Women of the Gobi Desert

About the Experience

Fall into the mystery of the Gobi desert with its colossal sand dunes, and marvel at Mongolia’s stark beauty. The expansive landscapes shift from desert to wide-open plains home to magical canyons and plants and wildlife that exist nowhere else on earth. This ethereal land of hospitable and warm nomadic cultures that herd across the vast steppes is central to Mongolia’s identity. You’ll connect with the families of the nomadic livestock herders who for millennia have used the scarce resources of the Gobi desert and developed their unique lifestyle.

Explore the rocky formations of Tsagaan Suvraga ( The White Shrine) with its white sand cliffs and shades of orange and reds. Stand in awe when discovering the “Flaming Cliffs” glowing in the sun. Venture through the golden sand dunes on camelback under the vast Mongolian skies.

You’ll meet the women of the Gobi who work in conservation and community development and are leaders in social organization. They are warriors of survival and take charge in shaping a better life for their families, communities and themselves.

Our Gobi Adventure will take you into the homes and gardens of local families, and to a temple and meditation retreat built by the local community to honour the mountains. We travel into the more remote areas to the West, visiting sites of ancient rock art, exploring a pre-historic cave and witnessing landscapes of ephemeral desert rivers and changing light.

 

 

Click here to see the full itinerary!
Women of the Gobi Desert

About the Experience

Fall into the mystery of the Gobi desert with its colossal sand dunes, and marvel at Mongolia’s stark beauty. The expansive landscapes shift from desert to wide-open plains home to magical canyons and plants and wildlife that exist nowhere else on earth. This ethereal land of hospitable and warm nomadic cultures that herd across the vast steppes is central to Mongolia’s identity. You’ll connect with the families of the nomadic livestock herders who for millennia have used the scarce resources of the Gobi desert and developed their unique lifestyle.

Explore the rocky formations of Tsagaan Suvraga ( The White Shrine) with its white sand cliffs and shades of orange and reds. Stand in awe when discovering the “Flaming Cliffs” glowing in the sun. Venture through the golden sand dunes on camelback under the vast Mongolian skies.

You’ll meet the women of the Gobi who work in conservation and community development and are leaders in social organization. They are warriors of survival and take charge in shaping a better life for their families, communities and themselves.

Our Gobi Adventure will take you into the homes and gardens of local families, and to a temple and meditation retreat built by the local community to honour the mountains. We travel into the more remote areas to the West, visiting sites of ancient rock art, exploring a pre-historic cave and witnessing landscapes of ephemeral desert rivers and changing light.

 

 

DAY ONE: ARRIVAL

Welcome to Mongolia! Transfer from the airport/train station to the hotel in Ulaanbaatar. Meet your guide by noon in the lobby of the Springs Hotel where we’ll have an orientation, lunch, and enjoy an afternoon city tour by van. Depending on time we’ll explore some shopping, and sightseeing for your Gobi Adventure.

In the evening around 5 pm, we’ll see a cultural performance in the children’s park with the Tumen Enkh Ensemble. Tumen Ekh is a must-see for visitors to Mongolia’s capital city, and those interested in the colourful art and culture of the land of the blue sky.

Dinner and orientation meeting with our guide.

 

DAY TWO: TSAGAAN SUVRAAGA

We’ll depart from Ulaanbaatar early this morning by 4 X 4 vehicles, and travel to the Middle Gobi provincial center.

We’ll stop for lunch and from here continue south to explore the rocky formations of Tsagaan Suvraga (White Shrine). This site looks like an ancient city with white sand cliffs and shades of orange and reds mixed into the landscape.

Dinner will be in a provincial hotel and then on to South Gobi province. Overnight in a Gobi Oasis Ger Camp near Dalanzadgad, South Gobi provincial center.

  • Driving: 7-8 hrs
  • Hiking/Walking: Approx 1 Hr

 

DAY THREE: VULTURE GORGE

After breakfast, we drive to the Eastern Beauty Mountains and enter Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park. We’ll visit Yoliin Am, the famous “Vulture Gorge” known for its narrow passage that remains ice-filled, even in the height of summer in most years. Depending on the weather and ice conditions, we’ll hike through the entire canyon, a 2-3 hour hike with several stream crossings, possibly walking on ice sometimes with ice cleats for shoes provided. There may be some scrambling over boulders, but nothing technical, no steep or exposed stretches. Alternatively, we may hike in and out of the gorge from the Northside.

