Mongolia’s sublime beauty reveals itself in endless expanses of steppe and sky and an age-old nomadic culture that joins the people with the land. Journey through this remote, seldom-travelled region of Asia, from sprawling Ulaanbaatar to green, grassy plains where wild horses roam. Discover the country’s surviving Buddhist heritage on visits to historic temples and monasteries; walk across the rocks and sands of the sweeping Gobi, which conceal troves of dinosaur fossils; and get a taste of traditional Mongolian life at a horse and yak farm.
Arrive at any time. Arrival transfer is included.
Enjoy a morning tour of Mongolia’s bustling capital. Visit Gandan Monastery, one of the country’s most important Buddhist sanctuaries, and wander the rooms and temples of Bogd Khan’s Winter Palace, the former home of Mongolia’s last king. Climb up to the Zaisan Memorial, a Soviet Era monument which commemorates Russian soldiers killed in World War II, and take in sweeping views of the city from the hilltop. Later, admire the world-class collection of fossils at the Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs, dedicated to preserving Mongolia’s paleontological heritage.
ULAANBAATAR/HUSTAI NATIONAL PARK
Travel by 4x4 to Hustai National Park, where some of the Earth’s last wild horses roam. The takhi or Przewalski’s horse native to these grasslands had nearly vanished from the wild, until the species was reintroduced here as a result of a successful captive breeding program. Meet with park staff to learn about the takhi reintroduction project, and keep an eye out for these stocky, coffee-coloured horses that have never been domesticated. Settle into a ger tonight, a round, felt-covered tent with basic furniture. We will stay in traditional Mongolian lodgings like gers through day 12 of the trip.
HUSTAI NATIONAL PARK/KHARKHORIN
Drive to the city of Kharkhorin and onward to nearby Karakorum, Mongolia’s ancient capital. Here, Genghis Khan established his headquarters in the early 13th century. Explore the remains of the Erdeni Dzu Monastery, considered Mongolia’s earliest centre of Buddhism, and meet with the head monk to learn about the communist purges that decimated much of the country’s Buddhist heritage. Later, visit the Karakorum Museum, which houses an impressive collection of artifacts from the 13th and 14th centuries as well as a scale model of the ancient capital.
Arrive at Tsenkher in the afternoon, the site of natural hot springs surrounded by serene, forest-covered hills. Popular with tourists and locals alike, these springs have long been known for their therapeutic benefits. Take a soak in one of the outdoor pools, or choose the privacy of an indoor bath.
Drive to the breathtaking Orkhon Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site that encompasses rolling hills and pastureland, traditional pastoral societies, and archaeological remains. Set out on a hike to the lofty Tuvkhun Monastery, founded by the Mongol Buddhist leader Zanabzar in the mid-17th century. Explore the monastery’s wooden temples, integrated with a natural system of caves, and enjoy beautiful views of the Orkhon Valley and surrounding pine forests.
Immerse yourself in traditional Mongolian culture on a visit to a family-run horse and yak farm. Observe daily life on the farm; sample some of their staple products, such as yak cream and yogurt and fermented mare’s milk; and witness Mongolian horseback riding and herding techniques, famed throughout the world. Later, enjoy a hike to a picturesque waterfall before returning to your ger camp for a traditional Mongolian barbecue, prepared over hot stones.
ORKHON VALLEY/ONGIIN KHIID
Today, we make our way to the Gobi, one of the world's largest deserts, which covers much of the southern part of Mongolia. Visit the ruins of Ongiin Khiid, a complex of Buddhist monasteries and universities which were tragically destroyed during the communist purges. Tour the site and learn about the monks who have returned here in recent years, bringing new life to the complex.
Venture to the Flaming Cliffs or Bayanzag, a rust-coloured sandstone landscape where a vast amount of dinosaur fossils have been found. Spend time exploring the dramatic crags and canyons.
Drive to the spectacular sand dunes of Khongoryn Els in the western Gobi, popularly known as the “singing sands.” Clamber up the wave-like peaks for stunning views of the golden landscape, and listen for the musical sound the dunes produce when the wind blows over them.
Spend time with a nomadic camel-herding family today, gaining insight into how they survive in the harsh environment of the Gobi. Lend a hand with some of the daily chores, such as milking camels or churning cheese and butter, and opt for a camel ride. Later, witness a demonstration of archery, one of Mongolia’s national sports; then learn the basics of this time-honoured tradition during a hands-on lesson.
Khongoryn Els/Yolyn Am
Drive through the magnificent gorges of the Altay Mountains to the Gurvan Saikhan National Park, a vast protected area that comprises canyons, sand dunes, and steppe. Stop for a hike in rugged Yolyn Am, the “valley of the eagles,” keeping an eye out for ibex, gazelles, argali sheep, and countless species of birds. Later, pay a visit to the Yolyn Am museum, where you can admire a collection of dinosaur bones and eggs.
Catch a flight back to Ulaanbaatar. This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner accompanied by a memorable performance of traditional Mongolian song and dance.
Depart at any time.