Day 1: Ulaanbaatar
Mongolia is the world's most sparsely populated country with just 3 million people inhabiting the 1.5 million square kilometres of pristine desert, steppe and mountain. Almost half the population lives in its frenetic capital Ulaanbaatar where we will start our journey. Join your Tour Leader and fellow travellers on Day 1 at 5:00pm for your Welcome Meeting as detailed on your joining instructions.
Day 2: To Bayangobi via Khustai National Park
Beyond the city one million Mongolian's still live a traditional nomadic or semi nomadic life and the horse is central to their existence. We visit the Gandan Monastery, with its huge gold Buddha, the spiritual home of the Mongolian people, before traveling to the Khustai National Park where wild horses, known as Tahki or Przewalski horses are bred and reintroduced to the wild. Once close to extinction, Takhi are the world's only true wild horse.
Mongolia is a country with such diverse landscapes and today we continue our way across the steppe to experience the uniqueness of the Bayangobi. Here we have the opportunity to hike in the stunning sand dunes that stretch over a distance of 80kms. Tonight we stay in a ger, the traditional home of the Mongolian nomads.
Day 3: Khogno Khaan Natural Reserve and to Kharkhorin
This morning we explore the magnificent Khogno Khaan Natural Reserve with its diverse environments and wild inhabitants before continuing to the ancient capital of the Great Mongolian Empire in the valley of the Orkhon river, Kharkhorin.
We visit Erdene Zuu Monastery, built in 1586 this was the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia and today is still considered by many to be the countries most significant. Over 100 temples were constructed, but most were destroyed during the Soviet era, nevertheless, Erdene Zuu retains much of its former glory and is a remarkable site to visit. Surrounded by beautiful white walls with 108 stupas, for centuries it was a spiritual and intellectual centre of Mongolia.
There is an extraordinary collection of Buddhist paintings, priceless religious objects, traditional costumes for Tsama religious dance and superb Buddhist iconography in true Mongolian and Tibetan style.
Days 4-5: Orkhon Valley
Before leaving the steppe we visit Orkhon waterfall and Tuvkhun Monastery, set in a beautiful location in the Khangai Mountains in the picturesque Orkhon Valley. Established by Zanabazar, the first Buddhist leader of Mongolia and great sculptor, as a place of solitude it soon grew as a significant monastery and place of pilgrimage after his death.
Day 6: To Bayanhongor
Gradually the steppe gives way to the fringes of the Great Gobi Desert as we make our way to the one of the most diverse aimags (provinces) in the Gobi. Bayanhongor has mountains in the north, deserts in the south, and is dotted with lakes as well as rivers and is renowned for its natural, sulphur-rich hot springs.
Days 7-8: Ih Bogd Mountain and camel ger camp
Continuing our journey through the Gobi Desert we pause to enjoy the next two nights at the Gobi Camel Camp, and a chance to explore the area and learn more about the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Mongolians. Time also to climb Ih Bogd Mountain (3957m), the highest peak of the Gobi-Altai mountain range, and visit White Cave where evidence of early Stone Age habitation has been found.
Day 9: Kherman Tsav
We travel into the heart of the Gobi to one of its most remote and extreme areas where we will explore the spectacular canyon formations of Kherman Tsav. Carved out over many thousands of years the colourful canyon walls and rock formations provide a beautiful setting for an evening walk into the canyon. Dinosaur skeletons are to be found in the area as well as the unique flora and fauna of the Gobi Desert. Ibex and snow leopard are native to the region, while gazelles and wild asses can be seen on the nearby plains.
Day 10: To Toson Bumbin Mountains
This morning we drive along dirt roads to the trek in the beautiful mountain regions of Toson Bumbin that is home to endangered snow leopards and herds of impressive ibex. We spend the afternoon exploring this spectacular part of the world.
Day 11: Khongoriin Els
The vast sand dunes of Khongoriin Els, some up to 200 metres high, stretch for 180 kilometres. Known as the 'singing dunes' due to the melodic sound the shifting sands make as the wind passes over their crest, Khongoriin Els are some of the largest and most spectacular sand dunes in Mongolia. While here we have the opportunity to ride the two-humped Bactrian camels and venture into the dunes your efforts to get to the top will be rewarded, the views from the sandy summit are beautiful!
Day 12: To Bayanzag & the Flaming Cliffs
We awake as the morning sun lights the desert sands with a golden glow allowing us ample time for a morning trek into the dunes or to simply soak in the amazing landscapes. After lunch we continue our journey to Bayanzag to witness an amazing sunset on the Flaming Cliffs ensuring they live up to their description.
It was here in 1922 that the first fossilised dinosaur eggs and skeletons were found in Mongolia by Roy Chapman Andrews a discovery that drew the whole world's attention.
Day 13: Yoliin Am & Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park
We continue through the Gobi Desert, encountering occasional ger encampments of nomadic families, reaching the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park and the incredible Yol Valley where even in the middle of a Gobi summer, the river remains frozen. Hike in the valley and admire the spectacular scenery while we stop for picnic lunch before visiting the local museum.
Days 14-16: Ulaanbaatar
On Day 14 we leave the remote and beautiful landscapes of the Gobi Desert, returning by air to Ulaanbaatar. Continuing to soak in the culture and sites of the capital, we visit the fascinating National Museum of Mongolian History as well as Bodg Khan Palace Museum, and are treated to an evening cultural performance and farewell dinner, where you will hear the unique Mongolian throat singing.