Mongolia, China, Tibet

Mongolian Explorer: The Gobi & Beyond with Naadam Festival

Photo credit: Andrew Barron

Duration
14 Days
Price
From $8,495
Trip Type
Small Group
Group Size
Max 12
Activity Level
12345

Overland Expedition Across the Land of Nomads

Overview

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

Map

Itinerary

  • Days 1-4: Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia), Lake Hovsgol

    Begin in Ulaanbaatar, where centuries-old Buddhist heritage is still vital. Tour some of the city’s treasures before flying north to alpine Lake Hovsgol, sacred to Mongolians. Sleep in traditional gers, and explore the summer pastureland of reindeer and yak on foot and horseback. Return to Ulaanbaatar.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital and most important city
    • High-altitude Lake Hovsgol, set amidst some of Mongolia’s most beautiful scenery
  • Days 5-7: Hustai Nuruu, Khogna Khan, 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 – and sleep in a ger in the mountains of Khogna Khan. Visit the splendid UNESCO-listed Erdene Zhu Monastery, built with stones salvaged from the ruins of Kara Korum.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • 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 8-11: 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. Fly back to Ulaanbaatar.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • 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
    • Togrogiin Shiree, where the fossil of the “Fighting Dinosaurs” was uncovered
  • Days 12-14: Ulaanbaatar

    Experience the pageantry of the fascinating Naadam Festival, a national celebration of Mongolia’s ageless traditions. Finish with a remarkable performance of Mongolian throat-singing.

    HIGHLIGHTS

    • Natural History Museum, displaying many dinosaur bones and nests discovered by expeditions that have combed the Gobi Desert
    • 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 song and dance with throat-singing

Dates & Prices

Small group tour – max 12 travelers

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

  • 2021 Dates
    June 30 - July 13
    Tour, double occupancy
    $8,495
    Plus internal airfare
    $650
    Single supplement
    $2,095

What's Included

  • Tour Includes
    • 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.)
  • Not Included
    • 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.

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