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Endless blue skies, stunning scenery, vast desert and welcoming nomadic hospitality is everything that is great about this exploration of Mongolia. We visit ancient Buddhist monasteries and the sacred Orkhon Valley, discover the great Gobi Desert and learn about the traditions and culture of this fascinating and little known country. Please note the Naadam Festival departure is 1 day longer, please select the relevant itinerary by clicking the package of interest at the top of the day to day itinerary.
Explore Tour Leader
11 nights simple ger
2 nights comfortable hotel
Trip maximum 16 Explore average 11
Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Arrive in Ulaanbaatar, the largely modernised capital hub of Mongolia. This city is home to nearly half of the population, and many can be seen in their traditional dress with a huge proportion continuing to live in gers in the suburbs.
For those arriving on time our Leader plans to meet you in the hotel reception at 2pm for an orientation walking tour of Sukhbaatar Square - the administrative heart of the nation surrounded by the Government Palace, central banks, theatres and the post office; all in their original Soviet style. There is an equestrian statue of Damdin Sukhbaatar and a massive bronze monument of Chinggis Khan flanked by two of his many sons and two of his most important generals. This will be followed by the introductory briefing at 6pm at the hotel, after which you have the option to meet your fellow travellers over dinner.
If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you'll need to arrive into Chinggis Khaan International Airport (UBN), which is a 1 hour drive to our hotel. Should you miss the welcome meeting, your Leader will inform you of any essential information as soon as you catch up in the hotel lobby on day two.
Bayangol Hotel (or similar)
The adventure begins this morning as we leave Ulaanbaatar and drive out into Mongolia's beautiful countryside, firstly passing through the new, the old and the chaotic parts of the capital, before reaching the famed rolling hills of the Mongolian steppe. Following the country's central road for around 3 hours, we will eventually peel off the tarmac as we head into Hustai National Park in time for lunch at our camp.
Hustai National Park (Khustain Nuruu) has been a protected area since 1993 containing both mountains and steppe within a relatively small area. The national park is home to the rare Mongolian wild horse known as Perzevalski or Takhi; once extinct in the wild, the Perzevalski Horse is a true conservation success story with captive breed horses released into, and then surviving in the wild. After lunch we'll have a little time to view the on-site visitor centre to learn a little more about the region, the horses and various other flora and fauna resident in Hustai National Park. Mid-afternoon offers us the best time to sight the beautiful Takhi horses, so we'll pile into our trucks and drive out into the rolling terrain to spot them coming down from the mountains for water at the nearby river, and if we are lucky we may also spot fox, red deer, roe deer, eagles and various other animals. Once we've finished our Mongolian safari, we'll head back to the camp for dinner and to spend our first night under canvas in our authentic Mongolian Ger.
4WD vehicles are best suited to the rugged local conditions when travelling around Mongolia. The group will be split up into 4WD vehicles (normally 7 seater) with approximately 4 or 5 passengers in each vehicle, each with a window seat. The Tour Leader will ride in one of the vehicles and will rotate between vehicles over the duration of the tour.
The ger camps on this trip generally consist of several canvas and felt tents plus a large dining tent or restaurant. Each ger has 2 or more beds, bedding, plus a table and stools, all hand-painted in local style. Toilet and washing facilities are shared and separate to the living gers, with a mixture of flushing and long-drop style toilets. Should you wish to charge your cameras and electronic devices during your trip, there is electricity in the restaurant gers.
Hustai National Park (or similar)
Today, a 4 hour scenic drive takes us to Khogno Khan Mountain - a beautiful and serene mountainous area set in the heart of Mongolia's steppeland. Once the site of a fierce battle between Bhuddist sects, nowadays Khogno Khan is considered a place of spirituality. We will break our journey this morning with a visit to an area of rolling dunes that look out of place surrounded by green steppe, known as the 'mini Gobi', where we hope to stop and visit a local herder family.
The afternoon is spent exploring the stunning terrain where red granite mountains tower above green meadows and arid desert landscapes. On a three hour hike we'll explore a solitary Buddhist temple, hidden from the world, but still occupied and very much in use! Afterwards we'll head down to the beautiful crystalline lakes which sit between lush green steppe on one side, and towering sand dunes on the other. During the summer these meadows and lakes come alive with everything from flowers, butterflies and tiny frogs to majestic cranes and other birdlife that inhabit the area. Alternatively, simply relax with a good book and an exceptional view.
We'll spend the evening at our ger camp, relaxing under the shelter of the Khogno Khan Mountains.
