Travel to Mongolia to discover a remote pocket of Asia

Travel to Mongolia and experience the raw beauty and tradition of this remote region. Hidden from the world for many years, it is hard to imagine that this secluded country once created the largest land empire ever known. Unmatched geographical diversity, pristine grasslands, crumbling ruins and roaming herdsmen riding tough Mongolian horses - see it all on this journey through a land that time forgot.

Please note this trip (The CBSF) is unchanged for 2017, however we will have a new special Naadam Festival Itinerary for 2017 which will be 6 days long and under the trip code CBSO. Departures during Naadam will be replaced by the below CBSO itinerary, please check back in a few months for more details on this new itinerary.

CBSO 2017 Itinerary:
1 9th July Ulaanbaatar
2 10th July Ulaanbaatar (Opening Ceremony)
3 11th July Naadam
4 12th July Naadam
5 13th July Terllj
6 14th July Ulaanbaatar

Start
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Finish
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Countries
Mongolia
Themes
Explorer, Festivals and Events
Code
CBSF
Physical rating
Cultural rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 1 Max 12
Carbon offset
596kg pp per trip


Highlights

  • Mongolia is a far-out destination, but you'll be in excellent hands. Your experienced drivers, manning sturdy Russian vans fit to tackle the rugged countryside, will give you a crash course in the language
  • Whether by camel or on foot, experience Mongolia's incredible landscapes, from the rolling dunes of Karakorum to the volcanic craters of the Great White Lake among the mountains
  • Two homestays with local families allow you to experience nomadic life from the inside – a rare, rewarding cultural experience to remember
  • Situated in the valley of the Delger River, the Tsenkeher Hot Springs offer the perfect place to relax and unwind after a long journey on the road

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 January 2016 to 31 December 2016. View the itinerary for departures between 01 January 2017 - 31 December 2017

Sainbainuu! Welcome to Mongolia. You can arrive at any time before your group meeting at 6 pm. The location of this meeting can be found at the hotel reception. Please have your passport, insurance and next of kin information ready to give to your leader at this meeting. Your hotel is located in a quiet residential area within walking distance to Sukhbaatar Square. Afterwards you'll have the option to join your fellow travellers for dinner at a local restaurant. If you arrive in town earlier and have time, be sure to get out and explore 'UB', a fascinating town where elderly Mongolians in traditional dress mingle with the nation's young business elite. A great place to start is Gandan Khiid, Mongolia's largest and most important monastery. The Fine Arts Museum, Winter Palace Museum of Bogd Khan and Intellectual Museum are also well worth visiting.

Notes: Rooms are twin share with private bathrooms. Due to the fact that much of Ulaanbaatar's infrastructure lacks regular maintenance, you may only have access to cold water at your hotel.
Today your adventure begins as you drive out through the beautiful Mongolian countryside (approximately 9 hours). Most of the drive today is on paved roads, but be prepared for some bumps after the final turnoff to the the remote Amarbayasgalant Khiid. Your leader and drivers will be glad to teach you some basic Mongolian words on the way – a great way to prepare for interactions with the locals, few of whom speak English. Your final destination today is Mongolia's second most important place of worship (after Gandan Monastery in UB), situated in the beautiful Iven Gol River valley, at the foot of Burengiin Mountain, in the Selenge province. After seeing the monastery, you will get your first taste of nomadic life at the first ger camp of the trip. This is the way that the majority of Mongolia's population has always lived – away from the city and in the wide open spaces of seemingly endless countryside. It's the quintessential Mongolian experience. Although such camps are set up for visitors, this type of accommodation is still used around the country, even in the capital where you will have seen many 'ger suburbs' surrounding the city centre.
Continue to the lovely Selenge River via the copper mining town of Erdenet (approximately 8 hours). There may be opportunities to spot some interesting wildlife along the way, such as marmots and many different species of birds. You will arrive at your ger camp in the settlement of Unit in the afternoon. Stretch your legs on arrival and take a walk up to the Togoo Uul (Pot Mountain) – an extinct volcano looming over the surrounding steppe. The hike to the top rewards you with views of the crater's lush interior. From this vantage, you can only imagine what this incredible landscape must have looked like millions of years ago. 
Today your journey (approximately 9 hours) brings you to the mountainous outskirts of Ikh Uul for your first stay with a local nomad family. This is a rare opportunity to see how modern Mongolian nomads are preserving an ancient way of life while embracing some elements of modernity. You will be welcomed into the family ger and shown traditional Mongolian hospitality, starting with a bowl of salty milk tea and perhaps some aaruul (dried curds). This evening you will help your hosts prepare dinner – maybe some buuz (steamed dumplings) or barbecue. Your hosts may teach you some Mongolian games, such as shooting arrows from a bow in the local style. Many nomad families keep animals, so don't be surprised if there is some interaction with goats, dogs, horses and sheep. The location is remote, with no nearby settlements or light pollution. The night sky is incredible in clear weather, so be sure to do some stargazing before retiring for the evening.

