Sacred Mountains and Sands – winter in the Gobi Grasslands



Surprisingly near the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar is the northernmost reach of the Gobi steppe; treeless grasslands that stretch to the horizon and beyond. The Mongol nomadic steppe culture is intact here. They are an equestrian people, who have been on horseback and living in gers (yurts) since before the construction of the Great Wall of China, which divided the Mongol and Chinese realms. The nomads at Arburd Sands have horses, cows, sheep, goats and camels. You will explore an area where the steppe gives way to sandy subsoil and where there is a 20 km long sand dune. All of the herdsmen lead a traditional way of life out here. We will visit the vertical rock walls of Zorgol Hairkhan Mountain where if lucky you may see Ibex and Argali Sheep, and next day Höyd Önjuul, the mountain with Red Deer and sometimes thousands of Mongolian Gazelles on the plain below.

Sacred Mountains and Sands

Brief Outline Itinerary
On this short journey we will drive south from Ulaanbaatar with a private guide and vehicle until the Gobi steppe starts to emerge. You will stay at the Gobi Inn near Bayan-Önjuul. It is a modern resort with restaurant, sauna, small modern houses with attached facilities and heated floors for all winter use.


Itinerary & Map

Day 1: Bayan-Önjuul
Meet at your hotel in Ulan Bator and drive in 2½ hours out on the plains south of Bogd Uul Mountain on the new tarmac road towards South Gobi. The grasslands are evolving very quickly ahead of us.  After some 120km we head west until Bayan-Önjuul village and on to Gobi inn, which is lying on its own away from the village. In the afternoon, enjoy a ride on Bactrian Camels and if interested, visit the nearby village of Bayan-Önjuul.  These “soum centers” were constructed in the 1950s during the socialist period of Soviet power, which were providing schooling (boarding school for nomads children), veterinarian services and a clinic for the nomads, services which has seen a decline in recent times. Ride camel in the late afternoon.

Accomodation & meal plan:   Gobi Inn/ no meal included

Day 2 To Zorgol Hairkhan Mountains
Excursion to Zorgol Hairkhan Mountains – a mere 15km away – with a picnic lunch. There are both Baga (small) and Ikh (big) Zorgol Hairkhan.  The name hairkhan reveals these are sacred mountains, sometimes vertical rock walls heading straight out from the surrounding steppe.  There are caves and petroglyphs to explore. Walk in great scenery and explore the area.

Accomodation & meal plan:   Gobi Inn/ BL

Day 3 To Hoyd Önjuul
Full day Excursion to Höyd Önjuul area, a mountain massif, some 50km further west. We will again bring picnic lunch and drive out and back over different routes across endless plains until reaching the mountain area valleys. Where we are likely to see 1000’s of Mongolian Gazelles. On the rocks we might see Red Deer Wapiti (Cervus elaphus).

Accomodation & meal plan:   Gobi Inn/ BL

Day 4 To Ulaanbaatar
After breakfast we load our car with the luggage and drive some 10km to the east – or more to possibly visit the nomads of the area. If snows are plenty, so-called zud conditions, nomads will have moved away to better pastures for their livestock. Continue to drive back to Ulan Bator. Reliant on stay by the nomads, might arrive late back into Ulan Bator. Nomads of the area are famous horse trainers in the Mongolian equestrian tradition. They share their livelihoods with numerous wolves who sometimes prey on their livestock from their nearby Arburd Sands hideaway, a 20km lomg sand dune.

Accomodation & meal plan:   Gobi Inn/ B

Arburd Sands

Dates and Prices

PRICE ex Ulaanbaatar
USD 1450 per person (2/3 members)
USD 1050 per person (4/8members)

Single Supplement: USD 240 per person.  There is limited supply of single rooms if your groups in large.

Excludes: Imported drinks, laundry, lunch and dinners in the Gobi Inn Restaurant. Air or train tickets in and out of Mongolia. Hotel accommodation in Ulan Bator.

DATES ex Ulaanbaatar:
Daily September 20th to May 20th.


Staff: A Mongolian leader who speaks English will accompany you at all times, as well as a driver. The service will be in English, although you may request Spanish, French, German, Russian, Swedish, Turkish. Korean, Japanese, Chinese.

Riding skills: There is usually possibility to ride horses at some additional cost, but this trip is an off season offering, when snow blizzards are a possibility at times, why horses may not be available throughout the winter. Please enquire about horse riding at the time of booking, and share with us your riding skills.   The Mongols were historically the most equestrian people on Earth and remain so today. Anyone at ease with horses will enjoy riding here. Use of riding horses is included in the tour cost. If you are a keen and competent horse rider, please let us know beforehand, so that we can pre-arrange the right horse for you. For this, we need your age, height and weight in advance. You should moreover be insured for this activity.   Mongolian horses are peculiar and horsemanship is somewhat different among the Mongols as compared to home. We suggest you bring your own riding hat with you, since it could be difficult to find one that would have a proper fit in Mongolia.

Climate: In general the weather is most stable and cold, from mid-October until early April, whereas the flux period between summer and winter 20SEP/10OCT and all of April into May, can see more shifting weather types due the struggle between southerly and northerly winds in Inner Asia. It is a sharp continental climate, about 1300 meters above sea level. Mongolia has more than 270 sunny days in the year, which is in the winter, enjoying the world’s highest on average atmospheric pressure.

Meals: Lunch and dinners are not included at Gobi Inn. Rather you order and pay for these separately. Picnic lunches are included for the two trip days. We have no problem accommodating vegetarians.





Trip Combination

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 same on line internet rates as well as outbound railway tickets to your first point in Russia or China.

  • Hustai National Park, re introduction site of Przewalskii Horses. It is a drive via Ulan Bator to get there in one day. Should you want a posh experience you may overnight at HS Khaan Ger Resort, not far from the national park, from where is also possible to transfer directly to Ulan Bator airport or railway station.
  • Nomadic Journeys has partnered with WWF Mongolia to work with community enterprise Altain Nuudelchin for Khar Us Nuur National Park and Altan Hökhii Mountain, which is included on Altai Mountains, Great Lakes and Sands itinerary. It is designed for indivduals no more than six people traveling together, where we offer private ger camp accommodation in a 360 degree landscape. There are flights from Ulaanbaatar to Hovd.

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




I am interested in this trip

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