In 12 days, discover Mongolia in all its diversity: steppe, forests and lake, and the well known Gobi Desert with its singing sand dunes.
An economic trip to discover the best highlights of the country!
Day 1Ulan Bator - Khogno Khan National Park
We arrive at the splendid rocky formations of Khogno Khan. Discovery of the park : semidesert steppes, taiga, stunning rocky formations, 80-kilometre (49,71 miles) long sand dunes, are characteristic of this arid area nicknamed "Mini-Gobi".
Walk until Erdene Khambiin Monastery. "Monk Erdene's Monastery" dates from 17th century and was built in the mountain. Zanabazar built it in honour of his teacher, monk Erdene.
Visit of the sand dunes of Elsen Tasarkhai.
Day 2 - 3The former capital and lands of nomadism
Khogno Khan - Kharkhorin
Journey to Kharkhorin, the former capital of Mongolia. The legendary city of Genghis Khan was founded in 1220 and was one of the stages of the silk road. The Mongolian Empire was governed from this city, until Kubilai Khan set up the capital in Beijing. Today, there are only a few vestiges left of the former capital.
Visit of Erdene Zuu Monastery, built in 1586 by a nomad prince. The Chinese and Tibetan-inspired buildings are surrounded with 108 sacred stupas.
Kharkhorin - Orkhon valley
We definitely leave the tarred road to taste the joys of the track. We drive along the splendid landscapes formed by the canyons and the green steppe, then we arrive at the home of breeders who will host us in the heart of Orkhon Valley.
Visit of Ulan Tsutgalaan falls, white flood flowing on the black stone, transformed in rainbow by a short sunray... These 16-metres (52,49 feet) falls are just magic ! They formed 20.000 years ago, as a result of a unique combination of earthquakes and volcano eruptions.
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Stay at herders' from the valley. During your stay, you will discover their way of life and you will be proposed many activities, such as milking, making traditional dairy products, or rounding up the animals with a horse.
You will also attend the preparation of a Mongolian barbecue that you will enjoy with yours hosts.
Day 4 - 5In Naiman Nuur mountains
Orkhon valley - Naiman nuur
We go deeper in the Khangai mountains. The track is harsh, notably because of a pass located 2800 metres (1,74 mile) above the sea level. We reach the very remote Naiman Nuur National Park, _"eight lakes"_, where we'll see many forests of larches and, as the name suggests, many lakes.
This area can be very cool and it's not unusual to have snow in June or in August !
Peaceful day breathing fresh air in this altitude area. We hike in the park discovering its splendours and arrive near Lake Shireet, probably the most beautiful lake of the area. Back to our host family's to benefit the simple pleasures of life, such as drinking a cup of tea with milk or playing knucklebones.
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Stay with breeders living in this mountainous area, with whom we'll share moments of their daily life.
Day 6Let's hit the road to Gobi desert !
Naiman nuur - Arvaikheer
Day of transition between two ecosystems. We leave the green mountains of Khangai to go towards Gobi. We drive across the green steppe and reach Arvaikheer, the capital of province, where we stop to get fresh supplies at the local market.
Arvaikheer - Ongi monastery
We arrive in the sum of Saikhan Ovoo. West Saikhan Ovoo, some mountains located along the Ongii River, are the perfect place to rest between Northwest of Mongolia and Gobi Desert. In the bends of the river, we can see the ruins of two monasteries, Barlim Monastery on the Northern bank, Khutagt Monastery on the Southern bank.
Let's discover this site, best known as Ong lamasery, and the museum. In 1937, the Soviets almost completely destroyed the homes and monasteries where one thousand lamas were living. In 2002, some lamas came back and began to rebuilt the monastery, with few resources but much enthusiasm.
Day 7Flaming cliffs and dinosaurs
Ongi monastery - Bayanzag
Last day of track before reaching Great Gobi and its "Three Beauties", the three highest peaks of this part of the Gobi-Altai range : Baruun Saïhan, "the Western Beauty" ; Dund Saïhan, "the Middle Beauty" ; Züün Saïhan, _"the Eastern Beauty"_, the highest (2846 metres, 1,77 miles).
Visit of the cliffs of Bayanzag, today best known as "flaming cliffs"_, owing to their ochre red colour, where is located the _"cemetery of dragons". The cliffs and the saxaul forests that surround them are the evidence of the time when Earth was still inhabited by huge creatures : dinosaurs. Palaeontologist Roy Andrews Chapman was the first man to discover in 1922 some bones and eggs of dinosaurs that we can see today in the Natural History Museum of Ulan Bator and in other museums in the world.
Day 8Walking among the dunes
Bayanzag - Khongor sand dunes
We ride towards west of the park to reach Khongor sand dunes, "light bay sand". These dunes extend at the foot of the "Three Beauties".
Visit of the dunes of Khongor. These dunes are the most spectacular ones of Mongolia, they extend on more than 180 kilometres (111,85 miles) long and 20 kilometres (12,43 miles) wide, and have an average height of 80 metres (262,47 feet), the hightest one being 120 metres (393,70 feet) high. From the top, the view on the desert is quite amazing. From this place, it's also possible to hear the moving masses of sand, hence the name of "singing dunes". Beyond the dunes, the steppe extends for as far as the eye can see.
We'll stay with a Bactrian camels' breeder for the night. It's a unique chance to discover their authentic way of life and their legendary hospitality.
Day 9Hiking in the canyons
Khongor sand dunes - Dungenee canyon
Journey on the track towards east of "the Three Beauties" to reach the area of canyons.
Stop at Dungenee Canyon. We leave the vehicle to start our first magic hike along the river that flows between huge canyons.
Dungenee canyon - Yoliin am canyon
Day 10The great white stupa in the desert
We travel in one of the emptiest areas of Mongolia. Between rock desert and semi-arid steppes, we reach the white stupa, Tsagaan Suvarga. For centuries, this 30-metres (98,43 feet) high, abrupt, stupa-shaped mountain, is honoured by the Mongolians. The traveller will be surprised by the sumptuous lunar landscapes that evoke the end of the world, and by the many fossils. This area was totally covered by the sea a few million years ago.
Day 11The granite formations of Baga Gazriin Chuluu
Visit of Mountains Baga Gazriin Chuluu, where we'll observe stunning granite rocky formations eroded by the violent elements of this area. In the 19th century, two respected lamas lived here, and we still can see their inscriptions in the rock. According to the legend, Genghis Khan too is supposed to have lived in this wonderful area where it's pleasant to walk.
Day 12Back to the Mongolian capital
Baga gazriin chuluu - Ulan Bator
Back to Ulan-Bator. Last herds of wild horses crossing the road outside our dumbfounded eyes, last yurts smoking far away, the steppe will be with us until the last moment.
Arrival in town and settling in at your hotel, where you can rest a few moments.
Rest of the day free. With our guide, you can go and shop in the centre of the city.