The ultimate adventure into the nomadic life, traditions, wildlife and stunning landscapes that Western Mongolia has to offer.

This journey takes you into the wild west of Mongolia, a place where crystal-clear lakes, snow-capped peaks and giant dunes whisper the legendary stories of nomads and nature. Be mesmerised by khoomii (traditional throat singing), stay with nomadic families, search for wildlife including ibex, argali sheep and the elusive snow leopard, then join Kazakh eagle hunters at a local celebration. Beginning and ending in Ulaanbaatar, this adventure unveils the true spirit of Mongolia's traditional nomads with an unimaginably beautiful backdrop.


Start
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Finish
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Destination
Mongolia
Style
Original
Theme
Expedition
Code
CBSX
Physical rating
Ages
Min 15
Group size
Min 3, Max 12

Why you'll love this trip

  • Travel to the far west of Mongolia, where the landscape drastically changes from the largest sand dunes in the country to crystal clear lakes and snow-capped mountains. 

  • Stay with a family in Chandmani, famous for its traditional throat singing, and immerse yourself in music that captures a love for nature, family and animals.

  • Spot ibex and argali sheep in the wild and maybe even evidence of snow leopards, then get your birding fix at the incredible Khar Us Lake.

  • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed petroglyph sites that tell prehistorical tales of the origin of the Mongolian culture.

  • Learn about the Kazah tradition of eagle hunting as you join a small and intimate celebration to open the eagle hunting season and visit a traditional falconry school.

  • Stay in traditional gers with nomads, sharing laughs and stories over Mongolian milk tea and traditional meals.

  • The proud capital of this legendary kingdom doesn't disappoint – discover how Ulaanbaatar is changing with the times while keeping its heritage and wild spirit alive. 

Is this trip right for you?

  • We stay mostly in ger camps once outside of Ulaanbaatar, where you will experience simple conditions such as outdoor (squat) toilets and some nights without hot or running water. Gers are the traditional nomadic dwellings of Mongolians - spacious, wooden framed tents covered with felt and tarps. Some gers sleep up to eight people. All ger stays will be multi share and at times mixed gender depending on the group composition. At tourist camps, gers will be furnished with simple beds and bedding provided, and with toilets and showers in separate buildings.

  • At our family and guest ger stays you will be living the same life as the nomads, close to the land and their animals. Beds may be matresses on the floor in a shared ger with the family and there will be no bathroom facilities. This is a true taste of Mongolian life and may be very different from what you are used to. You will need to bring a sleeping bag with you for these stays.

  • Most meals are included once we leave the nation's capital. If you have very specific dietary requirements you will need to let us know well in advance. We will do our best to cater for you, but you may need to be prepared to bring some of your own supplies from home, or stock up at the supermarkets in Ulaanbaatar. Vegetarians can be catered for, though choices may be limited. Some food will be traditional Mongolian style, but as the traditional diet consists solely of meat and dairy products without vegetables, most meals made for our groups are less challenging and based more on Russian or Western cuisine, which is now also common in the modern Mongolian diet.

  • Driving times will vary and any times listed in the itinerary are approximate and subject to road (where there is one!) and weather conditions. As we have our own vehicles, it may be possible to make stops along the way for photos, meals or to chat with locals, but we need to aim to get to our destinations before nightfall so please understand that long breaks may sometimes not be possible.

  • Medical facilities can be as far away as 1 day's drive at times, as some locations are very remote. During this journey the group will spend time in remote areas without home comforts or easy access to medical facilities. You will need to have excellent physical health to join this trip.

  • This is a trip that includes extensive travelling in some remote terrain away from modern facilities and conveniences. As we spend a lot of time on the road each day, it is important to realise that the emphasis on this trip is on the journey rather than sightseeing and activities, travelling through amazing landscapes and staying in some stunning locations. As we travel by private transport for the duration of the trip we spend a lot of time together with our group members. If you are looking for an active or independent trip with lots of choice for physical and cultural activities daily then you might want to consider whether this trip is the right one for you. However, if you are keen to explore a fascinating country "road trip" style, take in the scenery as you go and are willing to sit back and enjoy the ride (however long it takes to get there!) then this will definitely add to your experience of this expedition trip.

