16 Day Mongolia Explorer

August 8, 2020

Trip price: $4960

Deposit: $1200

This is Mongolia, the way it SHOULD be done. We’re going to some of the famous sights, sure, but it’s so much more than that – you’ll experience the magic that is the Mongolian way of life on this in-depth cultural experience.

Highlights

Experience the traditional Naadam festival - the highlight of the Mongolian year - in a small town in the middle of nowhere

See the highlights of the Gobi; walk sand dunes, enjoy a camel trek, and meet camel herders

The BEST thing about Mongolia is the homestays with their incredibly beautiful nomadic culture; we have organised three of these homestays

Plant trees at the Gobi Oasis project and contribute to Mongolia sustainable for future generations

Get your heart pumping with multiple opportunities for short hikes, horse rides and afloat down a river through untouched countryside

Participate in Mongolian cooking and learn their centuries-nomadic cooking traditions

Trip Details

Price

Normal price: $5240 (twin-share)

Earlybird: $4960 – book by March 10, 2020.

Deposit: $1200

Private Room Supplement: $1270, only 2 available.

Note: Don’t have someone to join you? Most of our bookings are from solo travellers. We can easily match you with another group member to help you avoid paying the private supplement. Just ask!


Trip length

16 days, 15 nights


Dates

August 8 to 23, 2020


Meeting point

Tuushin Hotel, Ulaanbaatar


Ending point

Tuushin Hotel, Ulaanbaatar


Group size

Maximum 12


Participation requirements

Please see our “Participation” section to see the requirements.


Included

  • All accommodation
  • Airport transfers
  • All meals during the trip
  • All listed activities
  • Transportation: a driver + English-speaking trip leader
  • All entrance fees

Not included

  • International airfares
  • Tip kitty
  • Any visas required (Australian passport holders do require a visa)
  • Late check-out/early check-in at hotels
  • Meals and drinks not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Tips for leaders, guide and driver
  • Expenditure of personal nature
  • Personal insurance

Why Choose This Tour?

This is Mongolia, the way it SHOULD be done. We're going to some of the famous sights, sure, but it's so much more than that - you'll experience the magic that is the Mongolian way of life on this in-depth cultural experience.

Maybe you’ll come for the Flaming Cliffs or the Gobi, but your most treasured memories will be of your interactions with the local Mongolian culture. That’s why we’ve organised homestays and made space to spend real time with one of the last nomadic cultures and you’ll stay in gers in the middle of nowhere in the Mongolian countryside

Don’t just sit in a vehicle - get out and experience nature with horse rides, hikes and kayaking

Click the tabs to find out more

Itinerary

Mongolia's capital with a large open square and some modern high-risers in the background
Day 1: HELLO MONGOLIA

Arrival in Ulaanbaatar. A friendly face will be waiting to meet you at the airport. The group will meet at the reception at 2 pm for a walk across the expansive Sukhbaatar Square to the National History Museum, a fantastic snapshot of the country’s past.

Next, we drop into a small theatre for a performance of traditional music and dance by the Tumen Ekh Ensemble. Perhaps a bit touristy, but it’s really fun! Dinner is at our favourite local restaurant.

Accommodation: Tuushin Hotel (or similar)
Drive time: 45 minutes

Beautiful view over a green valley and jagged mountain tops
Day 2: TERELJ NATIONAL PARK

Terelj National Park is wonderful but very popular. So, after visiting the iconic ‘Turtle Rock’, we’ll get away from the crowds to visit a nomadic family for a home-made lunch. They’ll then saddle us up for a beginner-friendly afternoon horse ride.

Get your bellies ready – they’re preparing a nomadic evening feast for us! Cooking alongside Mongolian women in a ger is magical, so you can help out if you wish. We’ll sleep in the family’s guest gers.

Accommodation: Ger homestay
Drive time: 45 minutes

A group of kayakers heading out on the lake together
Day 3: KHUSTAI NATIONAL PARK

We’re going to get out the inflatable kayaks and rafts this morning and reconnect with nature on a wide, shallow, beautiful river. Breathe in the air and relax: it’s just us, flowing water and the steppes. Nothing like it.

Next, Sanjaa is a local park ranger tasked with protecting with the Takhi horses. Chill out with him as dusk falls, watching these wild horses gather nearby for a refreshing drink. Dinner and fun follow with Sanjaa’s beautiful family for another homestay experience.

