- Duration 16 days
- Difficulty 3/5
- Group Size 10
24 September – 9 October, 2017
Mongolia, land of Genghis Khan, land of expansive vistas, land of gers (felt tents) a country of nomads where hospitality is unsurpassed. Buddhism and shamanism, throat singers and contortionists, archers and wrestlers, wildlife, horses and exciting festivals: we will immerse ourselves in it all.
The Kazakhs are an ethnic group of semi-nomads who live mostly in Kazakhstan and western Mongolia. They are known for their relationship with trained golden eagles which they use for hunting. Their skills are proudly shown off at the incredible Golden Eagle Festival. It is a total sensory overload, one that we intend to completely indulge in. Our expedition will also explore the nature and wildlife of the Gobi Desert, the ruins of the ancient Mongolian monasteries and the traditional ways of nomads and camel herders.
USD $9,845.00 Per person sharing
Single Supplement: USD $1,000.00
Arrival: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Departure: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Arrival Time: 24th September
- Land transportation as indicated in the itinerary
- Accommodations in a standard room at hotels and gers, tents or family stays in the countryside based on double occupancy
- Sleeping bags, expedition style tents and mats
- Airport arrival and departure transfers
- Meals throughout the expedition
- All entrance fees as indicated in the itinerary
- English-speaking guide throughout your stay
- A bottle of water per day and an unlimited supply of boiled water
- International airfare.
- Personal laundry and drinks not mentioned in the itinerary.
- Travel insurance.
- Medical evacuation costs.
- Excess baggage charges.
- Visa fees.
- Any other services not mentioned as included.
A Day 1, September 24th: Arrival in Ulaanbaatar
Upon arrival at the airport, we transfer to our hotel in downtown Ulaanbaatar. We embark on a brief city tour to explore Mongolia’s capital, including a visit to the historical Zaisan Hill for a bird’s eye view of the city. In the evening, we enjoy a welcome dinner at one of the city’s fine restaurants and have our first real taste of Mongolian cuisine.
B Day 2 am, September 25th: Olgii
We fly to the westernmost province of Bayan-Olgii and to the city of Olgii. It is here in this province bordering on China and Russia that we begin our exciting journey to the Golden Eagle Festival. Upon arrival we meet our local drivers and transfer to Altai Sum 125 km west of the capital.
C Day 2 pm – Day 3, September 25th-26th: Altai Sum
In the morning we ride with eagle hunters into the mountains. Surrounded by rocky landscapes and crisp mountain air, the Kazakh hunters demonstrate the different techniques and tools used in golden eagle hunting.
D Day 4-6, September 27th-28th: Riding with Eagle Hunters
The Kazakhs ride on horseback for three days to arrive at the festival and for two days we accompany them! We traverse with the hunters through stunning mountain passes and learn about their hunting techniques, while still having vehicle support. We overnight in expedition tents. On the third day we divert from the hunters to learn the ways of a Kazakh herder family in their ger. Each ger is decorated with tapestries woven using unique and traditional patterns designed by the family.
E Day 6, September 29th: Discovering Olgii
We transfer to Olgii and register with the Golden Eagle Festival. We have the opportunity to visit a city museum devoted to the history and culture of the Altai Mountain region as well as a local mosque. Overnight stay is at a specialty camp set up on the banks of the Hovd River near the festival site.
F Day 7-8, September 30th – October 1st: Golden Eagle Festival
For two days we attend the magnificent Golden Eagle Festival, beginning with a parade of eagle hunters coming into the central area to show off their eagles to us and the other spectators. Eagle skills are then tested by releasing them from the top of a cliff and timing the fastest bird to arrive at its owner’s gloved fist. Other highlights include a game of kukbar a traditional tug of war on horseback. We also watch an archery contest by Uriankhai people using the historic Mongolian bow and arrow that has retained the same design since the time of Genghis Khan. Traditional Kazakh meals are enjoyed followed by Kazakh singers performing for us on the last evening. We have arranged for special private sessions with hunters and archers – all of it a photographer’s dream! Overnight stay is in the ger camp.
B Day 9 am, October 2nd: Exploring Kazakh Markets
We explore the city and visit its vibrant markets with a chance to purchase renowned, handmade Kazakh crafts including their famous rugs. We enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before transferring to the airport for our return flight to Ulaanbaatar.
