On arrival at Ulaanbaatar Airport we transfer to our hotel. This afternoon discover the nation's capital city. Our first stop is Sukhbaatar Square, the central square named after the revolutionary hero of 1921 Damdiny Sukhbaatar who declared independence from China. An important landmark on any orientation tour is the State Department Store or "Great Shop" as it is known in Mongolian. We return to the hotel in the afternoon to relax before a welcoming concert of Mongolian traditional music followed by dinner and briefing from your guide.
Today we will be transferred to the airport for our internal flight to Western Mongolia. We will be flying to the small township of Ulaangom, which is the capital of Uvs Aimag. An Aimag is like a state or province in Mongolia. The town is an administrative center for the area. It is quite a pleasant town with tree-lined streets and fairly well kept buildings. The flight takes about 4 hours. At the airport our vehicles and drivers will meet us and will transfer us to our camp for overnight.
For the next two days we will be trekking to the base of Turgen Mountain where at the foot of the peak there is a long glacier. The surrounds here are picturesque and the air clear and crisp, with the mountain peak towering overhead in all its grandeur. Nomadic families of the area move their gers up into these valleys in the summer months to graze their herds of livestock. Since the journey to the glacier is quite a difficult one, the locals are delighted to meet any traveller who will take the time to come and visit them. We will enjoy true nomadic hospitality in this remote corner of the world with the Durvud minority group of Mongolia. Each night we will stay in tented camps. During our trek all camping equipment and personal baggage is carried by vehicles. The trail follows a valley then slowly ascends. We will hike towards the snow-capped peaks following the river upstream towards the glacier. We trek through to the Urd Turgen Valley where the terrain is dry grassland scattered with large boulders. We set up our base camp for two nights by the white water river as it flows through the deep gorge. Trek distance approx: 18-24kms/day
Today we will hike up the Urd Turgen Valley, crossing small mountain streams where wild flowers bloom in spring ands early summer. We may have to clamber over boulders to continue our hike to reach the origin of the river, the edge of the glacier. In the afternoon we will hike back to our base camp. Trek distance approx: 18-24kms
We begin with a morning walk while the locals break camp and load the vehicles. Our local guides will pick us up on the way and we will continue our journey until we reach Uureg Lake, a beautiful, freshwater lake set amongst towering peaks and, to the north, the Russian border. We make camp by the lakeshore.
Today we have a full day to explore Uureg Lake. We'll have the chance to swim, fish, walk, bird watch or just relax and admire the view.
This morning we will drive from Uureg Lake to Olgiy town, the capital of Bayan-Olgiy province. The drive will take us beside Achit Lake and then along the Khovd River bank. We will be passing through changing ecosystems from semi desert area to steppe and mountainous steppe areas. Tonight we will stay in the ger camp by Khovd riverside in Olgiy. We will stay in Khazak gers, the traditional dwelling of round shaped felt tent.
Over two days we will drive into the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park. We will travel along the Khovd River and have lunch by the riverside. After lunch we continue our drive for around 130 kms, slowly ascending over 5-6 hours. Tonight we will camp in the mountain valley. The following day we continue driving until we reach our local Tuva family. After lunch we will hike until we reach the foothills of mountain. Our crew will make camp close to where the family are living at 2600m above sea level. Those who would like to ride a camel will have a chance to here. Altai Tavan Bogd is the highest mountain system in Mongolia. The name literally means Five Kings, as there are five peaks in the range itself. The highest peak is Huiten, which is elevated to 4350m above sea level. At the foot of Huiten peak is Potanin's Glacier.
Today we will be introduced to our camel man. Those who would like to ride a camel will have chance here. In the afternoon everybody will have time to prepare for next three days of camel-supported trekking.
Today we start trekking. Over the next three days all food and camping equipment will be carried by pack camels, allowing you to focus on this challenging hike and take in the stunning scenery. Each day will be approximately 5-8 hours of trekking in the Mongol Altai Mountain Range through high mountain meadows and wide open valleys. We will cross over the high pass at Tahilt and continue onto Tsagaan Us valley. This is a long day of trekking through challenging terrain with snow and glacier over the pass. Our objective today is to cross Tahilt Pass (3,200m). The hiking gets more challenging as we ascend the steep slope to the pass. From the top of the pass we get tremendous views of the surrounding peaks and high mountain lakes that are a stunning turquoise colour. As we cross the pass, we descend into Tsagaan Us valley where we camp for the night. Our campsite is on a small plateau high on the mountainous slope with an amazing vista of the whole valley. Approx 3000m above sea level. (Please note, in the event of high wind conditions this camp site may not be possible.) Trek distance approx: 15kms.
We continue hiking along Tsagaan Us River valley over undulating hills and forest. It is one of the rivers starting from the glaciers at Tavan Bogd peak of Altai Mountain Range. The river fills up the valley with towering mountains from either side with larch forest. There are many cascades and streams falling down the mountain and flowing into the river.
The following morning we will walk short way to get out of the mountains into more open space where we will meet our drivers and vehicles again. We will drive short way to the shore of Khoton Lake. It is a fresh water lake nestled in a mountain depression surrounded by high mountains with forests. There is another lake next to Khoton called Khurgan Lake. Those two lakes are connected by a stream and fed by rivers and streams originated in Altai Mountains. Khovd River originates from the Lake. This region has distinctly varied terrain from the wooded shores of the lake where our campsite is on the southern side to classic open steppe on the northern side of the lakes. Mt Ikh Turgen (3,507m) rises dramatically from near our campsite. This afternoon we may be able to visit a Khazak family, experiencing their unique culture. Although their nomadic lifestyle is very similar to that of the Mongols there are some key difference. Firstly, the Kazakh people are Muslim and follow the religious traditions and customs of Islam. They are Kazakh-speaking. The Kazakh women produce some astonishingly beautiful appliqu , stitching and rug making out of crude felt. The floors and walls of their gers are strewn with these beautiful handicrafts. Many of the Kazakh men pride themselves with their great skill in hunting with eagles. Eagles are often caught at a very young age and trained to hunt small prey in the winter months. The men carry the large birds on their arms as they ride on horseback, out for the hunt. In the summer months the family keeps the birds close to home and they are fattened for the winter's work
Trek distance approx 15-18kms/day
Today is free for you to explore on foot the shores of Lake Khoton. It is a fresh water lake nestled in a mountain depression surrounded by high mountains with forests. There is another lake next to Khoton called Khurgan Lake. Those two lakes are connected by a stream and fed by rivers and streams originated in Altai Mountains. Khovd River originates from the Lake. This region has distinctly varied terrain from the wooded shores of the lake where our campsite is on the southern side to classic open steppe on the northern side of the lakes. Mt Ikh Turgen (3,507m) rises dramatically from near our campsite.
Today we drive back to Olgiy. We will stop for lunch at the Mogoin River Gorge before continuing on to our ger camp for our overnight accommodation.
In the morning we transfer to the airport and fly back to Ulaanbaatar. The afternoon is free to relax in one of the capital's sidewalk cafes and watch Ulaanbaatar go by. For the more active you may like to visit the Winter Palace of Bogd Khaan. This is where Mongolia's eighth living Buddha, and last King -Jebutzun Damba Hutagt VIII- lived for 20 years until his death in 1903. Tonight we enjoy a final farewell dinner together in a local restaurant.
After a leisurely breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home.