Notes: The conditions are very basic here, and this homestay may be a culture shock for some. There are no toilet facilities as such; your leader will point you in the right direction of the 'bathroom'. You will sleep in a mattress on the floor of one of the family's gers. It can get very chilly here in the evenings, so warm clothes are essential. There is also a one-camera policy on these homestays, which makes for a more immersive engagement with hosts and minimises intrusion. This is one way you can live the philosophy of responsible travel while in Mongolia. (Photos can be copied and shared among the group back in UB.)
Enjoy breakfast with your host family and bid them farewell. It's a long day of driving today, across some rough terrain, to Khovsgol Lake (approximately 9 hours). This is arguably Mongolia's most beautiful destination, a pristine wilderness area that's home to many ethnic minorities. It boasts spectacular scenery with stunning fir forests, lush green grasslands and meadows peppered with wildflowers. Since it is a popular destination for both foreign tourists and local holiday makers, you will likely come across other travellers here, especially in the peak travel months of June and July. You'll stay in a tourist ger camp just near the lake. Settle in for the night and sleep well, because there are plenty of optional activities to choose from tomorrow.
Today you might like to hike up to one of the nearby peaks, visit a local shaman, or perhaps take a boat trip out on the lake. All of these are great ways to experience this gorgeous region. Tonight you will stay in a tourist ger camp near the lake.

Notes: While you're here, the camp staff might offer you the option to visit a local settlement of reindeer herders. The reindeer are brought to Lake Khovsgol so the herders can benefit from tourism. This area, however, is not ideal for the reindeer, as they are native to much colder climates. For this reason, Intrepid does not recommend this activity.
On Day 7 you will set off early to drive back through the town of Murun, and on to Shine Ider (approximately 10 hours). Here you will enjoy the second family stay of your trip. Now that you know what to expect from a Mongolian homestay, you should feel more comfortable the second time around. Get to know your hosts as you help them prepare dinner. You might even have the chance to watch as the family's livestock are milked and herded. On Day 8, after breakfast with the family, you'll drive to the surreal Lake Terkhiin Tsagaan, aka the Great White Lake (approximately 7 hours). This natural volcanic lake, surrounded by mountains, is a surreal and memorable sight. Using the tourist ger camp at Maikhan Tolgoi as a base, you will drive up to one of the volcanic craters and hike to the top for spectacular views. There are plenty of nice trails to walk during your two-night stay here, so make the most of this relaxing break from the road.
On Day 10, travel to the Tsenkher Hot Springs (approximately 6 hours). These are situated in the valley of the Delger River. On the way, you'll stop at Tsetserleg, a lovely provincial town with a local market and a unique little museum housed in a former temple, which you'll visit with a local guide. At this stop, there's the chance to wander around the town for a glimpse at what provincial Mongolian life is like. Perhaps stock up on some snacks and drinks for the travels ahead. If there is time and the connection is good, you can also visit an internet cafe to get in touch with friends and family back home. From here it's about another hour to the hot springs, where you'll check into the tourist ger camp on arrival.
Today is a free day to relax, explore, or simply laze about in the thermal waters of these invigorating natural hot springs. Be sure to pack your swimwear so you can take part in this activity. Surrounded by the remote beauty of the landscape, this location is perfect for slowing down to a more meditative pace, reading a book and taking it easy. There are also optional hikes and activities on offer if you'd prefer something more active. 
Continue to Karakorum (approximately 4 hours), a town built by the legendary Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Ask your leader and drivers to tell you some stories about this great man on the way – after all, he's the nation's hero. In Karakorum you will visit the first Buddhist centre of Mongolia, the immense Erdene Zuu Monastery. This impressive walled compound retains much of its former glory, and within it you can inspect the three temples, each one dedicated to a different stage of a Buddha's life – child, adolescent and adult stages. Later in the afternoon, you will drive to the Khogno Khan Mountains, the location of your tourist ger camp tonight.
Karakorum just nearby is a sudden strip of sand dunes – a striking contrast to the landscape you have just travelled through. Here you will enjoy a camel trek along the dunes – an ideal way to experience this eye-popping landscape. At your ger camp, there might be the opportunity to practice the art of Mongolian archery under the tutorage of some local experts. It's certainly much harder than it looks, requiring good strength and aim! The afternoon is yours to spend as you please.
Travel back across the rolling grasslands to Ulaanbaatar (approximately 8 hours). The route will take you past 'ovoos' (roadside shrines) and ger suburbs. Arriving in the metropolis, you'll check back into your hotel. Depending on the arrival time, there might be the chance to shop for some local handicrafts such as cashmere and felt products, or check out some more of the city's sights and museums. Tonight you can celebrate your journey around Mongolia by witnessing a special cultural performance featuring throat singing and traditional dancing. There will be an optional final dinner at a local restaurant recommended by your leader.
Say 'bayartai' to your group as your adventure draws to a close. There are no activities planned for the day, and you're free to depart the hotel at any time before 12 noon. If you'd like to stay longer in UB, it's recommended that you book additional accommodation well in advance.
View trip notes to read full itinerary

