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 2022 — 1 tour

May 14 - May 20 2022

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 2,000 USD per person

Please apply by 1st May, 2022.

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 2,000 USD per person

  • Overall

    A new Mongolia tour for 2022, 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. 

    We may also have the opportunity to ride upon a Soviet-built T55 tank. 

  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 7
    1. Saturday, May 14th 

      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 15th 

      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 16th 

      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 17th 

      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 18th 

      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 19th 

      Today, you may get the chance to leave Ulaanbaatar and head to one of the military areas outside of the city for a chance to ride on an authentic Soviet T-54 Tank still operating in this fascinating country.

      Before the COVID situation affected the globe, we had guaranteed permission, but due to the ever-changing travel situation, this now cannot be confirmed until one month before the tour. Should it not be possible to ride and view the tanks or you do not wish to do so, we’ll run the itinerary below:

      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 20th

      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 
    • T55 Tank excursion (passengers will be informed in advance).

Please apply by 1st May, 2022.

July 2022 — 2 tours

July 1 - July 13 2022

Naadam Festival Mongolia Tour: Beyond the Steppe

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, 2022.

Naadam Festival Mongolia Tour: Beyond the Steppe

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. Friday 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. Saturday 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. Sunday 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. Monday 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. Tuesday 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. Wednesday 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. Thursday, 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. Friday 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. Saturday 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. Sunday 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. Monday 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. Tuesday 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. Wednesday 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

    • 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.

Please apply by 6th June, 2022.

July 12 - July 19 2022

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, 2022.

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. Tuesday, 12th July

      Ulaanbaatar

      No matter your arrival time, as with all our tours, the Absolute Nomads 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 5 minutes walk from the main square. This hotel offers a great location from which to walk out and explore the city.

    2. Wednesday, 13th 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.

      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.

      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. Thursday, 14th 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.

      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.

      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. Friday, 15th July

      The Singing sand dunes of Khongoryn Els

      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.000 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. Saturday 16th July

      To the Flaming Cliffs

      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.

      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!

      We will also take a walk amongst the lower regions of Bayanzag, nicknamed by some as Mongolia’s answers to the Grand Canyon; they clearly 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. Sunday 17th 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.0000 Following breakfast, we make our way across 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 rising 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.

      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. Monday 18th July

      Return 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.

      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 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.

      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 prepare for our last group meal together.

      Meals | Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight | Hotel in Ulaanbaatar.

    8. Tuesday 19th 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, 2022.

September 2022 — 1 tour

September 24 - October 4 2022

Mongolia - Golden Eagle Festival Tour

10 unforgettable
Mongolian nights

Join us as we depart Ulaanbaatar travel
to Altai Tavan Bogd in search of Kazakh
Eagle hunters!

From 2,800 USD per person

Please apply by 1st September, 2022.

Mongolia - Golden Eagle Festival Tour

10 unforgettable
Mongolian nights

Join us as we depart Ulaanbaatar
travel to Altai Tavan Bogd
in search of Kazakh Eagle hunters!

From 2,800 USD per person

  • Overall

    This tour takes us across Mongolia and out to the far west to witness an event that is certainly one of Mongolia’s most incredible spectacles, if not the world’s; the Golden Eagle Festival. It’s one thing to watch a local Kazakh Eagle Hunter working alongside his expertly trained bird, but imagine 70 such hunters all competing against one another against a backdrop of snow-capped Mongolian mountains. That’s the Eagle Festival! We’ll explore the capital, Ulaanbaatar, before catching a flight out to Bayan Olgii, one of the largest cities in the far-west. Here we’ll explore the region’s incredible sights such as the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park and the Khurgan & Khoton Lakes, to name but a few. Sightseeing over, we’ll head to Sagsai Village to witness the festival. We’re heading this far away from modern civilization to get a real sense of how the locals celebrate this festival as opposed to the over-commercialised versions taking place in other cities across Mongolia. It truly is something you’ll not want to miss and will never forget!

    **As with all our tours, we pay great attention to your safety. Of course, we will be delivering even greater care this year due to the ongoing COVID situation. Although Mongolia is one of the best countries globally for social distancing (due to its low population level and vast open spaces), all travellers will be issued masks daily and hand sanitisers available throughout travel. This tour is available for booking, although we will not ask for a tour deposit until we can 100% guarantee your place on this adventure!**

    Highlights

    Experience the Kazakh Golden Eagle festival -- the biggest festival of the year for Kazakhs Visit Mongolian Kazak and Tuva nomadic families Enjoy camel trekking and horseback riding Hike the great mountains (with views across to Russia and China) Explore the Altai and Bayan Ulgii region of Mongolia Marvel at the skill of local eagle hunters. We'll stop at glaciers, mountains and waterfalls all the while sleeping in Tents, gers and yurts 

  • Itinerary

    Day 1 of 11
    1. Saturday 24th September.

