Mongolian Highlights

Mongolia is synonymous with the remote and mysterious. This giant landlocked nation is home to foreboding deserts, jagged peaks and endless steppe. As a result it is a visual feast of awe-inspiring landscapes combined with the strong traditions of nomadic life.

A great introduction to the country, this comprehensive trip shows you the incredible diversity to be found within its borders. Starting in Ulaan Baatar we visit the impressive monastery of Amarbayasgalant, testimony to the strong Buddhist traditions that Communism never managed to completely suppress.

From here we hike around the crater of the extinct volcano of Uran Togoo. Then we continue north to the mighty Lake Khovsgol, one of Mongolia’s most beautiful areas where we have plenty of opportunities to explore.

Continuing through pristine landscapes of huge lakes, dense forests and imposing mountains we reach Khorgo volcano. We hike along its rim and then explore the dramatic scenery of the Suman River Canyon.

Before we leave the north of the country, we also stop at the monasteries of Ongi and Erdene Zuu. Here we also see the remains of Genghis Khan’s old capital at Karakorum.

The south brings a striking change of scenery, as we head into the Gobi Desert, Asia’s largest. Some of its most striking sights are the ‘flaming cliffs’ of Bayanzag and the canyon of Yolyn Am, a reminder of the sheer variety of desert landscapes. We also spend time looking for the Gobi’s rare and unique wildlife.

Throughout the trip we take as much time as possible to meet the people of Mongolia. From camel herders in the Gobi to the nomadic horsemen of the steppe, we aim to gain as much insight into the country as we can.

Mongolia is one of Asia’s hidden gems, a land of endless horizons and some of the most breath-taking scenery you’re ever likely to see. None who visit fail to be impressed.

Mongolian Highlights

Highlights

  • Incredible desert dunes and scenery
  • Breath-taking overnight campsites
  • Experience traditional nomadic culture
  • Explore Buddhist monasteries
  • Travel through the foreboding Gobi Desert

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 Hotel Nine or similar.

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 - Amarbayasgalant

Travel to the town of Darkhan and from here drive to the monastery of Amarbayasgalant, one of the largest and most impressive in Mongolia. Overnight family ger camp. (BLD)


Day 3 - Uran Togoo

Spend the morning exploring the monastery and surrounds, then head to the extinct volcano of Uran Togoo, where we hike around its impressive crater. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Day 4 - Lake Khovsgol

Drive to Lake Khovsgol, the deepest in Mongolia and an area of stunning scenic beauty, surrounded by mountains, pine forests and meadows. Overnight ger camp. (BLD)

Lake Khovsgol

Lake Khovsgol is part of the Baikal rift system, together with its much larger neighbour Lake Baikal in Siberia, and is said to contain 2% of the world’s fresh water. More than two million years old it was created by volcanic activity and is fed by over ninety streams and rivers, although only one flows out of it, towards Lake Baikal. The surrounding area is rich in wildlife and home to a number of iconic species such as brown bear, moose, ibex and wolf, and the pastures are used by reindeer herders.

Day 5 - Lake Khovsgol

Spend the day exploring the surrounding area of the western shore, with the option to walk up the 2300m Chichee Uul with its remarkable view over the Khoridol Saridag Mountains. Overnight ger camp. (BLD)


Day 6 - Murun – Delger River

Transfer to the town of Murun with some time to explore this trading outpost, close to the borders with Siberia. From here drive to the Delger River and visit the nearby deer stones, believed to be ancient grave markers for warrior chiefs. Overnight ger camp. (BLD)


Days 7-8 - Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur

Drive to Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur, the ‘white lake’. Set amidst a landscape of extinct volcanoes this is a beautiful spot and offers excellent opportunities for hiking around the shore and watching the prolific birdlife to be found here. We have a full day drive on Day 7 and then plenty of time to explore on Day 8. We spend two nights camping near a local nomadic family. (BLD)


Days 9-10 - Khorgo Volcano and Suman River Canyon

Drive to and hike the rim of the Khorgo volcano for a panoramic view of the surrounding area. The Khorgo volcano forms part of the Tariat volcanic field and we explore the lava terraces and canyons of both the Chuluut and Suman Rivers. Overnight rustic, family-owned ger camp. (BLD)


Days 11-12 - Karakorum – Erdene Zuu – Orkhon River Valley

Head to Karakorum, the former capital of the Mongols in the 13th century. Nearby is the monastery of Erdene Zuu, with its Tibetan style temples and Buddhist relics, and we also visit the excellent museum for an insight into the history of this region. On Day 11 we spend the day with a local family of herders. The Orkhon River Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered to be the cradle of Mongolian civilisation, as well as being rich in nomadic life. Overnight ger camp. (BLD)

Karakorum

Despite its relatively small size, Karakorum was one of the most important cities in the history of the Silk Road. Although founded by Genghis Khan in 1220, Karakorum’s development as capital of the Mongol Empire occurred in the 1230s under his son Ögedei. By the time Marco Polo reached China in the early 1270s, the Qubilai Khan had made Beijing the Empire’s capital, replacing Karakorum. Yet throughout much of the 14th century it retained a symbolic importance as the city ‘founded’ by the charismatic founder of the Empire, Genghis Khan. Today, Karakorum is the location of one of the important annual Naadam festivals, celebrating Mongolian traditional sports and culture.

