The most classic of all our journeys in Mongolia. It combines some of the major sights around the country. It will take you to both desert steppe and mountain areas of the Gobi. We will visit the site of the ancient capital Karakorum, located in the Orkhon valley – the cradle of Mongol civilization. Erdene Zuu, the first and one of the biggest monasteries of Mongolia is located here. In the South Gobi we will explore the famous Flaming Cliffs, the majestic Hongor Sands and the Yol Valley in the Gurvansaikhan Mountains, which mark the extension of the Altai Mountains deep into the Gobi. This journey is completely vehicle based and provides relative comfort, as this route has a string of better than usual ger camps.
Itinerary & Map
Day 1: To Högnö Khan Mountain
After a morning visit to Gandan Monastery, the center for Buddhist revival in Mongolia, we leave Ulaanbaatar and head west. We have a picnic lunch en route, once we come onto the open grasslands. Then we continue our journey to Högnö Khan Mountain and will arrive at the camp before dinner time.
Day 2: Högnö Khan Mountain
Today we explore the Högnö Khan Mountains. We visit the small and recently rebuilt Erdene Khamba Temple. It is also possible to hike a short way to the ruins of Övgön Monastery, located in a green oasis hidden in the mountains. We stay a second night at the ger camp near Högnö Khan Mountain.
Day 3: To Erdenezuu & Karakorum
In the morning we drive 2 hours to visit Erdene Zuu Monastery – Mongolia’s first Buddhist monastery established in the late 16th century. Within its 400 by 400 meters long walls, it once housed 62 temples and 1000 monks were performing religious duties. Today only the three oldest temples remain and about 40 monks are in residence. At once a museum and a fully functioning monastery, Erdene Zuu is still one of the most fascinating sites of Mongolia. Usually we will be able to see the prayers. On a hill outside the monastery sits an interestingly shaped rock – a reminder for the monks to remain celibate. We also visit the Karakorum Museum, by far the best museum outside of Ulaanbaatar, which chronicles the history of the Khan Empire and displays many artifacts from the ruined city.
Day 4: To Ongiin Monastery
We drive south for the full day. The landscape slowly changes, vegetation becomes sparser as we make our way into the Gobi. The spectacular ruins of Ongiin Monastery are located in a rocky desert landscape alongside the Ongi River near the district center of Saikhan Ovoo. Usually, the Ongii River is just a dry river bed. We will stay at the Secrets of Ongi Ger Camp for the night.
Day 5: To Bayanzag
After breakfast we explore the extensive Ongii Monastery ruins before driving half day to Bayanzag. We will come through ‘forests’ of Saxaul trees. This salt-resistent little tree grows in sandy deserts from Egypt to Mongolia. In Middle Asia it usually grows scattered, only here in northern Central Asia does it often form ‘saxaul forests’. On arrival we visit the so-called “Flaming Cliffs”, a name coined by American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews, whose expedition found the first ever fossilized dinosaur eggs in the 1920s. Red and orange hues come together to create an awe-inspiring sight. Home to ancient dinosaur fossils, the Bayanzag area is an exciting destination. We spend the night in a comfortable ger camp.
Day 6: To Hongor Sands
We continue southwest for 150km through the mountains, and keep our eyes peeled for spectacular wildlife. The snow leopard, and its main prey species, the Siberian ibex and the Argali sheep all inhabit this area. We reach Hongor Sands, located in the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. In the late afternoon or evening we visit the large dunes, whose beautiful shapes best come out in the evening light. In June the sunset is very late, after dinner time.
Day 7: To Gurvansaikhan Mountains
We travel eastwards along the Gurvansaikhan Mountains for half the day. The Gurvansaikhan range, literally ‘three beauties’ named for its three subranges, is an extension of the Altai deep into the Gobi dessert. The highest peaks reach up to 2.800 m above sea level.
Day 8: Gurvansaikhan Mountains
We go on a full day excursion to the Yol Valley, the central part of which forms a deep ravine, which is often covered with ice and snow until early summer. Bird watching is rewarding here as you are sure to see the Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), also known as Lammergeier, soaring high above the ravine. Yol is actually the Mongolian name for this large bird. There are also several species of Rose Finch, and usually also the Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria). We return to camp for lunch and continue on to Muhar Shivert. This area is famous for its rocks that look like various animals, and it has some winter ice left at the end of the canyon.