Khogno Khan Ger Camp (or similar)
Waking up in the shadow of Khogno Khan, we'll spend a lazy morning enjoying the scenery of our surroundings before setting off in search of Mongolia's ancient capital - Kharkorum - a 2 hour drive away. Kharkorum was the former capital of the Mongolian Empire. At its height in the 13th century, it was from here that Chinggis Khan's son, Ogedei Khan, once ruled the largest land empire the world has ever known. During Kharkorum's golden age much of the city was comprised of tents and, as the Mongolian Empire went into decline, the city's decay was rapid. These days all that remains of this once-great settlement is the impressive Erdene Zuu Monastery, as well as a few scattered, but not unimpressive, archaeological finds.
Once we arrive at Kharkorum, our first stop will be the immense Erdene Zuu Monastery - Mongolia's first Buddhist centre established in the 16th century and now an active monastery as well as a museum. At its zenith there were 1,000 resident monks and, although most of the temples were destroyed in the 1930s, the monastery is slowly being restored and is considered by many as the most important monastery in Mongolia. The political climate in Mongolia is changing and Buddhism, previously suppressed, is currently experiencing a resurgence. We'll hopefully catch the resident monks in their afternoon prayer. Following our monastery visit, we will call at the Karakorum Museum which chronicles the history of the Khan Empire along with artefacts from the ruined city.
These days Kharkorum has a real backwater feel to it, and before we head to our Ger camp for the evening, we'll be sure to cut through its centre so that you can gain a snippet of life in this once grand settlement and, time permitting, we'll stop at the local market for a chance to see the local traders selling their wares within a labyrinth of small buildings and storage containers.
Urguu Ger Camp (or similar)
Continuing on our journey south this morning we will stop after 1.5hrs to visit Tovkhon Monastery - one of the most secluded and beautiful in the region. The only way to reach Tovkhon is on foot but it is worth it for the views alone. The walk is about 5km or 3miles in total, taking from 1 to 2 hours to get up and 1 hour down. Upon arrival we'll meet the local monks and, for those brave enough, climb along the cliffside with the monks to find traditional meditation caves. Following our Buddhist adventure, we'll head back down the mountain and make our way to the Orkhon Valley.
The Mongol culture of today is still mainly pastoral and we hope to come across itinerant herdsmen, a group of two or three families, their gers pitched on the steppe. The nomads live in harmony with their surroundings and move with the seasons. Many rear camels, sheep and goats. It is likely that, at some point during our trip, we will be invited to share a drink of airag or koumiss (fermented mare's milk) with these friendly people. There are many polite points of etiquette to learn, but our guide will help us through these so we do not inadvertently cause offence. The provision of a gift when you visit a ger is part of the culture in Mongolia, so feel free to pack something small. Practical items such as torches or sewing kits, that save a trip to town are often the most appreciated. Alternatively, a local speciality from home would be well received such as a biscuit or sweet or whatever you think would be well received.
The 2 hour drive to Orkhon takes us through the Khangai mountain range, offering beautiful landscapes comprising of gorges, river valleys and green steppe. Upon arrival we'll stop to visit the Orkhon Valley Waterfall, Mongolia's tallest at 16 metres, situated at the head of an impressive gorge cut into the landscape over millennia.
Finally we check in to our ger camp and base for the next two nights.
Orkhon Valley Eco-Ger Camp (or similar)
Today we'll spend our time relaxing amidst the picturesque surroundings of the Orkhon Valley and you can choose to horseride or walk in this lush green heart of Mongolia's countryside. For those who wish, we'll set out on horseback to explore the mountains, rivers and canyons, passing herds of yak, sheep, goats, and horses which roam the valley.
We'll also have the chance today to learn traditional nomadic skills alongside a local family. Learn how to build a traditional Mongolian Ger and spend time alongside the family as they teach us about herding, milking, and how they process the milk to create different tasty snacks such as cream, yoghurt and curd.
Today we embark on a longer drive of seven hours from the green mountains of Khangai into the Gobi landscape, passing lush green winding river valleys that transition into the scrub filled desert region. We pass into Saikhan Ovoo, a small province in Mongolia's heartland with green steppe, rugged rock formations and martian-like landscapes. Once again, there are no roads and few tracks to follow. The other thing that will doubtless strike you when travelling through these great expanses of Mongolia is the varied bird life. Mongolian Lark, Demoiselle Cranes and Black Vultures may be seen, to name but a very few.
Our destination is a place of quiet solitude on the Ongiin Gol River known as Ongi Temple. The ruins of two monasteries, Barlim and Khutagt, remain on the north and south shores of the river. We visit this site, commonly collectively known as the Ongii Lamasery, and it's little museum. Ongii used to be one of Mongolia's most extensive monasteries and home to over a thousand monks until the Stalinist purges of the 1930s when it was destroyed. In 2002, some monks returned and began restoration work with a small budget, making up for what they lacked monetarily with inspiring spiritual fervour.
