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Known as the “land of the blue sky”, Mongolia is a fascinating, yet little known, country that never fails to awe its visitors. With stunning landscapes and fascinating cultures, you just found the perfect place for a real adventure. Because we think Mongolia is more than the Naadam festival, ger camps and the great Genghis Khan, we created an itinerary that is all about the wilderness and will take real adventurers to places where all you can hear is horses grazing and birds singing. Trek through the golden Gobi desert, meet fascinating nomadic families, learn to ride a horse like a local and climb snow-capped mountains. It’s time to unleash your adventurous side and go on an adventure through a land that time forgot.
Where will you go?
What will you do?
Day 1: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar
Welcome to Mongolia! Your adventure begins here in Ulaanbaatar where you will be welcomed by your local guide. You will then transfer to your hotel in the city centre for a nice welcome lunch. In the afternoon you'll have time to explore the bustling capital where typical gers coexist with modern skyscrappers and end your first day in Mongolia in a local restaurant.
Day 2: Khar-Us Lake National Park (2,500m) - 3 hours
This morning, you'll take a domestic flight to the Khovd province. Upon arrival, you'll drive to the second largest freshwater lake in Mongolia, a remarkable wet land area in western Mongolia, where you can spy on a range of rare species. After lunch, you'll trek on Mount Jargalant Khairkhan, an isolated extension of the Mongol Altai mountain range which is usually snow-capped until July. Tonight is your first night under the stars.
Day 3: Khuisiin Gobi
Today is quite a long day driving towards the south-east of the country. You'll cross the Dörgön Steppe to go towards the area, known for being the place of origin of “Hoomii”, an ancestral traditional art that consists in reproducing natural sounds with the throat. You'll stop en route to meet a very interesting local singer who will teach you more about this art. After lunch, you'll continue your journey to explore one of the three regions in Mongolia, where Saiga Antelopes inhibit. World Wildlife Fund Mongolia is working with local herding communities to protect this rare antelope.
Day 4: A day with a nomadic horse herding family - 3 hours
Today, you'll have the opportunity to learn more about the nomadic lifestyle by spending the day with a local family. You'll have an adventurous day horse riding (or trekking if horses aren't your best friends) in open valleys and experiencing the family’s way of life by getting involved in their daily works. Help the family by milking cows, goats and sheep, learn how to produce tasty and nutritious dairy products and if you feel brave enough, taste the favorite drink of Mongolians called airag which is fermented mare's milk!
Day 5: Mongol Els - 4 hours
The scenery will change a lot today as you'll enter the North Gobi-Altai. After visiting a stunning fresh water lake where a lot of incredible birds can be spotted, you'll trek on the large pyramid shaped singing sand dunes of the Mongol Els. In the evening, you'll go back to your camp for a nice dinner in the wilderness.
Day 6: Hasagt Hairhan National Park (3,000m) - 4 hours
Today, you'll trek in the beautiful Hasagt Hairhan National Park, a unique ecosystem home to many endangered species like snow leopards, ibex, Maral deer and many more. You'll trek on challenging terrains of scree, steep inclines and possibly snow. Your equipment will be carried by pack horses, allowing you to focus on this challenging hike and take in the stunning scenery.
Day 7: Biger Valley (2,181m)
Today, you'll head towards the south of the country to Altai, the highest elevated town of Mongolia (2,181m). This city is famous for its writers, poets and politicians. You'll then continue your journey towards Biger Valley where you'll be able to explore the ruins of a monastery that once housed around 500 monks. The city of Biger is famous for its vegetables, especially enormous potatoes, and vodka made from yak milk. Tonight, you'll camp at the foothills of Mount Burkhan Buudai (3,765m).
Day 8: Waterfall and burial site visit - 2 hours
You'll start your day by trekking to a beautiful waterfall. After a nice picnic lunch, you'll travel through undulating mountains to reach a burial site believed to be from the Scythians, a group of ancient tribes of nomadic warriors who originally lived in what is now southern Siberia. You'll continue your journey driving through an arid landscape and set your camp in front of the majestic Mother Mountain, which is part of the Altai and reaches its highest point at 2,275 metres.
Day 9: Mount Mother - 4 hours
Today is another adventurous day exploring Mount Mother (2,274m), one of the most revered sites in Govi-Altai Aimag. This granite mountain is located in the middle of the great desert in the Valley of Zakhui Zarman. Surrounded by oases rich in saxauls, poplars, reeds and watermelons, Mount Mother is a natural wonder with unique rock formations naturally shaped over millions of years. The most famous rock formations are the so-called Nine Pots, a series of nine cascading pools filled with rain water. The area is significant for the role it plays as a migration corridor for endangered large mammals such as argalis, ibex and snow leopards.