Day 13 - Ongi

Drive from the central heartlands of Mongolia to the edge of the Gobi desert, to Ongi. Here we explore the ruined monastery, destroyed during the purges of the 1930s and a poignant reminder of Mongolia’s political past. Overnight simple ger camp. (BLD)


Day 14 - Bayanzag

We enter the Gobi Desert and visit the ‘flaming cliffs’ of Bayanzag, so named for their red sandstone. This is one of the richest areas in Mongolia for dinosaur fossils and was made famous by the palaeontologist Roy Chapman. Explore the surrounding area, including the forest of saxaul which survives here as well as the Khavtsgait petroglyphs. Overnight basic, family-operated ger camp. (BLD)

The Gobi Desert

The Gobi (its name means ‘waterless place’) is Asia’s largest desert, covering a wide swathe of southern Mongolia and northern China. Once an inland sea, its scenery is diverse, from towering sand dunes to mountains, plains and oases, and it is home to numerous species of rare and endangered animals, including the wild Bactrian camel, Gobi bear and wild ass. This is a fairly inhospitable place with extremes of temperature caused by its location in the centre of Eurasia – from -40C in winter to over 40C in the summer.

The Gobi is also a paleontologist’s dream – in the 1920s Roy Chapman made incredible discoveries of fossilised dinosaur eggs, left on the bottom of this ancient lake, and fossils continue to be found today. The Gobi Desert continues to grow, and its rapid growth is alarming its neighbours. China is hardest hit, losing valuable grassland to the expanding desert. The Chinese government has announced plans to plant the Green Wall of China, a line of new forest intended to slow the desert’s expansion. Even though its expansion threatens human habitation, the Gobi remains a distinctly beautiful area of the planet, with a rich history buried beneath its surface.

Day 15 - Khongoryn Els

Drive to Khongoryn Els, an area of huge sand dunes that cover nearly a thousand square kilometres. The dunes are known for the noise that they make when struck by wind – and also called ‘the singing dunes’. We have time to explore this majestic landscape, and hopefully meet semi-nomadic camel herding families that live here. Overnight basic but private, family-operated ger camp. (BLD)


Day 16 - Gurvansaikhan National Park

Drive to Yolyn Am, the ‘vulture’s gorge’, exploring the area on foot and by vehicle. Also, head into the protected area of Gurvansaikhan, a haven for the Gobi’s wildlife and home to snow leopard, bear, wolf and ibex among other species.  Overnight camping and simple hotel. (BLD)


Day 17 - Ulaan Baatar

Domestic flight to Ulaanbaatar where you will spend your final night in Mongolia. Overnight tourist class hotel. (BLD – meals depending on flight time).


Day 18 - Ulaan Baatar

Transfer to the airport for departure. (B)


Mongolian Highlights itinerary
Woman milking yak in Mongolia
Mongolian Highlights itinerary
Mongolian Highlights - Gobi desert tours
Mongolian Highlights - Gobi Desert tours

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.

    Please note that single supplements cannot be guaranteed on all nights due to the nature of accommodation used on this trip. Usually we are able to arrange single accommodation on around 50% of the nights of this tour.

  • Guides

    You’ll be accompanied by an English speaking guide from the start to the end of the trip.

  • 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. Please note that when meals are included, sometimes these will be in hotels, as often these are the most appropriate option, and will sometimes be set menus. Local restaurants are often lacking in variety, as well as the capacity to cater for groups. Drinks are not included and are at your own expense.

  • 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.

  • Airport taxes

    If there are any departure taxes to pay that are not included within the cost of your ticket, you’ll need to pay these yourself.

  • 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, which you should obtain in advance. Visa regulations can change however and so we recommend that you contact your nearest embassy for the most up to date information.

You should ensure that your passport has at least six months’ validity after the end date of your trip. We also strongly recommend that your passport has a minimum of two blank pages next to each other – on rare occasion it may lead to problems with visas and immigration authorities if it does not.

If your flights involve a connection in Russia you must check with your airline whether you need a Russian visa. On the occasion travellers have been refused boarding for flights that connect in Russia, even if not entering Russia itself.

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. However, there are no compulsory vaccinations needed to enter either country. 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.

When to go

Traditionally the best time to visit Mongolia is from June to August – outside of this time it can be extremely cold. However western Mongolia does not experience the biting cold of more central regions – you can expect it to be below freezing at night but there is often a 20 degree difference between night and day temperatures. The winter months are a fascinating time to visit western Mongolia as this is when the eagle hunting season starts, offering superb opportunities to see this unique practice.

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 some of the time, with no real facilities, and it is essential that you bear this in mind before joining this trip.

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.

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.

Mongolian Highlights itinerary
Woman milking yak in Mongolia
Mongolian Highlights itinerary
Mongolian Highlights - Gobi desert tours
Mongolian Highlights - Gobi Desert tours
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
30 July 2021
Price (PP) -
£2,999
Single Supplement -
£275
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
29 July 2022
Price (PP) -
£3,199
Single Supplement -
£220
Trip Status -
Available