Mongolia, China, Tibet

Mongolian Explorer: The Gobi & Beyond with Naadam Festival

Photo credit: Andrew Barron

11 Days
From $7,195
Trip Type
Small Group
Group Size
Max 12
Activity Level

Overland Expedition Across the Land of Nomads


Mongolia: The name conjures up images of vast grasslands, wind-swept steppe, and endless sky. Here, an empire built on horseback galloped across two continents, leaving behind the names Genghis and Kublai Khan. Follow their lead using the horsepower of modern vehicles to cover the incredible distances at the heart of Mongolia. End in the capital, where the ancient skills of that nomadic army are preserved at the extraordinary national Naadam Festival.

Travels to: Mongolia



  • Day 1: Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia)

    Begin in Ulaanbaatar, the country’s political, cultural, and industrial headquarters. The city is surrounded by the picturesque Khan Khentii mountains and remains a place where centuries-old Buddhist heritage is still vital.


    • Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital and most important city
  • Days 2-3: Hustai Nuruu, Kara Korum

    Set off overland to Kara Korum, the site of Genghis Khan’s all-but-vanished capital city. On the drive out to the former capital, stop at Hustai Nuruu National Park – home to the Przewalski horse, the last remaining species of truly wild horse in the world . Visit the splendid UNESCO-listed Erdene Zhu Monastery, built with stones salvaged from the ruins of Kara Korum.


    • Hustai Nuruu, home of the last remaining species of wild horse
    • UNESCO-listed Kara Korum, Genghis Khan’s 13th-century capital
    • Erdene Zhu Monastery, surrounded by a thick wall with 108 stupas
    • Overnight in gers near the banks of the Ongiin River
  • Days 4-7: Gobi Desert

    Continue on an adventurous overland route through the Mongolian outback to the Gobi Desert, stopping en route at lost monasteries and remote ger camps. During this epic journey, discover the Flaming Cliffs, admire the green Yolyn Am Canyon, and climb the sand dunes at Moltsog Els. Along the way, encounter nomads who call this formidable environment home and come back to a bit of luxury at the Three Camel Lodge and Ger Camp.


    • Three Camel Lodge, Mongolia’s premier ger camp in the Gobi
    • Moltsog Els, one of the Gobi’s rare regions of sand dunes
    • Flaming Cliffs, where the first nest of dinosaur eggs was discovered
    • Yolyn Am (Vulture’s Mouth) Canyon
    • Visit a family of nomadic herders and learn about their traditional way of life
  • Days 8-11: Ulaanbaatar

    Fly back to Ulaanbaatar and explore the city’s treasures including the Gandan Monastery and the new Genghis Khan Museum, home to a vast repository of objects tracing the history of the Great Khans of the Mongol Empire. Spend two full days experiencing the pageantry of the fascinating Naadam Festival, a national celebration of Mongolia’s ageless traditions. Finish with a remarkable performance of Mongolian throat-singing.


    • Genghis Khan Museum, tracing the history of Mongolia from the Xiongnu to the end of the 20th century
    • Gandan Monastery, with its 20-ton gilded statue of “The Lord Who Looks in Every Direction”
    • Naadam Festival Opening Ceremony
    • Naadam archery, wrestling, and horse-racing competitions
    • Cultural performance of traditional throat-singing
  • Optional Post-Tour to Lake Hovsgol

    Stay a little longer and venture north by plane to alpine Lake Hovsgol, the country’s largest and deepest lake and considered sacred to Mongolians. Spend two nights exploring this out-of-the-way region: sleep in traditional gers, and explore the summer pastureland of reindeer and yak. Return to Ulaanbaatar for a final night.

Dates & Prices

Small group tour – max 12 travelers

Land Tour Price, Per Person. Based on double occupancy and minimum group size of 6 travelers.

