featuring the Nadaam Festival


Remote, exotic, mystical Gobi Desert; Hongor Sands, giant sand dune; Harhorin: historically & archaeologically rich; Lively, colourful Naadam Festival Sleep in a ger!

Full Itinerary

Day 1 Arrival in Ulaanbaatar
Today we arrive in Ulaanbaatar and transfer to our hotel.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are booking this tour early (ie, 8 months to one year or more) please be advised that our published dates are TENTATIVE. Due to shifting Nadaam Festival dates, internal flight schedules, accommodation availability, and other considerations, we will be firming up dates around January of each year (6 months prior) to departure.

Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.
Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Ulaanbaatar - Hogno Khan Uul Nature Reserve
We depart this morning for a drive to the steppes of Harhorin (Karakorum).

There will be steppe landscape all the way, and upon reaching the Hogno Khan Uul Nature Reserve we will see Mongol Els sand dunes in the middle of the steppes. They are locally known as "Little Gobi" and next to them there is a very small lake where waders such as herons and ducks may be seen. Transfer from the main road to our ger camp tucked away in a secluded valley at Hogno Khan Mountain.

We spend our first night in a traditional 'ger'. Gers are the movable domed structures used by nomads for centuries. Made of a latticed wood structure covered with layers of felt and canvas, each ger is heated by a wood stove and furnished with comfortable wood-framed beds. The traditional ger has a lattice-work frame of narrow birch and willow boards held together by leather strips. Traditionally, the "door" consisted of a felt curtain over the door-frame; this is now replaced with a carved or painted wooden door. The entrance of the ger always faces south because the winds usually blow from the northeast.

Though basic, gers allow us to visit areas that lack travellers' accommodations, and most visitors find their stays at ger camps to be among the most enjoyable experiences in Mongolia. The camps have a maximum capacity of about 20 guests in double occupancy gers that are fully collapsible, and most have shower and WC blocks. The toilets are long drop style allowing for natural decomposition. Showers can be organized in the outdoors with hot water by portable showers and a shower tent that is provided. Personal water basins for washing are provided and water always kept topped up. A stove is placed in the middle of each ger and the staff will attend to it in order to provide warmth on cool nights. Towels are provided. Soft drinks, wine and bottled water are all available for purchase from the camps.

Overnight at Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 3 Hogno Khan & Harhorin
Full day excursion in this fascinating area. We will drive approx 2 hours / 80 km on the recently refurbished road to Harhorin. We visit Erdenezuu Hiid, a functioning monastery in constant renovation to its former splendour.

This is one of the historically and archeologically richest places in Central Asia. Once, 1000 monks used to inhabit Erdenezuu. Built in 1586, it was constructed from the ruins of the buildings that had once made up the city of Harhorin. The architecture exemplifies the skill of Mongolia's master builders, and is even complete with an ancient freshwater supply system from the nearby Orkhon River. It had some 100 temples within its 400 by 400 meters long walls. The monastery was sacked during the purges of 1937 and only the walls and 3 temples remain. Erdenezuu is still one of the most fascinating sites of Mongolia, and usually we will be able to witness the prayers.

Return to Hogno Khan.

Overnight at Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 4 Hogno Khan Area
Today is free for optional activities.

The Hogno Khan Mountain is a giant rock formation in the middle of the steppes. The small Erdene Khombo monastery, which can be reached by bus or on foot, is now being restored. It was destroyed during the purges of the 1930s. This is an interesting area where many nomadic herdsmen and women live. We can do some day walks into these areas, visit some nomadic families, do some horse riding, or vehicle-supported trips at additional cost.

Overnight at Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 5 Hogno Khan - Ulaanbaatar
We drive back to the capital and have the evening at leisure.

At some point during our tour, we will have a panoramic tour of the capital, including the National Museum and Natural History Museums. We will also visit the Ganden Monastery, the largest in Mongolia, built in 1809; as well as the Bodh Khan's Winter Palace and the Zaisan Memorial with its great views of the city. The exact timing of this UB sightseeing will vary depending on travel and flight times; your Tour Leader will advise of these details upon arrival on tour.

Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 6 Ulaanbaatar - South Gobi Desert
We transfer to the airport for our flight south to Dalanzadgad, gateway to the Gobi region, not far from the Chinese border.

Many visitors regard the Gobi as a remote, exotic and mystical place. While it is some of those things, it is also mainly grass, shrubs and rocks. Oases and sand cover only about 3% of the desert. It is, however, a land of extremes and can be well over 40C (105 F) during summer and below -40C (-40 F) in winter. Sand and dust storms can be fearsome in spring. The word Gobi refers to a shallow, wide basin.

