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.
- Accommodations, as noted in the itinerary.
- Most meals, as noted in the itinerary.
- A daily supply of bottled water.
- Arrival/departure airport transfers on the tour start/end date. MIR will arrange for all travelers to be met upon arrival and seen off upon departure whether or not we make your flight arrangements.
- Ground transportation throughout tour by private van or coach. (Type of vehicle depends on group size.)
- Services of experienced, English-speaking local guides, drivers, and other staff, including a MIR Tour Manager.
- Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Special events, excursions, and cultural performances, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Gratuities to local guides, drivers, and other service personnel, including servers at group meals.
- Complete pre-departure information, including detailed packing list, reading list, and Touring with MIR handbook with country-specific information, maps, and travel tips.
- Final document packet, including luggage tags, final updates, and more.
- Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note, international airfare is not included in the land tour cost.)
- International airfare and taxes/fuel surcharges.
- Internal airfare. (Internal airfare is quoted separately and subject to change by airlines.)
- Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
- Single supplement (or partial single supplement where applicable), if requested or required.
- Gratuities to Tour Manager.
- Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
- Travel insurance, including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance.
- Visa and/or passport fees, excess-baggage charges, airport departure taxes, vaccination and other medical costs.
- Optional pre- or post-tour extensions.
- Baggage handling.
- Items of a personal nature, such as phone calls, email, laundry, and alcohol.
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.