We’ll have a picnic lunch afterwards, where we’ll meet with women of the Gobi who are engaged in community development and conservation work and hear about their experiences. One of them is Duya who will also be our local guide for a portion of the tour.

We’ll continue to travel through another scenic valley, where there will be more of an opportunity to walk, and a chance to spot wildlife. At the Western end of the gorge lie the ruins of an old monastery, destroyed during the purges, now marked by a stupa. From here we travel south into the desert –crossing an open plain and entering the mountain massif of Zuramtai Mountain.

We set up camp near a canyon of red rock formations. Overnight in tents.

  • Driving: 2-3 hrs
  • Hiking: Two options-hike into the canyon then return to the van to meet the second group at North end (approx 1-2 hours). Group 2 hikes entire canyon (approx 2-3 hrs).
  • Accommodation: Tented camp

 

DAY FOUR: FLAMING CLIFFS

After breakfast, we explore the canyon – a short hike – and emerge at the top end for an amazing view across the desert landscape. We’ll then set out northwards, stopping in a settlement to refuel and visit some countryside shops. We continue, passing a rock formation known as “Camel Rock” and travel through the gentle foothills of the rugged mountains ahead. We traverse the mountains and reach the Northside through a valley known locally as “The Gate”. The plains here are pasture land of nomadic herder families, and points of interest in the mountains include ancient petroglyphs and a temple and meditation retreat built by the local community to honour nature and the mountains they hold sacred.

Guided by Duya, we catch up with local herder women who as community leaders are also active in dairy processing and planting crops and trees. At the home of the woman community leader, we see how local cheese is made and can hear about her experience showing her products overseas at a slow food event. We prepare our lunch as a picnic or in the nomad family home, and in the afternoon visit the temple on the rugged mountain peak, where there are great views.

We’ll continue towards Baynzag, also known as “Flaming Cliffs”. The Mongolian name “Baynzag” refers to the wealth of Saxaul (zag) bushes in the surrounding plains of the Flaming Cliffs. This is a landscape of red sediments, with canyons and sand dunes below, and a famous paleontological site, perhaps the most significant dinosaur site worldwide. Mongolian and international scientists have excavated and continue to work here. Among the finds here were dinosaur eggs, many specimens of protoceratops, bird-like dinosaurs, and a crocodile Shamosuchus. We’ll take a walk amongst the canyons and on cliff tops. Green desert plants stand in stark contrast to the red ground, and it is interesting to see many living reptiles, and small lizards camouflaged among the rocks and sand and seeking shelter around plants.

Overnight is at the homestay of a young herder family; their gers are within sight from the top of the rock formations, and we can either walk or drive to their home from the Flaming cliffs.

  • Driving: 3 -4 hrs
  • Hiking: Three 1 hour hikes, depending on weather conditions
  • Accommodation: Family gers

 

DAY FIVE: SAND DUNES

Today we travel westwards, along the Western Beauty Mountains, with a break for a picnic lunch at the foot of the mountains or in another gorge.

In the afternoon, having crossed over a saddle, the sand dunes of Khongoryn Els come into sight. This sand dune complex stretches over 180 km from SE to NW and is also known as the “Singing Sands”. Fun fact: the singing sands sound similar to a whistle or bark! These high and low-frequency sounds are triggered by wind passing over the dunes, or by walking on the sand.

We travel to near the highest elevation of the sands, where our small Ger Camp for tonight’s stay is located. From here, we take a camel ride to explore the sand dunes!

  • Driving: Approx 4 hrs
  • Camel Riding: 1-2 hrs, 5 km
  • Hiking: 1-2  hrs
  • Accommodation: Ger Camp

 

DAY SIX: PETROGLYPH VALLEY

Continuing our travels West, we leave the sand dunes behind, driving through scenic desert landscapes, and saxaul forests. We’ll have a picnic lunch on the way, or in the District Center of Baynlig Soum. From there, we’ll drive to the petroglyphs of Bichigt Khad, nominated to be inscribed as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site. We explore the cliffs with numerous great “galleries” of petroglyphs. Dating from different periods and back around 3000 years, rock art depicts wild and domestic animals, human figures, hunting scenes, and abstract symbols.

After spending time in the petroglyph valley, we’ll drive back to the local district center to stay in a new, simple hotel. This district has been modernized as one of the “model” rural districts in Mongolia, with notable modern buildings for school and dormitory, hospital and administrative buildings. We’ll also meet with members of a local women’s group that has been active in handicraft production, both from sheep wool felt and camel yarn.

