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The Secrets of Gobi Desert & The Steppes of Mongolia

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12 Days / 11 Nights
General Description

From the beautiful, fertile grassland and sandy dunes of the Baia Gazrin Chuluu region to the inhospitable, rocky landscape of the Gobi desert, this 12 day – 11 night Mongolian adventure is a step-back-in-time trip that will leave you speechless. Explore old stone monasteries, granite monuments, canyons, impressive cliffs carved by the wind and the largest dunes in Mongolia; learn about the rare and endangered Takhi horses, swim in spectacular waterfalls, take a ride though the gorges of the Altai Mountains and look out for Argali sheets, desert gazelles and golden eagles in the Gurvansaikhan National Park, before ending your trip in modern Ulaanbator.

Code

MON_FA_002

Itinerary

Day 1

Baga Gazriin Chuluu (320 km about 5-6 hours driving)

(-/L/D)

After breakfast at the hotel, we leave for the Mongolian countryside. Our first stop is 250 km southward in the beautiful region of Baga Gazrin Chuluu. It is a huge granite formation in the middle of the Mongolian sandy plane.

On the open plain we visit the ruins of a small monastery named Delgeriin Chior Monastery. Here you can enter for the first time inside a Ger, in this case a huge and  richly decorated and carved Ger used by monks to chant in the colder season, when the stone monastery gets too cold to be used.

In the late afternoon we drive and hike around the area. We visit the picturesque remains of a small monastery that are hidden in a nice, little protected valley and wander among huge endless piled granite rocky hills. There is a little spring between the rocks of Baga Gazriin Chuluu which is renowned for its eye healing power. Try healing your eyes as locals do, by pouring some magic water over them.

Overnight.

Accommodation:

in Mongolian Ger

Day 2

Tsagaan Suvarga (250 km about 5 hours driving)

(B/L/D)

After breakfast, we start driving towards the Gobi Desert. Today we will admire the landscape changing dramatically from the fertile grassland to the inhospitably rocky land. The number of families and cattle we will see along the road will gradually reduce. Camels will slowly replace cows.

In the late afternoon we reach Tsagaan Suvraga. The Cliff is 30 meters high and 100 meters wide, and it’s been created by the wind over thousands of years.

From a distance, Tsagaan Suvraga resembles the ruins of an ancient town with crumbling buildings. Painted and carved in the rocks are ancient images of people hunting ibex with long bows and petroglyphs depicting wild animals and cattle and  Turkic inscriptions with different seals and images.

In a crevice running east to west from the upper slopes of a mountain down across the steppe, you will admire high mud columns rising from the depths below. The yawning gap looks like the open jaws of some fabulous animal. Some of the caves are multi chambered, with one of them stretching back over 70 metres.

Overnight.

Accommodation:

in Mongolian Ger

Day 3

Yolyn Am and Dungenee Canyon (250 km about 4-5 hours)

(B/L/D)

The Gobi Desert stretches over 1,610 km in a southwest to northeast direction and 800 km from north to south, extending over Mongolia and China. Covering a surface of 1,295,000 km2 in land, it is the fifth largest desert in the world and Asia’s largest. Much of the Gobi is not sandy but covered in bare rock.

The Gobi is a cold desert, its dunes covered in frost snow over the winter months. Beside being quite far north, it is also located on a plateau roughly 910–1,520 meters above sea level, all this causing the low temperatures. An average of approximately 194 millimetres of rain falls per year in the Gobi. Additional moisture reaches parts of the Gobi in winter as snow is blown by the wind from the Siberian Steppes. These winds cause the Gobi to reach extremes of temperature ranging from –40°C in winter to +50°C in summer.

We take a ride through the beautiful gorges of the imposing Altai Mountain Chain, passing through the Yolyn Am and the Dungenee Canyon, both located in the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. Ancient rivers carved those green valleys. We may catch a glimpse of the wild Argali sheep, the Ibex, the desert gazelles or the Golden Eagles. We will also pay a visit to the little museum of the park to admire a collection of dinosaur bones and local flora and fauna.