Day 10: Mount Burkhan Buudai - 2 hours
Today, you'll explore the most eastern part of the Mongol Altai mountain range and trek in a fascinating natural reserve from where you'll have stunning views of Mount Burkhan Buudai (3,765m). You'll be able to see some rare animals like snow leopards and vultures and find medical herbs and fruits. You'll then drive across the Altai mountain range to reach the perfect place to set your camp for the night.
Day 11: A day with a nomadic camel herding family - 1 hour
Today, you'll spend the day with local nomads in the Sharga Gobi, an incredible vast depression. You'll saddle up and go for a ride on a two humped Bactrian camel (or trek if you prefer) on giant sand dunes. This is a great opportunity to see how nomads from the Oold ethnic group live and spot the differences with the lifestyle of the nomadic family you met a few days earlier.
Day 12-13: Mount Sutai trek (3,000m) - 3 and 6 hours
Over the next two days, you'll trek between the snow-capped Mount Sutai (4,091m) and Mount Baga Bogd (3,600m). The first day is a challenging 3 hours hike through high mountain meadows and wide open valleys. The second day is even more challenging as you'll reach a maximum altitude of 3,000m and hike on loose gravel, moraine, steep slopes, glacier and snow. You'll make frequent stops to take in the stunning scenery and look out for Altai snowcocks or wild ibex.
Day 14: Prehistoric burial mound and cave visit
This morning, you'll visit another ancient burial mound before enjoying a nice picnic lunch in the middle of the Altai mountain range. You'll then continue your journey and stop en route to visit a cave dating back to the Palaeolithic period. The rock art found in this cave includes symbols and animals painted on the walls and on the ceilings and are unique in Mongolia. Tonight is your last night under the stars.
Day 15: Domestic flight to Ulaanbaatar
After 13 days spent in complete wilderness, it’s time to go back to the capital (and to more comfort!). You'll catch a morning flight to Ulaanbaatar and have some time to rest at the hotel. In the afternoon, visit the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum where Mongolia's eighth living Buddha, and last king, lived for 20 years. The collections of the museum include unique and valuable objects related to Mongolia’s political, religious, and artistic history. This evening, you'll enjoy the performance of a famous Tumen Ekh ensemble, followed by a farewell dinner.
Day 16: Departure
After your last breakfast in Mongolia, you'll take your transfer to the airport for your return flight back home.
What do you want to know?
How tough is this challenge?
This trip is for real adventurers! You will have a few tough days hiking on a difficult terrain, so it should be undertaken by someone with previous experience in trekking. This is a trip that includes extensive travelling and some trekking in remote terrain away from modern facilities and conveniences. You will reach a maximum altitude of 3,000 metres above sea level during this trip so anyone undertaking this challenge should have experience with altitude trekking. In general, endurance training should be your primary focus. Begin slowly, without the weight of a pack, eventually adding weight as you increase your training pace, go up and down hills or mountains, take the stairs as much as possible. Supplement this activity with running, cycling, and/or swimming, for additional aerobic conditioning.
Do I need a VISA?
British Citizens need a visa to travel to Mongolia. A Mongolian visit visa is usually valid for a stay of up to 30 days within six months from the date of issue. We will send you all the information you need to get your VISA once you book your adventure. For any other nationality please check directly with your embassy. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Mongolia. Without this minimum validity, entry to the country will be denied.
Do I need to buy travel insurance?
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. You have to be covered for adventure travel and trekking at high altitude as well as medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. A copy will need to be sent to us before departure. If you haven't got a travel insurance, please visit our page "Before you travel" to get a quote and book your travel insurance.
What vaccinations/medications do I need?
It is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical conditions with your doctor. You can also check the NHS website: www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/destinations for advice on vaccinations and medications. Please make sure you take enough of your personal medications for the entire duration of the trip. Parts of your trip go above 2,800 metres where it is common for travellers to experience some adverse health effects due to the altitude - regardless of the age, gender and fitness. Please discuss your condition and medications available with your doctor.
What food will be served?
The food in Ulaanbaatar is varied and you can find all types of cuisine.
During the trek you will be served hot food with a starter (a soup or a salad), a main course (rice with meat and/or vegetables), a dessert (fruits, cake) and a hot drink. For your picnic you will have a salad, a chicken/veggie burrito or a Mongolian traditional pastry called huushuur with a dessert and water. There will be few opportunities to buy extra snacks when trekking in the Altai so if you want some, bring some from home or buy some in the capital before starting your trek.
What if I have dietary requirements?
