Mongolia

Vast, rugged expanses
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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.

View the video

Join us as we uncover the stories surrounding this enigmatic country

We have worked closely with our carefully-selected Mongolian partners to bring you a tour which is more than just a simple visit to their country; this will be a trip that is full of excitement, adventure, and unforgettable moments.

Mongolia is an amazing gem and one of my favourite places on earth both for landscapes and people. I have always felt that when I leave this region the sky never seems as blue, the mountains never as beautiful and the people never as interesting.

— Rich Beal, Koryo Tours

We have worked closely with our carefully-selected Mongolian partners to create tours that are more than just a simple visit to their country; our trips to Mongolia are full of excitement, adventure, and unforgettable moments. The journey will be unique, educational, and fun. For more information please contact us.

Our tours to Mongolia are led by one of our most experienced tour leaders, Rich Beal. Rich has led tours all over the world since 2004. He is personally attached to this particular area, as he has over ten years’ experience in running and designing tours to the region. He has been to Mongolia over 80 times and is incredibly knowledgeable about the country. And, he also happens to be a great storyteller — ask and he will tell you plenty of fascinating travel anecdotes from his many adventures!

Video by Michael Van Gorkom, who travelled with us on our 'Beyond the Steppe' Tour in 2017.

May 2023 — 2 tours

May 13 - May 19 2023

Soviet Mongolia Tour

New 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, 2023.

Soviet Mongolia Tour

New 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

    A new Mongolia tour for 2023, exploring Mongolia's Soviet past.

    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 1950's 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.

    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 13th 

      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 14th 

      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.

      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 15th 

      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 south-east 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.

      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.

      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.

      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 16th 

      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.

      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 around some of the remaining airfield buildings if we’re lucky.

      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.

      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 17th 

      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 still remain and offer us a little more ‘urbex’.

      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!

      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.

      Once we return to Ulaanbaatar, we will visit the home of a local 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 18th 

      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.

      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 statue once stood now stands Mongolia’s very own T-Rex!

      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.

      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 manufacture 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 19th

      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?

    • All Listed Meals
    • All Listed Accommodation
    • Local Guide / Tour Leader
    • Visa Assistance
    • Transport & Driver
    • Water
    • National park entrance fees 
    • site entrance fees
    • Flights to/from Mongolia
    • Travel Insurance
    • Snacks/Drinks/Extra Expenses
    • Tips for crew 
    • Meals not listed

Please apply by 1st May, 2023.

May 22 - May 31 2023

The Beauty of Mongolia Tour

Explore the wilds of Central
Mongolia and the Gobi Desert

9 Nights in Central
Mongolia

From 2,100 USD per person

Please apply by 1st May, 2023.

The Beauty of Mongolia Tour

Explore the wilds of Central
Mongolia and the Gobi Desert

9 Nights
in Central
Mongolia

From 2,100 USD per person

  • Overall

    This 9-night 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, before heading south to Mongolia's famed Gobi Desert - 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

    Orkhon Falls are situated in the stunning Orkhon Valley in Central Mongolia - a majestic cascade of water spilling into a deep canyon which cuts through the valley floor like a scar on the land - albeit a very beautiful scar!

    Camel Riding on the Khongor Sand Dunes is a once-in-a-lifetime experience - not only will you get the chance to ride these gentle beasts, accompanied by local camel herders, but you will ride them into the stunning surroundings of the Khongor Sand Dunes - these towering cliffs of sand seem out of place amidst the rest of the, less sandy, Gobi Desert; but this only makes them all the more intriguing and amazing.

    Bayanzag (The Flaming Cliffs) are the site of the first-ever discovery of fossilised dinosaur eggs, on top of that, the stunning red sandstone cliffs sit in the middle of the Gobi desert with nothing else for miles around. The opportunities for precarious photos and clambering over red rocks are endless!

  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 10
    1. 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.

      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. 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) 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.

      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.

      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.

      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. After breakfast, we’ll continue the adventure with a drive to the ancient capital of Karakorum and Erdenezuu Monastery.

      Karakorum was 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.

      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. 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.

      The drive to Orkhon takes us through the Khangai mountain range, offering beautiful landscapes comprised of gorges, river valleys, and green steppe.

      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, what we know as the traditional Mongolian writing system that is present on the Mongolia 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.

      From the monastery, we continue the adventure with a final visit of the day to the Orkhon Waterfalls.  Theses 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. 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.

      We pass into Saikhan Ovoo, a small province in Mongolia's heartland patchworked with green steppe, rugged rock formations and almost Martian terrain.

      Our destination? A place of quiet solitude on the Ongiin Gol river known 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. 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), 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 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. 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.

      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 sand 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. After enjoying a filling breakfast in our Ger camp, it's back aboard our vehicles as we continue the adventure.

      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.

      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 (a desert rodent) 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. After an early morning start, we say a fond farewell to the Gobi Desert and board a flight returning to Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar.

      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.

      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.

      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. 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?

    • All Listed Meals
    • All Listed Accommodation
    • Internal Flights
    • Local Guide / Tour Leader
    • Visa Assistance
    • Transport & Driver
    • Water
    • Flights to/from Mongolia
    • Travel Insurance
    • Snacks/Drinks/Extra Expenses
    • Tips for Guides / Tour Leader

Please apply by 1st May, 2023.

July 2023 — 1 tour

July 1 - July 13 2023

Naadam Festival Mongolia Tour: Beyond the Steppe
2023

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 2,900 USD per person

Please apply by 6th June, 2023.

Naadam Festival Mongolia Tour: Beyond the Steppe 2023

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 2,900 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.

    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. Saturday 1st July

      Arrive in Ulaanbaatar

      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.

      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 5 minutes walk from the main square. This hotel offers a great location from which to step out and explore the city.

    2. Sunday 2nd July

      Tour of the city, and then fly to Bayan Olgii

      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.

      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.

      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.

      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. Monday 3rd July

      Khurgan and Khoton Lakes

      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.

      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 are 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. Tuesday 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.

      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!)

      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 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. Wednesday 5th July

      Tsagaan Gol and Shiveet Khairkhan Mountain

       

      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.

      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.

      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. Thursday 6th July

      Hike to the base camp of Altai Tavan Bogd

      We’ll leave our vehicles and none 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.

      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. Friday, 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 mightly White River. Once repacked and refreshed, we’ll continue the adventure and board our UAZs.

      We’ll retrace some of our journey 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. Saturday 8th July

      Drive through Bayan Olgii

      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 is 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.

      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 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. Sunday 9th July

      Drive to and enjoy 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. Monday 10th July

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

      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.

      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.

      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.

      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. Tuesday 11th July

      Experience the local Mongolian 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 gathering for this fantastic event.

      Naadam in Khovd draws people from all over the region, with some locals even returning from overseas. To compete in the traditional events is a real honour – especially wrestling, horse racing and 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, 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. Wednesday 12th July

      Fly 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 really 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.

      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,

      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 appeal 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. Thursday 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 that 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 6th June, 2023.

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[email protected] | + 86 10 6416 7544
Room A409, Jucai Building. No. 76 Caoyuan Hutong.
Dongcheng District, Beijing, 100027, PR China

中国北京市东城区草园胡同76号聚才大厦A 座409 室,
邮编:100027
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