Accommodation: Ger homestay with Sanjaa’s family
Drive time:3hrs/180km

2 locals crouching down in the middle of a field smiling for the camera
Day 4: GOBI OASIS PROJECT

After a leisurely breakfast… Byamba Tseyn runs the Gobi Oasis tree planting nursery, which works to conserve the local environment. Today, we’ll plant some of the seedlings ourselves, and contribute back to Mother Nature. (A small portion of your trip fee will be contributed to this project.)

Back at Byamba’s home, you will have a Mongolian cooking lesson. Together, we’ll prepare a traditional nomadic dinner and then eat.

Accommodation: Ger camp
Driving time: 4hrs/240km

Orange cliffs in the middle of a vast, open desert
Day 5: THE FLAMING CLIFFS

This morning, we’re on the road again, stopping at the impressive rock formations of Tsagaan Suvarga, where you can explore the area on foot for an hour or so before continuing on to Bayanzag.

Bayanzag is one of the most famous paleontological sites worldwide, known for dinosaur bone discoveries. Walk around the spectacular sandstone formations, known as the Flaming Cliffs due to their deep red hue. We’ll stay the next two nights at a deluxe ger camp.

Accommodation: Ger camp
Drive time: 6hrs/400km

A small river trickling its way through a large gap of cliffs
Day 6: KHAVSGAIT PETROGLYPHS

Yolyn Am is a beautiful local gorge and perfect for a leg-stretching 90-minute hike. We’ll head over there in the morning.

In the afternoon, we’re visiting the Khavsgait Petroglyphs (Bronze Age rock engravings) depicting life thousands of years ago. It’s surprisingly fun to walk amongst the rocks and discover drawings for yourself. Take a moment to pause and let your mind wander back to those ancient times.

Accommodation: Ger camp (same camp as day 5)
Drive time: 1.5hrs/70km

huge double-humped camels and one small woman holding the rope
Day 7: CAMELS AND DUNES

It’s a driving day today as we head towards the Singing Dunes where you will visit a camel herding family. Enjoy the hospitality in their ger where you will be able to try camel milk and other traditional Mongolian fares.

Afterwards, saddle up for a camel ride alongside the dunes. Around sunset, we’ll hike up to the top to hear the dune song, a phenomenon written about as long ago as Marco Polo.

Accommodation: Ger camp
Drivie time: 4hrs/180km

2 colourfully dressed locals wrestling in a circle while onlookers enjoy the show
Day 8: NAADAM FESTIVAL

Today you will witness the celebrations of a rural Gobi Naadam – the local Khongor Khurd Festival. The traditional events include wrestling, horse racing and a concert as well as soaking up the festival atmosphere. Your guide will have details of the exact agenda and timings. A bit of relaxed fun!

Like all Naadam festivals in Mongolia, it is a little touristy, but much less touristy than the Naadam in UB.

Accommodation: Ger Camp
Drive time: None

Small stone hut with a red temple-style roof on the mountain top
Day 9: ONGIIN KHIID

Today is a road trip day as we start the scenic journey north towards the heartland of Mongolia. Driving is part of the fun when it comes to this vast country!

After we enjoy the usual photographic and picnic stops en route, you’ll settle into your Ger camp next to the temple complex of Ongiin Khiid. Enter the tiny reconstructed temple, and see the monks who run the monastery.

Accommodation: Ger camp
Drive time: 7hrs/350km

2 people riding horses through an open green valley
Day 10: URTIIN TOKHOI CANYON

After breakfast, we continue north. The open flat plains give way to greener undulating countryside, with more families and livestock. By this point in the trip, surrounded by this beautiful scenery, all the cares in the world are forgotten as you totally disconnect.

Arrive at camp by around 3 pm. Those who like can go horse riding or walk through the Urtiin Tokhoi Canyon of the Orkhon Valley. Otherwise, unwind: get your hair washed and massaged in a ‘spa’ ger.

Accommodation: Kasbah du Toubkal or similar
Included: Breakfast, lunch, & dinner
Driving time: 5 hours

White tents set up for camp on a lovely sunny day in a luscious green valley
Day 11: ORKHON VALLEY

We continue up the Orkhon valley today – the scenery is beautiful but the roads rough! Although today’s drive is only about 90km it will take over 3 hrs to arrive.

