Stay in tourist Ger Camps along the way – these are cosy, funished traditional tents, with wood stoves for cold nights.. Travel across the vast expanses of the Gobi Desert and see its ‘Flaming Cliffs’. Discover Mongolia’s rich cultural heritage, from the country’s original Buddhist temple to the city built by Genghis Khan. Climb to the top of the giant sweeping sand dunes of Khongoriin Els and experience the natural phenomenon of the ‘singing dunes’
The colourful history of Asia hangs brightly on Mongolia’s sleeve, from ancient times through to the rise and fall of communism. Alongside the temples and museums is a surfeit of natural wonders – like the singing sands of Khongoriin Els – that must be seen (or heard) to be believed. From the traffic-jammed streets of Ulaanbaatar to the tranquil expanses of the Orkhon Valley, discover Mongolia’s heart and soul on this exciting journey.
Breakfast Included: 13 Lunches Included: 9 Dinner Included: 9
Sainbainuu! Welcome to Mongolia. You can arrive at any time today, as there are no activities planned until an important Welcome Meeting at 6pm, where details will be collected and you’ll meet your group and leader. Crammed between the superpowers of Russia and China, the independent nation of Mongolia is a true Peregrine destination. The capital, Ulaanbaatar (affectionately known as UB), is a city where you’ll find elderly Mongolians in traditional dress, business suit-clad entrepreneurs and young monks. Until the meeting tonight maybe venture out into the city, where the close relationship with the USSR is evident in the Soviet style architecture. Perhaps explore one of the city's many museums to learn about the country's turbulent history, including the reign of the most famous of Mongolian historical figures – the feared and respected Genghis Khan. One of the most fascinating is the Intellectual Museum, where you can learn about the history and culture of this intriguing country through puzzles, toys and magic tricks. After our group meeting tonight, you have the option to join your fellow travellers for a dinner at a local restaurant chosen by your leader.
After an early breakfast, you will take a flight south to the Gobi Desert (approximately 90 minutes). You will land in Dalanzadgad, the provincial centre and a corner of civilization in the heart of the desert. Here you’ll be welcomed by your local drivers, who will be with the group for the next few days. Japanese minivans will be your transportation for the duration of the trip. Begin your desert exploration by heading out to “Vulture Canyon” (approximately 1 hour). This is a striking oasis of canyons and gorges deep in the desert, where the high cliff walls create a microclimate that attracts wildlife from all over Mongolia. The canyon is lined with ice almost year-round, and you’ll take an afternoon hike to explore a gorge and capture some beautiful pictures of the stunning Gobi Gurvan Saikhan Valleys. This evening you’ll spend the night in the national park at a ger camp, surrounded by endless desert.
Today you will drive to the giant sand dunes known as Khongoriin Els, Mongolia's largest and called the ‘singing sands’ by the locals (approximately 4 hours drive). These monster dunes stretch for over 100km and can reach up to 300 meters in height. This is the quintessential landscape that one would picture if asked to imagine a desert. Sweeping, wave-like patterns of sand framed by a bright blue sky and lit by a relentless sun. The dunes’ nickname comes from the sound produced by small avalanches of sand on a windy day, and the noise has been likened the distant hum of an aircraft propeller. After you arrive you’ll check into your ger camp and enjoy lunch in the new surrounds. In the afternoon there’s time to explore the dunes on foot.
If you found walking on this immense, elongated expanse of sand a little bit difficult yesterday, then this morning tackle them in a more traditional manner. Climb aboard a two humped Bactrian camel to navigate the dunes in the most iconic of ways. Maybe even get an insight into the practical and spiritual importance of these animals for Gobi nomads The rest of the day is free for you to spend as your wish. Maybe do some more walking and hiking, or simply sit back at the camp and take in the incredible views. Sunsets are particularly beautiful for taking pictures here.
