or cocktail at an outdoor café and watch this fascinating city unfold before you.
         
      • Before we say goodbye, we’ll have one more meal together at one of Ulaanbaatar’s popular haunts, where we will enjoy a mix of food and a few goodbye drinks to boot.
         
      • Meals | Breakfast, Dinner with a city family

      Overnight | Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar. 

    13. Saturday 13th July

      Departure day

      • We end our adventure in the morning, with transfers to the airport for international flights. Pack your souvenirs, your dirty clothes and your memories, and have a safe trip home!
         
      • For those adventurous souls who can’t stop travelling, you can also add the option to join our Gobi Explorer Tour. If you wish to add this, please contact your tour manager for more information. 
  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English speaking guide
    • Western tour leader
    • All meals outside Ulaanbaatar
    • Camels for luggage
    • Internal flights
    • Horse riding
    • All included sightseeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to protected areas
    • All camping equipment (not sleeping bags)
    • All tents are on two-person bases, but single options are available upon booking

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Airport Pickup
    • Sleeping bags
    • Extra horse riding 30 - 60 USD
    • International flights
    • Any alcoholic beverages
    • Meals (specified)
    • Medical insurance (can be arranged.)
    • Visas (if needed)
    • Helmet rental 30 USD
    • Sleeping bag hire (incl cleaning 30 USD for tour)
    • Items of personal nature
  • Notes

    Please note! This tour has been specifically arranged to visit remote areas. As such it may have elements of an expedition about it, due to the nature and ruggedness of the terrain. Due to this, any change in itinerary at the time cannot be helped. We will do our best to keep to the advertised itinerary as closely as possible. However, please be aware that things are subject to change, especially if we encounter any extreme weather conditions. Along the way all tour decisions will rest with Rich (tour manager) and an expedition leader. We will also be taking advice from local people on the ground whose expertise will far exceed our own.

    If fewer than 5 passengers book, this tour will be led by a local leader only.

Please apply by 1st February, 2024.

July 13 - July 20 2024

The Gobi Explorer

Mongolia Gobi
Desert Explorer

This tour into the vast Gobi Desert offers
a great insight into local life, geology
and scenery.

From 1,600 USD per person

Please apply by 1st July, 2024.

The Gobi Explorer

Mongolia Gobi
Desert Explorer

This tour into the vast Gobi
Desert offers a great insight
into local life, geology and
scenery.

From 1,600 USD per person

  • Overall

    A short adventure for those who wish to see the great Gobi Desert in a short space of time. During this short but intensive tour, we delve deep into the Gobi Desert and become true explorers. Our first stop is at Mandalagovi.

    This desert town was once home to factories during the Soviet Union period. Heading further south, we will check out the Yol Am Valley. This is located in the Gurvan Saikhan Mountain range. Before setting off on our hike, we will pay a visit to the small local natural history museum which includes strange exhibits and 10 million-year-old dinosaur eggs. During this Gobi Desert tour, we also visit the Khongor Sand Dunes, also known as the ‘Singing Dunes’ for the eerie noise they make when swept by the wind, as well as visiting Bayanzag.

    This is otherwise known as ‘Flaming Cliff’s due to the rich red colouration of the clays and rocks which have been pushed up to form this landscape. All this, whilst checking out the herds of camels as we go, hiking through untouched and unexplored areas, enjoying breathtaking sunrises, and experiencing life in a Mongolia Ger tent. 

    Tour leader Rich Beal has 15 years of experience leading tours to Mongolia, including remote areas of Mongolia’s far west and Gobi Desert. If you’re looking for an even more unique experience, head to Mongolia for the Naadam Festival which directly precedes this Gobi Desert Explorer Tour.

    See below for the Gobi Explorer Tour highlights, itinerary, and notes.

    Highlights

    • The Gobi desert, one of Mongolia's must-see locations - enjoy the peace and tranquillity in this rugged yet beautiful terrain.
    • Visit the awe-inspiring Khongor Sand Dunes some of the biggest in Asia.
    • Hike through the exciting Vulture Gorge Visit Bayanzag this once home of dinosaurs such as the T-rex is now their encased in its beautiful red cliffs.
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 8
    1. Saturday, 13th July

      Ulaanbaatar
       
      No matter your arrival time, as with all our tours, the Koryo representative will be there to meet you and escort you to your hotel.

      Once you’ve had a chance to relax, we’ll head out into the city for a bit of light exploration before heading to our first group meal.

      Meals | Dinner

      Overnight | Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar. A local hotel situated in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, within a 5-minute walk from the main square. This hotel offers a great location from which to walk out and explore the city.

    2. Sunday, 14th July

      Into the Gobi Desert

      • We’ll start our adventure early as we have a long drive south towards the Gobi Desert. On the journey, we will see the lush green rolling hills of Ulaanbataar open up to the semi-arid middle Gobi region.
         
      • Mandalagovi | For lunch, we will stop at a local restaurant in the regional capital, Mandalagovi. This desert town expanded and grew during the Soviet Union period becoming a centre of manufacturing and industry, which unfortunately declined following the collapse of the Union. These days the town is home to a large agricultural college with farming also providing the primary income regionally.
         
      • Continuing our drive southwards, we will see more signs of desertification and herds of camels roaming the desolate desert plains.
         
      • White Stupa Cliffs | We’ll cross from the middle Gobi region into the south, turning off the main highway and heading out across the desert scrub to our destination, the White Stupa Cliffs (Tsagaan Suvarga). The White Stupa Cliffs are located in the rocky Tsagaan Suvarga National Park; they are an impressive geological rock formation. Millions of years of wind, rain, and tectonic shifts have sculpted this ancient sea bed. The cliffs that have been formed, as the name suggests, resemble crumbling white Buddhist pagodas (stand even further back, and they look like a deserted city).
         
      • Not far from the fantastic White Stupa Cliffs, we find our ger camp accommodation tonight, out in the desert; once we have checked in, you’ll be able to enjoy a welcome drink and view your first Gobi sunset.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger Camp. We stay in gers out in this desert region. We have access to the restaurant area as well as bathroom facilities with hot showers and Western-style toilets.

    3. Monday, 15th July

      An Adventure in Eagle Valley

      • For those who watched the sunset the previous day, you may wish to complete the set and wake for the desert sunrise; alternatively, snuggle up in your duvet and enjoy the warmth of your ger.
         
      • Dalanzadgad | After breakfast, we’ll depart the camp and continue southwards to the city of Dalanzadgad. Dalanzadgad is the regional capital at the heart of South Gobi Province and the region where we will be spending much of the following days.
         
      • Dalanzadgad has a population of around 70,000, although it never feels like it since this settlement in the desert always appears empty with a wild west frontier feel to it. We’ll stop for a spot of lunch and stock up on road snacks before driving on to our main highlight of the day Yol Am Valley.
         
      • Yol Am Valley | A relatively short drive from Dalanzadgad finds us at the famed Yol Am Valley (Vulture Valley); this narrow canyon is located in southern Mongolia’s Gurvan Saikhan Mountain Range. Before beginning our hike, we will visit the small local natural history museum; this quirky museum is quite interesting as it houses some of the region’s paleontological finds in the shape of ten million-year-old dinosaur eggs.
         
      • We begin our adventure at the valley’s wide entrance, following the small river into the canyons, narrowing cliffs eventually. As the step-sided walls cut the sun from the canyon’s bottom, we will catch a glimpse of the locally famous frozen river. Over the winter months, the river builds up a thick layer of ice, which thaws slowly and, at times, remains long into the summer months. As you follow the winding path, eagles rise to circle in the thermals high above the canyon whilst wild goats can be seen perched on the high valley walls and picas scurry amongst the rocky terrain.
         
      • For those who may have used all of their energy climbing the dunes yesterday, there are plenty of horses for rent at the entrance of the canyon.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger Camp. 

    4. Tuesday, 16th July

      The Singing sand dunes of Khongoryn Els

      • Khongor Sand Dunes | The adventure continues as we board our vehicles and journey onwards through the wilds of the Gobi Desert heading deeper into its sandy clutches to the Khongor Sand Dunes (Khongoryn Els), also known as the Singing Sands. We pass some of the typical Gobi terrain along the route, a mix of loose pebbles, gravel, and fine sand. As we journey, we will cross a fertile area of the steppe where we’ll be sure to visit one of the traditional nomadic families who call this desolate region home.
         
      • The Khongor Sand Dunes, as the name suggests, are a dune system found within the Gobi; as only around 3% of the Gobi desert is covered in sand, the sight of these 300-metre-high gigantic dunes is something to behold. The shifting sands of Khongoryn Els stretch out for over 180 km, although we arrive in the most impressive area and stay at a Ger camp with views across these giants.
         
      • Once we have eaten lunch and waited for the day to cool a little, we’ll continue our adventure and visit one of Khongor’s resident camel herder families. Although most of these herder families are now in this region to supply camels to tourists, we can think of no better way to approach these monstrous sandy giants. After arriving, we will have time enough to climb and explore the dunes; it may take a little longer than you think to climb the impressive dunes.
         
      • If you are fortunate, you may also experience why they have been named the singing dunes, as when the wind blows across the sand’s surface in the right direction, an eerie sound is emitted, sounding like an aircraft to some and a hidden being to others.
         
      • Another day nearing its end, but as with much of the Gobi Desert’s natural scenery, the Khongor Dunes come alive at sunset. Perhaps view the area from the top of the dunes or the comfort of our relaxing Ger camp while enjoying a cold drink after dinner.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger Camp 

    5. Wednesday 17th July

      To the Flaming Cliffs

      • Aimags | The Gobi Desert is vast and our foray onto its plains today only gives us a snippet of its actual size; the Gobi Desert reaches into six Mongolian provinces (Aimags) and even crosses into China. The Gobi is the sixth-largest desert globally and the second in Asia. A wide-open place of extremes; our stop for today is perhaps one of the most well-known.
         
      • Flaming Cliffs | Our main destination for today, Bayanzag – (the Flaming Cliffs), is stunningly beautiful with its flame-coloured sandstone cliffs and canyons. Aside from its obvious wow factor, Bayanzag is also where American palaeontologist Roy Chapman Andrews first discovered the world’s first-ever fossilised dinosaur eggs and a mightly haul of various other fossils. A walk along the cliffs here is a walk in the footsteps of the man whom Indiana Jones was modelled on!
         
      • Bayanzag | We will also take a walk amongst the lower regions of Bayanzag, nicknamed by some as Mongolia’s answer to the Grand Canyon; they haven’t visited the canyon however since Bayanzag doesn’t resemble the Grand Canyon but is truly a marvel in its own right. The lower areas of the cliffs offer us breathtaking views of the enflamed rock face and reflect the cliff’s more local name, Bayanzag. Bayanzag translates to “rich in saxaul shrubs” which sounds a little odd until you find these peculiar spindly shrubs sprouting from the desert floor, creating a strange and otherworldly feel to the area.
         
      • Once we have finished our exploration, it’s off to the nearby Ger camp where we can relax, drink, and maybe return to the cliffs to catch the changing colours as sunsets, making a perfect end to an exciting day.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger camp

    6. Thursday 18th July

      A Nomadic drive 

      • For those early risers today, you may wish to view the changing colours of the flaming cliffs once again; this time, sunrise offers the opportunity and is said to be the best time, to see the true beauty of this famous geological formation.
         
      • Baga Gazriin Chuluu | Following breakfast, we make our way across the country, continuing our journey to an area known as Baga Gazriin Chuluu. The trip will take us across typical Gobi scrub, transitioning into the more famed and well-known traditional Mongolian steppe.
         
      • As we approach Baga Gazriin Chuluu, it comes as a real surprise a red granite outcrop of rocks rises to 1768 metres above sea level in the middle of the flat, featureless Mongolian steppe.
         
      • Baga Gazriin Chuluu is designated a national park home to 20 rare species of plant, ibex, marmot and mountain sheep. The area offers us impressive geology and the chance to explore this and more with some good hikes, which also encompass some of the ancient petroglyphs and burial mounds found in the area.
         
      • Nomadic Herders | Should time permit on our journey, we will also have time to interact with a few more local nomadic herders who will also be passing through the region (just on a longer journey). Time permitting, we’ll stop for the ubiquitous cup of milky tea before continuing on our own adventure.
         
      • Once at the ger camp, for those who wish, there may be the opportunity for some optional horse riding, a great location to experience a ride out on a true Mongolian steed.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Tourist Ger camp

    7. Friday 19th July

      Return to Ulaanbaatar

      • Drive to Ulaanbaatar | After an early morning start, we say a fond farewell to Mongolia’s southern region and drive back to the bustling capital Ulaanbaatar.
         
      • Gandan Monastery | However, our tour isn’t over as we’re off into the city to explore some of Ulaanbaatar’s must-see sites, the first stop at Gandan Monastery.
         
      • Gandan Monastery is Ulaanbaatar’s largest and most impressive Buddhist monastery; the complex is comprised of varying temples from different periods; one of the highlights is viewing the 26-meter-high gold-coated indoor Buddha.
         
      • National Museum of Mongolian History | From temple to museum, we’ll head further into the city and stop at the National Museum of Mongolian History to see artefacts from Mongolia and Central Asia dating as far back as the Stone Age to the present day. From there, it’s a short jaunt back across the square to the comfort of our hotel, where you’ll have the chance to wash the Gobi sand from your hair before relaxing, shopping and preparing for our last group meal together.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Hotel in Ulaanbaatar.

    8. Saturday 20th July 

      Departure day

      We end our adventure in the morning, with transfers to the airport for international flights. Pack your souvenirs, your dirty clothes and your memories, and have a safe trip home!

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • 2 nights hotel in Ulaanbaatar
    • Transportation in Japanese 4X4 airconditioned vehicles
    • 5 nights Ger camps
    • Entrance fees and national park taxes
    • All meals included
    • English speaking local guides
    • Western tour leader

    NOT INCLUDED

    • International flights
    • Any alcoholic beverages
    • Meals (specified)
    • Medical insurance
    • Visas (if needed)
    • Items of personal nature
  • Notes

    Please note! This tour has been designed to visit not only a few of the more remote areas but also those must see sites that are firmly on the tourist trail. Although with any tour to Mongolia there is still an element of nature and ruggedness of the terrain. Due to this, any change in itinerary at the time cannot be helped. We will do our best to keep to the advertised itinerary as closely as possible. However, please be aware that things are subject to change, especially if we encounter any extreme weather conditions. Along the way all tour decisions will rest with Rich (tour manager) and an expedition leader. We will also be taking advice from local people on the ground whose expertise will far exceed our own.

Please apply by 1st July, 2024.