      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 another city walk, this time by night. Get a glimpse of Sükhbaatar Square, named for revolutionary hero Damdinii Sükhbaatar; its perfect geometric angles make this – technically – the world's largest square. The statues of Genghis Khan and other Mongolian generals are even more impressive when all lit up.

      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 25th September.

      Tour of the city, and then fly to Bayan Olgii.

      We start our day at Gandantegchinlen, Ulaanbaatar's largest Buddhist monastery, where we can see practising monks and learn about the role of Mongolia's largest religion.

      • Then it's back to the city centre, where we'll stop off 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 time 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.
      • We'll then see Sükhbaatar Square by day and then head to the National Historical Museum, which takes us through Mongolian history from the Stone Age to the collapse of Communism. We'll also see the Natural History Museum, filled with those dinosaur fossils the country is known for.
      • After lunch, we'll take a two-hour flight to Bayan Olgii and pile into Russian jeeps for a short drive to our accommodation for tonight, the traditional Kazakh yurt. Once we have had a bite to eat and you've settled into your home away from home, we will head into the city for a little exploration.
      • First, stop the Olgii Museum; it may have that mothballed Soviet feel about it; however, the guides there and exhibits give us a great overview of the region, its history and culture.
      • Olgii Market is a perfect site to pick up extras for those who have realised you've under packed towels, old Russian army jackets and blankets are just some of the things you can pick up here; if you don't need to shop, then people watching and photography is also an option.
      • The Central Mosque a great way to begin our look at Bayan Olgii by learning 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.
      • Before heading to our ger camp, our final stop will be to pick up a few supplies for the coming days in a nearby supermarket.

      This evening after a true Kazakh meal, we'll have the chance to listen to some traditional Kazakh music as a local group trying to keep the tradition alive 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 and a restaurant area where our chief can provide more delicious food.

    3. Monday 26th September.

      Sagaan Gol and Shiveet Khairkhan Mountain

      Today it's up and out early as the adventure truly begins; we're into our Russian trucks and away! We work our way through mountain passes, river valleys skirting remote villages 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, with more rock carvings and an unforgettable view of Tavan Bogd (Five Saints), a mountain massif on the border of Mongolia, China and Russia. To the indigenous minority Tuvan, Shiveet is sacred – as is the 400 mountain ibex, which are never hunted. Each year the Tuvan climb Shiveet's summit and perform shamanistic rituals, making offerings to the local ghosts and paying ancestral respects. The Tuvan are herders and known for their archery skills. This evening, they'll teach us to cook some of their favourite dishes. And after days of having the locals watch us pitch our tents – and comment on how long it takes us, how thin the material is, and how we'll never survive the night – today we'll build our felt-lined ger (with a little help), to see how the nomads do it.

      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.

    4. Tuesday 27th September.

      Hike to the base camp of Altai Tavan Bogd

      Today we leave our vehicles and heaviest luggage behind, load everything else onto camels, and then trek up Tavan Bogd with a local Tuvan guide. It’s about 15 kilometres to our base camp (camels can also carry tired trekkers), which is located at the edge of Potanin Glacier, the longest in Mongolia – listen carefully, you might hear it cracking. Potanin is at the foot of Malchin Peak, one of Tavan Bogd’s five sacred mountains. This hike will take us through lush alpine tundra and herds of camels, providing fantastic views across the glacier to the peaks. Once at our camp, you're free to explore, relax or sleep but do make time to soak up the stunning scenery. 

      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.

    5. Wednesday 28th September.

      Khurgan and Khoton Lakes

      Another early start sees us trek to our waiting trucks in order to begin our most amazing drive. It's a long but spectacular journey taking us through wildlands, over moraines (glacial debris) and past ancient burial sites, with stone-age rock carvings of animals and hunting scenes covering the mountainside. The wonderful Khurgan and Khoton Lakes lie at an altitude of 2,073 metres and are surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

      We set up camp with a local Kazakh family in the forests fringing these high alpine lagoons. The families here are Kazah eagles hunters and it will be our first opportunity to learn a little more. 

      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.