Overnight.

Accommodation:

in Mongolian Ger

Day 4

Khongoryn Els (150 km about 4 hours)

(B/L/D)

After a good breakfast, we drive 150 km westwards to the Khongoryn Els. These are Mongolia’s largest sand dunes, they can reach an height of 275 meters in some places, stretching from East to West for more than 100 km. Behind the sand dunes we will see the impressive black rocky mass of the Sevrey Mountain. The bravest and fittest can climb to the highest dune, equivalent to climbing a 40 storey building. Once you reach the top of the dune, your effort will be rewarded, though: the whole environment looks full of mysteries, and you will be amazed by such an incredible landscape. After the dune excursion, we visit a camel breeding family. It is their tradition to offer food and drinks without asking the visitors, so be prepared to enjoy some traditional food.

Overnight. 

Accommodation:

in Mongolian Ger

Day 5

Bayanzag, Flaming cliff (150 km about 4 hours)

(B/L/D)

Today our drive will take us to Bayanzag, also known as the “Flaming Cliffs” : it’s the worldwide renowned place where palaeontologist Roy Chapman Andrews found dinosaur bones and eggs. The surrounding landscape is a beautiful combination of rocks, red sand and scrubs. Here we will spend some time exploring the cliffs.

Overnight.

Accommodation:

in Mongolian Ger

Day 6

Ongiin and Khoshuu monastery (180 km about 5 hours)

(B/L/D)

Today we continue driving northwest to the Ongiin Monastery. We will enjoy the peace and beauty of the Delger Khangai Mountains, explore the remains of Khoshuu Monastery on one side of the river and the ruins of Ongiin Monastery on the other side. We will hike around this massive series of rocky hills cut by the river.

Both monasteries were built in the 17th century and destroyed in 1937. They were among the largest temples in Mongolia and housed over 1000 monks.

Nowadays, a little monastery has been built between the ruins and  interesting and rare remains of the old monasteries are exhibited in a Ger museum.

Overnight.

Accommodation:

in Mongolian Ger

Day 7

Orkhon valley and waterfall (300 km about 7-8 hours)

(B/L/D)

Accommodation:

in Mongolian Ger

The valley is registered as a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO due to its ancient findings, artefacts dating back to the early 6th century and before. Then, in the 12th to 13th century, the great Mongol empire expanded its capital Karakorum to this area. 

In the Quaternary era a volcano erupted near the spring of the Tsagaan Azarga (White Stallion River) and the lava flowed down the Orkhon valley forming a 10-meter-thick layer of basaltic rocks. The basaltic layer had been crosscut continuously by the Orkhon River until the canyon was formed.

At the beginning of this canyon lays a 20 meters high, 10-meter-wide waterfall. The most adventurous will want to climb down the canyon and swim in the lake located at the foot of the waterfall.

Overnight.

Day 8

Tovkhon Monastery and Tsenher Hot Spring (200 km)

(B/L/D)

There is an optional stop to be made at Tovkhon Monastery, established during the 1650’s by Zanabazar, one of Mongolia’s most respected religious leaders. The monastery’s wooden buildings are integrated in a natural system of caves perched near a hilltop, from where you can get beautiful views of the Orkhon Valley and the surrounding pine forests. On the top of the cliff, there’s a pile of stones assembled to worship a god of the mountain. It is called Ovoo.

After visiting the monastery, we drive westward in the direction of  the Khangai Mountains. On average, the Khangai Mountains are 2500-3000 M above sea level and are mainly composed of granite, intrusive chert and sandstone belonging to the Palaeozoic era. The Khangai Chain is about 800 km long, ranging from Zavkhan province to Tuv province.

The green mountainside and the network of smaller and larger rivers offer excellent pastureland for the herds of horses, yaks and cows.

