Marvels of Mongolia

About the Experience

Mongolia is in many ways what you imagined: sprawling, dazzling displays of mountainous terrain. Packs of horses pounding over the earth. Bubbling hot springs. Intricate temples. But no matter how many photos you might have Googled – no matter what it might have said in the guide books – nothing prepares you for the wild, raw spirit of this ancient land.

Whether you are hiking the banks of “the great white lake”, trekking on the back of a Mongolian horse through a valley of Agad Sar, or perched atop a camel as you scale a caramel-colored sand dune, Mongolia is an otherworldly delight to the senses.

But it isn’t just the big moments that capture your heart – the Orkhon waterfalls, or the astounding Lake Khövsgöl and it’s crystalline waters. It’s the little moments that snake their way into your heart – the woman sharing her colored patchwork at the Mongolian Quiting Museum. Or the Nomadic cattle breeder who shows you how to properly round up the animals while on horseback.

This is a place pulsing with the past: with the ferocious Ghengis Khan, and the infamous silk road. You feel both humbled and awestruck to be standing here, as if you have stepped into the pages of a history book. Yes, time has marched on, but it seems the essence of Mongolia has remained the same. Life here means moving through a fierce kind of beauty, in harmony with other animals of the earth. It is a wonder, and a delight, to your wild, nomad heart.

Click here to see the full itinerary!
Marvels of Mongolia

About the Experience

Mongolia is in many ways what you imagined: sprawling, dazzling displays of mountainous terrain. Packs of horses pounding over the earth. Bubbling hot springs. Intricate temples. But no matter how many photos you might have Googled – no matter what it might have said in the guide books – nothing prepares you for the wild, raw spirit of this ancient land.

Whether you are hiking the banks of “the great white lake”, trekking on the back of a Mongolian horse through a valley of Agad Sar, or perched atop a camel as you scale a caramel-colored sand dune, Mongolia is an otherworldly delight to the senses.

But it isn’t just the big moments that capture your heart – the Orkhon waterfalls, or the astounding Lake Khövsgöl and it’s crystalline waters. It’s the little moments that snake their way into your heart – the woman sharing her colored patchwork at the Mongolian Quiting Museum. Or the Nomadic cattle breeder who shows you how to properly round up the animals while on horseback.

This is a place pulsing with the past: with the ferocious Ghengis Khan, and the infamous silk road. You feel both humbled and awestruck to be standing here, as if you have stepped into the pages of a history book. Yes, time has marched on, but it seems the essence of Mongolia has remained the same. Life here means moving through a fierce kind of beauty, in harmony with other animals of the earth. It is a wonder, and a delight, to your wild, nomad heart.

Day 1: Welcome to Ulaanbaatar!

You arrive at the Ulaanbaatar airport, meeting with the driver for your transfer to the hotel. Get settled in, and relax. Meet your guide and group around noon and head out for lunch.

We walk around the city, immersing ourselves in the heart of the Mongolian history, in the wonderful National History Museum. Three floors of a rich, glorious, violent and noble past, from prehistory to Soviet period, including the creation of the great Mongolian Empire by Genghis Khan. Walking on we explore the centre of Ulaanbaatar with highlights being the Gengis Khan Square and the House of Parliament.

Relax over dinner at a traditional Mongolian restaurant and then experience a Mongolian traditional show at Tumen Ekh: folkloric dances, contortion, and of course khoomi, the overtone singing.

We take short flight to Mörön, the capital of the province of Khövsgöl, where we meet our driver(s) and 4 wheel drive vehicles. We head for a nice lunch then drive the backroads to Lake Khövsgöl, one of the natural wonders of the world and the biggest fresh water lake in Mongolia! This lake covers an area of 2760 square kilometres, and its water is so pure that we can drink it. It’s surrounded with many peaks reaching more than 2000 metres and covered with forests of pines and lush meadows where yaks and horses graze!

We drive East over a backcountry gravel road into the green small valleys of Alag Sar, and spend the night in a small yurt camp.

  • Flight Time: 1 hr 15 min (50 seat plane)
  • Driving Time: about 3 hr

 

Day 3: Ride into Alag Sar Valley

After breakfast, we meet up with local breeders and their yaks. Load your overnight bag into the cart and meet your Mongolian mount.  We leave for our 2 day/ 1 night horse riding mini expedition in the tree-filled valleys of Alag Sar. Following the peaceful tempo of the cart, we discover this land of nomadism. In the heart of summer, the area is flowered and we will move literally on a carpet of edelweiss, while at West, we will see on the opposite bank the peaks soaring to 3000 metres and the crystal clear water of the lake.

