On day 1 members of the group arrive to UB from different parts of the world. There are no activities planned except the first group meeting at 6 pm (for more details check the hotel notice board). During the meeting your group leader will run through the itinerary and answer your questions. Meanwhile, enjoy wandering Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia, a city filled with contrasts: modern skyscrapers and old soviet buildings are surrounded by traditional Mongolian gers. On the streets you will see nomads on horseback sharing the road with cars, people in traditional dress and high fashion and furs.
On day 2 will have a city tour planned in the morning: Gandan Monastery, Witner Palace of Bogd Khan and Zaisan Hill. Afternoon is free for you to explore the city again in depth and catch the places that are not included in the itinerary: Museum of Natural History, Museum of National History or the Fine Arts Museum, among other options. We also advise to pick up any supplies you think you might want on the road.
On day 3 we will leave the capital and head south through the steppe to Dungobi Aimag region - Middle Gobi - via regional centre Mandalgobi (approximately 5 hours drive). After lunch stop we'll take a side tour of Choir Monastery, and then keep driving to our first ger stay - small ger camp not far from Mandalgobi. Traditional Mongolian ger is a sort of tent that consists of wooden frames covered with layers of felt. The size of the ger depends on the amount of frames. In Ulaan Baatar you will be able to see gers that can accommodate more than 100 people - usually they are "built" for big weddings or official parties. Frames and felt are very light and can be carried on camels or yak carts when nomads are changing location. Average Mongolian family needs about 2 hours to put a ger together. Inside gers are decorated by wooden carvings of traditional Mongolian patterns, birds and dragons. Nomadic families usually sleep on the mattresses laid on the floor. In camps where we are staying each ger has 4 beds inside, with mattresses, bed linen and extra blankets if you are cold. Each ger also has a stove to keep you warm, small table and tools. Usually, there is a lamp inside, so you can spend evenings reading books and writing in your journals.
About 6 hours drive will take us to Gobi Gurvansaikhan National park. With some luck on they way you might see vultures, wild Argali sheep, desert gazelles and Golden eagles. On Day 5 you will have enough time to explore Flaming Cliffs area - the red sandstone cliffs and canyons where fossils were found in recent years. One of the main attractions in the area is Yolyn Am - a narrow gorge in the Gurvan Saikan mountains. It's an amazing place for hikes: bring stable shoes and warm clothes. In some places meters thick layer of ice stays all year around. Overnight in the ger camp.
Drive through Western Gobi (about 4-5 hours) will bring us to Khongoriin Els - the biggest sand dunes in the area. They also are known as "singing sands" - because sand is moving with the wind. Wast lands of Gobi have everything: mountain ranges, steppes, sand dunes and forests. In summer it's usually covered with dried grass, but after every rain you actually can see fresh green grass and flowers growing rapidly. Overnight in the ger camp.
Approximately 7 hours drive will bring us to Delger Khangai Mountains area. We will explore ruins of Hoshuu and Ongiin Monasteries: both were destroyed after Communism took over Mongolia. Built in 17th century, monasteries were among the largest temples in the country and were a home for over 1,000 monks. Overnight in the ger camp.
During approximately 6-7 hours drive North-West we will leave Gobi desert area and roam Mongolian steppes. Overnight we will stay in one of the nomadic gers - perfect opportunity to see how families live, what they do every day and practice your Mongolian. Nomads live very simple life and move along with their cattle along the same route their great-grandparents were travelling hundreds years ago. Depending on the size of the nomadic family and their gers, accommodations can be very basic. In case if nomads can't provide enough space for our group, we will camp nearby (camping gear is provided). In the evening - have dinner together with your hosts. One of the best things to try is the famous Mongolian Barbecue.
After about 5 hours of driving, we visit Karakorum - the ancient capital city founded in the 13th century by Ogodei Khan (Chingis's third son and successor). For several centuries it was a major international city with foreigners having religious debates, caravans coming and going, a main trading centre, and well as the centre for the entire Mongolian empire. We will stop the beautiful Erdene Zuu Monastery. It was built starting in 1586 and continued for over 300 years and was the first centre of Lama Buddhism in Mongolia. At its peak the monastery housed over 1000 monks and held 62 temples. In the 1930s the monastery suffered greatly in the Communist religious purges and most of the temples were destroyed and monks killed. Nowadays the monastery is slowly being restored. We will be able to explore monastery grounds, and if we are lucky - listen to monks chanting. Overnight in the ger camp.
In the morning of day 10 we will continue our way to the Tseren Hotsprings (about 4 hours drive). Hotsprings are located in about 30 kilometres from Karakorum. The place is very popular among both locals and tourists - hot waters are said to have healing powers. The ger camp nearby is the perfect place for relaxation. You can chose to spend time in the natural hot spa, or go horseback riding, or chat with locals and play snooker with your drivers (they are very good at it!) Spend day 11 at leasure enjoying stunning Mongolian scenery and warmth of the hotsprings. Overnight in the ger camp.
Approximately 6 hours drive will take us to Khustai National Park on day 12. Home to the last of the truly wild horses in the world, the Park is a our chance to see the Takhi horses in their natural environment. At one point there were none in the wild, but after a hugely successful captive breeding program in various worldwide zoos, they were reintroduced. Overnight in the ger camp.
On Day 13 we will head back to the capital (about 3 hours). Last glimpse at the grasslands before we will be ready to explore Ulaan Baatar once again. Head the museums and shops you may have missed at the beginning of the trip, or maybe just head to a restaurant for a relaxing drink or see a local troupe preserving the rich heritage of song and dance of Mongolia. In the evening we'll get together once again - for final night dinner.
You may depart at any time.