In the afternoon we will reach Tsenkher hot spring resort which offers a large open-air pool. The hot water of the pool flows continuously in from the hot water spring. At the spring, the temperature of the water is over 80 ° C. A complex pipeline system regulates the water temperature. You can spend hours sitting in the pool talking to friends while staring at the stars or scanning the nightly scenery around.

Overnight.

Accommodation:

in Mongolian Ger

Day 9

Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur and Khorgo volcano (220 km)

(B/L/D)

In the afternoon we will reach Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes of the country. The lake is surrounded by extinct volcanoes, and it was formed by lava flows from a volcanic eruption that happened many millennia ago. As a result,  the landscape is covered in black volcanic rocks. We will make an excursion to the top of Khorgo Uul Volcano passing the gorges that lead from Tariat to the volcano. The volcano crater is 200 m wide and 100 m deep, covered in trees at the back and around the opening of the crater. To the south of Khorgo there are numerous basaltic “gers” formed during the cooling of lava; some of the gers have gates and upper holes and reach 1.7 m high.

Overnight.

Accommodation:

in Mongolian Ger

Day 10

Karakorum (480 km about 6-7 hours)

(B/L/D)

Today we will set off for a driving day to Karakorum (also called Kharhorin).

Karakorum is the site of the 13th century capital of the Mongolian Empire created by Chinggis Khan (aka Gengis Khan). The founding of Karakorum wasstarted on the ruins of Turug and Uigur cities in the Orkhon valley at the eastern end of the Khangai Mountains in 1220 by the Chinggis Khaan’s order. It was completed 15 years later during the Ugedei Khaan’s reign. The town was a very cosmopolitan and religiously tolerant place.

The silver tree, part of Möngke Khan’s palace, has become the symbol of Karakorum.

The highest peak of its prosperity was between 1220 and 1260, when Karakorum existed as the great capital of the Euro-Asian Empire, with Mongolia as its core. It used to be a centre of politics, economy, culture, religion, intellect, and diplomacy and the prominent tie of international relations.

Between 1260 and 1380 Karakorum lost the status of capital of the Great Mongolian Empire and became the capital of Mongolia. When Khublai Khan claimed the throne of the Mongol Empire in 1260, as did his younger brother, Ariq Boke, he relocated his capital to today’s Beijing. Karakorum was reduced to the administrative centre of a provincial backwater of the Yuan Dynasty.

In 1368, the rule of Mongolian Yuan Dynasty collapsed and the centre of the Mongolian government was shifted to its homeland after 110 years, since Khubilai Khaan had moved the Empire capital to China in 1260. It gave Karakorum a chance to prosper again.

In 1388, Ming troops under General Xu Da took and destroyed the town.

Today nothing is left of this legendary city.

In 1580, when Abtai Sain Khan together with his brother, lord Tumenkhen, visited the 3rd Dalai Lama and expressed their wish to build a temple in Mongolia, he advised them to reconstruct one old temple in Karakorum. The temple in Takhai ruins that was restored in 1588 according to the Dalai Lama’s recommendation is the Main Zuu temple of Erdene Zuu monastery.

Now Erdene Zuu Monastery is all that remains of what once was a huge monastery of 100 temples and about 1.000 lamas residing there. We will explore the grounds of Erdene Zuu Monastery surrounded by its massive 400 m X 400 m walls. We will be guided around the 3 remaining temples: Dalai Lama, Zuu of Buddha and Lavrin Temple.

Then we will visit the Kharkhorin’s New Archaeological Museum. It’s a small but modern building whose exhibits include dozens of artefacts dating from the 13th and 14th centuries which were recovered from the immediate area, plus others that were found from archaeological sites in other parts of the provinces, including prehistoric stone tools. You’ll see pottery, bronzes, coins, religious statues and stone inscriptions. There’s also a half-excavated kiln sunk into the museum floor. Perhaps most interesting is the scale model of ancient Karakorum, which aims to represent the city as it may have looked in the 1250s, based on descriptions written by the French missionary William of Rubruck. Another chamber exhibits a most recent addition, a Turkic noble tomb with wall paintings and artefacts, including gold items and jewellery.

