Golden Eagles & Western Nomads

Head out on a 10-night adventure to discover the fascinating history of Mongolia and experience the incredible 2-day Sagsai Eagle Festival. Witness eagle hunters compete for various awards in activities such as camel racing, archery and the highly entertaining ‘bushkashi” – goat skin tug-o-war on horseback!

Day 1: Arrival

Arrive in Ulaanbaatar, where you will be met by a Lightfoot Travel guide and transferred to your hotel. At 2pm, if you are not too tired from your long flight, you may like to meet in reception for a walk across the Chinggis Khaan Square to visit the excellent Museum of National History where you can gain an understanding of Mongolia’s remarkable past – a worthwhile introduction to your stay in this fascinating country.

End the evening with a dinner at one of our favourite Mongolian restaurants where you can sample traditional Mongolian dishes.

Stay: Shangri-La Ulaanbaatar

Day 2: Ulaanbaatar - Ulgii - Altantsogts

Rise early for your airport transfer and flight to Ulgii. Head into town to have a look around the fascinating museum and perhaps visit the local mosque. A walk around the town and local market will give you a real flavour of the region and its people. Drive east to Altantsogts stopping on the way at Oni mountain to see some nests where eagles lay eggs in early March – the chicks stay there until mid July when they start to fly, so the nests will be empty now. Continue on to meet your hosts, Kazakh eagle hunter and his family. Perhaps this evening (or on one of the following days) you will enjoy a Kazakh dinner called ‘Beshparmak’ (meaning five fingers because one uses five fingers to eat it).

Stay: Homestay alongside eagle hunter

Day 3: Family visits - Shaman visit - Hiking/Riding opportunities - Altantsogts

Experience first hand Kazakh hospitality and the nomadic lifestyle. Your host is one of the most experience eagle hunters in the region and is training his son to become an eagle hunter too. He will be happy to talk to you about Kazakh eagle hunting skills and history. Before going to the festival, hunters do some final training with their birds. They call their eagles from a distance and drag dead pray (usually a stuffed rabbit or fox skin) for the bird to catch. Sometimes they for a days hunting before the festival and if you are lucky the bird will catch a rabbit or fox. Discuss today’s options with your guide – you may like to meet other eagle hunting families, and their magnificent birds and perhaps try a horse ride or hike in the area.

Stay: Homestay alongside eagle hunter

Day 4: Eagle hunting and training

Today will be spend with our Kazakh eagle hunting friends, learning about their way of life, their eagles and about hunting. Decide who you might like to back in the upcoming festivities and begin to really immerse yourself in the ways of the west. There will inevitably be some excitement as the men of the household prepare to head off on horseback to the festival. If you would like to join them, this can be arranged (some riding experience will be required). Alternatively, the plan would be to spend more time where you are, including riding in the local area and further understanding Kazakh traditions and ways, which differ from those of Mongolians.

Stay: Homestay alongside eagle hunter

Day 5: Travel to festival site

Today is the final day that the eagle hunters can train their birds. Travel alongside the hunters as they ride towards the festival ground to practice the hunting. Whilst dragging prey behind them, the hunters will call their eagles for the bird to catch it at pace. Enjoy a picnic lunch on the mountain and admire the stunning and remote scenery.

If you have riding experience, you may like to join some of the hunters as they ride eagles in hand, to the festival site.

Stay: Wilderness Camp

Day 6 & 7: Sagsai - Eagle Festival

The 2-day festival starts with a flamboyant colourful parade at a nearby mountainside before the main festivities start. Dressed in full regalia and mounted on groomed decorated horses, the eagle hunters compete for the various awards including Best Eagle at Hunting Prey. Other ‘manly’ sporting activities you’ll watch include horse racing, camel racing, archery and the highly entertaining ‘bushkashi’ – goat skin tug-o-war on horseback!

After the festivities of each day, head back to your ger at the PJ Camp which is not too far from the festival site. On one of the nights, you may enjoy a traditional performance from local musicians.