We have a picnic lunch and then learn how to put up the yurt that we carried, in which we will spend the night. After this, there is an optional ride or you can choose to walk the lake shore or sit back and relax.

The evening will be spent enjoying our outdoor dinner and star gazing.

  • Riding Distance: 15 km
  • Estimated Riding Time: about 2.5 hours

 

Day 4: Paddling on Lake Khövsgöl

We enjoy a relaxed plein air breakfast before breaking our yurt camp and loading the yak cart. We ride back to Alag Tsar Yurt Camp arriving at midday, in time for a hearty lunch and return our luggage to our yurts.

Next we head out for a casual paddle on the Lake Khövsgöl. Kayaking and canoëing provides us with a unique perspective of the area and your guide will share stories about the deep lake and surrounding region as you glide along.

  • Riding Distance: 15 km
  • Estimated Riding Time: about 2.5 hours
  • Paddle Time: about 2 hours

 

We drive south from Alag Tsar back to Moron on the backcountry, gravel road. We stop for a visit of the site containing several deer stones at Uushigiin Övör. Uushigiin Övör’s deer stones are engraved with deer and stars, and they date back all the way to the Bronze Age! In complete symbiosis with the natural environment, these huge sculpted stones stand in the middle of the steppe like marvellous accounts of past and of the people who came to this area thousands of years ago.

We will stop in Mörön to buy fresh supplies at a local village market and enjoy lunch.

Carrying on to Shine Ider, the centre of Mongolia, via an off road, backcountry track that goes through many passes and sinks into lost valleys where landscapes quickly change. In our 4 wheel drive vehicles we climb above 2000 metres (1,24 mile) at the passes. Landscapes are more and more beautiful and there will be plenty of stops for photo opportunities and to stretch your legs.

  • Driving Time: about 6 hr

 

The track from Shine Ider to Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur Natural Park is quite rough as it takes us through the Tarvagatai Mountains. We reach 2900 metres at the highest point on the road.

Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur, called “the great white lake”, and its volcanic surroundings, are the emblematic area of the province of Arkhangai. This area is still wild, you may see chitals, marsh deer, wild boars, ducks or great cormorants.

Relax tonight in fully furnished yurts on the banks of this spectacular lake. Stroll the lake shore or explore the surrounding steppes as you watch the sun set over the lake.

  • Driving Time: about 6 hr

 

Day 7: Hiking Khorgo Volcano

Today we hike from the yurt camp, along the banks of the lake, heading Southeast to Khorgo Volcano. This extinct volcano reaches its highest point at 2240 metres (1,39 mile). This easy 16-kilometre (9,94 miles) hike will lead you from the camp to the summit of this extinct volcano covered with basalt that was active 8000 years ago.

It’s a pretty easy ascent to the rim of the coldera and there are even a few stairs to help with the climb. From the top, we enjoy a splendid view of the lake and the surrounding hills. Nearby the we visit the stunning lava flows that form an original landscape, made of solidified lava bubbles that the locals call ”the basalt yurts”. We meet up with the car and head back to the yurt camp for another beautiful evening by the lake.   

  • Hiking Distance: about 16 km, easy terrain
  • Estimated Hiking Time: 3-5 hours
  • Elevation Gain: about 100 metres

 

Enjoy great views as we travel along the Chwlut River canyon towards Tsetserleg. We stop at Tsetserleg, small lovely village nestled in mountains surrounded by larch trees. We’ll buy fresh supplies at the local market and visit Zayan Gegeen Museum featuring unique Buddhism artifacts. We stop to have lunch at a small vegetarian ger camp.

We arrive at Shiveet Mankhan and get settled in our yurts. Take a walk over to Tsenkher hot springs, where you can lounge in the pools fed by natural hot water.

  • Driving Time: about 5 hr

 

Journey to Orkhon Valley in our 4 wheel drive vehicles over more rough Mongolian roads. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the valley is a land of nomadism and many breeders set their summer camp there.

We stop to visit of Tovkhon Monastery. Vehicles can’t drive to the top of Öndör Ulaan Hill, so we will hike up to discover Tovkhon Ermitage, where Zanabazar, the first religious leader of Mongolia, created the Soyombo alphabet. The monastery is located 2312 metres (1,44 mile) above the sea level and from that place we’ll have a wonderful view on the whole Khangai range. We’ll picnic in exceptional surroundings, facing Orkhon Valley. The trail can be muddy, rocky and rough as it travels through the forest up to the Monastery.