Itinerary

This itinerary is valid for departures from 01 Jan 2019 to 15 Oct 2019.
View the 2020 itinerary
Sain baina uu! Welcome to Mongolia, a vast country known as the Land of the Blue Sky. Your trip officially begins with a group meeting at 6 pm and afterwards you'll have the option to join your fellow travellers for dinner at a local restaurant. If you arrive in town earlier and find yourself with some spare time, be sure to get out and explore Ulaanbaatar – UB – a fascinating city where modernity mixes with tradition. The Fine Arts Museum and Winter Palace Museum of Bogd Khan are well worth visiting.



Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Modern Mongolia is a fiercely independent nation that's trying to hold on to its traditional heritage and wild spirit in the face of immense challenges and change. Learn more about the country's storied history on a tour of Ulaanbaatar, beginning with a visit to Gandan Monastery, one of the largest and most important Buddhist monasteries in Mongolia. Climb Zaisan Hill for a bird's-eye view of the ever expanding city and its ger suburbs, then explore the National Museum of Mongolia and learn about the country's past struggles and glories before finishing up at Sukhbaatar Square. The rest of the afternoon and the evening are for you to do as you please, but we recommend checking out the International Intellectual Museum, an institution dedicated to all things puzzles and games. 

Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ulaanbaatar - Gandan Khiid Monastery
  • Ulaanbaatar - Zaisan Hill Memorial
  • Ulaanbaatar - National Museum
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Unfortunately due to not enough bookings, the Ulaanbaatar – Uliastai flight on 21st September has been cancelled. To reach Western Mongolia we will instead fly from Ulaanbaatar to Khovd and continue our travels in the region from there. The revised itinerary for this day will be:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included. Morning flight to Khovd. Drive around 5 hours to Bayan Uul Sum in Gobi Altai province. Overnight Guest Ger.

The adventure proper begins today as you depart UB and take an early flight to Uliastai, a trip of approximately three hours. Located in Western Mongolia, Uliastal is the capital of the Zavkhan Province and surrounded by mountains, over one thousand kilometres from Ulaanbaatar. Meet your drivers and hop in a 'furgon', a trusty Russian van and the main form of transport for the rest of the journey. You'll drive approximately three hours to Ereen Lake, which is surrounded by the the biggest sand dunes in Mongolia. Explore the area by camel and listen to the famous singing of the sand dunes, which evoke a unique sound in a strong wind or when the top sand slides across the surface. Tonight you'll enjoy your first 'ger' experience in the Mongolian wilds. Settle in to camp – which has toilet and shower facilities – and enjoy the serenity and getting to know your fellow travellers.
Accommodation
  • Tourist Ger Camp (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ereen Lake - Camel ride
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
The revised itinerary for this day due to flying to Khovd instead of Uliastai will be:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner included. Drive around 3 hours to Ereen Lake. Afternoon camel riding. Overnight Tourist Ger Camp.
Buckle up for a long drive today (approx. six hours) to Dorgon Lake, stopping en route at the Soljir petroglyphs site to view carvings dating back to the Bronze Age. These carvings depict wild animals including ibex, camels and more, as well as some hunting scenes, and the site has never been fully researched nor studied so it's a little known destination. There's a short hike to reach the site and after lunch you'll continue to Dorgon Lake, which covers an area over 300 square kilometres in size. With an average depth of 14 metres, this salt water lake makes up part of the Khar Us Nuur National Park, a huge region encapsulating lakes, mountains and vast open plains. Once again, tonight's accommodation is a tourist ger camp, so soak up the stillness and majesty of the area with your group.


Accommodation
  • Tourist Ger Camp (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Dörgön Lake - Hiking & petroglyph site visit
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Special Information
Please note that from Days 5 - 7, you won't have access to electricity. Please make sure to charge your electronics or power banks here if necessary.
Travel approximately four hours today to the Chandmani district, the legendary birthplace of 'Khoomii', also known as overtune or throat singing. The origin of this mesmerising style of singing is said to be the sound of water running between rocks in the mythical River Eev, while some theories connect the practice with other natural and supernatural events. Though nobody knows the exact location of the mystical river, the Tuvans, Uriangkai and Western Khalk Mongolians all agree that khoomil is connected to the river's magic. Many Chandmani men are gifted in the practice and tonight you'll stay with a local family in their ger, sharing a meal and learning about this unique practice.