This evening, our ger camp is located only a stone's throw from the temple and offers a chance of serene relaxation, further hiking or exploration.
Secret of Ongi Camp (or similar)
After breakfast, we depart our ger camp and head into the Gobi Desert proper. We'll journey for around 4 hours today and will pass three mountain ranges known as the 'Three Beauties'. The sheer vastness of the desert is awe-inspiring and, as our drivers set off across terrain with no tracks, let alone roads, we marvel at how they know where they are going. Our foray onto its plains today only gives us a snippet of its actual size, for the Gobi is the sixth-largest desert globally and the second in Asia, a wide-open place of extremes that reaches into China.
Our main destination for today is Bayanzag, home to the Flaming Cliffs - sandstone cliffs and canyons that light up brilliantly at sunrise and sunset. Aside from its obvious wow factor, Bayanzag is also where in 1922 American palaeontologist Roy Chapman Andrews discovered the world's first-ever recorded dinosaur eggs and a mightly haul of various other fossils. A walk along the cliffs here is a walk in the footsteps of the man whom Indiana Jones was modelled on!
Once we have finished our exploration, it's off to the nearby Ger camp where we can relax, drink, and maybe return to the cliffs to catch the changing colours at sunset, making a perfect end to an exciting day.
Mongolian Gobi Ger Camp (or similar)
The adventure continues as we bid farewell to the Flaming Cliffs, board our vehicles and journey for about 4 hours onwards through the wilds of the Gobi Desert to the Khongor Sand Dunes (Khongoryn Els) also known as the Singing Sands. Along the route, we pass some of the typical Gobi terrain, a loose mix of pebbles, gravel and fine sand; however, we will cross a fertile area of steppe where we'll be sure to visit one of the traditional nomadic families who call this desolate region home.The Khongor Sand Dunes, as the name suggests, are a dune system found within the Gobi; as only around 3% of the Gobi desert is covered in sand, the sight of these 300-metre-high gigantic dunes is something to behold. The shifting sands of Khongoryn Els stretch out for over 180 km, and our Germ camp looks out across these giants.
Once we have eaten lunch and waited for the day to cool a little, we'll continue our adventure and visit one of Khongor's resident camel herder families for those interested in the option of riding a camel and dont want to tackle the dunes on foot. Although most of these herder families are now in this region to supply camels to tourists, we can think of no better way to approach these monstrous sandy giants, and even then it may take a little longer than you think to climb the amazing giants. When the wind blows across the sand's surface in the right direction, an eerie sound is emitted hence the 'singing' sands. As with much of the Gobi Desert's natural scenery, the Khongor Dunes come alive at sunset. Maybe view them from the top of the dunes or the comfort of our relaxing Ger camp while enjoying a cold drink after dinner.
Gobi Erdene Ger Camp (or similar)
After enjoying another filling breakfast in our Ger camp, it's back aboard our vehicles as we continue the adventure. The journey is short today but the going is bumpy as we leave the Khongor area on our way to the Yol Valley. You can see how the landscape transitions from a typical sandy desert into hard clay, rock, stone and steppe - showing how diverse the Gobi Desert really is.
We'll eventually arrive at the Gurvansaikhan Mountains. Due to the altitude and deep gorges, a temperate ecosystem exists, with argali sheep, ibex and snow leopards living here - as opposed to the desert species we might expect. The Yolyn Am (Vulture's Gorge in Mongolian) is a magnificent 40 km long valley with great views that we explore on foot with a walk of around 3 to 4 hours. Over the winter months, the river builds up a thick layer of ice which thaws slowly and, at times, remains long into the summer months. As you follow the winding path, eagles rise to circle in the thermals high above the canyon whilst wild goats can be seen perched on the high valley walls and picas scurry amongst the rocky terrain.
Finally we will drive to our accommodation for tonight, another well-appointed Ger camp where we will have a chance to chat about our adventures and relax over a drink or two.
Khan Bogd Ger Camp (or similar)
Following a hearty breakfast we'll head for the provincial capital of Dalanzadgad to visit the recently opened Gobi Museum of Nature and History, a modern museum that houses many of the region's dinosaur finds and artifacts that help explain the history and culture of the Gobi.
After lunch, we'll start our journey north back towards Ulaanbaatar, but between us and the capital there is plenty more to see. Today's drive leads us on through the Gobi and after about 3 hours we will reach our destination - White Stupa. These magnificent white cliffs tower over the desert floor creating some of Mongolia's most stunningly picturesque natural scenery. We'll spend some time in the late afternoon traversing and admiring these natural rock formations on foot, and we'll also have a chance to see some ancient petroglyphs carved by the former inhabitants of this corner of the world. Finally we will head to our ger camp for the night.
