Ultimate Mongolia with Naadam Festival

The amazing Naadam Festival plus the Gobi Desert, Lake Hovsgol, Yol Valley and more
Overview

overview

Mongolia is the Montana of Central Asia. Sparsely populated, vast grasslands paint the gently rolling steppes between deserts, high mountains, and pristine lakes. This trip savors spectacular and varied environments, culture, and ancient history. You won’t ride with the Mongol hordes, but you will visualize the events of historical antiquity and earlier epochs as you visit archaeological sites dating to the times of Genghis Khan and earlier. You will also visit dinosaur fossil sites. Destination highlights include Lake Hovsgol, the Gobi Desert, Yol Valley, Flaming Cliffs, and Khustain Nuruu National Reserve. The cultural highlight of the trip will be an opportunity to experience the great Naadam Festival. July is an excellent time of year for warm weather, wildlife viewing, and photography. Many of the nights you will stay in cozy, comfortable gers.

itinerary

itinerary

  • Day 1: Arrive Ulaan Baatar
    Ulaan Baatar

    Arrive in Ulaan Baatar and transfer to your centrally located hotel. The rest of the day will be free to relax or explore the city. Evening dinner with the other group members. Consider arriving a day or two early to rest up after a long flight and adjust better to the local time.

    Meals
    Dinner
    Lodging
    Ramada Hotel or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 2: Ulaan Baatar City Tour
    Ghenghis Khan monument in Ulaan Baatar

    This will be your day to acquire a good background of the cultural, religious, and natural history of Mongolia. You will tour Ulaan Baatar, including a visit to Gandantegchinlen Monastery, the largest and most significant monastery in Mongolia, and one of Ulaan Baatar’s most interesting sights. Built in the mid 19th century, it is the only monastery where Buddhist services continued during the communist years, and the temples are thronged during religious services. Also tour the Megjid Janraisig Temple, the most important part of the monastery. This temple, also known as Avalokiteshvara Temple, was built in 1911-1912 to celebrate the end of Manchu domination in Mongolia and, it is said, to have cured the great and revered Bogd Gegeen Khaan from blindness. The Janraisig statue at 25 meters (87 feet) in height and 20 tons in weight, is inside the temple. Visit the newly-renovated Museum of National History. The museum displays exhibits on the geography, geology, botany, fauna, and paleontology of Mongolia. Among the treasures on display are 800 objects from the lower Cambrian Age (500 million years ago) to the Quaternary Age (10,000 to 15,000 years ago), including fossils of vertebrates, plants, leaf prints, dinosaurs, and mammals. The specimens of dinosaur skeletons and bones vary in size from a few inches to over 100 feet tall, and several are found only in Mongolia.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Ramada Hotel or similar
    Show on a map
  • Days 3-4: Naadam Festival
    Attend the Naadam Festival

    Spend these two days witnessing the great Naadam Festival. There's nothing else like this anywhere on earth! Watch wrestling, archery, and horse racing among the crowds of locals who are reveling in the competition. Wonderful costumes, wonderful pageantry -- from the opening dancers and musicians and throughout the games. This is THE national event of Mongolia.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Ramada Hotel or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 5: Moron / Hovsgol Lake
    Base camp at Lake Hovsgol

    After an early breakfast at the hotel, fly into Moron, the center of the Hovsgol province. From Moron, you will be driven to the base camp at Lake Hovsgol (approx. 70 miles). With an area of 1,012 sq. miles lying near the Russian border, Hovsgol is Mongolia’s largest freshwater lake. It is more than 800 feet deep and more than a mile above sea level. The remainder of the day is at your leisure. Overnight at the Ger base camp. 

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Ger
    Show on a map
  • Day 6: Hovsgol Lake Hiking and Wildlife
    Hike along the shores of Hovsgol Lake

    After breakfast at the camp you will have a full day to explore the breathtaking shores of this beautiful lake.  There is ample opportunity to discover the local nomadic lifestyle. You can plan hiking and photo ventures along the shorelines, which are excellent habitats for wildlife and birds. 

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Ger
    Show on a map
  • Day 7: Hustai National Park
    Drive to Khustain Nuruu National Reserve for a look at the Przwalski Wild Horses

    This morning, you will take the flight back to Ulaan Baatar and immediately head out on the drive to Hustai National Park (approx. 62 miles), the site of a unique re-introduction of Przewalski's Horse (Equus Przewalskii), called "takhi" by the locals. It became extinct in the wild in 1969 and since 1992, has been successfully re-introduced in Hustai from zoos around the world. This has been an international effort monitored by the Foundation for the Przewalskii Horse, based in the Netherlands and MACNE (Mongoian Association for Conservation of Nature and the Environment.) The park extends through the Khentii Mountains and includes the western edge of the Mongolian steppe. It contains large patches of birch and aspen forests and visible remains of Neolithic graves. Other wildlife found here include red deer, the wolf, and Mongolian gazelle. Overnight at a Ger Camp.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Ger
    Show on a map
  • Day 8: Karakorum
    The golden stupa at Erdene Zuu monastery