By late afternoon we arrive at our homestay, living among the Nomadic breeders in the valley. During our stay, take time to discover their way of life and learn about daily tasks such as milking, making traditional dairy products, or rounding up the animals with a horse.

Guest yurts are set up here for us with mattresses and sleeping bags. Facilities here are very basic: comprised of a simple squat outhouse and warm water in basins for washing.

  • Hiking Time: about 1.5 hours up to the Monastery
  • Hiking Distance: about 3.5 km
  • Elevation Gain: about 800 metres
  • Driving Time: about 5.5 hr

 

Day 10: Ride to Orkhon Falls

Those who wish will go riding again will be paired up with a Mongolian horse and ride out to Orkhon waterfall. Otherwise, stroll along the Orkhon Valley, from the family camp to Orkhon waterfall, locally called Ulan Tsutgalaan falls. This 16-metre waterfall is just magic! It was formed 20,000 years ago, as a result of a unique combination of earthquakes and volcano eruptions.

We will picnic together at the waterfall and then you will ride or walk back or opt to take the car.

This evening, you can choose to attend the preparation of a traditional Mongolian barbecue (Khorkhog) – it is an honour to observe the slaughter of the goat – or not and help in other ways. The Khorkhog is used for special occasions and honoured guests. The basic technique consists in cooking the meat, mainly goat, mutton or marmot, on stones previously heated up directly in the fire. Cooking directly on the stones gives the meat a special and delicious taste. The meat lovers will love it, while the vegetarians will go on their way with no regret (other options will be available!).

  • Riding Time: about 2.5 hours

 

Journey to Kharkhorin, the former capital of Mongolia. The legendary city of Genghis Khan was founded in 1220 and was one of the stages of the silk road. The Mongolian Empire was governed from this city, until Kubilai Khan set up the capital in Beijing. Today, there are only a few vestiges left of the former capital. Enjoy lunch today in a local restaurant.

Next we visit the Erdene Zuu Monastery, built in 1586 by a nomad prince. The Chinese and Tibetan-inspired buildings are surrounded with 108 sacred stupas. Visit of the Museum of Kharkhorin and the local market.

We arrive at the splendid rocky formations of Khogno Khan. Discovery of the park: semidesert steppes, taiga, stunning rocky formations, 80-kilometres (49,71 miles) long sand dunes, are characteristic of this arid area nicknamed “Mini-Gobi”.

Tonights camp is in fully furnished tepees built in perfect harmony with the beauty of the place. Rest and relax this evening while enjoying the rocky formations of the Mini Gobi.

  • Driving Time: about 5 hr

 

Day 12: Explore the Sand Dunes of Elsen Tasarkhai

Enjoy a 45 minute walk until Erdene Khambiin Monastery. “Monk Erdene’s Monastery” dates from 17th century and was built in the mountain. Zanabazar built it in honour of his teacher, monk Erdene. Hop in the car and head out to sand dunes of Elsen tasarkhai.

Meet the camels and prepare for riding along the sand dunes of Elsen Tasarkhai. After your ride, we can have time to explore and take photos.

After lunch, we journey to Khustai National Park that houses the Przewalski horses (takh). Twilight is the best moment to observe them. We’ll walk until the river where they drink, and observe them with no fear to bother.

  • Driving Time: about 3.5 hr
  • Camel Ride Duration: 1 hour

 

We depart our last camp, making our way to the city.  If we are lucky, we might catch a glimpse of the last herds of wild horses crossing the road. Watch the last yurts smoking far away pass by, enjoying views of the the steppe until the last moment.

Enroute, we stop to visit the Gandantegchinlen Monastery, where lamas gather to pray in the morning. At the Mongolian Buddhist Centre, you can ask any questions you still have about the monasteries or beliefs in the area. Back in Ulaanbaatar we settle into the hotel and then head out for lunch.

Our group is honoured to be able to visit the Mongolian Quilting Centre. This is a non profit association, whose purpose is to give unemployed and poor women, originally taken away from prostitution, and instead learn sewing skills to generate income for their families. By purchasing one of these beautiful quilted products you are supporting unemployed Mongolian women and helping to improve their quality of life.

The rest of the day is free for you to relax or explore the city. Your guide can make recommendations for shopping in the centre of the city. Reconvene to enjoy a group farewell dinner, sharing highlights from your Mongolian adventure.

  • Driving Time: about 2.5 hr

 

Have breakfast at the hotel and relax until your transfer to the international airport. Airport transfers will be organized according to the schedule of your flight.

Click here to see upcoming trip dates to book your spot!