Mongolia Traverse

From the Gobi to Lake Khuvsgul

Mongolia Traverse

Southern, Central and Northern Mongolia

  • Overland Discovery
15 Days
2 Flights
Not Child Friendly

This expedition style trip is the best way to get acquainted with Mongolia and the different aspects that make up the traditional Mongolian ways of life. We start in the Gobi desert, then head north to an area known to the Mongolians as “the paradise of the horse herders”. The trip finishes up on the shores of Huvsgul Lake, one of the world’s largest freshwater sources.

Itinerary

Day 1. Arrival in Ulaanbaatar

  • Dinner

Arrival in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital city. At 14:00 we meet our guide at the airport, and head to the city center. The short drive passes through the shanty town inhabited by those who were once nomads, but have neglected their traditional lifestyle in the hope of finding a little fortune in the city, which not too long ago has seen some rapid development. The urban landscape quickly changes into expansive shopping malls and brand new residential complexes, shifting again to the scenes of the city center, where modern high-rises are quickly built amidst soviet-era buildings. After checking into our hotel, and if time permits, we will have an orientation tour of the city center through the central square. Right at the heart of the square we see the figure of D. Sukhbaatar, one of the heroes of the communist revolution of 1920’s, boldly raising his arm towards the statue of Ghengis Khan, whose name wasn’t allowed to be mentioned during the 70 year communist reign. We then visit the National History Museum, which holds a permanent exhibition on the different civilizations that have inhabited the territory of Mongolia from prehistoric times to the present. This exhibition includes a significant display of objects from the era of the Great Mongol Empire. From here we take a short walk to the drama theater where we attend an impressive folk concert, featuring some traditional Mongolian art forms. After a welcome dinner, we drive back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Day 2. Ulaanbaatar ✈ Dalanzadgad – Yolin Am

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

This morning we drive back to the airport, for the short domestic flight down to the Gobi Desert. We land in Dalanzadgad, the capital city of South Gobi Province. Once a remote desert town, it today serves as the center of logistics for the developing mining industry. Over the last decade, massive exploration operations have revealed in the Gobi Desert an abundance of precious metals and minerals. And thus, the once peaceful desert is being trampled by excavators, monster trucks, and massive drills- all in the hope of making a quick fortune. Luckily, most of these mines are far from the eye, but their environmental impact can be seen and felt throughout this massive desert. Upon landing in Dalanzadgad we meet our driver, and embark on a one and a half hours’ drive to the ‘Gobi’s Beauties’ Nature Reserve. Once at the reserve, we head to the ‘Vulture’s Valley’- a beautiful oasis at the foot of the ‘Three Beauties’ Mountain range. As the rays of sun does not reach the small river at the creek’s basin, it is kept frozen throughout the beginning of the summer, and hence, the place is commonly known as the ‘Gobi Glacier’. We take an easy hike along the beautiful stream, and if lucky, we get to see some of the wildlife inhabiting the reserve. Overnight in a ger camp- the cozy yet simple, Mongolian version of a lodge, consisting of traditional felt-made dwellings the nomads of Central Asia often refer to as yurt.

Day 3. Yolin Am - Khavtsgait Petroglyphs – Khongoriin Els

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

We leave our camp, and head towards Khavtsgait Petroglyphs, located on a cliff overlooking the vast Gobi Plains. Here, in what was once an ancient place of worship, or place of congregation, beautiful petroglyphs has been inscribed on the rocks. The rock paintings depict scenes drawn from the daily lives of those inhabited the region hundreds, and even thousands of years ago. Another four hours of driving through the Gobi’s typical cold desert landscape, so called because the Gobi receives its moisture in the form of snow, brings us to the Khongorin Els sand dunes. After a late lunch at the ger camp where we will spend the night, we will go to explore the towering dunes on foot. If the breeze is blowing just right, we may hear the dunes singing to us. The rugged desert plants of the Gobi at the edges of the sands are beautiful in their own sculptural way. Overnight in a ger camp.

Day 4. Khongoriin Els – Bayan Zag – Ongi Monastery

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Our first stop of the day would be at the place known to westerners as The Flaming Cliffs. Bayan Zag (Rich with Saxaul) is famed for its red sandstone cliffs which take on beautiful red and orange hues during sunset. The area is also recognized as one of the world’s largest dinosaur graveyards. In 1921, the American Roy Chapman Andrews discovered here some of the most important Paleontological findings of the last century. After a short hike through the red sandstone cliffs, we take a long drive out of the desert. In the afternoon we arrive at Ongi Monastery on the bank of the Ongi River- the Gobi’s largest river. Though nowadays monastery is rather small in size, the site’s name refers collectively to a cluster of monasteries, temples, and Buddhist universities that were established here in the 18th and 19th century, and served as one of the largest Buddhist canters throughout the country. Like most religious institutes in Mongolia, the entire complex has been destroyed during the anti-religious purges of the 1930’s, led by the communist party. It is believed that some 200 monks were executed during these purges, and the surviving monks were forcibly conscripted to the Mongolian People’s Army. In recent years, efforts made by the local communities, and by the religious institutions of Mongolia have resulted in the reconstruction of the main stupa, and the first temple has been inaugurated back in 2004. As we arrive in the camp, we take a hike to one of the many hills surrounding the area, for a view over the historic ruins, and the beautiful plateau. Overnight in a ger camp.

