The Great Gobi Desert and Golden Eagle Festival


On this thrilling “back of beyond” journey, we explore two of Mongolia’s wildest realms. In the great Gobi Desert, where our home base is the award-winning Three Camel Lodge, we hike to remarkable petroglyph sites, into the glacier-carved Yol Valley, and sip a sundowner as we watch a blazing sunset at the Flaming Cliffs (the first dinosaur eggs were found here!). In Mongolia’s wild west, we witness the extraordinary Golden Eagle Festival, captured in the acclaimed film The Eagle Huntress. Kazakh horsemen—and women—compete with their magnificent eagles, releasing them to swoop down from cliffsides. Breathtaking games of kukbar are played at a thundering gallop, and we’ll be welcomed into the gers of Kazakh nomad families.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-6
Ulaanbaatar / Gobi Desert / Flaming Cliffs / Three Camel Lodge

In the capital, our visits include fascinating Gandan Monastery, the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia, and the Paleontological Laboratory, where we get a behind-the-scenes tour. We fly to the Gobi Desert, with our overnights at the celebrated Three Camel Lodge. Out in this remote land, we walk in the golden Moltsog Els dunes and have an opportunity to ride a magnificent two-humped Bactrian camel. Our hikes bring us to rock art sites and into the habitat of argali mountain sheep and soaring lammergeiers. Some of the most important paleontological discoveries of the 20th century were made in the Gobi, and we’ll explore the Flaming Cliffs, where in 1923, Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews and his team from the American Museum of Natural History found dinosaur eggs and transformed our understanding of these prehistoric giants.

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Days 7-12
Ulgii / Golden Eagle Festival / Ulaanbaatar

A flight brings us to Ulgii, capital of Mongolia’s far west, land of the Kazakhs. The Kazakhs of Mongolia are culturally distinct, speaking the Turkic language of their forebears and famed as the traditional nomadic herders of Central Asia. Their heritage of falconry goes back thousands of years. Out in the snow-dusted High Altai, we’ll witness the wildly colorful Golden Eagle Festival, with Kazakh hunters in traditional dress parading on horseback with their trained golden eagles. Kazakh families arrive from villages far away to enjoy the pageantry, and during competitions, awards are given to hunters with the most elaborate dress and to eagles that have demonstrated the most skill and agility. Archery and the fast-paced equestrian game of kukbar are part of the festival’s closing ceremony, and it’s a thrill to watch. Our accommodation is a ger camp in a beautiful riverside spot. Depart on Day 12 via Ulaanbaatar.

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Enjoy the beautiful Three Camel Lodge, a celebrated ger camp in the heart of the Gobi
Sundowners and a magical sunset at the Gobi’s Flaming Cliffs
See the festival featured in the documentary The Eagle Huntress
Watch Kazakh nomads compete on horseback and hunt with their trained eagles
Meet local Kazakh families in their gers


Length: 12 days
Cost From: $7195  
Arrive: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Depart: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Lodging: 6 nights ger camps, 5 nights hotels
Meals: All meals included except 2 lunches, 2 dinners (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Archaeology
Trip Level:

Rugged road travel, walking and light hiking, cultural adventures

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