    6. Thursday 29th September 

      Unseen valleys and hidden waterfalls

       

      As we're in this beautiful region for two nights, there's no need to break camp today. However, those into photography may want to awake early to catch the livestock being milked and released to roam free.

      Today is your free day to further interact with the local family, enjoy a well-deserved rest or join us for a mini-adventure.

      We will carry a packed lunch for those who wish to join, borrow some resident horses, and ride out to Turgen Falls.

      The 36-metre high Turgen falls are some of the largest in Mongolia and make for an excellent photographic opportunity roaring away with the snow-capped Altai mountain as the backdrop. The Turgen falls are beautiful but a little touristy, so we make a slight detour and take a different route from here. Our expert guide knows this region well as we break off the beaten track making our way into the valleys beyond, searching out pure rivers, hidden valleys and unseen hikes; very few travel this way; hiking can be challenging but rewarding.

      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.

    7. Friday 30th September 

      Drive to Sagsai and stay with a Kazakh eagle family

      We leave after a leisurely breakfast, slowly making our way to the heart of the Mongolian Kazakh eagle hunters Sagsai village.

      Our drive to Sagsai traces the route of the Hovd river and is a leisurely scenic journey passing local dwellings set in amongst the beautiful Altai mountains. 

      Sagsai, located high in the Altai mountains region, has for many years been regarded as the home of eagle hunting in Mongolia. This small village is made up of Kazakhs, some semi Nomadic and some more permanent. We call Sagsai our home for tonight as it is here that we stay with an eagle hunter, not just any eagle hunter but one taking part in tomorrows Golden eagle festival. We aim to reach our host family mid-afternoon to learn a little more about how these traditional hunters live and if they have any special preparations for tomorrows big event. 

      Meals |  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

      Overnight |  Camping / Tent. We will build tents as a group next to the local eagle hunting family, our last night under canvas, but what an adventure!

    8. Saturday 1st October.

      Golden Eagle festival Day 1 

      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 regions biggest event, the Golden Eagle festival

      The Golden Eagle Festival began in 1999 and has grown to be the largest event for eagles and their hunters globally and 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 outfit and accessories, with the most elaborate and beautiful receiving the highest points.
      • 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 is also a unique event held at the festival, making quite a grand photographic opportunity. 
      • There is also an event for couples who parade within the arena showcasing their traditional Kazakh costumes perfect for those into fashion shows. 

      After the events, we will head back to Ulgii 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.

      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 and a restaurant area where our chief can provide more delicious food.

    9. Sunday 2nd October. 

      Golden Eagle Festival day 2

      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. 

      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.  

      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 eagles hunting ability. 

      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 within the wild; traditionally, this marks the beginning of the Eagle hunting season. 

      Let's hope our host family win this year!

      We will defiantly find time for those all-important photo opportunities with the hunters, their eagles, and their families during the event. 

      Our last night in Bayan Ulgii sees us enjoy an evening meal with our crew as well as the entertainment of a traditional Mongolian throat singer. 

      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 and a restaurant area where our chief can provide more delicious food.

    10. Monday 3rd October.

      Fly to Ulaanbaatar

      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. 

      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.

      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.

    11. Tuesday 4th 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!

       

  • What is / is not included?

    English speaking guide Western tour leader All meals outside Ulaanbaatar Camels for luggage Internal flights Horse riding All included sight seeing All taxes & entrance fees to protected areas All camping equipment (not sleeping bags.)

    Sleeping bags International flights Any alcoholic beverages Meals where specified Medical insurance (can be arranged.) Visas (if needed) Airport pick up 25 USD one way 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 these areas; it may have elements of an expedition about it due to the nature and ruggedness of the terrain. As such, any change in the itinerary at the time cannot be helped. We will keep to the advertised itinerary as closely as possible, although please be aware that things are subject to change, especially if we encounter 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.

    For those who have booked international flights, should there be any change in the scheduling of these or route cancellation, Koryo tours can not be held liable; however, our crew on the ground will do all they can to help find an alternate flight or make your stay as a little easier.

    We insist that with all of our tours, you book comprehensive travel insurance not only to cover your dates of travel but your departure and return. 

Please apply by 1st September, 2022.

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. Friday 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. Saturday 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. Sunday 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. Monday 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. Tuesday 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. Wednesday 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. Thursday, 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. Friday 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. Saturday 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. Sunday 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. Monday 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. Tuesday 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. Wednesday 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

    • 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.

Please apply by 6th June, 2023.

Next tour departure dates

Soviet Mongolia Tour

View tour

Naadam Festival Mongolia Tour: Beyond the Steppe

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The Gobi Explorer

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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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