Day 5. Ongi Monastery - The Orkhon Valley

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Today we reach the Mongolian steppes. Here there is a great variety of birds of prey, including eagles and falcons, constantly on the watch for a meal. As we drive up north, the scenery would gradually change from arid steppes to the fertile green grasslands typical to the Khangai Mountains, Mongolia’s second largest mountain range. After lunch we head into an area dominated by volcanic scenery, which takes us along the Orkhon River Valley. A UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape, the valley has served as the center of several kingdoms and empires that ruled much of Central Asia for centuries. The UNESCO committee states: “Collectively the remains in the site reflect the symbiotic links between nomadic, pastoral societies and their administrative and religious centres, and the importance of the Orkhon valley in the history of central Asia.” (UNESCO website). Late in the afternoon we arrive at a beautiful vantage point over the Orkhon River, where we spend the night. Overnight in a ger camp.

Day 6. The Orkhon Valley - The Red Waterfall - Tuvkhon Monastery - Kharkhorin

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Leaving our camp, we take an hour's drive to the beautiful volcanic canyon through which the Orkhon River flows. Here we take an easy hike along the canyon floor, and end up at the pool at the bottom of the Red Waterfall. For the brave at heart, a cool swim awaits! We hop back to our vehicle, and drive to one of Mongolia’s most impressive monasteries, where we take a three and a half hours’ hike (of which, one-hour up hill). Located at the top of a high hill with a view of seemingly endless pine forests, Tuvkhon Monastery was established during the 1650’s by Zanbazar, one of Mongolia’s most respected religious leaders. Fleeing the Manchu Emperor, the Zanbazar built a monastery in this hidden place, using a natural system of caves and adding small wooden buildings. In the afternoon we keep on driving up the river to Kharkhorin. Overnight in a ger camp.

Day 7. Kharkhorin – Tsenkher Hot Springs

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Built by Ghengis Khan about 800 years ago, Kharkhorin, better known as Karakorum, was famed throughout Asia as the capital of the Mongol Empire. Within the walls of this spectacular city, kings were chosen, laws made, and the fate of the next city to be conquered were determined. We will visit the ruins of the old city, the Erdene Zuu monastery, and other historical monuments in the area for as long as time permits. In the afternoon we leave this historical site, as we go on to the region the Mongolians call the ‘paradise of the horse herders’ due to its lush grasses and open valleys. We drive through thick pine forests to the Tsenkher hot springs, where water flows out of the ground at about 80°C (176°F), and where we can enjoy a relaxing soak. Overnight in a ger camp by the hot springs.

Day 8. Hiking Around Tsenkher

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Today we will take a short drive to the trailhead, where we begin our day’s hike. The hike is a truly enchanting walk up a stream where we hop from one boulder to another to the top of a hill, for an amazing view of the surrounding valleys. In this part of Arkhangai the wildflowers are plentiful, and it is likely we will see families cutting hay for winter fodder for their animals. From here we hike back down through a thick pine forest to our vehicle, and then take the return drive back to camp, where we enjoy another night of soaking in the hot water pools. Overnight in the same ger camp for a second night

Day 9. Tsenkher Hot Springs – Tsetserleg - Chuluut Canyon - Nariin Gechgiin River

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Driving out of the hot springs, we pass through Tsetserleg, the provincial capital, where we make a short visit to the local market (closed on Sundays). We then visit the provincial museum, located in an ancient monastery (closed on Sundays as well). Back in the days when Mongolia was ruled by a religious figure, the monastery served as the palace for the local head monk, who served as head of the provincial administration on behalf of the king. Continuing west, we pause by Taikhar Chuluu, a massive rock which is connected to local mythology. In the afternoon we arrive at the hundred-branches-tree. Despite the fact this strange-looking tree has been burnt in recent years during shamanic ceremony, the site still is considered holy, and is worshipped by local people. From here we take a short walk to a good observation point for the Chuluut Canyon. Another one-hour drive brings us to our camp, nestled by a crystal clear river, where we spend the night.