August 17 - August 30 2024

The Pamir Highway Mountain Crossroads Tour

Travel across the roof of the world!
A unique tour from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan.

This 10-night tour traces the route of the ancient Silk Road and the adventures of Marco Polo. Starting in the
capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, we will follow the M41 Pamir Highway to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, while passing
the most amazing mountain scenery.

From 2,900 USD per person

Please apply by 1st August, 2024.

The Pamir Highway Mountain Crossroads Tour

Travel across the roof of the world!
A unique tour from Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan.

This 10-night tour traces the route of the ancient Silk Road and the adventures
of Marco Polo. Starting in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, we will follow
the M41 Pamir Highway to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, while passing the most amazing
mountain scenery.

From 2,900 USD per person

  • Overall

    On this Tajikistan tour, you will start in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. In this fascinating capital, we'll immerse ourselves in its serene parks and vibrant streets, where the fusion of Persian and nomadic cultures creates a unique and captivating atmosphere, before flying to Osh. From here, we follow the route of the historical M41 Pamir Highway.

    Journeying along the Pamir Highway is truly an experience like no other. We'll drive through rugged terrain, where towering peaks and winding roads offer a glimpse into the untamed beauty of Central Asia. It's also otherwise known as the roof of the world and the world's second-highest highway

    We will cross into Tajikistan over high passes and past beautiful lakes and snow-capped mountains. Staying in small towns and villages along the way, this journey will take you to some of this region’s most remote but rewarding destinations.

    Our adventures lead us to ultimately arrive in Dushanbe. Tajikistan’s lovely, laid-back capital.

    Throughout your tour in Tajikistan, our knowledgeable guides will accompany you and be at hand to provide local insight and knowledge on the region, its history, and traditions, sharing insights into the ancient Silk Road routes and enduring customs of its people. From the hospitality of Tajikistan to the lush landscapes of Kyrgyzstan, and everything in between. 

    Note: Due to the adventurous nature of this tour, this itinerary is subject to change depending on adverse weather conditions or other factors that are out of our control. It's all part of the adventure! 

    Highlights

    • Hike in the scenic Jisew Valley.
    • Visit the ancient fortress Yamchun located at the heart of the Pamirs.
    • Enjoy the view of Peak Lenin (7’134m) from Tulpar Kul Lake.
    • Climb up sacred Suleiman Mountain in Osh.
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 14
    1. Monday 17th August

      • After arrival in Biskek, Kyrgyzstan all group members will be met at the airport and be taken to the tour hotel. We will gather at 13:00 in the hotel reception for our tour briefing and orientation.
         
      • Bishkek City Tour | We will start the city tour of Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan.
         
      • Osh Bazaar | We begin our visit by stopping at the Osh Bazaar. This is an amazing produce market which gives us our first chance to take photos of local life.
         
      • National Philharmonic | After experiencing the shopping with the locals, we stop at the building of the National Philharmonic. This Soviet-style building is an imposing structure dominating the surrounding area.
         
      • Bishkek Attractions | To learn more about Kyrgyzstan a stop at the Central Square Ala Too and the State Historical Museum is a must. A short tour of Oak Park gives us the chance to view some local sculptures as well as the Open-air art gallery. Making our way to the final stop, we will make sure to call at Victory Square before reaching the state department store ZUM. Once located in most capital cities across the USSR!

      Meals: Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: 3-4 Star Hotel

    2. Tuesday 17th August

      • M41 Pamir Highway Begins! | This morning we'll begin our adventure along the M41 Pamir Highway, making our way out of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. We head south along this Soviet-era ribbon of tarmac.
         
      • Burana Tower | Making our way out of the city, we'll stop to visit the 12th-century Burana Tower. A fantastic example of classic architecture in Central Asia, and a handy detour on our way towards our next destination.
         
      • Song Kul Lake | Our next stop will be Song Kul Lake, a stunningly beautiful alpine lake nestled in the Naryn region of Kyrgyzstan. The lake is the second largest in the entire country. And the largest of Kyrgyzstan's freshwater lakes.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Accommodation: Shoreside Yurt

    3. Wednesday 19th August

      • Moldo Ashuu Pass | This morning we'll be up bright and early as we head out from Song Kul Lake to reach Moldo Ashuu Pass. This drive will give us the chance to enjoy a pleasant drive, admiring the colourful mountains passing by.
         
      • Naryn City | Finally, we'll arrive in Naryn City where we'll stop for a bite to eat. Naryn City was established as a fortress city along one of the region's major Silk Road caravan routes. It has since grown to encompass over 40,000 people deep in the heart of central Kyrgyzstan.
         
      • Tash Rabat Silk Road | Having enjoyed a heart Kyrgyz lunch, we're off again, heading towards the Tash Rabat Silk Road caravanserai. Once we arrive, we'll spend time touring this historical site, marvelling at the architecture and wonderous buildings which populated this centre for trading in everything from tea to silk.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Accommodation: Kyrgyz Yurt

    4. Wednesday 20th August

      • Leave Yurt Camp | Today we'll leave our Yurt camp and make our way back up the road towards Naryn City. Just passing by today, we'll continue through Naryn, making our way deeper and deeper into the mountainous core of the country.
         
      • Kazarman Village & Homestay | Our destination today is Kazarman village. Although - it is a long drive away. Today will be filled with progress on our expedition along the M41 highway. Leaving the comfortable flats in exchange for more and more beautiful mountain passes. Passing local yurts, shepherds tending their flocks, and locals going about their daily business, we'll finally arrive at our homestay accommodation in Kazarman.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Accommodation: Local Homestay

    5. Wednesday 21st August

      • Kaldama Pass | Today, we will be traversing the incredible Kaldama Pass. Leaving our homestay, and saying a thankful goodbye to our hosts, we'll head out once again onto the road. Eventually, we will arrive at the Kaldama Pass, an incredible natural mountain pass which we'll have to drive through should we wish to arrive at our destination for today.
         
      • Osh | Finally, with a long drive under our belts, we'll pull in to Osh - the second city of Kyrgyzstan and our stop for tonight.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Accommodation: 3-4 Star Hotel

    6. Thursday 22nd August

      • Explore Osh | Today you will have a free morning to explore Osh. Discover its hidden secrets, tiny shops, and winding alleyways!
         
      • Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain (UNESCO)In the afternoon, we will tour the city and visit the Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain and its various sites.
        This beautiful area has fantastic views over Osh and was once a place of worship for Muslims as well as earlier pre-Islamic people. It is also one of Kyrgyzstan's first UNESCO-listed sites.
         
      • Babur's House & Tahti Suleiman Mosque | At the top of the mountain, we will view Babur's House, which is now a mosque. The history of this small building is fascinating, and we'll learn about the stories surrounding it. Other sites that we will visit on the mountain are the Tahti Suleiman Mosque, a cave complex and the Museum of Suleiman.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and dinner.

      Accommodation: The Classic Hotel. This aptly named hotel is conveniently located in the heart of this thriving city within walking distance of some of the central city sites.

    7. Friday 23rd August

      • Jaima Bazaar | This morning we visit the Jaima Bazaar. A fantastic market that is one of the largest in Central Asia and sells everything you could need and a lot you wouldn’t!
        Locals say Jaima Bazaar has been in existence for over 2000 years. We will have some time to explore the stalls and see trade being conducted from the backs of old shipping containers and the remains of Soviet-era trucks. Practice your haggling skills before lunch.
         
      • Sary-Tash | This afternoon we begin our adventure with a drive to the village of Sary-Tash through the high Taldyk Pass. This road was constructed between 1930 and 1932 and offers some grand views as we snake up over 3615 meters.
         
      • Remote Village Stay | After our first day of driving, we stay in this remote village with a population of only 1500 hardy souls. High mountains surround this backwater settlement, seemingly cut off from the world outside.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

      Accommodation: Sary Tash (village) Guest House. Along the route, this accommodation is a real mix of local homestay and traditional-style guest houses.

    8. Saturday 24th August

      • Kyzyl Art Border Point | After an early start, we leave heading out back onto the highway, driving up through the Kyzyl Art border point up to 4,280 m.
        We say goodbye to our Kyrgyz guides and drivers and greet our Tajik hosts at the Kizil Art border point. The stark landscape on our route will make for some great photography as we make stops along the way.
         
      • Entry into Tajikistan | We are now in the Republic of Tajikistan!
         
      • Karakul Lake | After lunch, we continue to Karakul Lake. This high-altitude lake was formed millions of years ago after a meteorite impact. We will stop here to enjoy the stunning views of the lake with the snow-capped Lenin Peak (which reaches 7134m it is considered one of the most accessible 7000m peaks in the world to climb) as its backdrop.
         
      • Highest Point on the Pamir Highway | We drive upwards over the 4650m Ak-Baital Pass, the highest point on the M41 (Pamir) highway. In Tajikistan, it is said that you are closest to the moon here. Not only for the height of the place but also due to the scenery looking like a lunar landscape.
         
      • Murgab | We eventually arrive in Murgab. Formerly known as the Pamirsky Post, it was founded by the Russians in 1893 as their most advanced military outpost. It now remains the highest town in Tajikistan at 3,618 metres. This far-flung settlement is now home to around 4000 inhabitants. In Murgab, we will pay an afternoon visit to the local bazaar, the nearby Lenin statue and some Soviet reliefs.
         
      • Visit Local Herder's Home | Before dinner (time permitting), we will stop by a local herder's home to see what life is like in these remote regions.

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Accommodation: Hotel Pamir. In this small town, the Hotel Pamir may be basic but offers us hot showers and relatively comfortable beds. Some facilities may be shared in this Soviet relic.

    9. Sunday 25th August

      • Langar Village | Today we drive to Langar village, continuing along the Pamir highway over the Khargush Pass at 4344 meters, driving past mountain lakes and arid lunar landscapes. We will stop for photographs as we go.
         
      • Wakhan Valley | The pass leads us out to the Wakhan Valley, which runs for about 350km sandwiched between the Pamir and the Karakorum mountain ranges. This valley supports around 12,000 inhabitants in Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
         
      • Afghanistan Border | Along the route, we will follow the Panj River as it flows along the border with Afghanistan. We will regularly stop to take photos of the beautiful landscapes. Time permitting, we will also view some ancient petroglyphs (rock carvings).
         
      • Village Stay | We will stay the night in Langar village. (Not to be confused with the town of the same name just across the border in Afghanistan).

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Accommodation: Local Guesthouse. 

    10. Monday 26th August

      • Wakhan Corridor | After breakfast and a short walk through the village, we continue along the Panj River and the border with Afghanistan following the Wakhan corridor.
         
      • Osorkhonai Abdullo Ansori | We will stop at Vrang village to see Osorkhonai Abdullo Ansori and its museum. This once-important site is well worth the visit to view the ancient cave dwellings of Buddhist monks who lived here in the past, at the fringes of Buddhist civilisation.
         
      • Kahkaha Fortress | As we continue onwards after lunch, we will tour the Kahkaha Fortress. To view the remains of this 4th century A.D castle. This once-great, clay-built fortification is said to be named after a legendary hero; known as a king of fire-worshippers. Its ruins now offer views of the surrounding countryside with stunning vistas into neighbouring Afghanistan.
         
      • Khorogh | Our aim today is to make it to the town of Khorogh, the regional capital of the GBO area (Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region) with a population of 28,000. We will be able to squeeze in a chance to relax or soak in the outdoor Garm Chashma Hot Springs and the grave of Nosiri Khisrav Qabodieni.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.

      Accommodation: Hotel LA'L. This newly built hotel offers us a welcome break on our journey, within a great setting and comfortable rooms.

    11. Tuesday 27th August

      • Panj River Bordering Afghanistan | We continue our journey along the Panj River bordering Afghanistan. This follows the route of the old Silk Road and traces in the footsteps of explorers such as Marco Polo.
         
      • Small Towns, Villages, & Local Families | On our drive today we will visit the many small towns and villages that line this well-trodden path. In Rushan, Dekh, Amun, and Kevran, we will visit local family homes and catch a glimpse of life in this remote corner of the world. Local people across this region are friendly and welcoming. We will not be there to exoticise them but to interact, hear what their lives are like, to learn and experience even in brief moments a little bit of commonality. You’ll see when we are there what a treat this can be!

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Accommodation: Karon Palace Hotel. A jewel in this delightful gateway town. This hotel looks out of place with its gold trim and blue-shaded windows. Although with its soft beds, warm showers and clean rooms it offers a relaxing stay.

    12. Wednesday 28th August

      • Khatlon Province | As we continue to trace the Panj River, we eventually bid farewell to the Pamir territory and enter Khatlon Province. Located in the Southeast of the country and one of the least visited parts of Tajikistan.
         
      • Glimpse of Afghanistan | During the Soviet period, this was also one of the country's poorest regions. We will stop to catch some final glimpses of Afghanistan along the way as well as pass a couple more high passes, impressive but not a reflection on our earlier adventures.
         
      • Kulyab | We stop at Kulyab, the centre of Khatlon province and the fourth-biggest town in Tajikistan. Kulyab has a history stretching back over 2500 years and borders Afghanistan. We will walk around the city, stop in at the local museum, and visit the market. This is one of the best ways to mix with the locals and their culture. Kulyab is changing rapidly, but mosaics of Lenin remain along with some impressive Soviet architecture.
         
      • Norak Basin | Later, we will also stop to view Norak Basin. This is a large reservoir that was created in 1961 when the 300-meter Nurek Dam was constructed. The dam is currently the second-highest in the world. Unfortunately, we cannot get right next to it, but we can view it from a distance.
         
      • Dushanbe | We make our final leg driving into Dushanbe city for a well-deserved rest! We'll have dinner and afterwards the opportunity to have a much-needed drink in one of Dushanbe's bars. The first one is on us!

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Accommodation: Hotel Vatan. A new hotel located within a 5-minute walk of the central city. This comfortable hotel has beautiful rooms located on a designated floor with free laundry facilities, a kitchen area and a reading room. A buffet-style breakfast is provided in the main restaurant area.

    13. Thursday 29th August

      • Dushanbe City Tour | This morning we begin our day with a city tour of Dushanbe. We will visit Victory Park on the hills above Dushanbe, where we'll have great views of the city. We will then stop on Rudaki Street to walk to Dushanbe's National Flag, stopping for photos at the Monument of Ismaili Somoni which is situated on the site of the old Lenin statue. Passing Rudaki Park, we will then walk on to the entrance of the National Museum where we will learn a little more about the beautiful country we have been visiting.
         
      • Victory Tank Monument | After lunch, we will drive to the Victory Tank monument (“Oslinie Ushi” — “The donkey ears", the local name for this monument), and visit the botanical gardens. 
         