  • 2024 Dates
    July 3 - 13
    Tour, double occupancy
    Plus internal airfare
    Single supplement
  • 2025 Dates
    July 3 - 13
    Tour, double occupancy
    Plus internal airfare
    Single supplement

What's Included

  • Tour Includes
    • Accommodations as noted in itinerary. Ger camps with shared facilities are used in Kara Korum and Ongiin River (and Hovsgol for the post-tour). At Three Camel Lodge in the Gobi, the premier camp in the country, where all gers offer en suite western-style toilet, shower, and sink.
    • Breakfast, lunch and dinner every full day of the tour (10 breakfasts, 9 lunches and 9 dinners).
    • Restaurant tips for included meals.
    • Services of experienced, English-speaking local guides, drivers, and other staff, including a MIR Tour Manager/National Guide.
    • Arrival/departure airport transfers. MIR will arrange for all travelers to be met on arrival and seen off on departure whether we make your airfare arrangements or not, provided you arrive and depart on the tour start/end dates in the tour start/end city.
    • Ground transportation throughout the itinerary by jeeps or minivans (type and number of vehicles depends on group size and terrain).
    • Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees as outlined in itinerary.
    • Special events, excursions and cultural performances per the itinerary. Baggage handling where available.
    • Baggage handling, where available.
    • Gratuities to local guides, drivers, porters and other service personnel.
    • Complete pre-departure electronic document that includes detailed packing suggestions, reading list links, country-specific information, maps, travel tips and more.
    • Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements (on request; please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost).
    • Electronic final update bulletin, with any late news, updates and important information.
    • Naadam Festival entrance fees.
  • Not Included
    • Internal airfare (internal airfare is quoted separately and is subject to change by airlines).
    • International airfare or taxes/fuel surcharges.
    • Meals not specified as included in the itinerary.
    • Partial single supplement charge, if requested or required.
    • Items of a personal nature (phone calls, email, laundry, alcohol, excess baggage, etc).
    • Gratuities to Tour Manager.
    • Visa/passport fees, airport departure fees, if required (note: no Mongolian visa is required for U.S. pass-port holders).
    • Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
    • Travel and trip cancellation insurance.

Activity Level

Level 4: Rigorous

This intentionally adventuresome small group tour features rustic accommodations, often without reliably constant electricity, with challenging overland travel including rough off-road conditions, long days walking and standing while touring, unpaved sidewalks and streets, uneven surfaces and steps, absent handrails, significant stair-climbing, and absence of elevators. Only those very fit to travel and who are willing to accept local standards of amenities and services, and the physical challenges of the program, should consider joining.

Eight nights are spent in ger camps – all gers are heated only by wood stoves. Five nights will be spent in gers with shared shower/WC facilities in a separate building; and three nights will be spent at the Three Camel Lodge Ger Camp in the Gobi, where all gers offer en-suite toilet, sink, and shower. If you rely on electricity for CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) or for any other reason, you must have your own battery or other back-up since electricity is not a reliable constant throughout the itinerary – or please reconsider participation.

Travelers must be able to walk two to three miles a day, with some hiking, while keeping up with fellow travelers on a variety of terrain including through grass and dirt (possibly soggy ground), on dirt paths, across gravel and stony scrub, shallow streams, smooth stones, and the like. Overland transport in Mongolia will involve very rough and bumpy drives over dusty and unpaved tracks in basic vans, Russian jeeps, or other vehicles. During city touring you’re likely to encounter uneven surfaces and attractions accessible only via steep staircases. Museums generally do not have elevators.

Air-conditioning is a luxury and not available in facilities outside the capital or in vehicles. Seating at the Naadam stadium in Ulaanbaatar is on hard unbacked benches, and a significant amount of time (three or more hours) will be spent there. The sun can be intense in the stadium as well. Naadam time also brings out large crowds and pickpockets, so it is important to be extra vigilant of your personal items.

In Mongolia, the airline infrastructure is not as developed as it is in the west. Flight schedules change constantly, and there is a strong likelihood that the program will have moderate to significant routing and timing changes based on changing flight schedules.

Other challenges include overall shortcomings in the tourism infrastructure in remote Mongolia. Past travelers have also encountered challenges with plumbing, bureaucratic service, variety of locally available foods, and availability and quality of public restrooms. 


Traveler Reviews

  • "I really felt a sense of the country. It was lovely to let someone else handle the details so I could focus on absorbing the sights. I loved the horseback riding and being in the wide-open spaces. Ever since I taught a unit on Mongolia, I’ve wanted to come to this land whose culture revolves around the horse."

    E. Walsh

    Freeport, ME

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