Accommodation
  • Family Ger Camp (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Chandmani - Khöömii (throat singing)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Farewell your local hosts as you drive approximately three hours to Tsagaan Sair Valley. This valley lies in the Jargalant Khairkhan mountains, an area sacred to the locals because the range determines the local climate and pastures that are of such importance to their lives. Mongolian nomads utilise the area for pasture during winter and spring and it is home to hundreds of ibexes, argali sheep and an estimated two dozen snow leopards, among others. These mountains are also where the first ancient Altai Harp was unearthed, from the tomb of a fully armed young warrior. Take a hike through the beautiful landscape and spend the evening at a guest ger that was set up by some of the local nomads.
Accommodation
  • Guest Ger (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Make the most of another day spent in this incredible landscape as we continue to explore the Tsagaan Sair Valley. The group will take a short drive and begin hiking, looking out for ibex and wild argali sheep among the rocky surroundings. These majestic sheep live in high alpine areas and can weigh a mammoth 180 kilograms when fully grown, and the males have particularly impressive curved horns. They're also a favourite prey of the enigmatic snow leopard, and if you're lucky you may see evidence of the leopard's presence in the area. The length and nature of the hike today will depend on the weather and the group's fitness level, but one thing is certain: this is a spectacular region to explore on foot. Spend the evening back at the guest ger sharing a meal and stories with your group.
Accommodation
  • Guest Ger (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tsagaan Sair Valley - Hiking
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Start the day with an approximately two-hour drive to Khoid Tsenkher Cave. Located above the Khoid Tsenkher River, this cave is famous for its rock art paintings, which were discovered in the 1960s and date back to the Paleolithic period (15–20,000 years ago). Entering the cave involves a bit of a scramble, which your leader can help you with, and once inside you'll find images of argali sheep, ibexes and camels, and even lions, elephants and ostriches. After visiting the cave, it's another two hours to Khar Us Lake, one of the largest fresh water lakes in all of Mongolia. It's the upper lake of the Great Lake Depression and of critical importance to the local plant and animal life. With the mountains providing a stunning backdrop, the lake covers an area of 15,800 square kilometres and and the little islands dotting the surface are home to wild ducks, geese, wood grouse, partridges and even rare migratory sea birds. Spend a memorable evening in a tourist ger camp by the lake.
Accommodation
  • Tourist Ger Camp (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Khar Us Lake - Khoit Tsenkher Cave
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
The best time for birdwatching is early morning and you may well be rewarded if you manage to drag yourself out of your ger. Enjoy a few more hours at the camp then depart for Khovd after lunch. The journey should take around two hours, and after the last few days of nature and wilderness, the small, multicultural town of Khovd will feel like a thriving metropolis. Established in the 18th century by the Manchus of China's Qing Dynasty, Khovd has long been a trade and business centre in Mongolia's west. It's now home to many different ethnic groups including the Zakchin, Uriankhai and Torguud peoples. Explore the city with your leader then perhaps take some time to shop for supplies or connect with your friends and family back home to share some of the incredible experiences you've had so far. Mix things up in the evening and swap a traditional ger for a local hotel – talk about cosmopolitan!
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Khar Us Lake - Bird watching
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Today you'll travel approximately five hours to the town of Olgii, the capital of Mongolia's Bayan-Olgii Province. Stop for lunch en route with views of Tsambagarav, a permanently snow-capped mountain that attracts alpinists from both Mongolian and international alpinists. Its peak sits at just over 4000 metres and the surrounding national park, replete with glaciers and lakes, is also inhabited by snow leopards. Stretch your legs after lunch on a short hike to an impressive viewpoint where you can really get a feel for the scale of the landscape. Continue to Olgii, which sits among the Altai Mountains and was first established by Kazakhs fleeing the Russian empire during the 1840s. It's a similar size to Khovd – around 30,000 people – and hosts the Golden Eagle Festival every year to showcase the ancient form of hunting. A documentary about the festival, The Eagle Huntress, was released in 2016 and tells the story of a 13-year-old girl who became the first woman to ever win. Other Kazakh traditions are also being revived in the town following a period of power struggle between China and the USSR that led to the suppression of traditional Kazakh culture. Stay overnight in a tourist ger camp.
Accommodation
  • Tourist Ger Camp (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Tsamgarav Mountain - Hiking
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Travel to Sagsai this morning (approx. one hour) for the opening ceremony of a local festival. Though it's not the famous Golden Eagle Festival, this smaller event is a celebration in honour of the opening of the local eagle hunting and falconry season. It's organised by a close network of friends and attended by about 40 'berkutchi', or eagle hunters. Though the event is traditionally male only, a few female hunters have also attended in recent years. The eagles are considered sacred by the Kazakh people, who treat them with reverence and respect and the understanding that you can never truly tame the natural world. The celebrations include competitions and events, including prizes for the best-looking eagle, best-dressed berkutchi and best-decorated horse. Other contests include 'tenge ilu', where horsemen grab coins from the ground at full gallop to determine the most skilled, and a competition to see whose eagle catches a dummy rabbit or fox in the shortest time. Spend the night in a ger managed by some local friends.
Accommodation
  • Guest Ger (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Sagsai - Berkutchi festival
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Visit a recently opened falconry school and meet the eagle hunters to learn more about their training and traditions. The school plays an important role not only in educating eager young Kazakhs about traditional hunting, but also in preventing eagle hunting from becoming commercialised or exploitative and protecting the wild eagle population. The hunters will share some fascinating insights into how they catch eaglets, communicate and feed the birds, train them to hunt, and how and when they release them back into the wild. Spend some time discussing these things with both the hunters and students on a walk, during which you'll learn more about the local landscape and wildlife from those that know it best. Return to Olgii (approximately one hour) in the afternoon and enjoy a Kazakh folk concert in the evening before retiring to the hotel. 
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Included Activities
  • Ölgii - Falconry school visit
  • Ölgii - Kazakh folklore performance
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
Say goodbye to Western Mongolia and its mountains and eagles and pristine landscapes. Today you'll take a flight back to Ulaanbaatar (approx. three hours), where you'll have free time to continue exploring the city and, in the evening, dine either by yourself or with the rest of the group.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Please note that the flight schedule may change without much notice so this itinerary intentionally plans for an extra day in Ulaanbaatar. Today's flight may in fact leave tomorrow, but your leader will be able to inform you of the exact plan at the group meeting. 
Enjoy a free final day in Ulaanbaatar. There's plenty to do, whether you're keen to shop for souvenirs or just soak up the city's vibe. If you didn't find time for the Fine Arts or Intellectual Museum earlier in the journey, be sure to check them out before gathering your group together for a farewell dinner to celebrate and toast your adventure through this vast, eclectic land.
Accommodation
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
  • Breakfast
Special Information
Due to the revised itinerary departing Ulaanbaatar on Day 2, we will do the city tour today.
Your journey through Mongolia comes to an end after breakfast. There are no activities planned today and you're free to depart any time.
Meals Included
  • Breakfast