      • World’s Largest Tea House | We finish our day with a visit to the world’s largest tea house with its amazingly decadent interior.

      Meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

      Accommodation: Hotel Vatan

    14. Friday 30th August

      Departure day! Airport transfers are provided for everyone regardless of the time of flight or where you are going.

      There is also the option of extending your room until a later date. Contact us to discuss this.

      End of Tour

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • Airport pick-up and drop at the start and end of the tour
    • Hotel accommodation
    • Tajiki tour guides
    • A driver per group
    • A member of Koryo Tours
    • All transportation in the country
    • All entry fees for attractions and sights

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Flights to Tajikistan
    • Single room supplement unless otherwise specified ($50 per night)
    • Spending money for drinks and souvenirs
    • Tajikistan visa fees this must include GBAO travel permit
    • Tip for the guides (approx. $10 per day)
    • Not all meals are covered, but we will make recommendations if needed
    • We occasionally have the opportunity to visit a performance; this may cost extra.

Please apply by 1st August, 2024.

September 23 - October 12 2024

Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan Adventure

Kazakhstan & Turkmenistan
Tour; The Heart of Central
Asia.

Visit vibrant multi-cultural Kazakhstan and eclectic Turkmenistan.
Ticking off all the higlights as well as getting off the beaten
path!

From 4,900 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

Kazakhstan And Turkmenistan Adventure

Kazakhstan & Turkmenistan
Tour; The Heart of Central
Asia.

Visit vibrant multi-cultural Kazakhstan
and eclectic Turkmenistan. Ticking off all
the higlights as well as getting off the
beaten path!

From 4,900 USD per person

  • Overall

    On our most adventurous 20-night adventure, we will start in the new capital of Kazakhstan, Astana and finish in the ostentatious city of Ashgabat Turkmenistan.

    In between these two fascinating cities, we will travel by road, rail, and air as we adventure and explore parts of Kazakhstan only a few have seen before. We will be heading to the industrial base of Karaganda, the infamous Semipalatinsk (in two words; Gulags and Nukes), and Kurchatov - the Los Alamos of the USSR, where the Red Bomb was developed and tested. Plus, we will even visit The Polygon; the vast nuclear testing range full of abandoned measuring platforms, bunkers, craters, buried machinery, and the scenic yet chilling ‘Atomic Lake’.

    Please Note: the situation vis-a-vis access to the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Polygon is very much changeable with no notice. So while we do intend to run the tour as scheduled here there is a chance that things may change and we have to adjust to which areas we visit, where we stay overnight, and so on. We have explored this area thoroughly though and have redundancies and backup plans in place, so we can still assure all visitors that they will experience as much access to the site as possible when they visit with Koryo Tours.

    We will make sure to visit the main sites during our time in Turkmenistan such as Ashgabat and the Darvaza Gas Crater (Gates of Hell), but also take you off the beaten path to really experience and understand Turkmenistan. Meet local people, and learn about their lives and history, their differences and commonalities.

    Dates don't suit?
    Check out our Explore Kazakhstan | Astana to Almaty September Tour, or contact us for more information on private tours.

    Highlights

    • Combine Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan for the ultimate adventure.
    • Astana | Ashgabat | Almaty Nuclear Polygon – USSR’s testing range for atmospheric and underground nukes.
    • Darvaza Gas Crater - This Giant burning crater known as the ‘Mouth of Hell’.
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 21
    1. Monday 23rd September

      Arrival Day

      • Flights to Astana (airport code NQZ) arrive from many international destinations – let us know which flight you will be on, and we will arrange your pick-up and transfer to the hotel. Arriving even earlier is, of course, fine and can be accommodated.
         
      • Today we start the tour with a group dinner of some excellent local food, coordination and briefing session, before the adventure ahead!

      Overnight: Astana - Kazakhstan's shiny new Capital City!

    2. Tuesday 24th September

      Astana

      • Astana is a new city rightly famed for its unique approach to architecture; it piles together with a wide range of different styles and forms. The result is either a glimpse at the future of post-modern cities or a horrifying un-curated mish-mash of clashing buildings.
         
      • Bayterek Tower – now the icon of the city, this ornate monument has a viewing platform 97 metres above the ground (1997 is when Astana become the capital city) and is designed to evoke a folk tale about a bird laying an egg in a tree. Amazing views over the city from here.
         
      • Palace of Peace and Reconciliation – glass Pyramid from the eminent architect Norman Foster with the vague but noble aim of reconciling the world’s faiths and ideologies and bringing an end to violence. Even if this goal remains elusive, it is a stunning building and worth exploring!
         
      • Hazret Sultan Mosque – the biggest in Kazakhstan (and second in the region only to the monstrous Gypjak Mosque in Turkmenistan). Classically Islamic in style and Kazakh in décor, this impressive building can house up to 5000 worshippers at once.
         
      • Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre – perhaps the building that architecturally sums up modern Astana more than any other. Another Carbuncle/work-of-genius (delete as you prefer) from Norman Foster, this ingenious structure looking somewhat like a lop-sided tent maintains an even temperature year-round and provides leisure facilities, shopping, entertainment in general.
         
      • River Ishim – we’ll stroll the banks of this waterway in the centre of town, a good way to see a slice of local life and people enjoying their time. Remember that almost all of Astana’s population are recent arrivals so a big mix of people from around the country and beyond can be met with here.

      Overnight: Astana

    3. Wednesday 25th September

      Akmol & Karaganda

      • We take a drive out of the city to the nearby village of Akmol; home of the chilling Museum of the Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland – A sensitively-done spot telling the story of the loyal (going to such a place could often be avoided with a divorce and public denunciation) women sent here when their husbands were persecuted.
         
      • We see a little more of this settlement on a walk around; church, mosque, and apartment buildings now occupy this former gulag-site before leaving for a 3 hour drive to the major city of Karaganda (lunch along the way)
         
      • An introductory walking tour of the city centre - focusing on the architecture, history, and local culture of this city (all of which is varied and fascinating), we’ll visit the central park as well and see and mix with locals spending leisure time here.
         
      • Karaganda is a large city but with a very walkable centre – the Russian/Soviet influence here is strong and our guide (a local to this place) will tell us all about the city, you’ll find it fascinating for sure! He can also recommend good spots for dinner/evening socialising/etc
         
      • We will also visit a local painter - famed for having no arms and painting with the brush in his mouth. He sells his amazing work and can speak about his history growing up close to the nearby nuclear weapons testing area

      Overnight: Chaika Hotel – amazing brutalist Soviet monstrosity. Real time-warp stuff. One part of the hotel was built specifically for the visit of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. The rooms are comfy and modern. The building itself is timeless!

    4. Thursday 26th September

      Karaganda

      • We drive an hour out to the museum of KarLag, the local gulag system – a dark part of history indeed told through the rooms of this former NKVD HQ. State ‘enemies’, departed nationalities (a vast number of whom were dumped in central Asia due to Stalin’s paranoia about enemies within – the largest numbers being Germans from the west and Koreans from the east. Their stories are told here in this chilling memorial to the all-too-recent evils.
         
      • The village around this museum is made up largely of former Gulag barracks, admin buildings, and medical centres, we will take a look around and also visit the depressing cemetery for children who died in this cruel system.
         
      • The nearby town of Shahtinsk hosts us for lunch and some views of local industries; coal mining primarily, but also steel production and agriculture.
         
      • In the afternoon we offer the choice between free time to further explore Karaganda City or a trip to a former execution ground (what a choice, we know!) marked by tasteful and meaningful memorials to the various nationalities whose people were among the unfortunate souls to perish here.

      Overnight: Chaika Hotel

    5. Friday 27th September

      Astana/Train Ride

      • We return to Astana by road in the morning. A special lunch with a local family awaits us when we arrive back in the Kazakh capital and then time to shop for some supplies for the overnight train ride ahead of us.
         
      • All aboard! We jump onto a sleeper train making its way through the night and across the country to the city of Kurchatov - home of the Soviet atomic weapons program. Comfy beds and a clean restaurant await us and rolling steppe outside the windows for this 800km journey. We will have dinner delivered to us on the platform at Ekibastusz Station that evening.

      Overnight: Onboard the train – 4 beds in each room. Comfortable and clean

    6. Saturday 28th September

      Semey/Nuclear Polygon/Kurchatov

      • We arrive in the morning in the eastern city of Semey and grab breakfast and the chance to leave our luggage in a local hotel (we will be back in a couple of days) - we then board our vehicles for an epic adventure in a fascinating and formerly forbidden area
         
      • We go deep into the Polygon - heading for a wide range of sites associated with the Soviet nuclear weapons program - the Atomic Lake, abandoned and derelict ICBM sites, underground bunkers, buildings erected and then destroyed in nuclear test explosions, and much more. it will be an epic adventure and, of course, protective clothing is provided when required.
         
      • We’ll make a few stops on the way through but most significantly Atomic Lake – caused by a deep underground nuclear blast – this was in fact made deliberately and is known as the world’s first and only use of industrial nuclear weapons. Find out what on earth they were thinking and meet some fishermen looking for three-eyed fish in the 180m deep lake.
         
      • We’ll have a Roadside Picnic (note to non-literature lovers, this is a joke – read this book and you will find some eerie similarities to this part of the trip) and continue to see some relics of the testing program. A local expert will also be with us to explain in detail, answer questions, etc.
         
      • We arrive in Kurchatov and check in at our hotel, used mainly by scientists still studying the effects of all the nuclear tests in this region.  Kurchatov was founded in 1947 simply to make Soviet Nuclear weapons a reality. Under the control of then KGB Chief Lavrentiy Beria and scientist Igor Kurchatov, this is where the arms race became a two-horse event.

      Overnight: Mayak Hotel – another time-warp hotel with period furnishings and decor.

    7. Sunday 29th September

      Kurchatov/Chagan

      • Museum of the Semipalatinsk Test Site – a detailed and deep explanation of what this place is, what happened here, and what effect their inventions can have. Some machines from that time are displayed here too. (note: this museum opens and closes at the whim of higher powers, so its opening cannot be 100% confirmed - if not open we will have a lecture on the history of the area at a different location
         
      • We board our vehicle and take a drive, deep into a formerly off-limits (very off limits!) area; the Semipalatinsk Polygon – nuclear testing ground chosen due to its remoteness, lack of population, and because it seemed like a good spot to blow a few things up. we provide protective gear of course
         
      • Next stop is Chagan – once a deeply secret long-range bomber base. Now a deeply abandoned former long-range bomber base. See the massive runways, the remaining ammunition hangars, and the collapsing main buildings of the base. Plus the garrison town nearby which housed the base staff from 1954 to 1994 and now stands completely stripped like a spooky post-apocalyptic warning. A bit of UrbEx here
         
      • We will visit a local family who used to live in Chagan - hear their stories of what it was like living at the front line of the Cold War so far in the USSR interior, and what things have been like for them since the base closed and their lives changed forever.

      Overnight | Mayak Hotel

    8. Monday 30th September

      Semey

      • We leave Kurchaov and the Polygon/Test Field behind us today as we return to Semey. Semipalatinsk is actually the former name of this city; correctly it is now referred to as Semey, we explore with a city tour of this little-visited settlement.
         
      • We will spend some time with a very special group of people - a local school who specialise in teaching disadvantaged children from more modest backgrounds. They teach English to a very high level here and we will meet with some teachers and children from the school who will give us some information about their hometown, give us a performance, and give us a chance to learn from these kids as well as helping them with a chance for conversation time with visitors - this is another Koryo Tours exclusive and something you will never forget
         
      • After lunch we liberate you for free time – a couple of recommendations include;​​​​​​ Fine Arts Museum – not just the best collection in Kazakhstan but also a display of abnormal anatomy, something quirky and troubling (especially with our trip to the nuclear test site coming up)
        Stronger Than Death Monument – in the Tatar section of town (itself an attraction we will explore some more) – shows the resilience of those who live and have lived in this remote part of the world.
         
      • Free time from the later afternoon to explore the city, have an evening out away from the shadow of nuclear tests and enjoy a very unique place indeed on a very special day.

      Overnight: Semey Hotel – very Soviet-style place with an aesthetic unlike what you may be used to! All the charm of the late-USSR but with free wifi! You’ll love it!

    9. Tuesday 1st October

      Semey/Almaty

      • Once upon a time Semipalatinsk was a wealthy trading city, situated between China and Russia, and acted as a gateway to the Central Asian territories added to the Russian Empire in the 19th Century. We will explore mainly on foot and see buildings from various eras, statues and monuments, mosaics and a little-known part of history. All explained to us as we make our way on a short walking tour around this unexpectedly-charming place. Sites we visit include...
         
      • Lenin Alley – a common sight in Kazakhstan’s smaller cities; a collection of Lenin's in a nice park setting. The central piece is awe-inspiring.
         
      • Victory Park – with statues, tank monument, and a hang-out place for locals.
         
      • Dostoyevsky Museum – the titan of Russian Literature, was exiled out here in Semipalatinsk and this museum explains the importance of his works. Pro-tip: read Crime and Punishment before your visit.
         
      • After an early lunch we head to Semey Airport for a flight to Almaty - the former capital and the most charming city in the country
         
      • We transfer to our hotel and you can head out for exploring, enjoying the very lively coffee shop scene, hot up some amazing restaurants and bars, pamper yourself at a beauty centre. Do whatever you like in this very modern but also laid-back place. You've earned it after the long journeys of the last few days!

      Overnight: Hotel Kazakhstan – a towering monstrosity offering great views over the city as well as faded-luxury. An iconic structure in an iconic city; ideal for finishing off our Kazakhstan adventure

    10. Wednesday 2nd October

      Almaty

      • We embark on a walking tour of this amazing city - Almaty. Nestled against the precipitous Tian Shan Mountain range and dotted with parks, theatres, boulevards, and much more. Sites we visit include...
      • Almaty Metro – one of only two subway systems in the whole of Central Asia (the other is the Moscow knock-off in Tashkent) this system opened in 2012 and strikes a balance between Moscow opulence and modern efficiency
      • Green Bazaar & Rakhat Chocolate Factory – these neighbouring sites are local institutions. You can smell the sweetness from the latter all across this part of the city. Banter and barter with sellers in the market, pick up the apples that Almaty is known for as well as all manner of other delicious local delicacies. Get your sweet tooth into action with the terrific and very affordable selection at the chocolate factory (ideal for gifts too!)
         
      • Panfilovets Park – Almaty's main place of leisure. Very pleasant and marked with stunning and evocative monuments to the Kazakh soldiers who fell while fighting to defend Moscow from the Nazi invasion. Zenkov Cathedral is also located in this park.
         
