Day 1 – Arrival
The contrast between ancient traditions and the dawning of a 20th century democracy is most visible in Ulaanbaatar, where traditional gers and Buddhist monasteries coexist with modern high-rises. Upon arrival at the airport, you will be welcomed by your guide and transferred to a comfortable, centrally located hotel within walking distance of various museums and shops.
Day 2 – Ulaanbaatar
Begin the day with a visit to Gandan Monastery, the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia. Woven through Mongolia’s nomadic culture is a rich Tibetan-Buddhist tradition with ancient Sha-manist practices still evident. Although Buddhist monasteries were either destroyed or con-verted into museums during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s, Gandan Monastery continued to operate as a “showpiece” for government officials. However, in spite of the government’s efforts to suppress Buddhism and other religious beliefs, Mongolia’s spirituality persisted and a significant resurgence of Buddhism began in 1990 when Mongolia became a democracy. Monasteries across the country are again opening their doors to worshippers and the few la-mas who survived the purges are training a new generation. The monastery has been mas-sively reconstructed and renovated.
Experience these exciting developments first-hand at Gandan Monastery. Strolling through the monastery grounds, you will hear the low tones of the horns used to call the lamas to the temple and can observe their daily rituals, including the reading of sutras (teachings of the Buddha). Visit the recently renovated Chenrezig and Kalachakra Temples, as well as the magnificent statue of Megjid Janraisig (“the lord who looks in every direction”). This 82-foot high statue, gilded in pure gold and clothed with silk and precious stones, completely fills one of Gandan’s temples.
Next, visit the National History Museum for an excellent overview of Mongolia’s history and culture. The newly remodeled museum displays traditional implements of daily nomadic life including Stone and Bronze Age artifacts, historical costumes of Mongolia’s minority tribes, sacred religious relics, and agricultural, fishing and hunting equipment.
In the evening, enjoy a welcome dinner in a large traditional ger, very similar to the ones once owned by Chinggis Khan and his descendants. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 3 -Lake Hovsgol
After breakfast transfer to the airport for your flight to Moron city, capital of Hovsgol province. Continue overland to the lake, stopping at Uush deer stone monuments. These monuments are protected by UNESCO and a joint team of mongol and American scientistsfrom the Smithsonian Institute have been studying them for several years. There are believed to be over 600 of such monuments throughout Mongolia but these believed to be the most well preserved and artistic ones in average they date back to 3000 years from now.
Hovsgol, Mongolia’s largest lake by water volume, it extends 85 miles in length, and 18 miles in width, and is fed by over 90 streams and rivers. Water exits the lake only through one river, the Egiin, whose waters eventually reach Lake Baikal in neighboring Siberia. This crystal-clear alpine lake, known as Mongolia’s “dark blue pearl,” remains untouched by industry and is situated among the most pristine forests, mountains and meadows in the world. Bird life and wildflowers abound and you will have ample time to discover the lake’s secrets in the following days. Overnight at Ger Camp.
Day 4 – Lake Hovsgol
Spend this day relaxing by the lakeshore, kayaking on the lake, or enjoying a day hike into the mountains or through alpine meadows strewn with wildflowers. You will also have the opportunity to visit local nomadic families who camp near the lakeshore and experience their renowned hospitality, offered in the form of food, shelter and friendship. Some warmer summers families of reindeer herders come close to the lake escaping from heat. Overnight in Ger Camp.
Day 5 – Muron / Ulaanbaatar
After breakfast, drive to Muron (4 hours) for your return flight to Ulaanbaatar (1.5 hours). Along the way, stop at Lake Irkh, a small lake in the midst of the steppe that is popular with a variety of birds. Upon arrival in Ulaanbaatar, transfer to your hotel. After lunch on your own, drive to Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum. Named in honor of Zanabazar, the first Buddhist leader of Mongolia and renowned sculptor, artist and politician from the 17th century, the museum contains one of the best collections of Buddhist art and artifacts in the world, including many of Zanabazar’s original works. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 6 – Gun Galuut reserve
Today we drive east through the grasslands of Khangai and rolling hills to Gun Galuut Reserve (150 km). Upon arrival check into ger camp. Gun Galuut is a mix of high mountains, steppes, rivers, lakes and wetlands. The reserve was established by Bayandelger soum of Tuv Province in 2003. Mountains of Baits and Berkh are home to rare mammals such as argali and wolves. Ikh-Gun and Ayaga lakes and Tsengiin Burd wetland shelter abundance of migratory and nesting birds. For the full day explore the camp and surrounding areas. Opportunity to visit local families.
