Adventuring from Karakorum to the Gobi Desert

Overview

Mongolia is magnificently remote, its unfenced grasslands dotted with nomad camps and herds of yaks and horses, with shamanic cairns that mark the way across this mesmerizing realm. We’ll see the wild horses of Hustain Nuruu National Park and explore ancient Karakorum, once the capital of Genghis Khan’s empire. From our award-winning lodge in the Gobi Desert, we hike in the dramatic gorge of the Yol Valley, sip a sundowner at the fabled Flaming Cliffs, and even ride a Bactrian camel. Along the way, we’ll enjoy a warm welcome into an authentic nomadic culture as we meet local families, spend nights in our cozy traditional gers (yurts), and attend a local Naadam festival, a quintessentially Mongolian celebration with archery, wrestling, and cross-country horse races.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-4
Ulaanbaatar / Hustain Nuruu

We explore the sites of the capital, including the thriving Gandan Monastery, home to several hundred monks, then head out across the grasslands to Hustain Nuruu National Park, established for the takhi, the last remaining species of wild horse. Extinct in the wild in the 1970s, this sturdy native is making a comeback here through international conservation efforts. One of our hikes brings us to the great standing stones at Ongot, a site that dates back to 500 AD. Each departure of our journey will feature a day at a Naadam Festival (the actual day varies with each trip), where we watch traditional Mongolian sports dating back to Genghis Khan’s time.

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Days 5-6
Erdene Zuu Monastery / Karakorum

In the Orkhon Valley, the cradle of Mongolian civilization, we are welcomed into the home of a nomad family, and we visit the chanting halls at 16th century Erdene Zuu Monastery, the “Jewel Temple,” built over the ruins of Karakorum, capital of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century. This has been a place of Buddhist worship for over 500 years.

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Days 7-13
Gobi Desert / Gorkhi-Terelj / Ulaanbaatar

In the vast Gobi Desert, we walk the trails of Yol Valley National Park and visit the renowned site of the “Fighting Dinosaurs,” where fossils of a Protoceratops and Velociraptor locked in combat were discovered. We can ride a Bactrian camel in this dramatic desert, and explore the legendary fossil site of the Flaming Cliffs—stunning when illuminated by the oranges and golds of sunset. Flying back to the capital, we overnight in a traditional ger camp amid the rock formations and alpine mountains of Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, a wonderful chance to experience local nomad hospitality on the steppes. Depart on Day 13 via Ulaanbaatar.

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Highlights

Highlights

Witness an authentic local Naadam Festival, an exuberant expression of Mongolia’s ancient culture
Experience the unfenced vastness of Mongolia’s grasslands, mountains, and deserts
Visit the ruins of Karakorum, Genghis Khan’s capital
Meet traditional nomad families with their herds of horses, yaks, and goats
See the wild horses of Hustain Nuruu National Park
In the Gobi, explore Yol Valley and the famous Flaming Cliffs

Details

Length: 13 days
Cost From: $7295  
Arrive: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Depart: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Lodging: 8 nights ger camps, 4 nights hotels
Meals: All meals included (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Hiking / Trekking, Archaeology
Trip Level:

Rugged road travel, walking and light hiking, cultural adventures

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