Inclusions

Meals
14 breakfasts, 13 lunches, 12 dinners
Transport
Private Van
Accommodation
Ger Camp (10 nights), Homestay (2 nights), Hotel (2 nights)
Included activities
  • Informal Mongolian Language Lesson
  • Amarbayasgalant - Monastery
  • Selenge - Uran Togoo hike
  • Tsetserleg - Local Museum
  • Tsenkher - Hot Springs
  • Karakorum - Erdene Zuu Monastery
  • Khogno Khan - Camel ride
  • Ulaanbaatar - Cultural Performance

Dates

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement is available on this trip. See under the Single Traveller section of your Trip Notes for more information.
2. In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's Ulaanbaatar Office can be reached on Tel: +976 991 83751, +976 990 86929 or +976 99764509.
3. The Mongolian National festival 'Naadam' takes place in mid-July every year. Thousands of nomads spend weeks travelling from all parts of the country to take part in the celebrations in and around Ulaanbaatar. After the spectacular opening ceremony, areas both in Ulaanbaatar itself and on the city outskirts become venues for the various events which include traditional wrestling tournaments, archery competitions and perhaps most exciting of all, horse racing in which up to 500 horses take part. It's the main national holiday of the year and many rural Mongolians make the journey to the capital to take part. Please note that there may be slight changes in the itinerary for trips running during this time to enable us to best experience the festival.
4. In 2016 the Wild Mongolia trips departing on 28th June and 10th July will be in Mongolia for the Naadam Festival. These will run on a slightly altered itinerary. This is the biggest festival of the year in Mongolia and involves elaborate parades and concerts, wresting and archery competitions and spectacular horseback events and races.
As Naadam is the busiest and most popular time for foreign travellers to visit Mongolia, the tourism industry is stretched to the limits and prices for services such as accommodation and transport increase. For this reason a surcharge applies for Naadam departures. Tickets to Naadam events are included in the price of your trip and will be booked for you in advance. In order to make the most of our time at the festival these departures run with adjusted itineraries. Final itineraries will be confirmed by your leader at the group meeting. An indication of alternates for the Naadam tours are as follows but please be aware these are subject to change:

Wild Mongolia (CBSF) - 28 Jun to 12 Jul 2016
Days 1-9 as per normal itinerary
Day 10 Tsenkher Hot Springs
Day 11-12 Karakorum/Khogno Khan
Day 13 Return to Ulaanbaatar for Naadam events
Day 14 Ulaanbaatar - Naadam events
Day 15 Depart

Wild Mongolia (CBSF) - 10 Jul to 24 Jul 2016
Days 1-3 Ulaanbaatar/Naadam events
Day 4 Amarbayasgalant
Days 5-6 Selenge
Day 7-8 Khovsgol
Day 9-11 Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake
Days 10-11 Khorgo
Day 12 Tsenkher Hot Springs
Day 13 Karakorum/Khogno Khan
Day 14 Return to Ulaanbaatar
Day 15 Depart

Trip notes

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Your trip notes provide a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what’s included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.

View trip notes

Reviews

Our Wild Mongolia trips score an average of 4.77 out of 5 based on 26 reviews in the last year.

Wild Mongolia , June 2016

Wild Mongolia , July 2016