Day 7 – Ulaanbaatar
In the morning, continue exploring the Gan Galuut Nature Reserve. In the afternoon transfer to Ulaanbaatar, check into you hotel. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 8 – Gobi Desert / Flaming Cliffs
Three Camel Lodge
In the morning, fly over vast steppe land to the Gobi (1.5 hours), Mongolia’s southernmost province of semi-arid desert. Of all the world’s arid lands, the Gobi (which means simply “desert”) has about it the greatest air of mystery, perhaps because it lies at the heart of Asia’s remotest hinterland between the Siberian wilderness to the north and the Tibetan Plateau to the south. Contrary to the sterile sameness that the word “desert” suggests, the Gobi holds many fascinations including sites of some of the most important paleontological discoveries of this century. For the next three days, explore the stunning landscape of the Gobi, habitat for Bactrian camels, Argali mountain sheep, goitered gazelle, golden eagles, saker falcons, jer-boas – similar to kangaroo rats – and many endemic reptiles. The Gobi is also home to some of the Northern Hemisphere’s rarest and most elusive mammals such as the dhole, snow leopard, wild camel, and Gobi bear.
Upon arrival, drive to the Three Camel Lodge (2 hours), a premier eco-lodge located near the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park.
In the afternoon drive to the legendary “Flaming Cliffs” (1 hour), named for the red-orange sandstone which glows brilliantly at sunrise and sunset. It was here, in 1922, that Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews and his exploration team from the American Museum of Natural History found the first nest of dinosaur eggs the world had ever seen. To the trained eye, the ancient formations of the Flaming Cliffs are rich with fossils, and paleontological expeditions continue to make significant discoveries at this site. Dinner and overnight at the lodge.
Day 9 – Yol Valley / Gobi Gurvan Saikhan Park
Three Camel Lodge
After early breakfast drive to Yol Valley National Park (1.5 hours), cradled between the foot-hills of the Altai Mountains. An ancient river carved this surprisingly green valley. Now, its remnant streams create ice formations at the base of the valley that sometimes persist as late as July. A hike through the valley allows you to discover habitat for indigenous vulture-like lammergeiers, Altai snowcocks, ibex, yaks and Argali mountain sheep. Explore this beautiful valley on foot. Opportunity to meet park officials and get to know about their day to day practices, as well as challenges. Return to the ger camp for dinner and overnight.
Day 10 – Bulgan & Havtsgait petroglyphs
Three Camel Lodge
Today we visit small farms in the area of Bulgan village. In the afternoon drive to Khavtsgait for a visit to the rock carvings dating back to 3-5 century BC. Dinner and overnight at the lodge.
Day 11 – Trees of the Gobi
Three Camel Lodge
Today we will visit Mr. Baraduuz and his neighbors, including Mr. Valya who dedicated their lives to growing trees in the Gobi. With a help of 5 of his neighbors, Mr. Baraduuz was able to buy simply rubber pipes used for watering and installed a temporary pipeline between a water spring in the mountains and a small plantation in the valley. Dinner and overnight at the lodge.
Day 12 – Ulaanbaatar
In the morning, transfer to the local airport for your return flight to Ulaanbaatar. After lunch, visit Bogd Khan Winter Palace museum, home of Mongolia’s last theocrat, Bogd Jabzan Damba Hutagt VIII (Mongolia’s 8th Living Buddha). The museum displays elaborate ceremonial robes and other personal effects of the leader. In the evening enjoy a performance featuring traditional Mongolian dancers and hoomi (throat) singers. Enjoy a farewell dinner at a fine local restaurant. Overnight at your hotel.
Day 13 – Departure
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for departure.