Stay: Wilderness Camp

Day 8: Turkic Man Stone & Kazakh families

After a leisurely breakfast, enjoy a horse ride (approx. 3 hours) to reach the ancient Turkic man stone carving. These stone statues have many different names including balbals and standing stones, but all have the similarity of being a stone sculpture in the image of a human being. They were, supposedly, set upon the grave of outstanding people and are monuments of the brace commander, wise ruler, talented town folk or simply a prominent figure who passed away.

A nice relaxing day spend meeting Kazakh families, horse riding and not travelling to far from camp.

Stay: Local hotel or ger camp

Day 9: Ulgii - Ulaanbaatar

Depart Ulgii for Ulaanbaatar.

Afternoon at your leisure in the capital – you may want to stock up on some of the things that have caught your eye during your stay and other items that can be purchased at very reasonable prices. From cashmere jumpers, Mongolian boots and fur hats to caviar, cheap North Face jackets and traditional music, Ulaanbaatar’s shops and markets have it all. We’ll be on hand to guide you around the State Department Store and Gobi Cashmere. In the evening enjoy dinner at one of our favourite restaurants.

Stay: Shangri-La Hotel

Day 10: Gandan Monastery and Chinggis Monument

Today, there will be a guided visit to Gandantegchinlen Monastery where you might see monks chanting their morning prayers. Head east out of the city to visit the giant Chinggis Khan Equestrian Monument at Tsonjin Boldog. At the base of the statue, you can try on traditional Mongolian costumes and tour the numerous portraits of the Khan lineage, before climbing into the horse’s head for a panoramic view over the surrounding landscape towards Chinggis’ birth place.

Return to Ulaanbaatar in time for a concert of traditional Mongolian music and dancing including throat singing. Your guide will accompany you to one of our favourite restaurants for your farewell dinner.

Stay: Shangri-La Hotel

Day 11: Depart

Transfer to the airport for your departure flight.

Itinerary

Duration Description Overnight
Day 1: Arrival Shangri-La Ulaanbaatar
Day 2: Ulaanbaatar - Ulgii - Altantsogts Homestay alongside eagle hunter
Day 3: Family visits - Shaman visit - Hiking/Riding opportunities - Altantsogts Homestay alongside eagle hunter
Day 4: Eagle hunting and training Homestay alongside eagle hunter
Day 5: Travel to festival site Wilderness Camp
Day 6 & 7: Sagsai - Eagle Festival Wilderness Camp
Day 8: Turkic Man Stone & Kazakh families Local hotel or ger camp
Day 9: Ulgii - Ulaanbaatar Shangri-La Hotel
Day 10: Gandan Monastery and Chinggis Monument Shangri-La Hotel
Day 11: Depart

Inclusions

Included

  • Accommodation
  • Domestic flights (as specified)
  • Transfers
  • Meals as per itinerary
  • Water in vehicles
  • Activities per itinerary
  • Entrance fees
  • Festival fees
  • English speaking guided tours
  • 24 hour emergency contact

Not Included

  • Visas
  • International airfare or trains
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Travel insurance (please note that travel insurance is mandatory for all Lightfoot Travel holidays)
  • Private excursions
  • Laundry
  • Telephone calls

Map

Price from USD11,950 for 2 guests on a double/twin sharing basis.

Notes on our prices

  • Please note that this itinerary is designed with the Sagsai Eagle Festival (Sept) in mind with fixed dates in place. Alternatively, it can be run with the Ulgii Festival (Sept/Oct) or amended to exclude festivals and instead focus on a full Kazakh nomadic experience.
  • This price guide provides you with a broad indication of how much to budget for your holiday.
  • Prices are generally based on two people travelling together (unless stated otherwise) on a shared room basis.
  • Prices can fluctuate depending on season, standard of accommodation, excursions selected (private versus shared) etc.
  • This basic structure works very nicely, but don’t forget that Lightfoot Travel can provide a range of experiences and we tailor-make each itinerary based on your travel requirements. Get in touch to start planning your perfect trip with your own travel consultant.