      • Central Mosque – With its broad ethnic mixture and clear secularism, it is easy to forget that Kazakhstan is a majority-Muslim country. We’ll have a look at the main mosque in Almaty to see how the locals worship and what their faith means to them.
         
      • Arbat Street – every good former USSR town has one; a pedestrian area ideal for promenading, window shopping, café culture, public art sales, and so on. This one is very modern, and is lined with some great examples of brutalist apartment buildings.
         
      • Kok-Tebe – a cable car ride up to a mountain overlooking the city. Amazing views, a statue of the Beatles, A Ferris Wheel and toboggan ride, small zoo, bars, and entertainment in general. Simply put, this is the city’s best spot and a very popular area for local families, youths, and everyone really. We’ll have a final lunch of the tour along the way. A fitting relaxing end to an intense, mind-blowing week!

      Overnight: Hotel Kazakhstan

    11. Thursday 3rd October

      Goodbye Almaty welcome Ashgabat

      Today you travel between Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan - two fascinating and very different states in the same region. In terms of logistics, there are only occasional flights directly on this route - if one is available we will help you with that, but otherwise, the safer and most reliable route would be to fly via Istanbul or Dubai - two places well-connected several times daily to both Almaty and Ashgabat. Get in touch with us for help with planning this route.

      You can make this journey all in one day, or arrive the following day, this will still get you there in time for the Turkmenistan tour to begin, so explore options and let us know what you think.

      Arriving in Ashgabat/ Turkmenistan you pass through its multi-billion dollar marble-clad eagle-shaped airport - the kind of ostentatious building any country in the Middle East would be proud of. Exchange the Letter of Invitation (LOI) we have sent you in advance for a visa on arrival and a pickup and transfer to the hotel will be provided along with a local guide.

      This evening is free for your short own exploration or to relax in another exciting country.

      Meals: Breakfast

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat - Built for the 2017 Asian indoor martial arts game this well-located and modern hotel allows access to malls, shops, and restaurants, and provides guests with quality facilities in a fascinating part of the city

    12. Friday 4th October

      Ashgabat

      This morning there is time to relax and soak up your surrounding before this afternoon's orientation walk around the city visiting.

      • Tekke Bazaar - Walk through this real, local slice of life, a true local market very popular amongst local people for shopping. On weekends, there are also local booksellers in the park opposite the market selling a selection of second-hand books. If you're lucky, you may pick up a copy of the Ruhnama the book written by Saparmurat Niyazov, the Turkmenistan president. Niyazov famously said, "a person that reads Ruhnama three times becomes smart, and after it, he will go straight to heaven".
         
      • Inspiration park - A public park at the centre of Ashgabat this narrow parkland is lined with sculptures of Persian poets, scholars and great thinkers all surrounding an artificial river and impressive water fountains. 
         
      • Russian Bazaar - located in the very centre of town, this covered bazaar is where you can buy almost everything you may need in daily life; fruit & nuts, cables & chargers, sweets, kimchi, baked goods, souvenirs, and so on. Nearby is also the Alty Asyr Shopping Centre which is a good place to buy cotton goods (tracksuits, towels, bedsheets, etc. all made from local cotton, and all very cheap).
         
      • Lenin statue - Best described as a small Lenin on a giant plinth decorated in central Asian tile work. 
         
      • Pushkin Monument - this small bust erected to Russia's most famous poet Pushkin is easily visited only 5 minutes from Lenin.
         
      • Pervyy park - this is one of Ashgabat's oldest parks founded in 1890 named officer park, Lenin park, first park and independence park.
         
      •  Ashgabat Train station - originally built in 1888 the first railway station was destroyed in the earthquake of 1948 along with much of the city. A new station was built shortly after in 1950 although this was remodelled 2009 taking on its now grand form crowned by the eight-pointed star (Rub El Hizb).

      We return to the hotel after this mini-adventure to meet the new tour members at dinner.

      Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

    13. Saturday 5th October

      Ashgabat

      A free day in Ashgabat. We can make recommendations for what to do and help to arrange drivers, and guides, as needed for excursions outside of the city. Or you can simply wander, relax, go shopping, use leisure facilities, and so on.

      Ashgabat has malls, galleries, museums, and other sites open to visitors. Just tell us what kind of thing you would like to do and our local partners and we can help with making a plan for you.

      The tour starts properly this evening with a group dinner and orientation. Meet those arriving just for the Turkmenistan part of the tour and get ready for a further group adventure!

      Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

    14. Sunday 6th October

      Ashgabat City Tour

      • Tolkuchka Bazaar – The nation's largest market, built outside the city and home to various sections selling household goods, clothes, the famous Turkmen carpets, camels & other animals, and much more!
      • Ashgabat Hippodrome – Sunday is a day at the races, with the sacred Ahal-Teke horses in full display.
      • Cooking course – for today's lunch, we attend a local restaurant which gives us a tutorial and the opportunity to bake some local Turkmen pies. If it's not for you, don't worry, you'll be able to relax whilst your meal is cooked for you. 
      • Afternoon city tour – Including Independence Park and Monument, Arch of Neutrality topped by the gold statue of Turkmenbashi, Ahal-Teke horses monument, Earthquake Monument and Museum.
      • Free evening for a night out in the city.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

    15. Monday 7th October

      Darvaza Gas Crater & Bokhurdag

      • Desert adventure! We head off in a fleet of 4x4s into the deep desert today.
      • Bokhurdag semi-nomadic village for a look at what desert life is like today and lunch at a local family home.
      • Onwards to the bizarre mud and water craters, scenes of accidents that opened sinkholes in the desert.
      • Finally, we arrive at the stunning and unforgettable Darvaza Gas Crater in the centre of the country and the scene of a 40-year-old industrial accident that ended with a giant flaming pit burning to this day. A hypnotic sight and one of the strangest and most spectacular things you can possibly see.
      • We camp tonight beside the crater; it is best seen at night, and dinner is cooked on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Camping at the Darvaza Gas Crater - Camping in the desert with tents, sleeping bags and roll mats provided. we will also provide tents based on your rooming options. this affords us the best opportunity to view the amazing gas crater from before sunset to sunrise.

    16. Tuesday 8th October

      Ashgabat

      • We return to Ashgabat, driving through the morning with a stop at a monument to the suppression of the Basmachi rebellion.
      • Once back in the capital the rest of the day is yours to do with as you please; explore, relax, shop, take a side trip (drivers are available for hire), we and our local guides can advise on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

    17. Wednesday 9th October

      Nisa Fortress and Kow Ata Underground Lake

      • Nisa Fortress - a UNESCO site and former capital of the mighty Parthian state in ancient times.
      • Ahal-Teke horses are considered heavenly and sacred beasts in Turkmenistan, and this stud farm visit will show you why. Have a ride on one of the horses if you like.
      • We then drive on to the bizarre Kow-Ata underground lake. A Sulphur-heated lake 100m deep underground. Take a swim, explore the cave, and then have lunch at a shashlik restaurant on the spot.
      • We will drive in our 4x4 fleet on to the remote city of Balkanabad; this sleepy town is easily explored on foot in a couple of hours of free time before dinner and overnight in a hotel shaped like a giant yurt.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Niebitchi, Balkanabat - Yurt-shaped curiosity in the town centre, well-situated for wandering around and exploring.

    18. Thursday 10th October

      Yangykala Canyon & Turkmenbashi

      • We drive to the stunning Yangykala Canyon, known as the ‘Turkmen Grand Canyon’ little-known but a gorgeous area with shifting colours in the rocks, amazing formations, and some wonderful photos to be taken.
      • Through the afternoon we make our way across the country, stopping at scenic areas, pilgrimage sites and so on until we reach our destination; the Caspian sea city of Turkmenbashi and the bizarre ‘touristic zone’ of Awaza. This place has to be seen to be believed, and we will have a look around the hotel-covered peninsular before checking in for a relaxing evening at the coast.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner 

      Overnight: Serdar Hotel. A comfortable beachside option. You can also upgrade to the Yelken Yacht Club, the finest establishment in Awaza. Contact us for more details!

    19. Friday 11th October

      Awaza to Ashgabat

      • A free morning to relax at the coastal resort, try swimming (although the Caspian is a cold sea) or some watersports, wandering around, or even sleeping in!
      • Late morning we will take a boat ride down a canal stretching the length of the Awaza area, see the different architectural styles of the buildings here, all of which have sprung up in the last few years.
      • We will drive to Turkmenbashi city for lunch, the oldest city in the country and one settled by Russians during their invasion from across the sea during the late Great Game.
      • A city tour of Turkmenbashi – the local bazaar, railway station, Oil Workers’ Square, various monuments, and even a cemetery for Japanese POWs who were brought here to labour after their capture at the end of WWII, and never got home again.
      • Flight back to Ashgabat for the final dinner of the tour, time for goodbyes and the last night out, if you’ve got the energy!

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner 

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat

    20. Saturday 12th October

      Departure

      • Departure day – airport transfers provided for everyone regardless of the time of flight or where you are going.

      End of tour, OR;

      OPTIONAL EXTENSION (+600 EUR)

      Extension day 1: Mary & Margush

      • Flight from Ashgabat to Mary, in the centre of the country and the nearest city to the ancient silk road metropolis of Merv.
      • Visit Gonur-Deppe (Margush); another ancient city in this area, with some lovely ancient architectural features.
      • Back to Mary City and explore this modern town, mix with the locals, go to parks, bars, etc. as you like, a sleepy area with welcoming and friendly locals.

      Meals: Breakfast 

    21. Sunday 13th October

      Extension day 2: Ancient Merv

      • Excursion to Ancient Merv, probably the most important city in the world at certain times of its history and a place where you will learn a great deal about the history of Central Asia, the rise and fall of dynasties and cities, the silk road, and human civilisation in this part of the world in general. This vast area is roamed by animals, explorers, extant buildings, ruins, etc. All contributing to a sense of the dynamism of the ancient silk road.
      • In the afternoon you fly back to Ashgabat for a final rest/night out before departure.

        Please let us know if you wish to book an extra night in Ashgabat. the flight should return to the capital at around 8 PM - 9 PM.
  • Extras

    • Upgrade to your own room in Kazakhstan

      All hotel rooms on our all-inclusive group tours to Kazakhstan feature twin beds, and will be shared. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $50 USD per night

    • Upgrade to your own room in Turkmenistan

      The default rooming option for this tour is shared hotel room or tent (one night). Each hotel room on tour has two separate beds. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $50 USD per night

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English-speaking local guides
    • Western tour leader
    • Meals where indicated
    • Accommodation
    • Internal flights
    • Internal trains
    • All included sightseeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to areas where special permits are required
    • Airport transfers
    • An amazing time in two very different yet amazing countries!

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Tips for local guides and drivers
    • Incidentals, extra drinks, etc
    • Optional single supplement: USD 50 per night (Kazakhstan) and USD 55 Per night (Turkmenistan)
    • Kazakhstan: Visa fee - depending on nationality – most Western nationalities do not need visas to Kazakhstan. Please do check first to be sure
    • Turkmenistan: All visitors will need a visa USD 80 to USD 150, depending on nationality; we will do the work required for this
    • International flights to Kazakhstan and from Ashgabat
    • Flight between Almaty and Ashgabat - we can assist with recommendations for this route
  • Notes

    How to Apply: To apply simply click on the application button listed with this tour and fill out the online form, upload a passport copy and photo (or send to us by email) and you can consider yourself to be booked on this adventure! For any questions, comments, etc about this trip get in touch with Rich at [email protected] We ask for an application to be completed a minimum of one month in advance of the tour, ideally six weeks or more if possible: We will require a deposit to be paid at this time as we start taking on administrative costs as well as an obligation to pay for the visa invitation as soon as we send off an application. We ask for a deposit of 50% of the tour fee. Cancellation & Refunds: Please note that if you require a visa for Kazakhstan you will need to pay this fee yourself. Most visitors do not require visas though.

    Check https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Kazakhstan For Turkmenistan everyone will need a letter of invitation this is used upon arrival to obtain your visa for the country. We will send you further details upon booking. We practice the same cancellation policy with this tour as we do with our DPRK tours. This is listed on our website T&C. However, we do not seek profit from people who cannot go on tours but we do make arrangements and commit to payments in good faith once a booking is received and payment is made. So we always try to refund more than the minimum. As with any trip it is best to be as sure as possible that you will be able to attend the trip when making the final booking. If the tour is cancelled by Koryo Tours for any reason then a full refund is of course made. In all cases we return as much as we can and we do not take a fee for client's cancellation. Please be sure that you will definitely be joining the tour when you send all application details.

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

September 23 - October 3 2024

Explore Kazakhstan | Astana to Almaty (September)

Epic Kazakhstan Trip; Journey
in Remote Central Asia

Kazakhstan is where a vibrant multi-cultural society
meets the dark legacy of deportations, gulags, and nuclear
weapons.

From 2,500 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

Explore Kazakhstan | Astana to Almaty (September)

Epic Kazakhstan Trip; Journey
in Remote Central Asia

Kazakhstan is where a vibrant multi-cultural
society meets the dark legacy of deportations,
gulags, and nuclear weapons.

From 2,500 USD per person

  • Overall

    On this incredible, new-and-improved for 2024, 10-night adventure, we will start in the new capital of Kazakhstan, Astana and finish in the old, Almaty.

    In between these two fascinating cities, we will travel by road, rail, and air as we adventure and explore parts of Kazakhstan only a few have seen before. We will be heading to the industrial base of Karaganda, the infamous Semipalatinsk (in two words; Gulags and Nukes), and Kurchatov - the Los Alamos of the USSR, where the Red Bomb was developed and tested. Plus, we will even visit The Polygon; the vast nuclear testing range full of abandoned measuring platforms, bunkers, craters, buried machinery, and the scenic yet chilling ‘Atomic Lake’.

    We’ll get a history lesson on the darker side of this little-known land, as well as updates on what’s been going on in the cities and countryside as we pass between them seeing local life, industry, and so much more. Combining our expertise working in the country, contacts, and in-depth research, we’ve put together a tour that is like no other to offer you the best in Kazakhstan tourism.

    Please Note: the situation vis-a-vis access to the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Polygon is very much changeable with no notice. So while we do intend to run the tour as scheduled here there is a chance that things may change and we have to adjust to which areas we visit, where we stay overnight, and so on. We have explored this area thoroughly though and have redundancies and backup plans in place, so we can still assure all visitors that they will experience as much access to the site as possible when they visit with Koryo Tours.

    Dates don’t suit?
    Check out our Explore Kazakhstan | Astana to Almaty tour in May, or consider combining with Turkmenistan on our amazing Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan Adventure, or contact us for details on private tours.