Galaa, a local, will be hosting us for 2 nights near Orkhon Waterfall. During your time with Galaa’s family, you will get a chance to erect a ger – with a little help from the locals, of course! In the evening, enjoy a nomadic feast. Simple, hearty, delicious. Note: for these 2 nights there is a portable shower only.

Accommodation: Ger homestay with Galaa’s family
Drive time: 3hrs/90km

Overlooking a huge green valley is a camp dotted with large white tents
Day 12: GALAA’S FAMILY

Today is a special experience as you experience the day to day life of a nomadic family. This is the yak-herding country, so you can help milk the yaks and see how the milk is made into a variety of foods. Galaa’s family will welcome you into every aspect of their activities!

You will also have time to explore and relax in the beautiful surroundings – including heading off on a horse ride. Try your hand at archery as well, if you like. This is a day which you won’t forget quickly.

Accommodation: Ger homestay with Galaa’s family
Drive time: None

Small village with green and grey coloured roofs, overlooking a green forest and rolling hills
Day 13: TOVKHON KHIID

Say a reluctant goodbye to your nomadic hosts after breakfast for a 3hr hike up to Tovkhon Monastery. We’ll walk up to the unique hilltop temples through the scenic forested countryside and catch a great view!

Afterwards continue to Kharkhorin. There should be time to visit the Monument of the 3 Kings overlooking the Orkhon River and the fertility stone on the edge of town. Then settle into your gers – complete with thoroughly deserved hot showers!

Accommodation: Ger camp
Drive time: 2hrs/70km

Huge white statues placed upon walls of brick on a beautiful sunny day
Day 14: ERDENE ZUU

This morning, we’ll get to Erdene Zuu Monastery in time to hear the monks chanting followed by a guided tour around the main temples.

In the afternoon, come with us to the beautiful nature reserve of Khogno Khaan, where we’ll visit the lower temple complex of Uvguun Khiid. Check out the reconstructed temples, prayer-wheel and look around the ruins. We’ll also go for a short hike to take in the beautiful nature.

Accommodation: Ger camp
Drive time: 2hrs/90km

Statue of a knight and a horse overlooking a very modren looking city of glass high risers
Day 15: ULAAN BAATAR

Back to Ulaanbaatar today. Is the trip already finishing? Nearly! It’s time to say goodbye to the slow pace of the Mongolian countryside as we head back to the city, tarmac roads all the way! You’ll also get the chance to do some last-minute shopping – cashmere, anyone?

After freshening up at the hotel, enjoy a farewell meal at one of our favourite restaurants.

Accommodation: Tuushin Hotel
Drive time: 4.5hrs/290km

Outside of an airport, with people wheeling their backs along inside
Day 16: ULAAN BAATAR

And that’s it! There’ll be hugs and tears aplenty as we say goodbye to our trip leader and driver. You’ll then be transferred to the airport with head and heart full of new memories. Mongolia will stay in your heart for a long time.

The Essential Info
WHAT ABOUT ACCOMMODATION?

Mostly you’ll be in ‘ger camps’ during the trip. These are specifically set up for travellers. There are two people to a ger, and if you want to go to the toilet or shower, you need to step out. You get used to it quickly. The toilets and showers are clean and well-maintained, almost without exception.

Do the gers get cold? Not a huge amount. The gers are good at keeping the warmth in and they also have stoves for heating which the staff maintain. You’ll need warm clothes for cool evenings and we also recommend bringing pyjamas.

Homestays are a bit different – they’re more rustic but quite comfortable. Each ger sleeps 3-4 people. It definitely doesn’t feel like a hotel – expect random things like Mickey Mouse pillowcases and each bed to be different.

WHAT ABOUT FOOD?

Mongolian food is simple and hearty. While there is a lot of meat, milk and cheese in Mongolian cuisine, we can cater for most dietary needs including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free.

We guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised by the food available in Mongolia. This is partly because your expectations will below (!), but also because, contrary to popular belief, dietary options are not just limited to mutton and fat. In Ulaanbaatar, there is a range of great local and international restaurants, and although in the countryside the choice and ingredients are more limited, there are some traditional culinary specialities to enjoy and savour.

We like to vary meals during a trip – lunch may be with a nomadic family, or at a roadside cafe, or a picnic. Sadly, we cannot cater to those with severe nut allergies. In all of our homestays, you’re welcome to participate and learn, as much or as little as you like. It’s a great way to spend extended time with local Mongolian women, who traditionally occupy this role.

