Western Mongolia Extension

Exploring the Altai Mountains


The mystical Altai Mountains in Western Mongolia are one of the last true wilderness areas of Asia. Their stunning beauty—with several snow-capped peaks reaching upwards of 14,000 feet—is the backdrop for this extraordinary adventure. From pristine lakes teeming with fish to meadows strewn with fuchsia and topaz wildflowers to magnificent alpine scenery, this extension provides a rare glimpse of some of Mongolia's most remote and uncharted areas. A highlight is the chance to interact with local Kazakh families and learn about their unique culture and pastoral-nomadic lifestyle that has been preserved through the ages. You’ll have a chance to meet them in their gers, hike in the surrounding mountains, and spend a day with a group of eagle trainers, who hunt with their eagles for fox and hare during the winter months.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1
Bayan Ulgii province, Altai Soum

Transfer to the airport for an early morning, 3-hour flight to Ulgii, capital of Bayan-Ulgii, Mongolia’s westernmost province. Upon arrival, drive through spectacular mountain valleys, following the Sagsai River, to our campsite at Altai Soum. This is a popular summer camp for local nomads and was a movie location for The Eagle Huntress. Overnight in gers...BLD
Approximately 3-4 hours of driving

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Day 2

Ninety percent of the population of Bayan-Ulgii is Kazakh and while here, you will have ample opportunity to meet local families and experience the unique Kazakh culture. The isolated area has preserved the language, culture, and traditions of the Kazakhs and provides some of the most spectacular scenery in Mongolia. After breakfast, visit Kazakh families camping nearby. Many Kazakhs in Bayan-Olgii maintain traditional semi-nomadic herding by moving with their animals several times a year, and living in a Kazakh-style ger (larger and taller than a Mongolian ger) during the summer. Unlike gers in other regions of Mongolia, traditional Kazakh gers have no support columns in the center of a ger. Kazakh women are renowned for their skills in embroidery and appliqué, and their gers are decorated in a dazzling mosaic of colors. A project run by Ulaanbaatar Tourism Association helps local women get their handiwork supply to the markets in Ulaanbaatar to supplement family incomes. You will meet with members of a local women cooperative and learn how traditional embroideries are made. You will also have an opportunity to trek in the towering mountains and/or fish at the lake and adjacent river Chigertei (participants should bring their own fishing rod). Following tonight’s dinner, enjoy a cultural performance by local artists and nomads. Overnight in gers...BLD

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Day 3
Meeting the Eagle Hunters

Today you will have an opportunity to meet a group of eagle trainers, who hunt with their eagles for fox and hare during winter months. Passed down from their Turkic ancestors, many Kazakhs still hunt with trained Golden Eagles. Female eagles are preferred since they are believed to be more aggressive and weigh as much as fifteen pounds (nearly one-third more than the males). Spend a day learning from the hunters, visiting their homes and riding along to watch them train their eagles and help document this centuries-old tradition. There is an ongoing research project supported by the local Eagle Hunters Association and Mongolian Bird Conservation Center. Participants who are interested will be able to help collect more data, including photos of birds and record interviews with hunters. Today you will also have chance to learn how traditional dish of bismarmak is made. Overnight in gers...BLD

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Day 4

After breakfast drive to Ulgii. Upon arrival, have lunch at a local Turkish restaurant and, time allowing, visit the local mosque and flea market. Dinner and overnight at a local hotel...BLD

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Day 5
Ulgii / Ulaanbaatar

After an early morning breakfast, fly to Ulaanbaatar. Upon arrival, transfer to the hotel. Optional visit to a local artist’s studio to learn about contemporary art in Mongolia...B

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Day 6

In the morning, transfer to the airport for your return flight home...B


Length: 6 days
Cost From: $2795  
Arrive: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Depart: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Lodging: 3 nights tented camp, 2 nights hotels
Meals: All meals included except 1 lunch and 1 dinner
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Walking
Trip Level:

Cultural explorations, optional day hikes