    Scroll down for an overview of our Explore Kazakhstan - Astana to Almaty September tour highlights, tour itinerary, transport options, DPRK tourist visa information, and extra add-ons.

    Highlights

    • Nur-Sultan - once the centre of the Virgin Lands campaign, now national capital
    • Dostoyevsky Nuclear Polygon – USSR’s testing range for atmospheric and underground nukes 
    • Semi-abandoned these days Karaganda – in the heart of Kazakhstan, also the heart of the old Central Asian Gulag system 
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 11
    1. Monday 23rd September

      Arrival Day

      • Flights to Astana (airport code NQZ) arrive from many international destinations – let us know which flight you will be on, and we will arrange your pick-up and transfer to the hotel. Arriving even earlier is, of course, fine and can be accommodated.
         
      • Today we start the tour with a group dinner of some excellent local food, coordination and a briefing session, before the adventure ahead!

      Overnight: Astana - Kazakhstan's shiny new Capital City!

    2. Tuesday 24th September

      Astana

      • Astana is a new city rightly famed for its unique approach to architecture; it piles together with a wide range of different styles and forms. The result is either a glimpse at the future of post-modern cities or a horrifying un-curated mish-mash of clashing buildings.
         
      • Bayterek Tower – now the icon of the city, this ornate monument has a viewing platform 97 metres above the ground (1997 is when Astana become the capital city) and is designed to evoke a folk tale about a bird laying an egg in a tree. Amazing views over the city from here.
         
      • Palace of Peace and Reconciliation – glass Pyramid from the eminent architect Norman Foster with the vague but noble aim of reconciling the world’s faiths and ideologies and bringing an end to violence. Even if this goal remains elusive, it is a stunning building and worth exploring!
         
      • Hazret Sultan Mosque – the biggest in Kazakhstan (and second in the region only to the monstrous Gypjak Mosque in Turkmenistan). Classically Islamic in style and Kazakh in décor, this impressive building can house up to 5000 worshippers at once.
         
      • Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre – perhaps the building that architecturally sums up modern Astana more than any other. Another Carbuncle/work-of-genius (delete as you prefer) from Norman Foster, this ingenious structure looking somewhat like a lop-sided tent maintains an even temperature year-round and provides leisure facilities, shopping, entertainment in general.
         
      • River Ishim – we’ll stroll the banks of this waterway in the centre of town, a good way to see a slice of local life and people enjoying their time. Remember that almost all of Astana’s population are recent arrivals so a big mix of people from around the country and beyond can be met with here.

      Overnight: Astana

    3. Wednesday 25th September

      Akmol & Karaganda

      • We take a drive out of the city to the nearby village of Akmol; home of the chilling Museum of the Camp for Wives of Traitors to the Motherland – A sensitively-done spot telling the story of the loyal (going to such a place could often be avoided with a divorce and public denunciation) women sent here when their husbands were persecuted.
         
      • We see a little more of this settlement on a walk around; church, mosque, and apartment buildings now occupy this former gulag-site before leaving for a 3 hour drive to the major city of Karaganda (lunch along the way)
         
      • An introductory walking tour of the city centre - focusing on the architecture, history, and local culture of this city (all of which is varied and fascinating), we’ll visit the central park as well and see and mix with locals spending leisure time here.
         
      • Karaganda is a large city but with a very walkable centre – the Russian/Soviet influence here is strong and our guide (a local to this place) will tell us all about the city, you’ll find it fascinating for sure! He can also recommend good spots for dinner/evening socialising/etc
         
      • We will also visit a local painter - famed for having no arms and painting with the brush in his mouth. He sells his amazing work and can speak about his history growing up close to the nearby nuclear weapons testing area

      Overnight: Chaika Hotel – amazing brutalist Soviet monstrosity. Real time-warp stuff. One part of the hotel was built specifically for the visit of Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. The rooms are comfy and modern. The building itself is timeless!

    4. Thursday 26th September

      Karaganda

      • We drive an hour out to the museum of KarLag, the local gulag system – a dark part of history indeed told through the rooms of this former NKVD HQ. State ‘enemies’, departed nationalities (a vast number of whom were dumped in central Asia due to Stalin’s paranoia about enemies within – the largest numbers being Germans from the west and Koreans from the east. Their stories are told here in this chilling memorial to the all-too-recent evils.
         
      • The village around this museum is made up largely of former Gulag barracks, admin buildings, and medical centres, we will take a look around and also visit the depressing cemetery for children who died in this cruel system.
         
      • The nearby town of Shahtinsk hosts us for lunch and some views of local industries; coal mining primarily, but also steel production and agriculture.
         
      • In the afternoon we offer the choice between free time to further explore Karaganda city or a trip to a former execution ground (what a choice, we know!) marked by tasteful and meaningful memorials to the various nationalities whose people were among the unfortunate souls to perish here.

      Overnight: Chaika Hotel

    5. Friday 27th September

      Astana/Train Ride

      • We return to Astana by road in the morning. A special lunch with a local family awaits us when we arrive back in the Kazakh capital and then time to shop for some supplies for the overnight train ride ahead of us.
         
      • All aboard! We jump onto a sleeper train making its way through the night and across the country to the city of Kurchatov - home of the soviet atomic weapons program. Comfy beds and a clean restaurant await us and rolling steppe outside the windows for this 800km journey. We will have dinner delivered to us on the platform at Ekibastusz Station that evening.

      Overnight: Onboard the train – 4 beds in each room. Comfortable and clean

    6. Saturday 28th September

      Semey/Nuclear Polygon/Kurchatov

      • We arrive in the morning in the eastern city of Semey and grab breakfast and the chance to leave our luggage in a local hotel (we will be back in a couple of days) - we then board our vehicles for an epic adventure in a fascinating and formerly forbidden area
         
      • We go deep into the Polygon - heading for a wide range of sites associated with the Soviet nuclear weapons program - the Atomic Lake, abandoned and derelict ICBM sites, underground bunkers, buildings erected and then destroyed in nuclear test explosions, and much more. it will be an epic adventure and, of course, protective clothing is provided when required.
         
      • We’ll make a few stops on the way through but most significantly Atomic Lake – caused by a deep underground nuclear blast – this was in fact made deliberately and is known as the world’s first and only use of industrial nuclear weapons. Find out what on earth they were thinking and meet some fishermen looking for three-eyed fish in the 180m deep lake.
         
      • We’ll have a Roadside Picnic (note to non-literature lovers, this is a joke – read this book and you will find some eerie similarities to this part of the trip) and continue to see some relics of the testing program. A local expert will also be with us to explain in detail, answer questions, etc.
         
      • We arrive in Kurchatov and check in at our hotel, used mainly by scientists still studying the effects of all the nuclear tests in this region.  Kurchatov was founded in 1947 simply to make Soviet Nuclear weapons a reality. Under the control of then KGB Chief Lavrentiy Beria and scientist Igor Kurchatov, this is where the arms race became a two-horse event.

      Overnight: Mayak Hotel – another time-warp hotel with period furnishings and decor.

    7. Sunday 29th September

      Kurchatov/Chagan

      • Museum of the Semipalatinsk Test Site – a detailed and deep explanation of what this place is, what happened here, and what effect their inventions can have. Some machines from that time are displayed here too. (note: this museum opens and closes at the whim of higher powers, so its opening cannot be 100% confirmed - if not open we will have a lecture on the history of the area at a different location
         
      • We board our vehicle and take a drive, deep into a formerly off-limits (very off limits!) area; the Semipalatinsk Polygon – nuclear testing ground chosen due to its remoteness, lack of population, and because it seemed like a good spot to blow a few things up. we provide protective gear of course
         
      • Next stop is Chagan – once a deeply secret long-range bomber base. Now a deeply abandoned former long-range bomber base. See the massive runways, the remaining ammunition hangars, and the collapsing main buildings of the base. Plus the garrison town nearby which housed the base staff from 1954 to 1994 and now stands completely stripped like a spooky post-apocalyptic warning. A bit of UrbEx here
         
      • We will visit a local family who used to live in Chagan - hear their stories of what it was like living at the front line of the Cold War so far in the USSR interior, and what things have been like for them since the base closed and their lives changed forever.

      Overnight | Mayak Hotel

    8. Monday 30th September

      Semey

      • We leave Kurchaov and the Polygon/Test Field behind us today as we return to Semey. Semipalatinsk is actually the former name of this city; correctly it is now referred to as Semey, we explore with a city tour of this little-visited settlement.
         
      • We will spend some time with a very special group of people - a local school who specialise in teaching disadvantaged children from more modest backgrounds. They teach English to a very high level here and we will meet with some teachers and children from the school who will give us some information about their hometown, give us a performance, and give us a chance to learn from these kids as well as helping them with a chance for conversation time with visitors - this is another Koryo Tours exclusive and something you will never forget
         
      • After lunch we liberate you for free time – a couple of recommendations include;​​​​​​ Fine Arts Museum – not just the best collection in Kazakhstan but also a display of abnormal anatomy, something quirky and troubling (especially with our trip to the nuclear test site coming up)
        Stronger Than Death Monument – in the Tatar section of town (itself an attraction we will explore some more) – shows the resilience of those who live and have lived in this remote part of the world.
         
      • Free time from the later afternoon to explore the city, have an evening out away from the shadow of nuclear tests and enjoy a very unique place indeed on a very special day.

      Overnight: Semey Hotel – very Soviet-style place with an aesthetic unlike what you may be used to! All the charm of the late-USSR but with free wifi! You’ll love it!

    9. Tuesday 1st October

      Semey/Almaty

      • Once upon a time Semipalatinsk was a wealthy trading city, situated between China and Russia, and acted as a gateway to the Central Asian territories added to the Russian Empire in the 19th Century. We will explore mainly on foot and see buildings from various eras, statues and monuments, mosaics and a little-known part of history. All explained to us as we make our way on a short walking tour around this unexpectedly-charming place. Sites we visit include...
         
      • Lenin Alley – a common sight in Kazakhstan’s smaller cities; a collection of Lenin's in a nice park setting. The central piece is awe-inspiring.
         
      • Victory Park – with statues, tank monument, and a hang-out place for locals.
         
      • Dostoyevsky Museum – the titan of Russian Literature, was exiled out here in Semipalatinsk and this museum explains the importance of his works. Pro-tip: read Crime and Punishment before your visit.
         
      • After an early lunch we head to Semey Airport for a flight to Almaty - the former capital and the most charming city in the country
         
      • We transfer to our hotel and you can head out for exploring, enjoying the very lively coffee shop scene, hot up some amazing restaurants and bars, pamper yourself at a beauty centre. Do whatever you like in this very modern but also laid-back place. You've earned it after the long journeys of the last few days!

      Overnight: Hotel Kazakhstan – a towering monstrosity offering great views over the city as well as faded-luxury. An iconic structure in an iconic city; ideal for finishing off our Kazakhstan adventure

    10. Wednesday 2nd October

      Almaty

      • We embark on a walking tour of this amazing city - Almaty. Nestled against the precipitous Tian Shan Mountain range and dotted with parks, theatres, boulevards, and much more. Sites we visit include...
      • Almaty Metro – one of only two subway systems in the whole of Central Asia (the other is the Moscow knock-off in Tashkent) this system opened in 2012 and strikes a balance between Moscow opulence and modern efficiency
      • Green Bazaar & Rakhat Chocolate Factory – these neighbouring sites are local institutions. You can smell the sweetness from the latter all across this part of the city. Banter and barter with sellers in the market, pick up the apples that Almaty is known for as well as all manner of other delicious local delicacies. Get your sweet tooth into action with the terrific and very affordable selection at the chocolate factory (ideal for gifts too!)
         
      • Panfilovets Park – Almaty's main place of leisure. Very pleasant and marked with stunning and evocative monuments to the Kazakh soldiers who fell while fighting to defend Moscow from the Nazi invasion. Zenkov Cathedral is also located in this park.
         
      • Central Mosque – With its broad ethnic mixture and clear secularism, it is easy to forget that Kazakhstan is a majority-Muslim country. We’ll have a look at the main mosque in Almaty to see how the locals worship and what their faith means to them.
         
      • Arbat Street – every good former USSR town has one; a pedestrian area ideal for promenading, window shopping, café culture, public art sales, and so on. This one is very modern, and is lined with some great examples of brutalist apartment buildings.
         
      • Kok-Tebe – a cable car ride up to a mountain overlooking the city. Amazing views, a statue of the Beatles, A Ferris Wheel and toboggan ride, small zoo, bars, and entertainment in general. Simply put, this is the city’s best spot and a very popular area for local families, youths, and everyone really. We’ll have a final lunch of the tour along the way. A fitting relaxing end to an intense, mind-blowing week!

      Overnight: Hotel Kazakhstan

    11. Thursday 3rd October

      Departure Day

      • Flights leave from Almaty airport to various destinations both international and domestic. Let us know where you are going and we will get you there on time!
         
      • You may also wish to spend more time in Almaty, a truly lovely city – walkable, friendly people, lots to see and do. We recommend continuing at least one more day to make the most of the trip – you won’t regret it!

      Don’t forget that Almaty is also very close to the border with Kyrgyzstan – the capital city of Bishkek is just a few hours away and there are buses and shared taxis plying this route very frequently. We can help with this if you like and can recommend a visit to Bishkek too.

      TOP RECOMMENDATION – Join our tour of TURKMENISTAN! If you take this option not only do you join the ranks of Koryo Tours’ extra-special veterans but you also get an extra night in Ashgabat (free of charge). We fly from Almaty to Turkmenistan this afternoon and when there we meet our local partners and have time to relax, explore, and do whatever you like really, until the Turkmenistan Tour (more info on this here) begins.

      Continue your Central Asia adventure with us – it’s the best way to see the most amazing parts of the region!

  • Extras

    • Upgrade to your own room in Kazakhstan

      All hotel rooms on our all-inclusive group tours to Kazakhstan feature twin beds, and will be shared. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $50 USD per night

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English-speaking local guide Western tour leader
    • Meals other than those taken at leisure
    • Accommodation Internal flight Internal train
    • All included sightseeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to areas where special permits are required
    • Airport transfers
    • An amazing time in a fascinating country!