We can cater for pretty much all diets (vegetarians, vegans, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, etc) but it may not be very varied especially in more rural areas. We will however always make sure you have enough to eat. It’s a good idea to bring some of your favourite snacks with you. Please let us know your dietary requirements at least 4 months before your trip starts.
What will be the weather like?
The best time to visit Mongolia is from mid-May to mid-September. The weather is good and usually dry, although it can be colder in the mountains. Remember that the weather can be changeable so plan for hot and cold weather. One moment you could be walking in a T-shirt, the next you need a fleece, and then you are back to T-shirts again. At night, temperatures can be close to zero or even negative so take a good sleeping bag. It can also rain but it’s rare.
What is a typical day?
Breakfast is usually quite early around 7.30am (wake up earlier if you want to catch the sunrise!). Your bags need to be packed before breakfast. You will start trekking after breakfast and stop regularly. A pic nic lunch is usually taken around 12pm. Dinner is quite early (around 6.30pm) as well as bed time. Don’t forget that resting is one of the keys to success on every trek!
Who will be walking with us?
You will be accompanied by your local guide and his support team (assistant, driver, cook). Your guide will set the pace and you should never overtake him. This is not a race! Back up support can be called in should there be an emergency. Mongolia is a far-out destination, but you'll be in excellent hands. Your experienced driver, manning sturdy Russian vans fit to tackle the rugged environment, will take you on a ride to some of the most fascinating places in the country.
What is the currency in Mongolia?
The Mongolian currency is the Tögrög, abbreviated to MNT. For up to date currency exchange, go to www.xe.com.
Do they accept Credit Cards?
Mongolia is very much a cash-based society. You can use credit cards in some hotels, shops and restaurants in Ulaanbaatar only. Check with your bank regarding any charges applicable. For up to date currency exchange, go to www.xe.com.
Are there any ATM’s available during the trek?
ATMs are widely available in the capital only, so please bring enough cash with you for the trek in case you want to buy some snacks or souvenirs. We advise you to bring lower denominations.
Do I need to bring money?
All accommodation and most of the meals are included within the price of the trip, as well as water during the days of your trek. You will only need money in case of emergency and for tips, hiring specialist equipment, additional food & drink, gifts & souvenirs etc.
What is the recommendation for tipping?
All our staff is paid a fair wage. However, local staff will generally receive a tip at the end of a job well done. We recommend approx. MNT19,000-MNT36,000 (US$8-US$15) per person per day for the guide. Drivers tackle hard terrain and have long journeys, so the same amount should be given to the driver. This should be given at the end of the challenge.
What type of accommodation are you using?
In Ulaanbaatar, we always try to book a nice and comfortable 3* hotel near the city centre with en-suite bathrooms.
During the trek, the accommodation will be much more basic. Please note we will not make you stay in ger camps as we believe this is not the way to discover Mongolia. Instead, you will be camping in complete wilderness. Tents, mattresses and extra blankets are provided, but you should take a pillow and a good quality four-season sleeping bag and a liner if possible to add extra warmth. A toilet tent will be set up on the camp. You will have the opportunity to camp 2 nights close to a nomadic family to experience their life from the inside. This is a rare and rewarding cultural experience that you will remember for sure.
A list of the final accommodation booked will be sent to you prior departure.
Do I need to carry my own bag?
During the day you will only have to carry your day bag with your essentials (extra layers, water, snacks, sun cream, medications, waterproofs etc). Your main bag will be transported by vehicle or horses each day and you will have access to it every evening.
What is the weight limit for the hand luggage and checked luggage for the domestic flight?
In the plane from Ulaanbaatar to the Khovd province, you will be able to bring 10kg in your checked luggage and 5kg in your hand luggage. You can also pay for extra kg (USD5/kg). Extra items can be left in the hotel in Ulaanbaatar.
Do I need any specific documents with me?
Please always carry with you your passport (leave a copy in your main bag) and your insurance details.
What should I pack?
Once your trip is booked we will send you a gear list. The essential packing list is:
- Travel documents: passport with visa (if required), travel insurance, flights tickets and photocopies of these documents
- Money: cash/credit card kept in a money belt
- Personal medication
- Daypack (30L to 50L) and duffle bag (80L to 100L)
- Comfortable and sturdy walking shoes (already broken in) with good walking socks
- Head torch with spare batteries
- Electrical adapter plug (for more information please check www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plugs-and-sockets/)
- Toiletries and travel towel
- Sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses
- Refillable water bottle (no disposable plastic bottles) and Platypus/camelbak
- Wind and waterproof rain jacket and trousers
- Down jacket
- Camera with spare batteries
Can you teach me a few words in the local language?
Hello - Sain baina uu
Goodbye – Bayartai
Thank you – Bayarlalaa
Good night - Saikhan amraarai