Green tile roof of a Buddhist monastery in Mongolia

Tibetan Budhist monastery

Mongolian Buddhism is predominantly the Yellow Hat sect of Buddhism as practiced in Tibet, but over time it has evolved its own version, incorporating pre-Buddhist and shamanistic influences.

Photo by Bill Abbott

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Lake Baikal to Mongolia route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $7795  
Length: 14 days
Arrive: Irkutsk, Russia
Depart: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Lodging: 5 nights hotels, 5 nights lodges and ger camps, 2 nights homestays, 1 night guesthouse
Meals: All meals included except 1 dinner
Activity: Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: Rugged road travel with light hiking


  • Witness a shaman ceremony on Olkhon Island, cross Lake Baikal by hydrofoil
  • Visit remote monasteries and summering nomads on Mongolia’s grasslands
  • Explore the Gobi’s Flaming Cliffs, where the first dinosaur eggs were discovered
  • Ride Bactrian camels at the Moltsog Els dunes

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.

Siberia’s mystical Lake Baikal and the great grasslands and wild Gobi Desert of Mongolia are the extraordinary settings for this epic cultural and natural history adventure. From vast Lake Baikal, which astonishes travelers with its clarity and ethereal light, we travel overland to the Mongolian heartland, exploring nomadic encampments and meeting monks in a remote monastery en route. The enormous Gobi Desert, home to Bactrian camels, petroglyphs, dinosaur fossils, and the sand dunes of Moltsog Els, is the wonderful grand finale to our journey. Witnessing a Buryat shaman ceremony, hiking at Lake Baikal’s sacred Olkhon Island, exploring the Gobi’s legendary Flaming Cliffs, sleeping under the stars in a Mongolian ger camp—this is a magnificent “back of beyond” adventure!

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-3
Irkutsk / Lake Baikal / Olkhon Island

From Irkutsk, Siberia’s cultural capital, we head to Lake Baikal’s legend-filled Olkhon Island, stopping to witness a traditional Buryat shaman ceremony along the way. Arriving on Olkhon, we explore Burkhan Cape, the tip of which is graced by a sacred marble rock considered to be one of the holiest sites in Asia.

Days 4-5
Ust-Barguzin / Ulan Ude

We cross Lake Baikal to Buryatia, ancient homeland of Mongols who lived here long before Genghis Khan swept through Asia. A welcoming homestay offers a rare glimpse into this fascinating culture. In Ulan Ude, we take tea with the monks of Ivolginsky Datsan Monastery, the center of Buddhism in Russia, and enjoy dinner at a village of Old Believers, an orthodox sect with carefully preserved traditions from the 17th century.

Days 6-8
Mongolia’s Grasslands

Crossing Mongolia’s exquisitely beautiful grasslands, we visit nomad camps, try our hand at Mongolian horseback riding, visit Amarbayasgalant Monastery, and enjoy brilliant sunrises and vistas stretching to infinity from our comfortable ger camps.

Days 9-14
Ulaanbaatar / Gobi Desert / Flaming Cliffs

After exploring Ulaanbaatar’s fascinating museums, we fly to the Gobi, where we hike in the Yol Valley and at the Flaming Cliffs, explore the petroglyphs of the Havtsgait Valley, and ride Bactrian camels at the Moltsog Els sand dunes. Depart on Day 14 via Ulaanbaatar.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Optional Extensions

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

What the Trip is Like

The trip is Level 3, Moderate, according to our trip grading system. It is an overland cultural adventure, and for the most part, physical activity is light (all hiking is optional) but we still encourage participants to get in shape for the trip because travel to remote places does require some physical stamina. Our accommodations include five nights in comfortable hotels, a homestay in Ust-Barguzin, two nights in a guesthouse on Olkhon Island (basic twin-bedded rooms and a shared toilet and shower facility), and eight nights in ger camps (two-person yurt-style tents with beds, small stoves for heat, and shared toilet and shower facilities). Our journey from Siberia into Mongolia involves travel on remote roads that are often bumpy and dusty. Please note that you will be visiting areas where tourism has been relatively limited. We ask that you make a special effort to bring flexibility and a spirit of adventure to this unique journey.

Explanation of Trip Levels


Departures & Leaders

Aug 16-29, 2014  Azaa Choijoo

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2014
$7795 (11-14 members)
$8195 (8-10 members)
$8495 (6-7 members)
Single supplement: $915
Forced single supplement: $715
Internal airfare: $495 (subject to change)
more on pricing

Extension Costs
Lake Hovsgol Extension
   from: $2095

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Accommodations in hotels, ger camps, and mountain tents
  • All meals included except 1 dinner
  • Ground transportation
  • Airport transfers as noted

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, internal airfare, meals not specified after each itinerary day, airport departure taxes, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, hotels en route to or on return from Mongolia or additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by airline schedule changes or other factors, individual arrival/departure airport transfers, visa fees, cost of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance, and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.)

Trip Payment Schedule

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

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

Minimum fee: None per person
46-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Hotel Imperia

Hotel Imperia

Day 1 (1 night), Irkutsk, Russia

Located just off Kirov Square,  the Imperia (also known as the Empire) is a relatively new hotel and very convenient for exploring the town. ...
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Nikita Guesthouse

Nikita Guesthouse

Days 2 to 3 (2 nights), Olkhon Island, Russia

The Nikita Guesthouse is set right on the coast of Olkhon Island, which gives it fantastic views of Lake Baikal and the surrounding mountains. There ...
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Day 4 (1 night), Ust-Barguzin, Russia

Our accommodation in the village of Ust-Barguzin is a simple private home. If our group size is larger than six people, we may stay in two houses that are next to each other.

Hotel Geser

Hotel Geser

Day 5 (1 night), Ulan Ude, Russia

The Geser is a modern hotel just a short walk from the central square in Ulan Ude. It offers comfortable air-conditioned rooms, a breakfast buffet, ...
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Mongolian Ger Camps

Mongolian Ger Camps

Days 6 to 8 (3 nights), Mongolia

Gers are the traditional yurt-like tents used by Mongolian nomads for centuries, and these simple fixed camps are specially built and ...
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Ulaanbaatar Hotel

Day 9 (1 night),
Days 12 to 13 (2 nights), Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

In Ulaanbaatar we stay at one of the following properties:

Three Camel Lodge

Three Camel Lodge

Days 10 to 11 (2 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 ...
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Extension Accommodations

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

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 on the eastern steppes of Mongolia and has been a professional Trip Leader for 10 years. Fluent in English, Russian, and Kalkh Mongol, Azaa is a graduate of the Institute of Foreign Languages. During the school year, she teaches Russian and English at a Middle School in Ulaanbaatar. She describes her country as “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. When not leading trips, she lives in Ulaanbaatar with her husband and two children, or visits her parents at their ger in the countryside.

Upcoming Trips:

In the Land of Genghis Khan, July 1-16, 2014
In the Land of Genghis Khan, August 1-16, 2014
Lake Baikal to Mongolia, August 16-29, 2014
Golden Eagle Festival and the Great Gobi Expedition, September 29-October 11, 2014

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

Optional Extensions

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


hovsgol lake mongolia

Lake Hovsgol Extension

Exploring Mongolia’s “Dark Blue Pearl”

Cultural Adventures, Walking
5 days  -  Level 2