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Tips for local guides and drivers
    • Incidentals, extra drinks, etc
    • Optional single supplement: USD 50 per night
    • Visa fee - depending on nationality – most western nationalities do not need visas to Kazakhstan. Please do check first to be sure
    • International flights to/from Kazakhstan not included
  • Notes

    How to Apply: To apply simply click on the application button listed with this tour and fill out the online form, upload a passport copy and photo (or send to us by email) and you can consider yourself to be booked on this adventure! For any questions, comments, etc about this trip get in touch with Simon Cockerell at [email protected] We ask for application to be complete a minimum of one month in advance of the tour, ideally six weeks or more if possible: Please also indicate where you plan to join the tour from and finish the tour by going (we can offer advice on this, drop us a line to discuss it) We also require a deposit to be paid at this time as we start taking on administrative costs as well as an obligation to pay for the visa invitation as soon as we send off an application. We ask for a deposit of 50% of the tour fee. Cancellation & Refunds: Please note that if you require a visa for Kazakhstan you will need to pay this fee yourself. Most visitors do not require visas though. Check https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visa_policy_of_Kazakhstan We practice the same cancellation policy with this tour as we do with our DPRK tours. This is listed on our website T&C. However we do not seek profit from people who cannot go on tours but we do make arrangements and commit to payments in good faith once a booking is received and payment is made. So we always try to refund more than the minimum. As with any trip it is best to be as sure as possible that you will be able to attend the trip when making the final booking. If the tour is cancelled by Koryo Tours for any reason then a full refund is of course made. In all cases we return as much as we can and we do not take a fee for client's cancellation. Please be sure that you will definitely be joining the tour when you send all application details.

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

September 27 - October 8 2024

Golden Eagle Festival and Snow Leopard Tour

Discover Mongolia's stunning Golden
Eagles and elusive Snow Leopards!

Join us as we venture to Mongolia's far west
in search of snow leopards and Kazakh Eagle
hunters!

From 3,745 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

Golden Eagle Festival and Snow Leopard Tour

Discover Mongolia's stunning Golden
Eagles and elusive Snow Leopards!

Join us as we venture to Mongolia's
far west in search of snow leopards
and Kazakh Eagle hunters!

From 3,745 USD per person

  • Overall

    Venture into western Mongolia as we explore the heart of Mongolian culture, discover the vast array of wildlife, and celebrate alongside Eagle Hunters in this jam-packed adventure across the outdoor capital of the world!

    On this adventure, we'll travel from the capital, Ulaanbaatar, out to the far western provinces of Mongolia. This is often described as some of the most beautiful landscapes in the entire country.

    We'll link up with a camel caravan and celebrate a local cultural festival in the provincial capital. Afterwards, we go hiking through the majestic mountains of Khovd Aimag in search of the elusive Snow Leopard.

    To round it all off, we take part in the Golden Eagle Festival. A chance to see these incredible hunting birds put to the test in competition against other regional hunters.

    This tour is, perhaps, our most adventurous trip to Mongolia and will undoubtedly leave you with some incredible memories.

    See below for more information on the itinerary and highlights of this incredible, truly once-in-a-lifetime tour in Mongolia. 

    Highlights

    • Experience Mongolia's true nomadic wilderness & stay in the Altai Mountains.
    • Spend time observing the rare and elusive snow leopard plus other possible rare animal sightings (Saiga Antelope, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, Henderson’s Ground Jay).
    • Enjoy the spectacle of the Golden Eagle Festival. 

     

  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 12
    1. Monday, 28th October

      Arrival day into Ulaanbaatar

      • Meet at the Airport | Whenever you arrive, we'll be there to meet you at Chinggis Khan International Airport and drive you into downtown Ulaanbaatar to your hotel.
         
      • Ulaanbaatar | Our adventure will begin with a walking tour around Mongolia's capital city, starting with the central square. Sukhbaatar Square is the beating heart of Ulaanbaatar. Named after the titular Damdin Sukhbaatar, a leading revolutionary in the early 1920s, the square is surrounded by some of the most important buildings in the city. From the government palace, hosting statues of Chinggis Khan and his descendants, to the Cultural Palace, Art and Drama Theatre, Post Office, and City Government Offices.
         
      • Natural History Museum | Skirting around the side of the Soviet-Era Government Palace, we'll take a walk down one of the city's tree-lined boulevards towards the Natural History Museum.
        Formerly the Museum of Lenin, today this grand building houses exhibits about the prehistory of Mongolia and includes a vast room filled with stuffed animals that we hope to see out in the West (where they'll ideally be alive!).
         
      • State Department Store | Following on from our museum trip, we'll make our way through the bustling back streets to the State Department Store. This is the perfect chance to exchange currency for the local Mongolian Tugrik, find weird and wonderful souvenirs, and stock up on any snacks you might want for the upcoming adventure.
         
      • Beatles Statue | Near the State Department Store is an interesting, yet charming, statue dedicated to the Beatles – so we'll head over here to discover why this Liverpudlian band is commemorated so far away from the UK.
         
      • Finally, we'll head to our first group dinner, where we'll also have our pre-tour briefing. This is the chance to ask any pressing questions, find out about the imminent adventure, and make sure you know how to stay safe during the trip.

      Accommodation: Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar

      Included Meals: Dinner

    2. Tuesday, 29th October

      Flight to Khovd

      • Domestic Flight | It's up and out early this morning as we head out of the city to board our domestic flight from Chinggis Khan International Airport to the far western city of Khovd.
         
      • Khovd Monastery | Once we arrive, before we grab some lunch, we'll make a stop at the Khovd Monastery. A typical small-town Buddhist monastery with some truly incredible architecture and filled with brightly coloured artefacts immaculately kept by the resident monks.
         
      • Steppe Hotel | We'll stop at the hard-to-miss Steppe Hotel for lunch. One of the most modern buildings in the city, this restaurant is also our hotel for the night, so we'll drop off our gear, enjoy some local delicacies, and head out for an adventure in Khovd.
         
      • Local Market | Our first stop is the market. This is the perfect chance to rub shoulders with locals and also an opportunity to pick up any last-minute bits and bobs for our coming expedition. Khovd market has everything – whether you need Wellington boots, a tennis racket, or 500 metres of string – this is the place to go. Grab the phrasebook – this is your chance to try out a little Mongolian language, something which always elicit a happy response from the market vendors.
         
      • Khovd Museum | After the market, we'll head over to the Khovd Museum – dedicated to the surrounding province. This Soviet-style museum hasn't yet got the memo from the modern age and is still very much a communist-era highlight. It'll be our chance to learn about the province that we will soon be travelling through – discovering what wildlife we may encounter and finding out about the people we'll meet along the way.
         
      • We'll end the day with a free evening – your chance to explore downtown Khovd, relax on the rooftop balcony of our hotel, or get an early night before our expedition heads into the true countryside tomorrow.

      Accommodation: Steppe Hotel

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    3. Wednesday, 30th October 

      Join the Camel caravan!

      • Ovoo | Today, the adventure really begins! We'll head out early to make the most of the day. Leaving Khovd, we'll make a stop at a lookout point just outside the city. This will give us a chance to see the Ovoo, which sits atop the mountain outside of Khovd. These Ovoos may look like piles of rocks, often with prayer flags sticking out the top, but they are an artefact of pre-Buddhist Mongolia. Many people here still believe in shamanism, and these Ovoos are home to spirits. Locals will walk around them three times, throwing stones at them to bring themselves good luck. Something we will need for our adventure.
         
      • Camel Caravan | This is where we'll be meeting with a camel caravan travelling from Khovd, through the picturesque landscape, towards the nearby Khar-us Lake.
         
      • The Camel caravan will be reminiscent of the famed tea trail, which saw tea being transported across the region through Mongolia and joining part of the more significant silk route.  
         
      • For those expecting days and weeks out in the wilderness, you may be a little disappointed as this journey is more short-term, looking at how the camels were packed and ridden, and joining the camel herders as they leave the city and head back to their countryside homes. Once loaded, we’ll head out from the city limits and walk and ride these beasts throughout the afternoon, eventually stopping to camp for the night. 

      Accommodation: Camping

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    4. Thursday 31st September. 

      Arrive at Khar-us Lake

      • Today, it’s an early start as we continue travelling with the camel caravan. We depart our campsite once our beats of burden are awake and ready to continue.
         
      • Khar-us Lake | Our destination is the picturesque Khar-us Lake. Here, we’ll bid farewell to our trusty travelling companions, and meet our local drivers and their study off-road vehicles which will carry us through the wilderness of this particularly beautiful region of the country, heading towards the wildlife-ridden mountain camp which will serve as our home for the next few days.

      Accommodation: Jargalan Khairkhan Ger Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    5. Friday, 1st October

      Hiking & Visit a Local Nomad Family

      • This morning, we'll awake to the beautiful scenic surroundings of Khovd Province.
         
      • Hike | After a hearty breakfast to steel ourselves for the day ahead, we'll head out for a leisurely hike through the surrounding mountains. During our hike, we'll have the chance to spot the local wildlife which calls this beautiful region home and also enjoy a relaxing break after a busy few days.
         
      • Local Nomadic Family | In the afternoon, we'll make a stop at a local nomadic family. Countryside people are famously welcoming to outsiders, and so when we see a ger or a yurt set up on the vast steppe, we'll head over to knock on the door and say hello. During our visit, we'll have the chance to see how Mongolians have lived for hundreds of years, with the traditional Mongolian ger having barely changed since the days of Chinggis Khan.
         
      • After enjoying some traditional snacks alongside our new local friends, we'll head back to our ger camp for a relaxing evening.

      Accommodation: Jargalan Khairkhan Ger Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    6. Saturday 2nd October.

      Search for Snow Leopards

      • Snow Leopard | This morning we will head out in search of Mongolia’s elusive mountain beast – the Snow Leopard. There are an estimated 35-40 Snow Leopards in this local region of the Altai Mountains. We’ll spend our day attempting to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
         
      • Observation Points | Our local friends in the mountains have a series of observation points scattered throughout the area which we’ll be able to drive to, followed by a short walk up to the final point. These observation posts are perfect for a snow leopard search, as well as watching for some of the other local wildlife which populates these high mountains and deep valleys.
         
      • Trackers | In addition to their observation posts, our local friends have a team of trackers who spend their time in the mountains tracking these majestical creatures and keeping us updated on any opportunities to catch a glimpse.
         
      • Whilst there is a high chance of seeing these incredible animals, roughly 70%, they are incredible masters of camouflage and are rarely seen, even by locals. However, this area grants us the best possible chance in the world to see these wild beasts up close.
         
      • After our day of mountainous searching, we’ll head back to camp for a well-deserved rest.

      Accommodation: Jargalan Khairkhan Ger Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    7. Sunday 3rd October 

      Discover Mongolia’s Wildlife

      • Wildlife | Today, we’ll head back into the mountains in search of some of the region’s most elusive wildlife.
         
      • Snow Leopards | If we were unsuccessful yesterday, we’ll continue the search for Snow Leopards.
         
      • Altai Mountains | If we manage to spot one, we’ll refocus our plan for today and delve into the wilderness in search of some of the other rare and elusive creatures which have made the Altai mountains their home.
         
      • We may also catch a rare glimpse of the Palla’s cat, a lesser-known, but equally majestic animal which prowls around at altitude hunting for its prey.
         
      • In the evening, we’ll head back down the mountain to a relaxing evening with the group at our local camp.

      Accommodation: Jargalan Khairkhan Ger Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    8. Monday 4th October 

      Venture to Olgii City

      • Khovd City | This morning, we’ll bid goodbye to our countryside hosts and make our way back towards Khovd city. This isn’t our final destination, but we’ll stop for a bite to eat before heading back out on an off-road adventure towards our overnight stop, the city of Olgii – the provincial capital of Bayan-Olgii Aimag.
         
      • We’ll travel many hours off-road towards one of the most beautiful provinces in all of Mongolia to join the many local Eagle Hunters who celebrate and compete with their hunting birds.
         
      • Olgii | Upon arrival in Olgii, we’ll enjoy some dinner at our overnight stop and prepare for a busy day ahead as the Eagle Festival kicks off tomorrow.

      Accommodation: Ger Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    9. Tuesday 5th October 

      Golden Eagle Festival Begins

      • After waking, it's a hearty breakfast to prepare for the day, and not just any day as after breaking camp, we join our host and follow him to the region's biggest event, the Golden Eagle Festival. 
         
      • The Golden Eagle Festival | It began in 1999 and has grown to be the largest event for eagles and their hunters globally and is recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage cultural event.  
         
      • There are smaller, more corporate events across the region, but this is the largest and most traditional. Over 70 hunters are involved yearly who show their Eagle skills and show some more traditional Kazakh games.  
         
      • Once at the festival, we first watch the opening ceremony, which sees each participant parading in on horseback with their eagles.
         
      • The competition gets going when the hunters show their hunting outfits and accessories, with the most elaborate and beautiful receiving the highest points.
         
      • Uriankhai Archery | One of the events at the festival is the Uriankhai archery competition. The Uriankhai are a small ethnic group found in this region and famed for their unique style of archery.
         
      • Bactrian Camel Racing | A unique event held at the festival, making quite a grand photographic opportunity. 
         
      • Kazakh Costumes | There is also an event for couples who parade within the arena showcasing their traditional Kazakh costumes perfect for those into fashion shows. 
         
      • Kazakh Concert | After the events, we will head back to Olgii City and freshen up in our ger camp before heading back out for the evening. This evening, we will enjoy a Kazakh Concert with traditional songs and music within the Bayan Ulgii Theatre, a real soviet gem.

      Accommodation: Ger Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    10. Wednesday 6th October 

      Golden Eagle Festival Day 2

      • Eagle Flying | Today, Is the day when the Golden Eagle Festival gets real, and the anticipated eagle flying begins. So we leave the comfort of our yurts after another great breakfast and arrive early at the event to find the best spot. 
         
      • The day starts with some traditional equestrian activities, some a little comical although all steeped in tradition. 
         
      • Eagle Flight | The first eagle hunter event involves the hunter calling to his eagle, who is atop a nearby mountain. The eagle is expected to fly down and land gracefully on the hunter's arm.  
         
      • Eagle Hunt | The final event sees the eagles tempted to hunt when a horse pulls a lure to simulate a rabbit, hare or fox. This is a real test of not just the hunter's skill in controlling his bird but also showcases the eagle's hunting ability. 
         
      • Closing Ceremony | The grand finale is the closing ceremony that sees winners from each event named and the overall eagle hunting champion crowned. The eagle-hunting champions eagle will then be taken to hunt either a fox or wolf in the wild. Traditionally, this marks the beginning of the eagle-hunting season. 
         
      • We will find time for those all-important photo opportunities with the hunters, their eagles, and their families during the event. 
         
      • Mongolian Throat Singer | Our last night in Bayan Olgii to enjoy an evening meal with our crew as well as the entertainment of a traditional Mongolian throat singer. 