We will also see the Turtle Rock and the Phallic Rock, then visit a little market exposing local arts created by locals.

Overnight.

Accommodation:

in Mongolian Ger

Day 11

Khustai National Park (260 km about 4 hours)

(B/L/D)

Przewalski’s Horses (Equus ferus przewalskii, also known as the Takhi horses) are a rare and endangered subspecies of wild horses native to the steppes of central Asia. The Takhi became extinct in the middle of the 20th century. They could only be found in zoos until special breeding programs increased their number. Extinct in the wild, the Takhi horse has been reintroduced to its native habitat in Mongolia at the Khustain Nuruu National Park, Takhiin Tal Nature Reserve and Khomiin Tal. The Khustai Nuruu National Park is located about 100 km southwest from Ulaanbaatar. Today it houses and protects  around 350 Mongolian’s Takhi wild horses. 

The park is home to 459 species of plants, 85 species of lichens, 90 species of moss and 33 species of mushrooms. 44 species of mammals have been recorded, including Red deer, Mongolian gazelle, Roe deer, Wild boar, Wild sheep, Ibex, Mongolian marmots, Grey wolves, Lynx, Pallas’ cat, Red fox, Corsac fox and Eurasian badger. The 217 species of birds include Golden eagle, Lammergeier, Great bustard, Whooper swan, Black stork, Daurian partridge and Little owl. There are 16 species of fish, 2 species of amphibians, and 385 species of insects (including 21 species of ants, 55 species of butterflies, 10 species of bush crickets and 29 species of grasshoppers).

Upon arrival at the camp of the Khustai Nuruu National Park we will meet the staff and be introduced to the project.

In the afternoon we will explore the beauties of the Park by jeep, on foot or on horseback.

Overnight.

Accommodation:

in Mongolian Ger

Day 12

Ulaanbaatar (130 km about 3 hours)

(B/-/-)

We will drive back to Ulaanbaatar. End of the tour.

Accommodation:

N/A

End of services —

The program may also be subject to changes based on traffic, weather or other events beyond our control. In this case we will take care of evaluating the necessary changes together with the travelers. 

Highlights

Visit the Singing Sand dunes in the remote Gobi desert

Look out for Takhi horses in the mountain

Try the Mongolian hospitality by sleeping under a starry sky in their nomadic tent, the Ger

What you need to know
Included
Not included
  • Licensed English speaking local guide
  • All the transfers in any destination as specified in the itinerary on a private basis
  • Meals as specified in the itinerary
  • Admission fees
  • Any VISA (which must be arranged for Non-ASEAN citizens)
  • International Air tickets
  • Domestic and International Insurance Surcharge
  • Meals and drinks not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Personal expenses such as drinks at meals
  • All other accounts which are not mentioned in the above inclusion.
  • Optional tour available on spot
Map

Pricing

As the hotels have different seasons that vary from hotel to hotel, the tour price will be on request, and the final amount will be calculated at the time of booking, according to the travel dates chosen and according with the number of participants.

 

Prices are per person on request in US Dollars

Private tour
Join tour

Price on request

 

Price on request

 

Policy

Travelers can cancel the tour before the deadline of cancellation; charges will be applied according to the cancellation deadline. The date of cancellation is the date in which the written communication od cancellation is received by the company.  Charges are a percentage of the total tour price per person, including surcharges but excluding any amendment charges and any insurance payment.

Cancellation Fee
Children

15 to No show 100 % charge

24 to 16 days 50 % of the tour price

29 to 25 days up 10 % of the tour price

30 days up no charge

Child from 1 – 5 year: Free of charge if sharing bed with parents

Child from 6 – 7 year: charge 50% of adult price if sharing bed with parents

Child from 8 – 9 year: charge 90% of adult price if using extra bed/mattress in parents ‘room 

Child from 10 year up: adult rate

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