Mongolian Eagle Adventure

Western Mongolia is one of the most pristine and unspoiled areas in Asia. It encompasses a vast wilderness of dramatic peaks pushed up against the borders with China and Russia. Here, old traditions don’t just survive, they thrive. Home to impressive wildlife such as ibex, wolves and the iconic snow leopard, the Altai Mountains offer superb opportunities for exploration and adventure.

During the winter, nomadic Kazakhs follow the practice of their forefathers and head out on horseback to hunt with golden eagles. This is an extraordinary spectacle which we take time to appreciate as we join them on their hunt.

On this Mongolia tour, we spend time exploring the stunning Khokhserkhiin Nuruu Protected Area in search of the wildlife of the Altai. We stay as guests of a local family in their traditional wooden home. And in Tavan Bogd we explore a breath-taking landscape of high peaks, discovering ancient petroglyphs, and enjoying local hospitality.

The Altai Mountains are perhaps the most remote part of a remote country. They present a mysterious landscape where nature rules supreme and the scenery makes you gasp in wonder.

Travelling here in winter in the company of Kazakh eagle hunters, watching them practice their age-old art, is a privilege that few can ever forget.

Mongolian Eagle Adventure

Highlights

  • Mountains of western Mongolia
  • Immerse yourself in local culture
  • Eagle hunting with the Kazakhs

Day 1 - Ulaan Baatar

Arrive in Ulaan Baatar and transfer to the hotel. Depending on when you arrive there may be time to explore the city. Overnight tourist class hotel.

Ulaan Baatar

Ulaan Baatar (or UB) is the gateway between new and old in Mongolia. One-third of the population live here and as more foreign investment comes in, the old Soviet-influenced buildings are starting to be dwarfed by new office and apartment blocks while the Russian vans are starting to be outnumbered by new Japanese imports. But in the middle of this developing city, the traditional ‘del’ is still proudly worn.

Ulaan Baatar has a number of important and impressive sights, in particular: Ganden Monastery, which currently supports a population of almost 200 monks; the black market where local traders sell everything from gas masks to Ger parts; and some interesting museums. Depending on your taste, perhaps visit the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts or learn about the communist purges at the Victims of Persecution Memorial Museum.

Day 2 - Ulaan Baatar

Spend today exploring the capital, including the impressive Ganden monastery and the Natural History Museum. Overnight tourist class hotel. (B)


Day 3 - Ulgii

Fly to Ulgii, in the far west. The people here are Kazakh and Muslim, unlike most other Mongolians who are Buddhist. Meet our local team and head out west to meet a nomadic Kazakh family. We spend three nights with the family in a simple wooden house. (BLD)


Days 4-5 - Khokhserkhiin Nuruu

We spend two full days with our Kazakh host, hiking or riding horses into the nearby Khokhserkhiin Nuruu Protected Area. The landscape in this area is striking and there are many opportunities to see the wildlife of the Altai, including Altai argali, mountain sheep, snowcock and more. The elusive snow leopard can also be found in this area. Overnight wooden house. (BLD)


Days 6-8 - Eagle-hunting

Travelling further into the Altai we spend three days with the Kazakh eagle hunters, going out hunting with them each day and gaining a unique insight into this vanishing way of life. The hunters use female eagles for hunting as they are larger and more aggressive than the males, and are trained to catch fox, wolves, rabbits and wild cats. We also have the chance to visit nomadic families and meet a local dombro player (a dombro is a traditional musical instrument). On Day 8 we return to Ulgii. (BLD)

Kazakh Eagle Hunters

In this part of Mongolia the majority of the population are Kazakh, not Mongolian, following rather different practices. The most renowned of these is the custom of hunting with golden eagles. Young eagles are taken from nests and brought to live with a family – only the females are used for hunting as they are larger than males, and supposedly more aggressive. Until the bird has learned to trust its ‘owner’ it is kept masked. Once the eagle is used to eating out of its owner’s hands and familiar with his dogs and horses, training can begin. This consists of having the eagle chase fox furs pulled by string (shakhyru) either by hand or from the back of a horse.

Eagles are used to hunt all sorts of mammals, foxes being a favourite due to the fur that they provide, and in previous years they even hunted wolves – with a wingspan of over two metres the birds are capable of taking down sizeable prey. Eagle hunters are known as berkutchi and the eagles are berkut.

Hunting normally takes place in the winter months, from October onwards. The berkutchi ride out to the hunting grounds with eagles perched upon their arms, looking for high ground from which the eagle can spot prey. The eagle’s reward for this is usually the lungs of the animal caught, sometimes the tongue, which it will often rip from the animal while the hunter dispatches it. Eagles are kept for a fixed amount of time – usually seven to eight years – before they are then released back into the wild.