    After breakfast at the camp, transfer to Karakorum (approx. 80 miles). Situated on the banks of River Orkhon, the site of the imperial capital, Karakorum was chosen by Genghis Khan in 1220. The city, capital of the largest land empire the world has ever known, served as a supply point for the Mongol armies and was a cosmopolitan and multi-cultural place in its time. Today almost nothing remains of the once-great city, but the sense of its grandeur and importance can still be felt by the visitor. Karakorum was located on trade routes and was surrounded by walls with four gates, each with its own market. The nearby Erdene Zuu Monastery was the first Buddhist monastery built in Mongolia, constructed using stones and bricks from the ruins of the ancient city in 1586. During the communist purges of the 1930s, many of the temples in the monastery complex were destroyed, but the remaining temples and stupas are some of the best examples of Mongolian Buddhist architecture. Erdene Zuu is now both a museum and a functioning monastery. Also visit Shanh Hiid, the local active Buddhist temple, which, along with the Erdene Zuu, is the only monastery in the region to have survived the 1937 purge. Overnight in a Ger at the Karakorum base camp. 

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Ger
    Show on a map
  • Day 9: Ugii Lake & Elsensen Tasarkhai
    Learn about nomadic lifestyles

    In the morning, drive out to Ugii Lake with stops at several eighth century Turkish monuments in the Orkhon Valley. These monuments are dedicated to the Turkish Princes Kul Tegin and Bilge Khan, brothers who were famous for their military bravery. Continue on to Ugii Lake, one of the largest fresh-water lakes in Mongolia, known for its migratory birdlife such cranes, ducks, geese, and pelicans and for its variety of fish.

    After a lunch break, drive to Elsen Tasarkhai, stopping to pay a visit with a nomad family and learning how they live and make dairy products. You may even have a try at drinking fermented mare's milk.  Overnight at a Ger Camp

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Ger Camp
    Show on a map
  • Day 10: Terelj National Park
    Meet a bactrian camel

    Today you drive to Terelj National Park via Ulaan Baatar where you see Turtle Rock and visit the Temple of Meditation. There is horse and camel-back riding available in the park.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Ger
    Show on a map
  • Day 11: Ulaan Baatar

    You'll spend the morning at your leisure, perhaps taking a walk through the park before heading back to Ulaan Baatar. You'll have the rest of the day free to relax.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Ramada Hotel or similar
  • Day 12: Gobi / Yol Valley
    Admire the vast and austere Gobi desert

    Early in the morning, you will fly to the Gobi Desert, one of the most famous and exotic areas in the world. The Gobi occupies about one-third of Mongolia and consists of sand dunes and dry mountain ranges. As one of the harshest environments on earth with extreme temperature and seasonal changes, the Gobi is surprisingly full of wildlife such as white and blacktail gazelles, wild ass or “hulan” in Mongolian, wild camel or “havtgai”, antelopes, ibex, and argali sheep, the biggest wild sheep on the planet. The majority of Mongolia’s population of bactrian camels live in this area, and you can take a camel ride if you like. Upon arrival, transfer to the base camp at the Gobi. You may visit the Yol Valley National Park for a morning trek with opportunities to photograph the stunning landscape, “Gobi Glacier”, and intriguing wildlife. Yol (Lammergeyer) Valley is the narrow canyon of river that flows through Zuun Saikhan Mountain (alt. 9,236’). Its gorge has sheer rock walls, and, during the rainy season, rain falls at the summit of the mountain and flows down into the sheer canyon to form waterfalls. A small museum marks the entrance to the protected zone and provides information on the petrified trees and flora and fauna of the Gobi. Return to base camp for dinner and overnight. 

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Ger
    Show on a map
  • Day 13: Khongor Sand Dune
    Stay in a homey and surprisingly-comfortable ger

    After breakfast, drive to Khongorinn Els Sand Dunes, the largest sand dunes in Mongolia. These dunes lie in the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park. The drive takes you through incredible desert scenery with flat, stony plains; outcrops of vegetation; hills of interesting rock formations; and herds of wild antelope racing across the plains.  The roads are flat and fairly even, so the drive will take only around four hours. The dunes are also known as "Singing Sand Dunes" due to the shifting sand blown by the wind, causing a sound that sounds like someone singing. Visit a camel breeding family, with the option of riding a camel through the dunes. You also visit a beautiful oasis near the dunes for excellent photo opportunities.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Ger Camp
    Show on a map
  • Day 14: Flaming Cliffs
    Bayan Zag, or Flaming Cliffs