Day 9: To Ulaanbaatar
We’ll be transferred to Dalanzadgad airport and take the flight to Ulaanbaatar by domestic airline (1½ hours). Upon arrival you are transferred to the hotel.
Dates and Prices
PRICES 2017 ex Ulaanbaatar:
USD 2100 per person (2/10 members)
Single ger supplement: USD 320
Private trip supplement:
USD 400 per trip (2/4 persons)
Including: English speaking guide, all meals outside Ulaanbaatar, all nights in ger camps in shared double throughout the journey. Domestic flight one way. All surface transport and entrance fees.
Excluding: Imported drinks. International flight or train tickets. Transfers and hotel nights in Ulaanbaatar.
DATES 2017 ex Ulaanbaatar:
GKM01: 06-14Jun (Tue/Wed)
GKM02: 14-22Jun (Wed/Thu)
GKM03: 23Jun-01Jul (Fri/Sat)
GKM04: 01-09Jul (Sat/Sun)
GKM05: 12-20Jul (Wed/Thu)
GKM06: 20-28Jul (Thu/Fri)
GKM07: 28Jul-05Aug (Fri/Sat)
GKM08: 07-15Aug (Mon/Tue)
GKM09: 16-24Aug (Wed/Thu)
GKM10: 24Aug-01Sep (Thu/Fri)
GKM11: 02-10Sep (Sat/Sun)
GKM12: 10-18Sep (Sun/Mon)
Private departures: This is a fixed dated departure intended for independent international travelers to join. On request, and if available, the trip may operate on any day, at an additional cost of USD 400 per trip for groups from 2 to 4 people (No supplement charge for 5 or more travelers). Group discounts are available on request for groups of 6 and more.
When booking this trip as a private departure you may request to stay in camps, that offer gers or cabin houses with attached WC/bath. This is possible for all nights, except at Ongiin Monastery, where such an option is unavailable. Also, instead of staying two nights at Högnö Khan Mountain, we will stay in Karakorum, which reduces the visitation time at Högnö Khan. Additional costs are USD 580 per person (7n). Moreover there is the option to upgrade to the award-winning Three Camel Lodge, near Bayanzag in the South Gobi for 1, 2 or 3 nights. Subject to confirmation!
Private departures may further be customized, adding days at Hongor Sands and Ongiin Monastery ruin, even adding a trek supported by pack yaks across the Hangai Mountains for several days or visit the Orkhon Valley with Tövkhön Hermitage. It is also possible to add Hustai National Park to this trip, provided the trip is private.
For private trips additional language guides (French, Spanish, German, etc.) are available. Please enquire!
Naadam Games: Between 09-12 Jul is Naadam Games in Ulaanbaatar areas. You may request from us such extension itinerary separately if also taking GKM04.
Transport: This journey is totally vehicle supported. A one-way domestic flight is included. In June and September there are no daily flights to/from Dalanzadgad, so the trip may reverse.
Accommodation: We will stay in ger camps for the entire trip, in double occupancy. The gers are furnished with beds, stools and a table and a wash basin. There is a restaurant in every camp and separate shower and WC facilities for males and females, which are shared by all guest’s at camp.
Meals: The meals will be provided in the ger camp, or as packed lunches.
Staff: A Mongolian English-speaking guide and a driver will accompany you at all times.
The Mongolian Odyssey is a vehicle supported roundtrip following the most classical route along famous sites of Mongolian tourism. It is fairly common to choose a private departure on any day and pay the private trip supplement, in which case the trip may be customized to integrate some exciting side trips, such as:
- Hustai National Park is close to Ulaanbaatar and may be added regardless in what direction the trip operates.
- As a detour from Harhorin (Karakorum) extend the trip by 3d/2n into the Orkhon Valley, to the Hangai Mountains National Park. We recommend a visit to the Tövkhön Hermitage perched on cliffs in the forested mountains. It was founded by the first of the Bogd Gegeen, Zanabazar.
- You may also integrate a trek by pack yaks into the Upper Orkhon valley via the Naiman Nuur lakes. It is a roadless area, also a part of Hangai Mountains National Park.
- You have the choice to stay another day or two in Ulaanbaatar or transfer out to your next international destination. We offer hotels in downtown at the internet rates and outbound railway tickets to your first point in Russia or China.
Please enquire for any of these combinations. We can provide you the seamless travel solution.