Bayanzag Flaming Cliffs
Continue through the desert today onto the Flaming Red Cliffs, also known as Bayanzag or sometimes Bain-Dzak (approximately 4 hours). The area is best known for being the first ever site where dinosaur egg nests were discovered, back in the 1920s by a paleontologist who also coined the fiery nickname. This section of the Gobi Desert is considered a paleontologist’s paradise. Here you will walk the labyrinths of rock and hard sand – don’t be surprised if you make your own dinosaur discovery. There are fossils practically sticking out of the cliffs, as there aren’t the local resources to excavate them all. Bayanzag means ‘rich in saxauls’ (a type of shrub or small tree), and you might visit a saxaul forest nearby. These saxaul plants help to stabilize the active sand dunes and reduce the effects of sand storms. When the sun begins to set the colours of the cliffs can transform into a stunning mass of glowing fire, hence the label. Continue on to your ger camp for dinner and your overnight stay.
After breakfast you’ll return to Dalanzadgad (approximately 1.5 hours) and then take a 90-minute flight back to Ulaanbaatar. The remainder of the day is at your leisure. Take some time to explore the city, perhaps watch a cultural performance or visit Mongolia’s largest and most important active monastery, the lively Gandan Khiid, to learn about the main religion of Mongolia – Tibetan Buddhism. You’ll spend the night in a comfortable hotel here in UB.
Today you’ll enjoy a half-day city tour in order to get to know the area better. This will include visiting Zaisan Hill, where you can look out across the city and visit the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan. In your free time perhaps do some souvenir or supermarket shopping.
Khustai National Park
Drive to Khustai National Park (approximately 3 hours) today and arrive at your ger camp around midday. The park is a typical example of the Mongolian steppe landscape – vast empty spaces and dramatic mountains in the distance – and the Tuul River, one of Mongolia’s largest, runs through it. The park is also home to the Przewalski (Takhi) horse, a rare and endangered subspecies of the wild horse native to Mongolia. The country has a love-affair with the horse – Mongolians are known as the best riders in the world (and even have more than 500 words to describes horses’ coats) The park is the home of a highly successful horse reintroduction project. The takhi species was extinct in the wild in the 1960s, but has returned to its native habitat since the 1990s. Here you’ll visit a small museum run by the Takhi horse reintroduction project. In the afternoon, embark on a wildlife hike in the national park with a local biologist, who'll introduce you to his work and inform you about the park and its flora and fauna. Enjoy your stay in the ger tonight.
Drive to the centre of the country and the ancient capital of Karakorum (approximately 4 hours), built by the famous Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Be sure to ask your leader and drivers to tell you some stories about this legendary figure on the way – he’s the nations' hero after all. The city was the capital of the Mongol Empire for a short time 800 years ago, built after Khan used the area to gather his troops for the invasion of China. In Karakorum you’ll visit the first Buddhist centre of Mongolia, the impressive Erdenezuu Monastery, dating from 1585. This is an immense walled compound which retains much of its former glory. Inside you can inspect the three temples dedicated to the three stages of a Buddha's life: as a child, an adolescent and an adult. Continue your education in Mongolian hospitality with another night in a ger camp.
Tsenkher Hot Springs
Today’s destination is Tsenkher Hot Springs (approximately 6 hours drive), situated in the valley of the Delger River. Enjoy soaking in the thermal waters of these natural hot springs while surrounded by the remote beauty of the landscape. Don't forget to pack your swimwear so you can take part in this relaxing activity. We spend the next 2 nights at the ger camp here.
Tsenkher Hot Springs
Enjoy a free day to make the most of this remote, relaxing place. You can make the most of the hot springs or if you’d prefer to keep active then there are hikes available in the surrounding area.
Continue your journey to the famous Orkhon Valley (approximately 3.5 hours). This is where all the great nomadic empires, stretching from Korean peninsula to Caspian Sea, had their capital cities – due to the fact that this valley is roughly the geographic centre of the inner Euro-Asian steppes. Around lunchtime you will check into your ger camp, and the remainder of the day will be spent with a visit to a little museum that exhibits obelisks dedicated to the royal family of the ancient Turkic empire. There were erected in the early 8th century and the inscriptions on them, in both Chinese and old Turkic, are an invaluable source of information about the origin, historical golden age, subjugation and liberation of these nomads. Here you may also have the chance to practice the art of Mongolian archery under the tutorage of some local experts. It's certainly much harder than it looks and requires good strength as well as aim.