      Accommodation: Ger Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    11. Thursday 7th October

      Return to Ulaanbaatar

      • Ulaanbaatar & City Market | Leaving our horses, camels, Russian jeeps and friends behind for good, we board a plane and return to Ulaanbaatar. This is a free day where you can shop ‘til you drop at the city market. You’ll never find cheaper cashmere, and you might pick up a shamanistic, Buddhist artefact or a relic from Soviet times. 
         
      • Palace of Bogd Khan | History lovers can stop by the winter palace of the Bogd Khan (1869-1922), who became Khagan (theocratic ruler) when the country split from China in 1911. Or you can relax with a coffee or cocktail at an outdoor café and watch this fascinating city unfold before you. Then we’ll meet up for dinner at a local family’s home so that we can see Mongolian home life away from the steppes.

      Accommodation: Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    12. Friday 8th October 

      Departure Day

      • We end our adventure in the morning, with transfers to the airport for international flights. Pack your souvenirs, your dirty clothes and your memories, and have a safe trip home!

      Accommodation: N/A

      Included Meals: Breakfast

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • All Meals
    • All Listed Accommodation 
    • Drivers and Vehicles
    • Local guide
    • Tour leader
    • Internal Flights

    NOT INCLUDED

    • International Flights
    • Mongolian Visa
    • Snacks
    • Alcoholic Drinks
    • Tips
       
  • Notes

    Please note! This tour has been specifically arranged to visit remote areas. As such it may have elements of an expedition about it, due to the nature and ruggedness of the terrain. Due to this, any change in itinerary at the time cannot be helped. We will do our best to keep to the advertised itinerary as closely as possible. However, please be aware that things are subject to change, especially if we encounter any extreme weather conditions. Along the way, all tour decisions will rest with the tour manager and an expedition leader. We will also be taking advice from local people on the ground whose expertise will far exceed our own.

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

October 5 - October 12 2024

Turkmenistan Tour (October): Ashgabat, Darvaza Gas Crater & Beyond

An amazing Turkmenistan
adventure!

Spend 7 nights in Central Asia’s least visited country! Visit Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s
white marble fantasy capital, see the bizarre Darvaza Gas Crater, and explore the coast
of the glorious Caspian!

From 2,400 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

Turkmenistan Tour (October): Ashgabat, Darvaza Gas Crater & Beyond

An amazing Turkmenistan
adventure!

Spend 7 nights in Central Asia’s least visited country! Visit
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan’s white marble fantasy capital, see
the bizarre Darvaza Gas Crater, and explore the coast of the
glorious Caspian!

From 2,400 USD per person

  • Overall

    Join Koryo Tours this October for our Turkmenistan tour as the adventures continue. Turkmenistan is Central Asia’s least visited country.

    This means it may be a bit difficult to access and travel around, but it certainly doesn’t have any less to offer! Join Koryo Tours as we explore the beautiful capital city Ashgabat, camp over at the famous Darvaza Gas Crater, otherwise known as ‘the Gates of Hell’, and be dazzled by the colourful desert canyons to the Caspian Coast.

    As we journey through the country we will see the serious and the sublime, the freaky and the frivolous – join us on this amazing adventure that we simply do better than anyone else. Koryo Tours have been working in Turkmenistan for over a decade. Over this time, we’ve built this special experience through dozens of visits and the best local contacts and relationships meaning our Turkmenistan tours are unrivalled in quality, experience, and fun!

    We look forward to sharing it with you in Turkmenistan!

    This tour will be led by one of our most experienced tour leaders, Rich Beal. Rich has led tours all over the world since 2004 and has been leading tours to Turkmenistan for a decade (and to the rest of Central Asia much longer!). He is incredibly knowledgeable about the area and a great storyteller — ask and he will tell you plenty of fascinating travel anecdotes from his many adventures!

    If dates don’t suit, check out our Turkmenistan tour in May, or contact us to organise a private tour.

    Scroll down for an overview of the Turkmenistan Tour highlights, tour itinerary, transport options, Turkmenistan visa information, and extra add-ons.

    Highlights

    • Ashgabat - All the highlights and local colour Darvaza Gas Crater - The ‘Mouth of Hell’
    • Kow Ata Underground Lake - Natural hot spring 80m under the ground
    • Nisa Fortress – UNESCO listed archaeological site
    • The stunning Yangykala Canyon, known as the ‘Grand Canyon of Central Asia’
    • The Caspian Sea city of Turkmenbashi & the unique & Weird Awaza Area
    • Extend the tour to visit the Capital of the Silk Road – Ancient Merv
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 9
    1. Saturday 5th October 

      Arrival in Ashgabat

      • Assemble in Ashgabat, airport pickups will be arranged wherever you fly in from, and we will have a group dinner to get introduced and start the adventure!
      • For those who arrived in Turkmenistan earlier, there will be an optional walking tour around Ashgabat this afternoon; we'll see some architecture, local markets and a slice of local life. 

      Meals: Dinner 

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat - Built for the 2017 Asian indoor martial arts game, this well-located and modern hotel allows access to malls, shops, and restaurants and provides guests with quality facilities in a fascinating part of the city. Should the heat of the day prove too much you can quench your thirst in the rooftop bar or take a plunge in the included swimming pool.

    2. Sunday 6th October

      Ashgabat City Tour

      • Tolkuchka Bazaar – The nation's largest market, built outside the city and home to various sections selling household goods, clothes, the famous Turkmen carpets, camels & other animals, and much more!
      • Ashgabat Hippodrome – Sunday is a day at the races, with the sacred Ahal-Teke horses in full display.
      • cooking course – for today's lunch, we attend a local restaurant which gives us a tutorial and the opportunity to bake some local Turkmen pies. If it's not for you, don't worry, you'll be able to relax whilst your meal is cooked for you. 
      • Afternoon city tour – Including Independence Park and Monument, Arch of Neutrality topped by the gold statue of Turkmenbashi, Ahal-Teke horses monument, Earthquake Monument and Museum.
      • Free evening for a night out in the city.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat
    3. Monday 7th October

      Darvaza Gas Crater & Bokhurdag

      • Desert adventure! We head off in a fleet of 4x4s into the deep desert today.
      • Bokhurdag semi-nomadic village for a look at what desert life is like today and lunch at a local family home.
      • Onwards to the bizarre mud and water craters, scenes of accidents that opened sinkholes in the desert.
      • Finally, we arrive at the stunning and unforgettable Darvaza Gas Crater in the centre of the country and the scene of a 40-year-old industrial accident that ended with a giant flaming pit burning to this day. A hypnotic sight and one of the strangest and most spectacular things you can possibly see.
      • We camp tonight besides the crater, it is best seen at night, dinner cooked on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Camping at the Darvaza Gas Crater - Camping in the desert with tents, sleeping bags and roll mats provided. we will also provide tents based on your rooming options. this affords us the best opportunity to view the amazing gas crater from before sunset to sunrise.

    4. Tuesday 8th October

      Ashgabat

      • We return to Ashgabat, driving through the morning with a stop at a monument to the suppression of the Basmachi rebellion.
      • Once back in the capital the rest of the day is yours to do with as you please; explore, relax, shop, take a side-trip (drivers are available for hire), we and our local guides can give advice on the spot.

      Meals: Breakfast

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat
    5. Wednesday 9th October

      Nisa Fortress and Kow Ata Underground Lake

      • Nisa Fortress - a UNESCO site and former capital of the mighty Parthian state in ancient times.
      • Ahal-Teke horses are considered as heavenly and sacred beasts in Turkmenistan, this stud farm visit will show you why. Have a ride on one of the horses if you like.
      • We then drive on to the bizarre Kow-Ata underground lake. A Sulphur-heated lake 100m deep underground. Take a swim, explore the cave, and then have lunch at a shashlik restaurant on the spot
      • We will drive in our 4x4 fleet on to the remote city of Balkanabad, this sleepy town is easily explored on foot in a couple of hours of free time before dinner and overnight in a hotel shaped like a giant yurt.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight: Hotel Niebitchi, Balkanabat - Yurt-shaped curiosity in the centre of town, well-situated for wandering around and exploring.

    6. Thursday 10th October

      Yangykala Canyon & Turkmenbashi

      • We drive to the stunning Yangykala Canyon, known as the ‘Turkmen Grand Canyon’ little-known but an absolutely beautiful area with shifting colours in the rocks, amazing formations, and some wonderful photos to be taken.
      • Through the afternoon, we make our way across the country, stopping at scenic areas, pilgrimage sites and so on until we reach our destination: the Caspian sea city of Turkmenbashi and the bizarre ‘touristic zone’ of Awaza. This place has to be seen to be believed and we will have a look around the hotel-covered peninsular before checking in for a relaxing evening at the coast.

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner 

      Overnight: Serder Hotel. A comfortable beachside option. You can also upgrade to the Yelken Yacht Club, the finest establishment in Awaza. Contact us for more details!
    7. Friday 11th October

      Awaza

      • A free morning to relax at the coastal resort of Awaza, try swimming (although the Caspian is a cold sea) or some watersports, wandering around, or even sleeping in!
      • Late morning we will take a boat ride down a canal stretching the length of the Awaza area, see the different architectural styles of the buildings here, all of which have sprung up in the last few years.
      • We will drive to Turkmenbashi city for lunch, the oldest city in the country and one settled by Russians during their invasion from across the sea during the late Great Game.
      • A city tour of Turkmenbashi – the local bazaar, pre-Soviet railway station, Oil Workers’ Square, various monuments, and even a cemetery for Japanese POWs who were brought here to labour after their capture at the end of WWII, and never got home again.
      • Flight back to Ashgabat for the final dinner of the tour, It's time for goodbyes and the last night out, if you’ve got the energy!

      Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner 

      Overnight: Olympia Hotel, Ashgabat
    8. Saturday 12th October

      Departure

      • Departure day – airport transfers are provided for everyone regardless of the time of flight or where you are going.

      End of tour, OR;

      OPTIONAL EXTENSION (+600 EUR)

      Extension Day 1: Mary & Margush

      • Flight from Ashgabat to Mary, in the centre of the country and the nearest city to the ancient silk road metropolis of Merv.
      • Visit Gonur-Deppe (Margush); another ancient city in this area, with some lovely extent architectural features.
      • Back to Mary City and explore this modern town, mix with the locals, go to parks, bars, etc as you like, a sleepy area with welcoming and friendly locals.

      Meals: Breakfast 

    9. Sunday 13th October

      Extension day 2: Ancient Merv

      • Excursion to Ancient Merv, probably the most important city in the world at certain times of its history and a place where you will learn a great deal about the history of Central Asia, the rise and fall of dynasties and cities, the silk road, and human civilisation in this part of the world in general. This vast area is roamed by animals, explorers, extant buildings, ruins, etc. All contributing to a sense of the dynamism of the ancient silk road.
      • In the afternoon you fly back to Ashgabat for a final rest/night out before departure.

        Please let us know if you wish to book an extra night in Ashgabat. the flight should return to the capital at around 8 PM - 9 PM.
  • Extras

    • Upgrade to your own room in Turkmenistan

      The default rooming option for this tour is shared hotel room or tent (one night). Each hotel room on tour has two separate beds. If you'd like a room to yourself then you can upgrade for an extra $50 USD per night

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • English speaking guide
    • Western tour leader
    • Meals
    • Accommodation
    • Internal flights
    • All included sightseeing
    • All taxes & entrance fees to protected areas

    NOT INCLUDED

    • Optional extension to Merv is USD 600
    • Optional single supplement: USD 55 per night
    • Visa issuing fee - USD 80 to USD 140, depending on nationality
    • Room extension - USD 120
    • International flights to/from Turkmenistan not included
    • Return flights from Beijing to Ashgabat cost approximately USD 1000 Return flights from London to Ashgabat cost approximately USD 1040 (Estimates only, we can book these tickets for you or you can purchase separately)
  • Notes

    HOW TO APPLY

    Please email Rich Beal at [email protected] the following information a minimum of one month in advance of the tour, ideally six weeks or more if possible: Full Name Gender Date of Birth Passport Number Address Job Title Company Details of any previous visits to Turkmenistan Please also indicate where you plan to join the tour from (London, Beijing, Istanbul etc). We also require a deposit to be paid at this time as we start taking on administrative costs as well as an obligation to pay for the visa invitation as soon as we send off an application. We ask for a deposit of 50% of the tour fee. You must apply at least 4 weeks before the tour departure date as the Letter of Invitation that we need to obtain in order to facilitate the visa can take several days to be issued by the Turkmenistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We can arrange to have the visas issued on arrival at Ashgabat airport or any other point of entry to the country, but if you would prefer to have it issued at the Turkmenistan Embassy in your home country or have any questions at all about the visa process (it is rather complicated!) please contact us early! the LOI's will be issued to coordinate as closely as possible with the tour dates if you need extra days at each end of your journey please do let us know in advance of your application. If you are joining the tour from somewhere other than Beijing and buying a ticket via our offices we email the e-ticket voucher to you and also inform you if anyone else is joining the tour from your place of departure so that you can meet up on the way to join the tour. If you are purchasing your own flight ticket via alternate airlines or agents we need these flight details ASAP. We, unfortunately, can not accept any liability for delayed flights and any issue associated with times associated letters of invitations. It is entirely possible to join the tour by flying in from other destinations also. We can also accommodate people joining the tour after entering by land or sea, and a range of exit methods are available to those joining this tour. Single supplement is available on this tour at 55 USD per night, if you are travelling alone and wish to share a room to avoid this fee we will attempt to match you up with another traveller. You will also have to pay the visa issuing fee, at Ashgabat airport this ranges from US$80 to $150 (depending on nationality) payable in cash only.

    CANCELLATION & REFUNDS

    Please note that for this tour you are required to pay the fee for the issuance of the visa yourself. Due to the extended amount of time that it takes to have a visa authorized and sent to an Embassy of Turkmenistan it is much simpler to collect the visa on arrival at Ashgabat Airport, the fee payable here varies according to your nationality, its usually around US$100. The visa is stamped in your passport and is the same as it would be if issued at a Turkmen Embassy. If you insist on having your visa issued at an Embassy, then please be sure to apply for the tour as early as possible. The deposit is non-refundable if the tourist cancels himself. If however, we cannot arrange visas or for whatever reason, it is not possible to travel at the specified time (or you cannot make rescheduled dates) a full refund will be made. Should the client wish to cancel after visa application has been made, charges imposed on us will be paid out of the 50% deposit with the balance being returned to the client. If you have paid in full we will return 50% plus the balance of what is left after the cancellation fee we pay to our partners in Turkmenistan. If you book and cancel a plane ticket through us we charge only the airline’s cancellation fee. In all cases we return as much as we can and we do not take a fee for client's cancellation. Please be sure that you will definitely be joining the tour when you send all application details.

