Golden Eagle Festival and the Gobi Desert

Mongolia’s Kazakh Eagle Hunters and the Stunning Dunes of the Gobi
with Azaa Choijoo

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $6195  
Length: 13 days
Arrive: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Depart: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Lodging: 5 nights rustic gers in Ulgii, 3 nights Three Camel Lodge in the Gobi, 4 nights comfortable hotel in Ulaanbaatar
Meals: All meals included
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: Rugged road travel, light hiking, cultural adventures


  • The annual Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia's "wild west"
  • Kazakh eagle hunters on horseback with their magnificent golden eagles
  • Three Camel Lodge, an award-winning ger camp in the heart of the Gobi
  • Fossils of the famous Flaming Cliffs, where the first dinosaur eggs were found

The festival was fantastic. The locations of the eagle camp and Three Camel Lodge were beautiful. We were thrilled to experience the mini-Nadaam in the Gobi, and we really enjoyed the hike to see the petroglyphs in the Gobi.Becky H.—Chandler, AZ

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

This rare journey captures the true essence of Mongolia, from the fascinating Kazakh culture of the Altai Mountains in Mongolia’s wild west, where nomads on horseback still hunt using trained golden eagles, to the epic setting of the vast Gobi Desert in the south, home to two-humped Bactrian camels and world-famous paleontological sites. Out in the Altai Mountains, with accommodations in our own rustic ger (yurt) camp, we witness the thrilling annual Golden Eagle Festival. Kazakh men come from far away on horseback to attend this friendly competition and show off the skills of their majestic trained eagles—a spectacular sight. The opportunity to meet and mingle with the Kazakhs, watch their amazing horsemanship, and visit local families in their traditional gers makes this an unforgettable experience. We then head down to the Gobi to hike on the golden Moltsog Els sand dunes, ride a camel at the legendary Flaming Cliffs where the first dinosaur eggs were found, and hike in the glacier-carved Yol Valley, habitat for Argali mountain sheep roam and soaring lammergeiers. Join us for a magnificent “back of beyond” adventure!

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-2
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

In Ulaanbaatar, we visit Gandan Monastery, the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia, exploring its temples, courtyards, and chanting halls, head to the National History Museum to see its Stone and Bronze Age artifacts, then visit the famead dinosaur halls of the Natural History Museum, showcasing the spectacular fossils found in the Gobi Desert. On display are fierce Tarbosaurus fossils (closely related to Tyrannosaurus Rex), dinosaur eggs, large Hadrosaur fossils (duck-billed dinosaurs), and more.

Days 3-7
Ulgii / Golden Eagle Festival

Heading out to the grasslands and snow-dusted peaks of the High Altai, surrounded by immense wilderness under Mongolia’s endless “great blue sky,” we witness the Golden Eagle Festival, with Kazakh men parading on horseback dressed in their traditional hunting finery, accompanied by magnificent golden eagles on their arms—it’s an unforgettable spectacle! While we’re among the Kazakhs, we also have wonderful opportunities to saddle up and ride with them, visit Kazakh families in their gers, and head out to remote archaeological sites with amazing petroglyphs.

Days 8-13
Gobi Desert / Flaming Cliffs / Three Camel Lodge

After an overnight in Ulaanbaatar to freshen up, we fly down to the epic Gobi, a vast and diverse region that was the site of some of the most important paleontological discoveries of the 20th century. With overnights at the award-winning Three Camel Lodge, we climb the dunes in the stunning Moltsog Els, visit some of the most precious petroglyphs in the Gobi, and hike in Yol Valley National Park, cradled in the foothills of the Altai Mountains. For a grand finale, we head to the legendary Flaming Cliffs, named for the orange glow of the rock at sunset. Paleontological expeditions continue to make significant discoveries here, and we have a chance to ride Bactrian camels at sunset in this spectacular setting.  We fly back to Ulaanbaatar on Day 12 and depart Day 13.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:

What the Trip is Like

The trip is Level 3, Moderate. Although there is only minimal hiking, this trip involves rugged travel conditions in remote locations, simple accommodations in gers (yurts), and rough roads. In Ulaanbaatar, our overnights are in a well-located hotel with modern amenities. Roads outside Ulaanbaatar are unpaved and often very bumpy and dusty. In most cases, travel on these roads will be done in Russian four-wheel drive vans, which are not up to western SUV standards, but are reasonably comfortable. Our ger camps at the Golden Eagle Festival are simple two-person gers with beds, sheets and blankets, and small stoves for heat. Toilet and shower facilities are separate from the gers and shared by all participants. The shower water is solar heated and may not be available daily. Please be prepared for limited shower use. In the Gobi, we stay at the Three Camel Lodge, with its setting in the stunning landscape of the Gobi’s Gurvan Saikhan National Park. Gers at this lodge have private bathrooms and the main lodge building has a central fireplace and large wooden porch for enjoying the serenity of the Mongolian outback.

A Special Note on Travel to Mongolia
Mongolia is an exciting destination, and while tourism is growing rapidly, the infrastructure remains limited. The country is modernizing quickly from its Soviet-era standards, but they are not yet up to the level of many countries (particularly felt by travelers on the bumpy roads!). Essential requirements for travel in Mongolia are flexibility, a sense of humor, curiosity, enthusiasm about new peoples and places, and an openness to the unexpected.

Please note that this is a relatively new adventure and one that we are particularly excited about offering. However, as with all newer departures, flexibility and a spirit of adventure are always appreciated! Driving and hiking times are noted, but these can vary, sometimes considerably, from the anticipated times, depending on weather conditions, the group, and other factors.

