On arrival at Ulaanbaatar airport we transfer to our group hotel. After settling in to the hotel there will some time to relax and refresh before venturing out to visit some of the highlights of the nation's capital city. Our first stop will be grand Sukhbaatar Square, the central square named after the revolutionary hero of 1921, Damdiny Sukhbaatar who declared independence from China. In the evening we enjoy a welcome dinner and trip briefing with your guide.
After breakfast at the hotel we embark on our journey out across the vast Mongolian steppe. Today we head west, our destination is Kharkhorin in v rkhangai Aimag (province). Here lies the UNESCO World Heritage site Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape. Within the site are the ruins of the ancient city of Karakorum, the capital of Mongolia under Ogedai Khan, son of Genghis Khan and also the Erdene Zuu Monastery. The monastery built in 1585 is thought to be the oldest surviving Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. This evening you have your first experience of true Mongolian life by spending the night in a ger (yurt) camp.
Driving distance: ~380km/ 7-8hrs
Today we continue our journey across the Mongolian steppe, heading south west into Bayankhongor Aimag. Our route takes us toward Ikh Bogd, the highest mountain of the Gobi-Altai Mountains. In the afternoon we arrive at our destination for the evening. We will be camping alongside a nomadic family who will be our welcoming hosts. Take the opportunity to learn about their seasonal nomadic lifestyle which has remained largely unchanged for generations. A wide and interesting range of dairy products make up much of their diet and you are invited to try them with the family.
Driving distance: ~230km/ 5-6hrs
Our journey today takes us south through the Valley of Lakes toward the Gobi-Altai Mountains. The 500km long Valley of the Lakes is an intermountain depression separating the Khangai and Gobi-Altai Mountains. The valley is dominated by sandy, rocky plains and several large lakes, the most impressive of which are B n Tsagaan and Orog Lake. In 1998 the region was designated a Ramsar Wetland Site of International Importance due to the wildlife it sustains. The area has become renowned for bird watching. We spend the night camping on the banks of the lake.
Driving distance: ~150km/ 3hrs
Our drive this morning is a short one. We arrive and set up our tent camp at the Ikh Bogd base camp which is located at an altitude of 2,300m. We spend the remainder of the day exploring the stunning surroundings of our camp high in the Gobi-Altai Mountains.
Driving distance: ~50km/ 1hr
Today we leave our vehicles behind and venture out into the wilderness on foot. Accompanied by packhorses which transport everything required for the next two days of hiking, we ascend further up the slopes of Turgen Bogd Mountain. The route leads us up over 3000m to Chonj in the upper Bituut Valley. The vantage points at these heights offer spectacular panoramas of desert plains to the south and the contrasting grasslands and lake to the north. Along the route we will make a stop at Lataanii Ovoo. An Ovoo is a sacred stone pile often situated in high, remote locations on the top of mountains and are used as an altar or shrine in Mongolian religions. They serve mainly as sites for the worship of Heaven and lesser gods led by shamans and kins' elders, but also for Buddhist ceremonies. The custom is to circle an ovoo three times in clockwise direction in order to have a safer journey. Rocks are then picked up from the ground and added to the pile. Often offerings in the form of sweets, money, milk, or vodka are given. In the evening we make camp on a flat, wide plateau at around 2700m.
Note: the hike is dependent on weather conditions and can be tailored to suit the fitness levels of the group.
Hiking distance: ~20km each day.
This morning we enjoy a final hike in the stunning Gobi Altai Mountains. The path we follow will lead us up valleys and over ridges to Puntsag Ovoo and back. After working up an appetite we have lunch before continuing our journey down this time by vehicle, descending back down into the lower foothills. We will make a stop at Icheeting River before carrying on to our overnight campsite.
Hiking distance: ~20km
Driving distance: ~60km/2hrs
This morning we journey on to Bichigt Khad, an area famous for its exquisite ancient petroglyphs. The countless rock engravings and funerary monuments in this region show the evolution of culture in Mongolia spanning a period of 12,000 years. The earliest images showcase a time (11,000-6,000 BC) when the region was partially forested and the valleys provided local hunters with large game. Later carvings depict the transition to herding as the dominant way of life. The most recent images show the transition to pastoralist, horse-dependent nomadic way of life. The petroglyphs assist greatly to our understanding of pre-historic lifestyles of Central and Northern Asia.
Driving distance: ~90km/2hrs
Today we drive to Khongorinn Els sand dunes, the largest and most spectacular sand dunes in Mongolia. Also known as Duut Mankhan (singing dunes due to the sounds they make as the winds move the sand), these dunes lie in the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park. The drive takes us through some incredible desert scenery with flat, stony plains, shrubby vegetation, unusual rock formations and herds of wild antelope racing across the plains. We reach the dunes in the late afternoon and head to a ger camp nearby.
Driving distance: ~230km/6-7hrs
Today we try out a different form of transportation typical to Mongolia, camel riding. We ride to and along the dunes which soar up to 300m high, are 12km wide and around 100km from one end to another. The remainder of the day is at leisure to enjoy the majestic landscape and we stay at the same ger camp as the previous evening.
Today's destination is the Flaming Red Cliffs at Bayanzag, also known as Bain-Dzak. The name was coined in the 1920s by the American paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews due to the red and orange sandstones cliffs. The site is most famous for the numerous fine examples of dinosaur fossils excavated in the vicinity. In the late afternoon we drive to a nearby ger camp for the evening.
Driving distance: ~150km/3-4hrs
Today we head through the National Park until we reach an area of the Zuun Saikhanii Nuruu (the Eastern Beauty) subrange of the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains known as Eagle Valley. This deep and narrow valley is nestled into the hills providing a welcome haven from the desert heat. Some areas of the valley are continually sheltered from the hot sun and house huge slabs of ice which gradually melt throughout the summer months. We overnight in a local ger camp.
Driving distance: ~90km/2hrs
This morning we bid farewell to the vast Monglian steppe and catch a morning flight from Dalanzadgad back to Ulaanbaatar. On arrival, we check-in to our comfortable hotel. After time to relax and refresh we head out to visit the Gandan Monastery. Depending on time there may be an opportunity to do some souvenir shopping, perhaps visit the fair trade shop which supports the growth of small indigenous businesses in Mongolia. In the evening we enjoy a farewell meal and concert featuring traditional song and dance.
The trip concludes today after breakfast. You will be transferred to the airport for your outbound flight.