    In the morning, you'll make the drive to Bayan Zag, also known as the Flaming Cliffs, to explore the Gobi “Cemetery of Dinosaurs” and the trail of Roy Chapman Andrews. You will also stop at the Petrified Forest, where you will find the remains of mammals, in particular, the skeleton of a hornless rhinoceros, the largest known mammal in the world. Overnight at a Ger Camp.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Ger
    Show on a map
  • Day 15: Bogdo Khaan Winter Palace
    Spend some leisurely time exploring the city

    After breakfast at the base camp, fly back to Ulaan Baatar. En route to the hotel, visit the Bogdo Khaan Winter Palace Museum. The Bogdo Khaan Winter Palace is the home of the last Mongolian King, Javzun Damba Khutagt VII. The museum contains a number of Buddhist artworks and the private collection of Bogdo Khaan, composed of gifts from rulers and kings from all over the world. The artworks displayed here were made by the top Mongolian, Tibetan, and Chinese master-sculptors of the 18th and 19th centuries and represent the gods of Buddhist pantheon. If you did not have time on your earlier trip through Ulaan Baatar, visit the Museum of National History.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Ramada Hotel or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 16: Onward

    In the morning, transfer to the airport for your departure flight.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    None
    Show on a map
Price and Date Details

Price and Date Details

Jun 28-Jul 13, 2015R
Jul 9-24, 2015
Land Cost:
$4,250
- $4,850
Group size 6+: $4250 Group size 3-5: $4550 Group size 2: $4850 Plus local Mongolia flights add $800 (estimate)
Single Supplement:
$850
The single supplement is applicable if a roommate is not available or if single accommodation is specifically requested. While single accommodation is not available on all trips, we will try and honor this request whenever possible.
Need to Know

Need to Know

You will be traveling through rough terrain and sleeping many nights in local-style ger accommodations, using Ulaan Baatar as a hub. A ger is a traditional Mongolian home, made of wooden supports covered in felt and decorative cloth; each ger is typically one circular room with beds accommodating four to six guests. Your hotel in Ulaan Baatar will have full conveniences including internet access, direct dial phone lines and other modern amenities. Satellite phones may be available at some camps. Our planned itinerary utilizes local flights to cover the longest distances, but we will still travel extensively in 4x4 vehicles. On this wide-ranging trip, participants' endurance and patience may be tested by difficult roads, transportation, and uncertainties like hot, cold, wet, or dry weather, but we have great faith in the local company and guides whom we employ.

Duration:
16 days
The number of days, or duration, in a destination corresponds with the itinerary as published. This is the time period covered by the land cost.
Comfort Level:
2
Western style hotels & traditional ger huts; travel over rough roads
Group Size:
2-12
The stated range indicates minimum required for guaranteed departure and maximum accepted on the scheduled dates. Exceptions can often be made for private departures.
Activity Level:
2
Optional hiking and easy walking

Terms & Conditions: 

Standard

Included in costs: Meals as noted, each night in double occupancy accommodations, land transfers between components, English speaking guides, park or site entry fees, surface transport, equipment other than personal gear, government tax, airport transfer assistance, in-country ticket reconfirmation and check-in assistance (where permitted), complete pre-departure packet, toll-free pre-departure phone assistance.

Not included in costs: Meals not noted as included, gratuities, beverages (except tea or coffee at meals), international or domestic airfare unless specified, airport departure taxes not included with air tickets, visas, itinerary changes after confirmation, any services not included in itinerary, any costs incurred due to canceled or delayed flights, acts of nature or other happenings beyond our control, or other costs as are more fully described in JOURNEYS Terms & Conditions.

Deposit and payment schedule: $500 per person per trip or the applicable amount based on the trip and the proximity of the departure date. A second deposit of $800 per person is due four months prior to departure, and final payment for land arrangements is due 60 days prior to departure.  Any applicable permit fees required in advance are non-refundable as well.  Airlines require full payment when tickets are issued. The deposit may be made by Visa, Master Card, American Express, or check, and the Reservation Form may be submitted by fax, mail, or via our website. Full payment schedule and cancellation penalties are described in our Terms and Conditions as noted in our Global Expedition Catalog, on our website, and elsewhere. Please request these if you do not have them before advancing a deposit.

Air fares: JOURNEYS can make complete air arrangements applicable to your trip as noted in this itinerary. If you wish to redeem frequent flyer mileage or arrange flights directly with the airline, you may do so on your own at no penalty. If you do, please consult with us on exact arrival and departure dates and times before having your tickets issued to avoid errors.

Insurance: When you make your application, we strongly recommend the purchase of comprehensive travel insurance in case of emergency situations. Please contact us for a recommended policy.

Itinerary Change Fee: There will be a $40 fee for changes once an itinerary has been confirmed and approved. Additional cancellation penalties or change fees may apply as per our terms and conditions. The passenger is responsible for such fees.

Resources

Trip Extensions

Trip Extensions

There are currently no suggested extensions for this itinerary. Please ask the Destination Specialist if you'd like to customize one.

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