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This 9-night itinerary takes in the highlights of the Gobi Desert and Mongolia’s heartland. It is jam-packed full of outdoor activities as well as cultural and nomadic experiences. Enjoy a range of accommodation from ger camps and nomadic homestays to Mongolia’s first luxury hotel and your own bespoke Mandala ger.
Arrival in Ulaanbaatar
Arrive in Ulaanbaatar and meet your local guide who will be with you for the duration of your trip.
Depending on your arrival time you can immediately head out to visit key sites around the capital including museums, monasteries, and even a cashmere factory.
This evening enjoy your first taste of Mongolian cuisine!
Fly to the Gobi Desert
This morning head back to the airport for your early morning flight to the Gobi Desert.
On arrival, you will set off on the drive to the mighty Khongoryn Els sand dunes. The drive is long, but you’ll stop often enjoying a picnic lunch in the desert.
In the late afternoon, drive to the highest sand dunes in Mongolia for sunset. Scramble to the top of the dunes to watch the sun going down before sliding back to the bottom while hearing the ‘singing’ sound of the sand.
Camel Herder Visit and Drive to Three Camel Lodge
In the morning, drive to visit our local camel herder family and learn how they survive to live year-round in the Gobi Desert. Hop atop one of their Bacterian camels and ride through the desert landscape.
Then, drive to the beautiful Three Camel Lodge and settle into your luxury ger.
In the late afternoon, head to Bayanzag, one of the most famous palaeontological sites in the world. Roy Chapman Andrew’s team discovered the world’s first nest of dinosaur eggs here in 1922 and unearthed over 100 dinosaurs.
Watch the afternoon light bring out the colors on the cliffs.
This morning, set off for Yolyn Am or the Lammergeier Valley. This is a deep and narrow gorge named after an Old World vulture. Hence the name is often translated into Valley of the Vultures or Eagles.
This area of the Gobi Desert experiences very little rain, but there is a deep ice field in the region that can get up to a few meters thick in winter. Even in the heat of the summer months, one can find ice in shaded corners of the valley.
On the way back to Three Camel Lodge, travel across to Khavtsgait mountains where you will find petroglyphs and amazing views over the barren landscape.
Fly to Ulaanbaatar and Drive to Kharkhorin
This morning you will drive to the airport and fly back to Ulaanbaatar.
On arrival visit Gandan Monastery with a specialist on Buddhism who will talk to you about the Stalinist Purges during the 1930s and the resurgence of Buddhism in the early 90s.
Afterward, drive 4-6 hours to the ancient capital of Kharkhorin. Settle into your ger camp for the evening.
This morning drive 2 hours to the stunning Orkhon Valley.
Saddle up and ride through the forest until you reach the charming Tovkhon Monastery located on top of a rocky cliff. From here the views out over the vast Mongolian steppe are spectacular.
Walk up and around the monastery in a little pilgrimage, passing things such as the Rebirthing Cave where you can undergo a unique cleansing ritual, wishing trees, and a men-only lookout point. The fact that the monastery is only accessible by foot or on horseback makes it all the more special.
Erdene Zuu Monastery and Khogno Khan Mountain
This morning, explore the beautifully decorated Tibetan style, Lavriin Temple, at Erdene Zuu Monastery at morning prayers. The walled complex also has three temples maintained as a museum and to the north lie the foundations of Ogedei Khan's Tumen Amgalant Palace, the center of the Mongol Empire during the 13th century. Meet with the Abbot of Erdene Zuu and receive a prayer blessing.
Afterward, drive to the Khugno Khan mountain range. Enjoy a walk around the Uvgun Khiid monastery. Hike into the mountains to explore the ruins of the first Uvgun Monastery (3-hour round-trip).
Afterward, drive to our nomadic friends where you will spend the night. Through our family stays, we work with host families who act as caretakers of our guest gers, meaning that you can stay alongside nomads, giving the opportunity for cultural exchange, but still have your own space in a ger used for our guests and a comfortable bed.
Searching for Przewalski’s Horse
After breakfast, drive to the Khustain Nuruu National Reserve, home to the last remaining species of wild horse, the Takhi - commonly known as Przewalski's Horse. Learn about current conservation efforts and the status of the herds found within the reserve at the visitor's center before trying to spot these beautiful horses in their natural habitat.
Continue to our nomadic friend's encampment for the night in your very own en suite Mandala Mongolia ger. This private ger has been put up for you a short distance from some of our nomadic friends. You will have an ultra-comfortable bed, stove and adjoining washroom. This is exclusive accommodation set up especially for you.
You will have an opportunity to enjoy both your private view and the feeling of space and timelessness.
Horse Riding and Shamanism
This morning spend time with the family and enjoy horseriding.
Drive back to the capital. Meet a specialist on shamanism who will walk around the Black Market with you to explain the shaman accessories for sale.
Later this evening, enjoy a performance featuring traditional Mongolian dancers and hoomi (throat) singers, musicians, dancers, and even a contortionist! This award-winning ensemble is highly entertaining and should not be missed.
This morning you will be transferred to the airport in time for your onward flight home
HOTELS IN Mongolia
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- Scrambling up the towering Khongoryn Els sand dunes for a glorious sunset and then sliding back down
- Riding camels with an authentic nomadic camel breeder in the Gobi Desert
- Staying at the luxurious Three Camel Lodge
- Horse riding through the forest to the seldom-visited Tovkhon Monastery
- Spending the night in your own bespoke ensuite luxury ger that has been set up in the wilderness just for you
- When to go:
- Time Zone:
Get in touch with our Lightfoot Travel experts and they will create a bespoke itinerary designed to your exact needs and budget.
We won't take you to the usual tourist traps, instead we'll introduce you to people that show you the true side of a country. With our contacts in each destination, we can arrange for you to meet locals away from the crowds and ensure an authentic experience.
You can rely on our extensive first-hand knowledge and years of experience in the country you’re visiting. We use only the best expert guides, and provide insider tips on the local customs, and everything from vibrant festivals to hidden Himalayan monasteries
Your holiday will be as unique as you are. By getting to know you and what makes you tick, we fuse our wealth of expertise and a deep understanding of our destinations to create unique day by day itineraries that are built around you.