Please apply by 1st September, 2024.

January 2 - January 18 2025

Mongolia Snow Leopard Tour

An Expedition to Discover and observe
the endangered Snow leopard in Mongolia

Travel with us as we journey to Mongolia's far west in search
of the elusive snow leopard and other endangered yet fascinating
species.

From 4,750 USD per person

Please apply by 1st January, 2025.

Mongolia Snow Leopard Tour

An Expedition to Discover and observe
the endangered Snow leopard in Mongolia

Travel with us as we journey to Mongolia's
far west in search of the elusive snow
leopard and other endangered yet fascinating
species.

From 4,750 USD per person

  • Overall

    Venture into western Mongolia as we explore the heart of Mongolian wildlife, discover the vast array of creatures that call this region home, and search throughout the mountains for the elusive Snow Leopard.

    On this adventure, we’ll fly out from the bustling capital, Ulaanbaatar, and head out to the far west of Mongolia.

    The province of Khovd sits near the border with China and Kazakhstan and is one of the most beautiful regions in the entire country if not the continent. We’ll set out aboard our trusty 4x4s into the wilderness of this region in search of some of the world’s most incredible wildlife.

    On our journey, we’ll search for wild horses, track down Saiga Antelope, and, of course, the elusive and majestic Snow Leopard. Whilst these beautiful cats are notorious for being difficult to track down, our local friends in the region have an incredible track record of catching a glimpse of Snow Leopards, so we’re in good hands on our adventure.

    In addition to Snow Leopards, we may also catch a glimpse of the extremely rare Palla’s Cat, the Mongolian Gazelle, and the plethora of other flora and fauna which grace these incredible peaks and deep mountain valleys.

    See below for more information on our Mongolia Snow Leopard Tour itinerary and highlights. 

    Interested in Mongolian Golden Eagles? Check out our Mongolian Golden Eagle and Snow Leopard Tour combining both of these Mongolian beauties. 

    Highlights

    • Experience Mongolia's true nomadic wilderness.
    • Spend time observing the rare and elusive snow leopard whilst staying in the Altai Mountains.
    • The beautiful Przewalski's (Takhi) horse and other possible rare animal sightings of Saiga Antelope, Pallas’s Sandgrouse, and Henderson’s Ground Jay.
  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 13
    1. Monday 6th January 

      Arrive into Ulaanbaatar

      • Meet at Hotel | Whenever you arrive, we'll be there to meet you at Chinggis Khan International Airport and drive you into downtown Ulaanbaatar to your hotel.
         
      • Central Ulaanbaatar | Our adventure will begin with a walking tour around Mongolia's capital city, starting with the central square. Sukhbaatar Square is the beating heart of Ulaanbaatar – named after the titular Damdin Sukhbaatar, a leading revolutionary in the early 1920s, the square is surrounded by some of the most important buildings in the city – from the government palace, hosting statues of Chinggis Khan and his descendants, to the Cultural Palace, Art and Drama Theatre, Post Office, and City Government Offices.
         
      • Natural History Museum | Skirting around the side of the Soviet-Era Government Palace, we'll take a walk down one of the city's tree-lined boulevards towards the Natural History Museum. Formerly the Museum of Lenin, today this grand building houses exhibits about the prehistory of Mongolia. It includes a vast room filled with stuffed animals that we hope to see out in the West (where they'll ideally be alive!).
         
      • State Department Store | Following on from our museum trip, we'll make our way through the bustling back streets to the State Department Store – the perfect chance to exchange currency for the local Mongolian Tugrik, find weird and wonderful souvenirs, and stock up on any snacks you might want for the upcoming adventure.
         
      • Beatles Statue | Near the State Department Store is an intriguing, yet charming, statue dedicated to the Beatles – so we'll head over here to discover why this Liverpudlian band is commemorated so far away from the UK.
         
      • Evening Briefing | Finally, we'll head to our first group dinner, where we'll also have our pre-tour briefing. This is the chance to ask any pressing questions, find out about the imminent adventure, and make sure you know how to stay safe during the trip.

      Accommodation: Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar

      Included Meals: Dinner

    2. Tuesday 7th January

      Flight to Khovd/Drive to the Snow Leopard encampment.

      • Internal Flight | It's up and out early this morning as we head out of the city to board our domestic flight from Chinggis Khan International Airport to the far western city of Khovd.
         
      • Ovoo | Leaving Khovd, we'll make a stop at a lookout point just outside the city. This will give us a chance to see the Ovoo, which sits atop the mountain outside of Khovd. These Ovoos may look like piles of rocks, often with prayer flags sticking out the top, but they are an artefact of pre-Buddhist Mongolia. Many people here still believe in shamanism, and these Ovoos are home to spirits. Locals will walk around them three times, throwing stones at them to bring themselves good luck. Something we will need for our adventure!
         
      • Local Shaman | It’s here where we’ll visit a local shaman. Shamanism continues to be an important aspect of life in Mongolia, and these traditional figures are considered to be finely tuned with the natural environment and the wildlife that surrounds them.
         
      • Mountains & Forests | After we’ve had our journey blessed by the shaman and been granted luck for the coming days, we’ll leave the city and make our way east towards the mountains, forests, and valleys which serve as home for the elusive snow leopard.
         
      • Snow Leopard Camp | Over the next week, we’ll traverse the area we’re now driving through hoping to catch a glimpse of these majestic mountain cats, and hopefully get some stunning photos in their natural habitat.

      Accommodation: Snow Leopard Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    3. Wednesday 8th January

      Search for the Snow Leopards Day 1

      • Snow Leopard | This morning, we will head out in search of Mongolia’s elusive mountain beast – the Snow Leopard. There are an estimated 35-40 Snow Leopards in this local region of the Altai Mountains, and we’ll spend our day attempting to observe these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
         
      • Altai Mountains | Our local friends in the mountains have a series of observation points scattered throughout the area which we’ll be able to drive to, followed by a short walk up to the final point. These observation posts are perfect for a snow leopard search, as well as watching for some of the other local wildlife which populates these high mountains and deep valleys.
         
      • Observation Posts & Local Spotters | In addition to their observation posts, our local friends have a team of trackers who spend their time in the mountains tracking these majestical creatures and keeping us updated on any opportunities to catch a glimpse.
         
      • Over the next six days, we’ll be traversing five total peaks in the surrounding area, each with dedicated observation posts in search of Snow Leopards and other incredible wildlife.
         
      • Back to Camp & Rest | After our day of mountainous searching, we’ll head back to camp for a well-deserved rest.

      Accommodation: Snow Leopard Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    4. Thursday 9th January

      Search for the Snow Leopards Day 2

      • Snow Leopards | This morning, we’ll enjoy a hearty breakfast and set out for our second day of searching amongst the peaks and valleys of the region.
         
      • Viewpoints | Depending on our success so far, we’ll head further afield to different viewpoints in our ongoing search for Snow Leopards. In addition, we will keep an eye open for some of the regions' other aforementioned wildlife.
         
      • Other Wildlife | If we’re really lucky, we may catch sight of the extremely rare Palla’s Cat. Mongolia is home to the largest population of Palla’s Cats in the world, however, they are hard to spot as they have extremely expansive territories. Ground squirrels are their favourite food, and the best chance to spot these predators is while they’re waiting for these small rodents to pop out of their holes.

      Accommodation: Snow Leopard Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    5. Friday 10th January

      Search for Snow Leopards Day 3

      • Snow Leopards | This morning, we’ll venture back out into the wilderness in our continuing search for Snow Leopards.
         
      • Depending on our success so far, our spotters will hopefully have worked out the ideal spot for our observations today.
         
      • Steppe Eagle | As we head off into the mountains, we’ll no doubt catch a glimpse of the steppe eagle. At this time of year, the eagles have begun to malt their summer coats and instead are a lighter, more camouflaged colour. This makes them harder to spot on their rocky perches, but no less beautiful to witness gliding silently above us.

      Accommodation: Snow Leopard Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    6. Saturday 11th January 

      Searching for Snow Leopards Day 4

      • Today marks the halfway point of our hunt in the wilderness. For those that wish, there is always the option to spend the day relaxing at the camp, taking in the surroundings, and spending some free time taking a break from our wild escapades.
         
      • Wildlife | However, for those keen to continue to search, we’ll head out once more, following the path of wolves, ibex, and gazelles as we make our way to today’s viewing point in the hope of catching that glimpse of silver fur that is unmistakably a Snow Leopard.

      Accommodation: Snow Leopard Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    7. Sunday 12th January

      Searching for Snow Leopards Day 5

      • Penultimate Day | The hunt continues on our penultimate day at the camp.
         
      • Adaptive Search Tactics | Today, we’ll be able to adapt our search tactics based on our experiences over the past few days to maximize the chance of a Snow Leopard encounter.
         
      • Trekking | Once again, we’ll depart the camp in our trusty vehicles, and spend our day trekking amongst the wildlife of Khovd Province to our observation spot. After which, we’ll return for a relaxing evening.

      Accommodation: Snow Leopard Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    8. Monday 13th January 

      Searching for Snow Leopards Day 6

      • Final Snow Leopard Trip | Whether or not we’ve seen Snow Leopards so far on the trip, we’ll head out one final time with all the experiences of the past few days behind us, hoping for an encounter with these incredible creatures.
         
      • Evening at Camp | In the evening, we’ll enjoy one final evening at our camp, reminiscing about the various creatures we’ve seen, and hopefully sharing our leopard photos!
         
      • Finally, it’s off to sleep in preparation for a long journey tomorrow. As we depart the home of the Snow Leopard, it’s not quite yet time to pack away your cameras and binoculars as our next stop offers more chances to view Mongolia’s incredible wildlife.

      Accommodation: Snow Leopard Camp

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    9. Tuesday 14th January

      Drive to the Wild Horse Camp

      • Khomyn Tal National Park Drive | Today we’ve got a long journey ahead of us as we depart the Snow Leopard Camp and make the roughly 100km drive off-road to the Khomyn Tal National Park.
         
      • Landscapes | As we drive, we’ll traverse some incredible landscapes. Distant steppe, the edges of the Gobi Desert, frozen rivers, and mountains which rise to pierce the open blue sky above us.
         
      • Today is mostly a day of travelling, an unfortunate by-product of Mongolia being so massive. However, when we arrive we’ll have a late afternoon and evening free to rest, relax, take a short walk, or enjoy a drink as we prepare for the day ahead where we will go in search of another of Mongolia’s wild beasts.

      Accommodation: Khomyn Tal National Park

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    10. Wednesday 15th January 

      Searching for Wild Horses

      • Khomyn National Park | Today we’ll set out into the Khomyn National Park. The national park is home to the rare Mongolian wild horse known as Perzevalski or Takhi. Once extinct in the wild, the Perzevalski Horse is a true conservation success story with captive breed horses released into, and then surviving in the wild.
         
      • Initially, these horses were only extant in the Hustai National Park, near Ulaanbaatar. However, their incredible success and growth in numbers means many have been relocated here, to this much more remote park where they continue to live wild. The only such example in the world.
         
      • Takhi Horses & Wildlife | Mid-afternoon offers us the best time to catch a sighting of the beautiful Takhi horses, so we’ll pile into our trucks and drive out into the rolling terrain to spot them coming down from the mountains for water at the nearby river. As well as the famed Perzevalski horse, it is also possible to see foxes, red deer, roe deer, eagles, and other various animals.
         
      • Complete Safari & Return to Camp | After our safari is complete, we’ll head back to the camp for a relaxed evening sharing wildlife photos.

      Accommodation: Khomyn Tal National Park

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
       

    11. Thursday 16th January 

      Return to Khovd.

      • Early Start | Today it's up and out early, bidding goodbye to our remote surroundings we're offroad as we make our way back to Kovd town.
         
      • Khovd Monastery | Once we arrive, we grab some lunch, we'll make a stop at the Khovd Monastery. A typical small-town Buddhist monastery with some truly incredible architecture and filled with brightly coloured artefacts and immaculately kept by the resident monks.
         
      • Steppe Hotel | We'll stop at the hard-to-miss Steppe Hotel for a late lunch. One of the most modern buildings in the city. This restaurant is also our hotel for the night, so we'll drop off our gear, enjoy some local delicacies, and head out for an adventure in Khovd.
         
      • Local Market | Our first stop is the market. The perfect chance to rub shoulders with locals and also an opportunity to pick up any last-minute souvenirs. Khovd market has everything. Whether you need wellington books, a tennis racket, or 500 metres of string. This is the place to go. Grab the phrasebook. This is your chance to try out a little Mongolian language, something which always elicits a happy response from the market vendors.
         
      • Khovd Museum | After the market, we'll head over to the Khovd Museum – dedicated to the surrounding province. This Soviet-style museum hasn't yet got the memo from the modern age and is still very much a communist-era highlight. It'll be our chance to learn about the province we've spent our last few days.

      Accommodation: Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar

      Included Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

    12. Friday 17th January

      Return to Ulaanbaatar

      • Today, we say goodbye to our amazing team in Khovd and catch our flight back to the capital, Ulaanbaatar.
         
      • Ulaanbaatar City | This afternoon offers us the chance to explore some of the city alone, whether shopping, visiting a few extra museums, or just relaxing. Make sure to meet this evening for a well-deserved last group meal where we can reminisce about our adventures.

      ​​​​​​​​​​Accommodation: Hotel 9, Ulaanbaatar

      Included Meals: Dinner

    13. Saturday 18th January 

      Departure Day

      • We end our adventure in the morning, with transfers to the airport for international flights. Pack your souvenirs, your dirty clothes and your memories, and have a safe trip home!

      Accommodation: N/A

      Included Meals: Breakfast

  • What is / is not included?

    INCLUDED

    • All Meals
    • All Listed Accommodation 
    • Drivers and Vehicles
    • Local guide
    • Tour leader
    • Internal Flights

    NOT INCLUDED

    • International Flights
    • Mongolian Visa
    • Snacks
    • Alcoholic Drinks
    • Tips
  • Notes

    Please note! This tour has been specifically arranged to visit remote areas. As such it may have elements of an expedition about it, due to the nature and ruggedness of the terrain. Due to this, any change in itinerary at the time cannot be helped. We will do our best to keep to the advertised itinerary as closely as possible. However, please be aware that things are subject to change, especially if we encounter any extreme weather conditions. Along the way all tour decisions will rest with Rich (tour manager) and an expedition leader. We will also be taking advice from local people on the ground whose expertise will far exceed our own. The team we use to visit the snow leopards have a very high success rate although sightings can never be 100% guaranteed.

Please apply by 1st January, 2025.

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