We travel to the Yol Valley in the Gurvansaikhan National Park. This park is rich in dinosaur fossils, extraordinary sand dunes, rock formations and a gorge so narrow and deep that the ice within it lasts for most of the year. The surprisingly green park is cradled between the peaks of the Altai Mountains and home to over 200 species of birds, including the Mongolian Desert Finch, Cinerous Vulture, Desert Warbler and the Houbara Bustard. The sparse vegetation manages to support black-tailed gazelle, snow leopard, ibex, argali sheep and endangered species of wild camel.

NOTE: The order of Gobi area sightseeing may vary depending on local flight times and other consideraitons.

Overnight at Gobi Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 7 South Gobi: Bayanzag & Hongor Sands
We drive west to see the dunes of the Gobi Desert and spend a night near the dunes. A full-day drive will bring us to the famous Hongor Sands, a giant sand dune stretching lengthwise some 180 km / 112 mi away in the distance. Sometimes it is just a couple of hundred meters wide, sometimes as wide as 7-20 km. We also stop at Bayanzag (Flaming Cliffs) where a large number of dinosaur fossils have been found. The bright red sandstones of the Djadokhta rock formation contain Protoceratops fossils, dinosaur eggs, prehistoric mammals and even hadrosaurs. In the setting sun these sandstone cliffs are tinged a bright orange / red colour, hence their name.

Overnight at Gobi Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 8 South Gobi: to Yol Valley
Today is a full day of travel to the Yol Valley area with a picnic lunch en route.

Overnight at Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 9 Yol Valley
A full day excursion into the core of the Gurvansaikhan Mountains and the Yol Valley itself. We will explore this famous ravine, which sometimes has permanent ice and snow. Lammergeier nest here, and we are almost guaranteed to see them flying over the ravine. Another rare bird, the Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria), is also quite easy to see at close range. When the ice and snow are solid or completely thawed, it is possible to take a long hike through the entire length of the Yol Valley back to our ger camp.

Overnight at Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 10 Gobi Desert - Ulaanbaatar
Depending on the timing of today's flight time, we may spend some time this morning continuing our visit to the Yol Valley, including the local museum.

Fly back to Ulaanbaatar.

Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 11 Ulaanbaatar: Naadam Festival
With UB as our base, we'll experience the Naadam Festival.* The Naadam Festival, or "eriyn gurvan naadam," is the biggest Festival of the year for Mongolians. Occurring in July, it runs for three days in all parts of the country and highlights the greatest athletes in horse racing, archery, and wrestling: Mongolia's most popular sports. Women participate in all but the wrestling category. The word Naadam means game or competition in Mongolian.

This morning we drive to "Naadam Camp" in the steppes at Hui Doloon Hudag some 50-60km outside the city to the west. Naadam horse racing participants from all the provinces of Mongolia organise the camp and horse races in the area. The jockeys average between six and nine years old! The atmosphere is electric and there is always plenty to watch. The largest Naadam is held in / near Ulaanbaatar every year along with other celebrations. Riotous in comparison with the Mongolian landscape, the wrestling, racing and archery make for an exciting few days, and an opportunity to experience one of Mongolia's rarest events -- crowds of people!

* NOTE: Those of you who like to research your trip far in advance, please be advised that the order of our overnight points changes every year, and the placement of the Naadam Festival in our program usually changes every year. You may also find if you are researching well in advance that this itinerary is in variance with the dates for next year's festival; do not be alarmed. Approximately 6 months out, we re-work our itinerary and possibly shift our dates to ensure that we are in UB for the festival dates.

Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 12 Ulaanbaatar: Naadam Festival
Today we witness the opening ceremony at the Central Stadium. If we have not been able to view archery yesterday, this will take place after a picnic lunch at the stadium grounds. The Mongolian President and members of government will be at the opening ceremonies, usually followed by wrestling.

NOTE: It is important to note that the games do not really operate on a strict schedule, but rather on a fluid basis that sometimes seems to be made up as they go along. Your local guide will have their "ear to the ground," however, and will be able to tailor our overall Naadam experience to maximize interest, though our days here may seem a little "on-the-fly."

Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 13 Departure
Departure from Ulaanbaatar.

Meal plan: breakfast



TOUR STARTUlaanbaatar

TOUR ENDUlaanbaatar