Meals

14 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 10 dinners

Transport

Private vehicle, Plane, Furgon (Russian van)

Accommodation

Tourist Ger Camp (4 nights), Family/Guest Ger Camp (4 nights), Hotel (6 nights)

Included activities

  • Ulaanbaatar - Gandan Khiid Monastery
  • Ulaanbaatar - Zaisan Hill Memorial
  • Ulaanbaatar - National Museum
  • Ereen Lake - Camel ride
  • Dörgön Lake - Hiking & petroglyph site visit
  • Chandmani - Khöömii (throat singing)
  • Tsagaan Sair Valley - Hiking
  • Khar Us Lake - Khoit Tsenkher Cave
  • Khar Us Lake - Bird watching
  • Tsamgarav Mountain - Hiking
  • Sagsai - Berkutchi festival
  • Ölgii - Falconry school visit
  • Ölgii - Kazakh folklore performance

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A Single Supplement is available on this trip for hotel nights only, and excludes all ger camp stays.
2. A sleeping bag is required for the family and guest ger stays. You can bring your own, or hire one in Ulaanbaatar for 5 USD per day. Please let your booking agent know in advance if you require one.
3. Please provide your full passport details, including a scanned copy, to your booking agent no later than 40 day prior to departure in order for us to purchase flight tickets. Any inaccuracy in this information provided may incur extra expense in changing or reissuing tickets.
4. While we do not travel at high altitude, there are some destinations on this trip that are between 2500 - 2800 meters above sea level.
5. There are 2 included domestic flights on this trip. The luggage allowance is 10kg for check in luggage and 5kg for carry-on. Each side of your carry-on luggage should not exceed 55cm x 35cm x 25cm, including handles, wheels, etc. Other bagged personal belongings like cameras can be carried in addition to the above standard carry-on luggage. Extra charges apply if your luggage exceeds the limit, payable directly to the airline on ground. 
6. A minimum of 3 travellers is required for departures of this trip to run.

Essential trip information

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