Explanation of Trip Levels


Departures & Leaders

Sep 28-Oct 10, 2015  Azaa Choijoo
Sep 23-Oct 5, 2016
Sep 27-Oct 9, 2016

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2015
$6195 (10-15 members)
$6595 (5-9 members)
Single supplement: $1620
Forced single supplement: $1420
Internal airfare: $935 (subject to change)
more on pricing

Extension Costs
Beijing Extension
   from: $1195
Xi'an Extension
   from: $1115

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20% of trip cost
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule*

More than 90 days prior to departure: No charge!
90-46 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Internal Airfare Payment, Change, and Cancellation Fee Schedule:* Payment for Internal Air will be collected from each trip member approximately three to six months (or even more) prior to departure, depending on flight availability and seasonal ticketing deadlines. Once issued, internal air tickets are subject to a $100 per person fee for any changes or cancellation until 60 days prior to the trip. Within 60 days of the trip, all tickets are non-refundable. The name on your tickets must match your passport exactly, and any name changes are subject to these same fees. We therefore request that you send us a scanned copy of your passport photo page immediately upon reserving your trip. Internal Air payments and cancellation fees are in addition to Trip Cost payments and cancellation fees as noted above.

*Please note that this differs from our regular catalog departures.

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader
  • Accommodations in rustic gers in Ulgii, the Three Camel Lodge, and a comfortable hotel in Ulaanbaatar
  • All meals included
  • Sightseeing as noted in the itinerary, including entrance fees for museums and sites
  • Land transportation and airport transfers

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, any meals not specified after each itinerary day, optional gratuities to leaders or staff, additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by airline schedule changes or other factors; pre-trip expenses of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, or passports and visas; and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Arrival & Departure Information

You are responsible for your own transportation arriving to and departing from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. For more detailed information, please download the Detailed Itinerary.

Please do not purchase your tickets until you are confirmed on the trip and have reviewed your proposed air schedule with our office. Once your tickets have been purchased, please send us a copy of your airline schedule so we can reserve your airport transfers.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Suggested Arrival Airport:
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (airport code ULN)
Suggested arrival time: by 3:00 p.m.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Suggested Airport for Departure:
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (airport code ULN)
Suggested departure time: anytime

Ulaanbaatar Hotel

Ulaanbaatar Hotel

Days 1 to 2 (2 nights),
Day 8 (1 night),
Day 12 (1 night), Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

The Ulaanbaatar Hotel has an ideal location within walking distance of the city’s great museums, restaurants, and shopping. Although ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Mongolian Ger Camps

Mongolian Ger Camps

Days 3 to 7 (5 nights), Mongolia

Gers are the traditional yurt-like tents used by Mongolian nomads for centuries, and these simple fixed camps are specially built and ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Three Camel Lodge

Three Camel Lodge

Days 9 to 11 (3 nights), The Gobi Desert, Mongolia

This premier expedition camp of 20 gers, set in a peaceful hillside spot in the Gobi Desert, offers great comfort and is strategically close to ...
Click here for full description and more photos

Extension Accommodations

If you would like to view the accommodations offered with our extensions options:

Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Azaa Choijoo

Azaa Choijoo was born and raised amid the rolling hills and grasslands of Mongolia’s eastern steppes, and has been a professional Trip Leader since 1998. Fluent in English, Russian, and Kalkh Mongol, Azaa is a graduate of the Institute of Foreign Languages in Ulaanbaatar. During the school year, she teaches Russian and English at a Middle School in 'UB,' and describes her homeland as “one of the few countries with an untouched nature—a land with no fences, free and unchanged in millennia, with a magnificent culture where you are welcomed at every door.” Although she loves all of Mongolia, she has a particular fondness for the Gobi, with its vast open spaces, stillness, and variety of landscapes. A delightful leader with boundless energy and an incredible command of her country’s history, Azaa loves sharing Mongolia’s natural beauty and fascinating culture, especially facilitating visits with local families. “At first people seem shy and not so talkative. But after a few questions they become more open. I want my trip members to intercommunicate with nomadic families and experience their life.” When not leading trips, Azaa lives in Ulaanbaatar with her husband and two children, and visits her parents at their ger in the countryside.

Upcoming Trips:

Golden Eagle Festival and the Gobi Desert, September 28-October 10, 2015

Client Testimonials:

Azaa was amazingly patient and unfailingly calm and professional, while also perfectly friendly. A simply wonderful guide in every way! Alan R., Santa Cruz, CA
In the Land of Genghis Khan
Azaa was the best trip guide I have ever experienced. She was helpful, resourceful, patient, attentive, and unflappable. Without her, the trip would not have been as great. What a pleasure to travel with her! Phebe J., Escondido, CA
In the Land of Genghis Khan
An intelligent, knowledgable, personable, skillful, tactful, competent guide—A1. Sue Z., San Anselmo, CA
In the Land of Genghis Khan
Aaza was an excellent guide. Our wonderful interaction with the people was facilitated by her warm manner. Jean B., Carmel, CA
In the Land of Genghis Khan
Azaa was superb—very informative and responsive to our needs. Bill D., Champaign, IL
In the Land of Genghis Khan

Optional Extensions

If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extensions:


great wall china

Beijing Extension

The Great Wall, Forbidden City, and Summer Palace

Cultural Adventures
4 days  -  Level 1

terra cotta warriors xian china

Xi'an Extension

Explore the Cradle of Chinese Civilization

Cultural Adventures
3 days  -  Level 1

Client Comments

The festival was fantastic. The locations of the eagle camp and Three Camel Lodge were beautiful. We were thrilled to experience the mini-Nadaam in the Gobi, and we really enjoyed the hike to see the petroglyphs in the Gobi. Becky H., Chandler, AZ This was a fantastic trip, and not one we could have managed on our own. John S., Laurel, MD
The trip was amazing. I'm already thinking about my next one! Mary W., Crosby, TX