The July 10, 2012 departure also visits the same locations for the same amount of time but in a different order. The Nadaam Festival is visited on Days 2 and 3, followed by the visit to the Amarbayasgalant Monastery.
Members of the group will arrive to Ulaanbaatar on Day 1, therefore there are no activities planned. Please check the hotel notice board for trip information and group meeting time. If you arrived earlier - enjoy wandering around Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia, a city filled with contrasts. A former Russian protectorate, much of the architectural styles remain, alongside traditional Mongolian gers (tents) and modern shops. On the streets you can observe nomads on horseback sharing the road with cars, people in traditional dress and high fashion and furs. The Museum of Natural History with its dinosaur exhibits is great to explore, as is the Winter Palace Museum of Bogd Khan and its great collections, the Fine Arts Museum, the Choijin Lama Temple Museum with displays of Buddhist artifacts, or perhaps the Ganden Monastery, the most important in the country. The Group meeting usually starts at 6 pm (check the hotel notice board for additional information). The CEO (Group leader) will outline the trip itinerary and answer questions. The group meeting will be followed by a group dinner.
We hit the road and head to Amarbayasgalant Monastery, a remote, bumpy 350 km drive. The second most important monastery in Mongolia, the monastery is located in the beautiful Iven Gol valley in Selenge Province within the foothills of Burenkhan Mountain. On the order of Monchu Emperor Yongzheng, it was built between 1726 and 1736 and dedicated to Zanabazar, a renowned Mongolian Buddhist, scholar, and sculptor. Experience just how remote and endless the Mongolian countryside is as we stay in out first ger camp.
Our journey continues as we head towards the beautiful Selenge River (approx 8 hours drive), stopping for lunch and photos. We arrive in the afternoon and then venture out for a hike up to the nearby 13th century volcanic crater at Pot Mountain. Enjoy the beautiful views and keep watch for some of the wildlife. On Day 4 we arrive at the river (about 6 hours drive), to meet our a nomadic family. Nomads live a very simple life and move forth with their cattle along the same route their great-grandparents travelled hundreds of years ago. Depending on the size of the nomadic family and their gers, accommodations can be very basic. In the case of nomads not being able to provide enough space for our group, we will camp nearby (camping gear is provided). It's a great opportunity to learn more about Mongolian nomadic culture. In the evening, there may be the chance to try famous Mongolian Barbecue.
On Day 5 a picturesque drive (about 9 hours) will take us to Khovsgol Lake, the largest lake in Mongolia. The protected National Park is home to several ethnic minorities and has spectacular scenery of evergreen forests, flowering meadows, grasslands and small streams. Day 6 is free to try numerous optional activities that our ger camp offers (horseback riding, archery, fishing, hiking, etc). Enjoy the day of rest from the bumpy Mongolian roads.
Day 7 will take us through the stunning Lake district of Mongolia (approximately 9 hours drive). There are endless photo opportunities, and if we are lucky there will be the chance to spot Mongolian wild life in the vast stepps and hills that surround the lakes. Overnight will be spent in a small ger camp on Zuun Lake. On Day 8, after about 8-9 hours of driving, we will arrive to the Great White Lake. Spend Day 9 enjoying the local scenery and relax after two long driving days. In the morning we will visit a volcano - climb the crater (to the bottom if you wish), crawl inside lava tubes and experience amazing views. The afternoon is at leisure to explore, options include fishing, horse riding, chatting with locals or catching up with your travel journal.
The drive on Day 10 (approx. 7 hours) to the Tsenher hot springs in the Delger River valley is well worth it. Along the way we will stop for a break in the small town of Tsetserleg to visit a monastery museum. The town also has many small handicraft shops and a great bakery. We spend overnight in a ger camp based at natural hot springs. Soak in hot water, enjoy a hike in the hills, play a game of volleyball with the camp staff and watch stars at night.
After approx 5 hours of driving, we will arrive to a ger camp on the fringes of sand dunes. Locals call Moltsog Els Dunes "Little Gobi". From our location, we can get an impression of how vast the desert can be. For those who would like to experience more of Mongolian wildlife, before returning to buzzing Ulaan Baatar for the Naadam Festival, there is the option of hiking to a small oasis lake to watch a variety of birds and frogs in their natural habitat. A visit to a nearby ancient figure stone carving is well worth the walk and the sunsets are not to be missed.
After approximately 5 hours drive, we will return to Ulaanbaatar. The afternoon is free to explore and catch up on the worlds news, check emails and become accustomed to city life once again. Watch the city preparing for one of the most important events in Mongolian culture—the Naadam Festival. On Day 13 we will visit the opening ceremony, observe some of the wrestling matches and also the incredible archery contests. A wonderful cultural show or souvenir shopping, perhaps for some cashmere, are options as well. On Day 14 we'll head out to see the finish line of the Naadam horse race. The afternoon is free to continue exploring Ulaanbaatar. In the evening we will meet again to attend the Festival Closing Ceremony (time will depend on when the wrestling competition finishes; it's different each year) and to enjoy a farewell dinner.