A Day 9 pm, October 2nd: Ulaanbaatar
Dinner is enjoyed at a fine local restaurant. Mongolian cuisine is a reflection of the climate of the region and is largely made up of dairy products and a variety of meats. One local dish you may enjoy is boodog, which is meat cooked using hot stones. When the meat is finished these warm stones are given to those eating the boodog to roll in their palms. It is believed that this process will help alleviate fatigue and increase stamina.
G Day 10 am, October 3rd: Yol Valley
In the morning we fly to the Yol Valley in the south of the Gobi Desert for wildlife viewing opportunities in the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. Here we can observe the massive lammergeiers, wild argali sheep and Siberian ibex clambering with uncanny skill along steep rocky ledges. We also visit a local natural history museum located at the entrance to the park to learn about the land’s history and significance.
H Day 10 pm, October 3rd: The Flaming Cliffs
In the afternoon we transfer to a ger camp at the Flaming Cliffs. The Cliffs are a red sandstone escarpment stretching above the desert where the first dinosaur eggs were found in the early 20th century. Each year rain and wind expose more of the underlying earth and reveal more fossils. New and exciting discoveries are frequently made.
I Day 11-12, October 4th-5th: Camel Herders, Flaming Cliffs & Hongoryn Els
We visit a local camel herder family to learn about these ‘ships of the desert’, then ride our camels to the Flaming Cliffs for the late afternoon light. In the morning we drive to Hongoryn Els, Mongolia’s prized sand dunes and explore the mountain ranges of Bayan Dalai and Zoulen. Here we search for goitered gazelles, Mongolian wild ass (Hulan) and Pallas’s sandgrouse. Sundowners and photography back at the dunes before our overnight in traditional gers.
J Day 13, October 6th: Ongiin Monastery Ruins
Today we begin our overland journey north to the Ongiin Monastery at the northern tip of the Gobi Desert. The present day monastery was built on the ruins of what was once one of the largest monasteries in Mongolia, known as the “Pearl of the Gobi.” This monastery was often frequented by camel caravans carrying silk throughout Central Asia. In 1939 during the Russian-led Communist regime many monks were murdered and the monastery was destroyed. We explore the monastery ruins and surrounding hills on foot and stay at a ger camp located on the Ongi river bank.
K Day 14, October 7th: Kharakhorum & Erdene Zuu Monastery
After breakfast we drive to Kharakhorum, built by one of Genghis Khan’s sons to serve as the capital of the Mongol Empire. Only traces remain of this once-magnificent city, but the nearby Erdene Zuu Monastery was reputedly built from Kharakhorum’s ruins in the 16th century. As Mongolia’s largest monastery and a centre of Buddhism for centuries, Erdene Zuu’s temples are richly decorated with spectacular Buddhist art and 108 stupas. At its height, this monastery housed over 60 temples and 5000 monks.
L Day 15, October 8th: Hustai National Park
We drive towards Ulaanbaatar via the Hustai National Park where the once critically endangered Przewalski’s horse now thrives in the wild. After the last individuals disappeared from the wild in Mongolia in the late 1960s, genetically pure animals were bred in captivity and have been reintroduced into three distinctive habitats across Mongolia. In the evening we transfer to Ulaanbaatar for our overnight stay.
ADay 16, October 9th: Departure from Ulaanbaatar
After one last taste of Mongolia this morning we transfer to the airport for our return flights home.
Discover the world with experienced travelers
Photographer | Owner | Trip Leader
Pete and Reneé have spent a lot of time in Mongolia they were even at the first ever Kazakh Eagle Festival. They have travelled extensively across the country with special government permissions, where necessary, to photograph sensitive subjects. They have stayed (often) with locals in the middle of the Gobi desert in their felt gers, been ice-fishing in the depths of winter in the Darkhad Depression, been caught in a tremendous sandstorm, come within meters, on foot, of a wild wolf and trekked with camels to the Flaming Cliffs. Pete’s most frustrating moment was driving alongside running wolves being mobbed by ravens but, at forty degrees below zero in the harsh winter the jeeps windows were frozen shut and he was unable to photograph!
Logistics | Owner | Trip Leader
Traveling with Pete, Reneé’s experiences were also like nothing she had ever been through. From sleeping (in a double sleeping bag) on the permafrost inside a Tsaatan reindeer herder’s wigwam in winter to milking camels for afternoon tea and taking lessons from Mongolian contortionists and throat singers! Some of Reneé’s most rewarding memories are tied to her interactions with the fabulous nomadic herders, far from the city. They are wonderful people to be around. Both Pete and Reneé are very excited about the prospect of this upcoming trip full of new realities, adventure and fun.