Frequently Asked Questions

YES! We can easily accommodate vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets no problems, or any variation of the above. Just let us know in advance so we can prepare as much of the food needs to be brought with us from UB.

Note: this food will be simple and may get repetitive. We cannot cater to those with severe nut allergies. Any other medical conditions get in touch.

All travellers will need a visa. We’ll send you application instructions when the final payment is made, and gladly assist where needed.

You need to make a deposit of $1200 to hold your spot using a Visa or Mastercard. Contact us if you want to pay via bank deposit. From there, you need to pay the final balance of the trip more than 95 days in advance. (This is not for our benefit: our suppliers require upfront payment well in advance to guarantee availability). You can pay with Card (fees apply) or with Bank Deposit. Note: prior to the payment of your full balance, the final price may change if there is significant variation in the AUD: USD exchange rate. Please refer to the full terms and conditions.

Alcohol is widely available in Mongolia. It will be available for sale at all ger camps at affordable prices and can be bought in UB.

Airfares are not included. There are lots of good options through Japan, Korea and China.

Yes: 1270 AUD, and two are available. The private supplement isn’t available in the family homestays for obvious reasons.

Yes, unless you take the single supplement option. Everyone’s here to have a great time and we’ll do our best to match like with like. Of course, if we there’s a need to rotate things around, we’ll do that too.

It is not recommended to bring Mongolian Togrog to Ulaanbaatar, as you can obtain it easily at money changers and ATMs. In countryside towns, you can obtain money but it’s best not to rely on it. However, your expenses during the trip will be minimal and mostly confined to the alcohol you buy at ger camps. Bringing gifts for your host families is also highly encouraged. Aussie-themed gifts and clothing are highly welcomed as are toys for the kids. Fabric, scarves, warm socks, and gloves are also very welcome.

Private transport, with the same driver, and the same bus, available 100% of the time. Modern, spacious, comfortable, air-conditioned. Our hand-picked local drivers are safe, experienced, and friendly. Reliable private transportation is the key to seeing Mongolia.

You’ll need a universal power adaptor on this trip as Mongolia uses multiple types. You won’t have power plugs in ger camps, but you can charge your devices in our vehicles.

You’re visiting Mongolia at the perfect time, with warm days and cool evenings. The potential for days over 30 is real, so be ready with light layers. Rain showers are not uncommon, please come prepared for this. On the long driving days, it’s recommended to wear blouses with long sleeves and pants for your comfort. For the cool mornings and evenings, we recommend you bring at least one warm jacket or sweater, and a light sweater. Comfortable walking shoes will serve just fine.

We take animal welfare seriously and do not work with providers who treat their animals poorly. But, please note that animals often co-exist with their owners in what can be very difficult conditions. Mongolia is one of the most difficult places in the world to live for both humans AND animals. This is part of the reality of life for them and we accept this.

Airport transfers are included. You can plan to arrive at any time, but we recommend arriving in the morning to give yourself time to settle in.

You’ll need a reasonable fitness level to participate in this trip, but nothing extreme. If you can walk for several hours – ie 8-12km – at a moderate pace on undulating terrain, you’ll be fine. There will be some uphill/downhill walking and the dune walk will be tiring, although very much worth the effort. All activities are optional, meaning that if you don’t feel like it, you can skip it.

Some days do involve long stretches of driving and you need to be the kind of person who enjoys road trips. Any such necessary long drives are offset by photo stops, picnic lunches, roadside pitstops, tea/coffee breaks, and of course seeing points of interest, leg-stretching walks, dropping in on nomadic families, etc.

Our trusty steed is a UAZ Purgon, comfortable and built to withstand off-road Mongolian driving conditions. We’ll have 2-3 of these. You’ll fall in love with your skilful drivers.

Fixed Line Internet & Wi-Fi Internet access will be restricted to larger towns and villages which you will have the opportunity to pass through every few days – these will have internet cafes, often with a slow connection (and also affected by sporadic power cuts).

Whilst a few ger camps will have Wi-Fi we advise all guests not to rely on this being available, and if you absolutely must have access during a trip, you can purchase a local sim card with data. Just ask your trip leader for assistance.

Have more burning questions?

Check Out Our Other Trips!