South Gobi – Gurvansaikhan National Park

Overview

This journey will take us to the desert steppe and mountain areas of the Southern Gobi, the least populated province of Mongolia. We explore the “Flaming Cliffs” of Bayanzag, equally renowned as an important paleontological site and as place of great natural beauty. Close-by the Gurvansaikhan Mountains, the “three Beauties of the Gobi” are an extension of the Altai Mountains deep into the desert. Here we will visit the Yol Valley, a dramatic ravine, which is covered by ice, in most years until mid summer. The Gobi is for the most part arid desert steppe, with only few sand dunes far between. On this trip we will visit the Hongor Sands, the most famous dunes of Mongolia. In the Dundgobi region we explore the granite rock maze of Baga Gazriin Chuluu and the sacred Zorgol Hairkhan Mountain. On this trip we fly one way on a domestic flight, offering a stunning bird’s eye view of the rugged, empty Mongolian landscapes down below. In the Gobi we have a jeep or 4wd minivan at our disposal. Accommodation throughout the trip will be in Ger camps in traditional Mongolian yurts. The camps with the base price have basic facilities, but excellent locations. Upgrade options are available on this trip.

Itinerary & Map

Day 1: To Bayanzag
We pick you up at your hotel in Ulaanbaatar and fly 1½ hours to Dalanzadgad airport in the South Gobi. Here we meet our driver and will drive 90 km to the northwest to Bayanzag. The name translates to ‘Rich in Saxaul’, indicating the ‘forests’ of salt-resistent Saxaul trees (Haloxylon) growing here. The main attraction, though, are the “Flaming Cliffs”, made famous by American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews, who discovered the first fossilized dinosaur eggs here in the early 1920s. The name alludes to the red and orange hues, that come together to create an awe-inspiring sight, especially at sunset. On the way we will probably see wildlife, such as gazelle and fox. We spend the night in a comfortable ger camp.

Day 2: Hongor Sands
After breakfast we drive west for about 150 km, partly through the Gurvansaikhan Mountains. We reach the massive Hongor Sands. These giant sand dunes stretch for some 150 km from northwest to southeast. Up to 80 m high, they are just a couple of hundred meters wide in some places, and as wide as 20 km in others. We will check in at a nearby ger camp and visit the dunes in the evening light when their beautiful shapes come out best. There is also a possibility to meet local families with their livestock.

Day 3: Yol Valley
We drive half day (220 km) to the core of the Gurvansaikhan Mountains and up to the Yol Valley. We will explore this dramatic ravine on foot. In most years ice covers the narrower parts of the ravine until mid summer. Bird watching is rewarding here as you are sure to see the Bearded Vulture, also known as Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), soaring high above the ravine. Yol is actually the Mongolian name for this large raptor. There are also several species of Rose Finch (Carpodacus spp), and usually also the Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria). The ravine is usually teeming with pika (Ochotona spp). We stay in a ger camp not far off.

Day 4: To Baga Gazriin Chuluu
Today we head out on the new tarmac road going north from Dalanzadgad into the Dundgobi province for the full day. We reach Baga Gazriin Chuluu, literally “Rocks of the small lands” before dinner. It is a large, mazelike area of granite rock formations, harboring many secrets. Hidden among the large rocks the ruins of a small 17th century monastery and a small cave, where local people make offerings, are waiting to be explored. This picturesque area is also habitat to various wildlife. With some luck we might see the rare Siberian Ibex and various raptors.

Day 5: To Ulaanbaatar
Today we continue northwest to Zorgol Hairkhan Mountain, emerging almost vertically from the middle of the desert steppe. This sacred mountain is already mentioned in the Secret History of the Mongols, the oldest surviving literary work in Mongolian language. There are many traces of holy sites here and we will find a beautiful spot to enjoy our picnic lunch. We continue to Ulaanbaatar and see one of Mongolia’s northernmost sand dunes at Arburd on the way. Transfer to your hotel.

Download the Itinerary as a PDF

 

Dates and Prices

PRICE ex Dalanzadgad:

USD 1350 per person (min 2 members)

Single room/ ger supplement (3n): USD 160 per person

Additional night at the ger camp: USD 100 per person

Upgrade supplement :
Deluxe Gers 3n: USD 240 per person
Three Camel Lodge 3n: USD 1085 per person

 

Includes:  Guide, all meals outside Ulaanbaatar, all overnights in ger camps. All transport and entrance fees.

Excludes: Imported drinks, laundry, transfer and hotel nights in Ulaanbaatar, international air or train fare, visa fee.

 

DATES ex Dalanzadgad: April through October daily when there is a flight. Daily at least July and August.

 

Practicalities

Transport:  This journey is supported by landcruiser or minibus (according to the number of travellers). The domestic flight schedules for the route to/from Dalanzadgad are only set in April of the same year. Therefore, dependent on flight times and days, the trip may be done in reverse direction. The flights are daily in July and August, and few times a week in June and September. In winter, starting from October, there are no flights at all. You may drive both ways or simply adjust the days of travel to fit the flight schedule.

Accommodation: Throughout the trip, accommodation will be in Ger camps in double occupancy. The gers (yurts) are furnished with beds, stools and a table. All camps are closed in winter, but a few open in May and remain open until mid October. Base price is herein quoted for regular ger camps, which means staying in double occupancy in your private ger, with communal shower/WC blocks, with a section for each gents and ladies. Along the way there are a few camps which offer attached facilities, for which you may pay an upgrade supplement. Moreover, you may upgrade further to the luxurious Three Camel Lodge, located near Bayanzag, for two of the overnights.

Staff: A Mongolian English-speaking guide will accompany you at all times. A driver will be at your disposal according to the itinerary.

Meals: The meals will be provided in the ger camps, or as picnic lunches.

 

Trip Combination

 

You may extend the trip with a stay at Arburd Sands Ger Camp, only 140km short of Ulaanbaatar. It is also possible to add two days and include Harhorin (Karakorum) and Högnö Khan
Mountain in central Mongolia in the itinerary, before returning to Ulaanbaatar. You may request these options to be added to this trip. If short on time, you can also skip the day at Baga Gazriin Chuluu and fly back to Ulaanbaatar out of Dalanzadgad a day earlier. This option is mostly available in July and August, when flights operate daily. Jalman Meadows, is a great contrast to any Gobi experience as it is located in the forested and riverine zone of Mongolia. Jalman Meadows minimum stay is two overnights. You may go there on any day. Drive to Jalman Meadows is only 3½ hours from the Ulaanbaatar airport.

Please enquire for any of these combinations. We can provide you the seamless travel solution.

 

 

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