Day 10. Hiking to Khorgo Volcano and The White Lake – Jargalant Hot Springs

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

We spend this day hiking to the top of Khorgo Volcano, for a view over its perfect crater. From here we also enjoy a view over the vast lava fields that dominate the surrounding landscapes. Reaching the top of the volcano we continue our hike through basalt fields studded with pine trees. En route we stop at the Yellow Dog Cave, an interesting volcanic phenomenon, and we then end our hike at a pilgrimage site on the shores of Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake. Late in the afternoon we drive north on one of Mongolia's most beautiful routes, as we cross high mountain passes, vast grasslands, and small creeks. We end the day at Jargalant Hot Springs in the mountainous region of Khuvsgul, where we spend the night in a ger camp by the hot springs.

Day 11. Jargalant Hot Springs - Erkhil Lake - Lake Khuvsgul

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

As we head north, we pass through the town of Murun, the provincial capital of Khuvsgul. A short while later we arrive at an ancient burial site, featuring Mongolia’s mysterious deerstones. These memorial stones represent important leaders and warriors, carved with deer motifs. After visiting the site, we continue our trip northwards. One of the world's largest fresh water sources, Lake Khuvsgul and its amazing surroundings are home to several of Mongolia’s ethnic minorities, among them are the Tsaatan, or better known as the reindeer people. The protected area surrounding the lake is a refuge for a wide variety of wildlife. We arrive at the lake’s shores late in the evening, and check in our ger camp for the night.

Day 12. Horse riding by Lake Khuvsgul

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Today we take a horseback riding trip through the forests and meadows near the lake. Lying around 1650 meters (5413 feet) above sea level, and surrounded by mountains that rise over 3100 meters (10170 feet), the waters of Khuvsgul are deep and spectacularly clear and pure. We will ride through thick pine forests carpeted with flowers, and explore the setting of Mongolia’s ‘Blue Pearl’. Overnight in the same ger camp by the lake’s shore.

Day 13. Lake Khuvsgul - Murun ✈ Ulaanbaatar - Terelj National Park

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

After an early breakfast in our camp, we drive back to Murun, taking the first available flight to Ulaanbaatar. Upon arrival, we meet our driver and guide, and embark on the one and a half hours’ drive to Gorki-Terelj National Park. The park features unique rock formations, scenic valleys, a winding river, and restful groves of trees. Many nomads live in the park itself, where they find good grazing for their animals. If time permits, we will take a short hike to a nearby hill, from which we watch the sun sets over the park (weather permitting of course). We will spend the night in a ger camp in the park.

Day 14. Terelj National Park - Ghengis Monument – Ulaanbaatar

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

This morning we take an easy hike to the famous Turtle Rock, a symbol of wisdom and longevity to the Mongolian people. We then continue hiking to Ariabal Temple. The temple has been recently reconstructed, after the original temple had been destroyed during the communist purges of the 1930’s. A site of great tranquility, it functions today as a meditation center to Buddhist monks. After lunch, we leave the park and drive to the newly constructed Ghengis Khan Monument. Rising 40 meters in height over the surrounding steppes, this mighty structure plays a major symbol to the renewing Mongolian nation, after more than 300 years of foreign sovereignty over its people and territory. We then head to the Mongolian Capital, where we will enjoy a farewell dinner, followed by a visit to the Zaisan Hill, for a view over the city at night. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

Day 15. Departure from Ulaanbaatar

  • Breakfast

After breakfast at our hotel, we will drive to the airport for our international departing flight.

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Dates & Pricing

Discounted rates:  
4 travelers – 10% discount
6 or more travelers – 25% discount

  • Prices are based on twin share occupancy.
  • Applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking their trip together.
  • The discounted price is the price for 2 people (below) less the discount.
  • Mongolian Ways Ltd. reserves the right to change tour prices and programs due to changes in flight schedule, changes in airfares, and other local circumstances.

1st September, 2017–18th September, 2017

  • $3,563 Per Person (From 2 people)
  • $432 Single Room Supplement

Additional Information


Inclusions
  • Accommodation as per program
  • Domestics flights
  • Meals as indicated in the program (full board basis)
  • Drinking water
  • Private 4WD vehicle
  • Local English speaking guide
  • All entrance fees as per program
  • All transfers

Exclusions
  • Travel expenses to/from Mongolia
  • Travel Insurance
  • Mongolian visa
  • Excess Luggage
  • Gratuities
  • Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
  • Anything not clearly mentioned in the program

Accomodation
  • 2 nights in 4-star hotel in Ulaanbaatar
  • 12 nights in ger camp

Note: The listed hotels are tentative. Final hotel list shall be confirmed upon placing a booking and paying a deposit.


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