Lake Hovsgol • East Gobi • Gun Galuut Nature Reserve • Jalman Meadows


Remote, exotic, mystical Gobi Desert; Stunning Lake Hovsgol; friendly nomadic hersdspeople; Sleep in a ger!

Full Itinerary

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

Ulaanbaatar, also Ulan Bator or simply just UB, is the capital and, with a population of around 1,200,000, also the largest city in Mongolia. In fact, according to recent estimates, this means approximately 41% of the country lives here. Ulaanbaatar has a long history, and is only now undergoing an industrial revolution. UB is perhaps one of the most drab looking cities on Earth, odd considering it's the capital of one the most beautiful and hospitable countries in the world. Still, as traditionalists, Mongolians love their capital.

Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.
Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Ulaanbaatar - Lake Hovsgol
Today we transfer to the airport to fly to Mörön. Our adventure takes us to the wild north country of Mongolia; this is the land of mountains, forests, and water, a pastoral landscape of forest lands interspersed with steppe, rivers, and even agricultural fields. Our bus will take us on a 2-hour drive north to the village and then to a lakeside camp where we spend our first night in a traditional 'ger'.

One of the clearest lakes in the world, Lake Hovsgol (also written 'Lake Khövsgöl') has the nickname "Dark Blue Pearl of Mongolia". Mongolia's largest fresh water lake is 125 km long and plunges to over 250 m. Due to its size the water is very cold, and remains ice-covered until well into June. The mountains around Lake Hovsgol are carpeted in wildflowers during Mongolia's brief summer. Although most of the shores of Lake Hovsgol are forested, there are a few herders who take advantage of the area's lush meadows.

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. Though each camp is different, they generally 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 usually available for purchase from the camps.

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

Day 3 Lake Hovsgol: Nomadic Family Visit
Lake Hovsgol is located in the northwest of Mongolia near the Russian border, at the foot of the eastern Sayan Mountains. It is 1645 metres (5,397 feet) above sea level, 136 kilometres (85 miles) long and 262 metres (860 feet) deep. It is the second-most voluminous freshwater lake in Asia, and holds almost 70% of Mongolia's fresh water and 0.4% of all the fresh water in the world. The lake is surrounded by several mountain ranges. The highest mountain is the Bürenkhaan / Mönkh Saridag (3492 metres / 11,457 feet), which has its peak north of the lake exactly on the Russian-Mongolian border. The town of Hatgal is at the southern end of the lake.

Today we drive to Khatgal, founded in 1727 as a camp of the Mongolian watch post system. By 1910, a small settlement had formed, mainly through trade with Russia. In 1914 a telegraph connection was established from the Russian border town Mondy to Uliastai via Khatgal, and in 1921 about 150 Russian settlers lived here. In the vicinity, we will visit with families belonging to a group of nomadic herdspeople who periodically reside in the area.

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

Day 4 Lake Hovsgol - Ulaanbataar
Today we drive back to Mörön airport (2 hours) from where we fly to Ulaanbaatar. Upon arrival transfer and check-in at the hotel.

Overnight in Ulaanbataar.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Ulaanbaatar: City Tour & Ganden Monastery
Today we have a panoramic tour of the capital, including the National Museum and Natural History Museum. We will also visit the Bodh Khan's Winter Palace and the Zaisan Memorial with its great views of the city.

We will head out of town to tour Ganden Monastery, the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia. Most of the temples and monasteries, along with their belongings were destroyed during the Stalinist purges of the late 1930s. Gandantegchinlen Khiid survived because the communists kept it as a showcase to impress foreigners. Roughly meaning 'the great place of complete joy', Gandan is one of Ulanbataar's most amazing sights. Within it are several glorious temples adorned with gold and jewels. The 150 resident monks make the temples lively with plenty of chanting and ceremonies.

Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Ulaanbaatar - Ikh Nart Nature Reserve (Gobi Area)
This morning we transfer to the railway station for our 6h20 train to Shivee Gobi. Upon arrival we will step onto a platform in the middle of the Gobi steppes! We are met by a vehicle and transfer 60km to Ikh Nart Nature Reserve in the arid Gobi area of Dornogobi (East Gobi).

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. The word Gobi refers to a shallow, wide basin.

Overnight at Ikh Nart Nature Reserve. Red Rock Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 7 Ikh Nart Nature Reserve
Today we will explore the Ikh Nart area on foot and by vehicle through the Ikh Nart rocks, and try to view different kinds of wildlife. There are many archaeological remains dotted around the landscape here.