White Stupa Ger Camp (or similar)
Following breakfast, we make our way across country, continuing our journey to an area known as Baga Gazriin Chuluu. The trip will take us across typical Gobi scrub, transitioning finally into the more famed and well-known traditional Mongolian steppe. After around 5 hours of driving plus the usual comfort stops and a break for lunch, we will start to see a red granite outcrop that rises to 1768 metres above sea level surrounded by flat, featureless Mongolian steppe.
Baga Gazriin Chuluu National Park is home to 20 rare species of plant, ibex, marmot and mountain sheep. We will explore the impressive geology and scenery on a walk in the afternoon along with some more ancient petroglyphs and burial mounds. We'll also visit the ruins of a temple, hidden between these towering rocks - a chance to see how nature has reclaimed this site. Should time and opportunity permit on our journey, we will also stop to meet and interact with a few more nomadic herders who will also be passing through the region (just on a longer journey). Time permitting, we'll stop for the ubiquitous cup of milky tea before continuing on our own adventure to our final ger camp.
Erdene Ukhaa Ger Camp (or similar)
Today, we leave the countryside and head back to the hustle and bustle of Ulaanbaatar. After a morning's drive of around 4 hours, we return to the city of nomads and our first visit before lunch is the unmissable Gandan Monastery - Ulaanbaatar's largest and most impressive Buddhist monastery. The complex is comprised of varying temples from different periods and one of the highlights is viewing the 26-metre-high gold-coated indoor Buddha.
Following lunch, we'll make our way to the State Department Store, known in Mongola as 'Ih Delguur' or 'The Big Shop' - a chance to pickup those last minute souvenirs and learn a little more about the history of Ulaanbaatar. We'll also visit the Beatles Statue to discover why there is a monument to the Liverpudlian band in the middle of Mongolia.
Next, we'll head to the heart of the city and visit the impressive newly-constructed Chinggis Khan museum. This massive building tells you everything you need to know about one of history's most divisive characters and more. For those who wish, it's possible to cross from the square to our accommodation for a well-deserved rest, whilst for those wanting to enjoy a late afternoon of further city exploration we can suggest a few more local sites. We'll end the day with a farewell dinner, and perhaps a drink or two, as we reflect on our adventures.
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Ulaanbaatar. Although the tour is over, we hope you'll be flying home with a head full of memories and stories to share with your friends and family!
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Ulaanbaatar at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive a complimentary airport transfer today, you need to depart from Chinggis Khaan International Airport (UBN), which is a 1 hour drive from our hotel.
Mongolia has an extreme continental climate similar to that of south-central Siberia or Manchuria and enhanced by a mean elevation of 1500m. Winters are long and very cold. There is a swift transition in May to a short, warm summer and an equally rapid return to the winter cold in October. Summer temperatures vary from around 35°C in the desert to as low as 15°C in the mountains. Frost can occur in the mornings in the Terelj National Park. Rainfall is low everywhere; no more than 38-51cm a year in the mountains and as little as 13cm in the drier lowland parts although do come prepared for the occasional downpour. However, temperatures drop very quickly when rainfall does occur. (Rainfall can be heavy, therefore, a good quality rainjacket and waterproof trousers are essential). Be prepared for all weather conditions during your tour.
2 Pin Round
Daytime temperatures are warm and we recommend lightweight clothing plus some warm layers for the drop in night temperatures experienced in high desert areas and mountains of Mongolia. You will also need a good waterproof jacket as rain can be heavy.
Light walking boots and comfortable shoes and sandals.
One main piece of lockable baggage ideally a soft holdall, kitbag or frameless rucksack. Keep luggage to a strict minimum as you will be expected to carry your bag throughout. Porters are not available in Mongolia.
Torch and head torch Walking poles (if you use them) Insect repellant Sun Screen Water bottle for day to day use
The ger camps in Mongolia consist of several canvas and felt tents plus a large dining tent or restaurant. Each ger used on this tour has 2 or more beds, bedding, plus a table and stools. All are hand painted in local style. Although they are comfortable, we advise that you try to leave behind your western standards to fully appreciate the atmosphere of these traditional dwellings. Toilet and washing facilities are shared and separate to the living gers, with a mixture of flushing and long-drop style toilets. Should you wish to charge your cameras and electronic devices during your trip, there is electricity in the restaurant gers.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
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Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Mongolia: British nationals wanting to stay for less than 30 days do not need a visa to enter Mongolia. All passports must have at least 6 months validity remaining on entry to Mongolia.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
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You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
Nothing compulsory, but we recommend protection against typhoid, tetanus, infectious hepatitis and polio. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.