The practice of hunting with eagles is around a thousand years old and originates with the Mongolians – descendants of theirs settled around the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan. When the Russians conquered the region in the 1860s, they began suppressing eagle hunting and other militaristic customs of the warrior-nomads. Many Kazakhs fled into the lawless border region of western China and Mongolia. With the rise of Stalin and Mao, eagle hunting was suppressed entirely in the Soviet Union and China.

The isolated and largely ignored western region of Bayan-Olgii, Mongolia became the only place to continue the tradition. Though eagle hunting is undergoing a revival in the newly independent Kazakhstan, there are only 40 active eagle hunters, mostly displaying talents to tourists outside the largest city of Almaty, and a smaller number in Kyrgyzstan, compared at least 250 counted in a census of Bayan-Olgii and Hovd Aimags of Mongolia. Hunting is currently illegal in Kazakh regions of China, though a few eagle hunters can be found.

Days 9-10 - Tavan Bogd

Drive to Tavan Bogd, home to several Kazakh families. We stop to see the Tsagaan Sala petroglyphs dating back to the time of the Huns. This is a stunning area, home to Mongolia’s highest mountains where summits reach 4000 metres or more and are covered with permanent snow, ice and glaciers. We explore the region on foot and spend our nights as guests of a local Kazakh family. (BLD)

Tavan Bogd

On the frontiers of Mongolia, China and Russia lie the Tavan Bogd mountains, part of the Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, the largest in Mongolia. This is a wild land of majestic peaks, lakes and rivers, and is home to Mongolia’s highest point, Mt Khuiten at 4,347 metres. Wildlife is good here and includes the wild mountain sheep argali as well as ibex, and the area is littered with ancient burial mounds which provide tantalizing clues to the cultures that existed here in previous millennia.

Day 11 - Ulgii

Return to Ulgii with stunning views of the Altai Mountains along the way. We visit local eagle hunters before arriving in Ulgii in the afternoon. Overnight local hotel. (BLD)


Day 12 - Ulaan Baatar

Fly to Ulaan Baatar, where depending on flight schedules, you may have time to explore the city on your own. Overnight tourist class hotel. (B)


Day 13 - Ulaan Baatar

Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)


Mongolian Eagle Adventure
Mongolian Eagle Adventure
Mongolian Eagle Adventure
Mongolian Eagle Adventure
Mongolian Eagle Adventure

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers.

    Please note though that if you arrive earlier than Day 1 of the tour, and leave after the final day, we may need to make an additional charge for an airport transfer.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    In most cases, you will be accompanied by one guide from start to finish. However, there may be occasions when this is not practical, for example, if your trip covers a number of different countries. In these cases it often makes more sense to include different guides for each place, to take advantage of their specific knowledge of the destination.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively, a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If however, you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

You will need a visa to enter Mongolia. Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations, you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover, which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

Mongolian togrog will be very difficult to obtain before you arrive. The best option is to bring US dollars for exchange purposes, and your tour leader will be able to assist you in exchanging them to local currency.

Credit cards will be almost useless outside of Ulaan Baatar.

You will not have much need for money on this trip as for much of the time you will be in remote areas with no opportunities to buy anything.

Local conditions

When travelling to some of the destinations we offer you need to bear in mind that things won’t always work here as we’re used to them working at home. Travelling in underdeveloped and untouristed destinations requires both patience and a sense of humour. There may be problems with infrastructure, attitudes may be different, and maintenance may not be as high a standard as we would always like, but this is very much part and parcel of travelling in such a place. We aim to resolve any issues as quickly as possible, and thank you for your patience.

This is particularly relevant to this trip – this is a remote region, some of which is largely isolated from the outside world and has very little experience of tourism whatsoever. We will be camping for much of the time, with no real facilities, and it is essential that you bear this in mind before joining this trip.

Please note that riding hats are not provided for horse riding so if you would like to wear one, you should bring your own.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to any parts of Mongolia.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Updated May 2019

Mongolian Eagle Adventure
Mongolian Eagle Adventure
Mongolian Eagle Adventure
Mongolian Eagle Adventure
Mongolian Eagle Adventure
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
20 October 2019
Price (PP) -
£2,899
Single Supplement -
£120
Trip Status -
Contact us
Date -
18 October 2020
Price (PP) -
£2,899
Single Supplement -
£120
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
17 October 2021
Price (PP) -
£2,999
Single Supplement -
£120
Trip Status -
Available