The Ikh Nart Chuluu Nature Reserve is located in the Dornogobi Aimag or East Gobi Province. Established in 1996, Ikh Nart covers an area of about 66,000 hectares of grassland and semi-desert steppe environments and harbours one of the last remaining populations of Argali Sheep. The reserve also has a sizeable population of the world's biggest vulture, the black or cinereous vulture (Aegypius monacha), as well as some 200 Siberian ibex (Capra sibirica).

Overnight in Ikh Nart Nature Reserve. Red Rock Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 8 Ikh Nart Nature Reserve
Today we visit a nomad family. Herders come and go at the Ikh Nart area; they are essentially reliant on pastures and any precipitation. Being Gobi herders, they migrate a lot and are a very interesting, hospitable and hardy people.

Until the collapse of socialism in 1990, all Mongolians were employed by the state; now people rely heavily on natural resources, utterly dependent on the environment and their livestock of goats and camels for all their basic needs. But despite the hardships, herders are determined to continue their unique way of life. In 1992, the Mongolian government announced plans to place 30% of its territory – an area one and a half times the size of France – under formal protection. It's an ambitious project but the lack of central resources means it simply cannot succeed without the support and help of local people.

Overnight in Ikh Nart Nature Reserve. Red Rock Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 9 Ikh Nart - Gun Galuut Nature Reserve
Today's half-day drive (5-6 hours) takes us to Gun Galuut Nature Reserve. We carry picnic lunch from camp and overnight at Gun Galuut Nature Reserve.

Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve has a great diversity of ecosystems even though it has a comparatively small area. The complex of high mountains, steppes, rivers, lakes and wetlands are kept in their original condition. Visitors to Gun-Galuut see vast steppes seeming to meet the sky, the imposing mountains of Baits and Berkh, the homeland of rare creatures.

Overnight in Gun Galuut Nature Reserve. Steppe Nomads Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 10 Gun Galuut - Jalman Meadows
After breakfast we'll have a half-day drive to Jalman Meadows and the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area with a picnic lunch along the way. Afternoon arrival at Jalman Meadows where we are met by yak cart to carry our luggage and walk a short distrance to Jalman Meadows Ger Camp.

This area is in the transition zone of steppes and taiga forests in the uppermost parts of the Tuul River Valley, a mere full day's ride from where the river originates. Hence, there are steppe valleys, meadows along the Tuul River, larch forests with patches of birch. Wildlife such as wolf, lynx, brown bear, red deer, gazelle, moose, wild boar are certainly present but hard to see during the summer. Jalman Meadows is located in the autumn and winter pastures of nomadic herders of Erdene soum. A few remain, but most families vacate the area with their animals to allow for good seasonal pasture.

Overnight Jalman Meadows. Jalman Meadows Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 11 Jalman Meadows
Possible activities today include day hikes and swimming. The Tuul River is in its most pristine here and is next to the camp. The water may be cold, but usually pleasant during the summer. The river is crystal clear and transparent, with regular deep pools. We also offer horse riding: Hourly, half days and full day rides can be organized with local horsemen (extra charge USD 35 per person full day; USD 15 per half day; USD 7-8 one hour). You might also enquire about a gentle rafting trip on the Tuul River, or you could relax and take advantage of the camp's library resources.

Overnight Jalman Meadows. Jalman Meadows Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 12 Jalman Meadows: Khan Khenti Strictly Protected Area
Today we explore the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area. We visit some nomad families and observe their way of life and their livestock.

A protected area that extends to the very edges of the Russian border, Khan Khentii's allure lies in its lush green pasturelands, wildflowers, and abundant wildlife, from herds of moose to packs of wolves. Khan Khentii is in the Tuul River Valley where grasslands threaded with rivers are flanked by hills dotted with forests of larch and birch. Located in the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area, the wilderness is three times the size of Yellowstone National Park in the USA. This pristine wilderness area is a "transition zone" from steppe to taiga forest. Within surprisingly short distances, we will experience some of the diverse landscapes of Mongolia and meet the nomadic people that call these landscapes home.

Overnight Jalman Meadows. Jalman Meadows Ger Camp.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 13 Jalman Meadows - Ulaanbataar
After breakfast at the camp we depart by road to to UB and check in hotel. Balance of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Ulaanbataar.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 14 Departure
Departure from Ulaanbataar.

Meal plan: breakfast



TOUR STARTUlaanbaatar

TOUR ENDUlaanbaatar