  • Driving: 5-6 hrs
  • Hiking: 1-2 hours walking with some climbing and scrambling
  • Accommodation: Small hotel with electricity and hot showers. Some wifi may be available.

 

DAY SEVEN: THE WHITE CAVE

Today we travel from Bayanlig North to the White Cave, an archeological site where middens were excavated and dated as 750,000 years old. The cave walls are covered in crystals, therefore the name “White Cave”. We take a short walk up a small gorge to the cave entrance, to a stairway of rocks into the cave. Further into the cave requires a bit of bending.

We’ll continue to Khuren Khad, a gorge with mineral springs, upstream in a valley of an ephemeral river, the boulder-strewn river bed dotted with large desert elm trees.

Our campsite is located at a higher elevation, and nighttime temperatures here can be cool, but the scenery and short hike to the springs are worth the adventure! We’ll hike up a boulder-strewn, rugged valley, climbing over boulders, and perhaps crossing the stream 2 km.

  • Driving: 3-4 hrs
  • Hiking/Walking: Approx 1.5 hrs
  • Accommodation: Tented camping

 

DAY EIGHT: ARVAIKHEER

We leave this rugged valley, and stop by for refreshments and lunch in the nearest district center. Before reaching the town of Arvaikheer, we stop to see the monument Morin Tolgoe. The city’s name is a shortened pronunciation of a famous horse, Arvagarkheer. It was the fastest horse in a very important race in the late 18th century. The monument has several statues of horses and 108 stupas.

In town, we check into the hotel and have dinner after a long day of exploring.

  • Driving: Approx 6 hrs
  • Hiking: Optional 1 hr walk before departing
  • Accommodation: City Hotel

 

DAY NINE: ERDENEZUU TEMPLE

Today we’ll drive to Kharkhorin in the morning, about a 1.5-hour drive through the rural countryside, passing through one of the country’s crop farming areas before reaching the ancient capital of Kharkhorin, also known as the Karakorum in Western literature.

We spend the day in Kharkhorin, visiting Erdenezuu Temple and the Kharkhorim Museum, which uncovers the ancient history of Mongolia, of the succession of empires which called Kharkhorin their center, and of the significance of Erdenezuu as the oldest and most important religious site in the country.

We take lunch in the modern Ikh Khorin Hotel and stay overnight out of town in a small ger camp.

  • Driving: Less than 1 hr
  • Walking: Light, exploring the grounds of the monastery, temples and museum
  • Accommodation: Anja Ger Camp

 

DAY TEN: HUSTAI NURUU NATIONAL PARK

Before leaving for Hustai Nuruu National Park today, we visit the shop of a local women’s cooperative offering hand made garments and items from felt, yarn, and embroideries for sale. We’ll have lunch and then drive on the sealed road to Hustai Nuruu National Park, about 3-4 hours.

Later we’ll check into a ger camp at the park’s headquarter and have dinner in the buffet restaurant of the camp.

  • Driving: 3-4 hrs
  • Walking: Visiting Cooperative, walking in the Park in evening

 

DAY ELEVEN: WILDLIFE OF MONGOLIA

Hustai Nuruu National Park is one of three sites in Mongolia where the Takhi, also called Przewalski Horse, is being re-introduced into the wild. The park is managed by a non-government organization and is also the only park in the country, where large herds of elk can be seen in the wild.

We set out in the morning, if available with the guidance of a park biologist, to spot Takhi and other wildlife from the designated tracks in the park. The park is situated in steppe landscape, its name derives from the remnants of birch forest on the hillsides – “hus” being the Mongolian word for birch.

After the wildlife excursion, we return to the Park Headquarters to check out the visitor center and souvenir/book shop, and after lunch, begin the trip back to Ulaanbaatar. On the sealed road, we’ll reach the Western outskirts of the capital city. Soon we will encounter city traffic while making our way to the city center hotel by mid-afternoon.

We’ll have a final farewell dinner in the evening and share our stories.

  • Driving: 2 -3 hrs
  • Walking: 1 hr wildlife excursion

 

DAY TWELVE: DEPARTURE

Transfer to Airport in Ulaanbaatar. For those who have a flight later today, enjoy sightseeing in the city, souvenir shopping, or a visit to the Black Market. Breakfast included.

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