Mysteries of the Gobi

Explore the depth of the Gobi Desert

Mysteries of the Gobi Desert

Southern Mongolia

  • Overland Discovery
11 Days
0 Flights
Child friendly

The great Gobi desert covers one third of Mongolia’s territory. Hundreds of years ago the desert was part of the main trade route between East and West, with camel caravans crossing the vast steppes loaded with perfumes, spices, and other goods. Today the Gobi is a mixture of rare wildlife, intruiguiing landscapes, and nomads in constant search of grazing land for their herds. We will take you to explore the secrets of the Gobi – an ice canyon, sand dunes, oases, dinosaur graveyards, and nomadic life. Transport will be by 4X4 vehicles and the distinctive two-humped Bactrian camel.

Itinerary

Day 1. Arrival in Ulaanbaatar

  • Dinner

Arrival in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital city. At 14:00 we meet our guide at the airport, and head to the city center. The short drive passes through the shanty town inhabited by those who were once nomads, but have neglected their traditional lifestyle in the hope of finding a little fortune in the city, which not too long ago has seen some rapid development. The urban landscape quickly changes into expansive shopping malls and brand new residential complexes, shifting again to the scenes of the city center, where modern high-rises are quickly built amidst soviet-era buildings. After checking into our hotel, and if time permits, we will have an orientation tour of the city center through the central square, which was recently renamed after Ghengis Khan, the nation’s forefather. Right at the heart of the square we see the figure of D. Sukhbaatar, one of the heroes of the communist revolution of 1920’s, boldly raising his arm towards the statue of the Great Khan, whose name wasn’t allowed to be mentioned during the 70 year communist reign. We then visit the National History Museum, which holds a permanent exhibition on the different civilizations that have inhabited the territory of Mongolia from prehistoric times to the present. This exhibition includes a significant display of objects from the era of the Great Mongol Empire. From here we take a short walk to the drama theater where we attend an impressive folk concert, featuring some traditional Mongolian art forms. After a welcome dinner, we drive back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Day 2. Ulaanbaatar - Baga Gazarin Chuluu

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Today we leave the Mongolian capital city, and head down south, to the Gobi Desert. Located in the Central Gobi, Baga Gazarin Chuluu (The Small Place of Stones) is a marvelous geological oddity, characterized by impressive rock formations rising from the desert steppe. During the last decade, lams have been at work reconstructing a monastery within the formation that was formerly one of Mongolia’s most important religious centers. Dating from the15th century, the monastery was destroyed in the 1930’s during the communist purges. As the area is quite rich with water sources, many nomadic families spend the summer here, and it is a great opportunity to visit nomads and learn about their unique way of life. Overnight in a ger camp- the cozy yet simple, Mongolian version of a lodge, consisting of traditional felt-made dwellings the nomads of Central Asia often refer to as yurt.

Day 3. Baga Gazariin Chuluu – Tsagaan Suvraga

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

We begin the day with a visit to the temple, joining the monks for their morning puje- the chanting of Tibetan scripts as a form of prayer. We then continue our journey south, heading to Tsagaan Suvraga. While in Mongolian language the name refers to a ‘white stupa’, this is yet another interesting geological phenomena of colorful sand stone, hinting on the rich mineral deposits hidden within the deserts soil- the trigger for the current Mongolian gold rush which have sparked the recent rapid economic development. Arriving at Tsagaan Suvraga in the afternoon, we hike to a beautiful vantage point for a view over the colorful mounds. Overnight in a ger camp by Tsagaan Suvraga.

Day 4. Tsagaan Suvraga – Dalanzadgad – Yolin Am

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Morning drive would bring us to Dalanzadgad, the capital city of South Gobi Province. Once a remote desert town, it today serves as the center of logistics for the developing mining industry. Over the last decade, massive exploration operations have revealed in the Gobi Desert an abundance of precious metals and minerals. And thus, the once peaceful desert is being trampled by excavators, monster trucks, and massive drills- all in the hope of making a quick fortune. Luckily, most of these mines are far from the eye, but their environmental impact can be seen and felt throughout this massive desert. We leave Dalanzadgad and head to the ‘Gobi’s Beauties’ Nature Reserve. Once at the reserve, we head to the ‘Vulture’s Valley’- a beautiful oasis at the foot of the ‘Three Beauties’ Mountain range. As the rays of sun does not reach the small river at the creek’s basin, it is kept frozen throughout the beginning of the summer, and hence, the place is commonly known as the ‘Gobi Glacier’. We take an easy hike along the beautiful stream, and if lucky, we get to see some of the wildlife inhabiting the reserve. Overnight in a ger camp.

Day 5. Yolin Am - Khavtsgait Petroglyphs – Khongoriin Els

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

We leave our camp, and head towards Khavtsgait Petroglyphs, located on a cliff overlooking the vast Gobi Plains. Here, in what was once an ancient place of worship, or place of congregation, beautiful petroglyphs has been inscribed on the rocks. The rock paintings depict scenes drawn from the daily lives of those inhabited the region hundreds, and even thousands of years ago. Another four hours of driving through the Gobi’s typical cold desert landscape, so called because the Gobi receives its moisture in the form of snow, brings us to the Khongorin Els sand dunes. After a late lunch at the ger camp where we will spend the night, we will go to explore the towering dunes on foot. If the breeze is blowing just right, we may hear the dunes singing to us. The rugged desert plants of the Gobi at the edges of the sands are beautiful in their own sculptural way. Overnight in a ger camp.

Day 6. Khongoriin Els – Bayan Zag – Ongi Monastery

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Our first stop of the day would be at the place known to westerners as The Flaming Cliffs. Bayan Zag (Rich with Saxaul) is famed for its red sandstone cliffs which take on beautiful red and orange hues during sunset. The area is also recognized as one of the world’s largest dinosaur graveyards. In 1921, the American Roy Chapman Andrews discovered here some of the most important Paleontological findings of the last century. After a short hike through the red sandstone cliffs, we take a long drive out of the desert. In the afternoon we arrive at Ongiin Khiid on the bank of the Ongiin River- once the Gobi’s largest river, but today a petty stream due to the ongoing mining activities that have drained most of the desert’s water sources. Though now days’ monastery is rather small in size, the site’s name refers collectively to a cluster of monasteries, temples, and Buddhist universities that were established here in the 18th and 19th century, and served as one of the largest Buddhist canters throughout the country. Like most religious institutes in Mongolia, the entire complex have been destroyed during the anti-religious purges of the 1930’s, led by the communist party. It is believed that some 200 monks were executed during these purges, and the surviving monks were forcibly conscripted to the Mongolian People’s Army. In recent years, efforts made by the local communities, and by the religious institutions of Mongolia have resulted in the reconstruction of the main stupa, and the first temple has been inaugurated back in 2004. As we arrive in the camp, we take a hike to one of the many hills surrounding the area, for a view over the historic ruins, and the beautiful plateau. Overnight in a ger camp.

Day 7. Ongi Monastery - The Orkhon Valley

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Today we reach the Mongolian steppes. Here there is a great variety of birds of prey, including eagles and falcons, constantly on the watch for a meal. As we drive up north, the scenery would gradually change from arid steppes to the fertile green grasslands typical to the Khangai Mountains, Mongolia’s second largest mountain range. After lunch we head into an area dominated by volcanic scenery, which takes us along the Orkhon River Valley. A UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Landscape, the valley has served as the center of several kingdoms and empires that ruled much of Central Asia for centuries. The UNESCO committee states: “Collectively the remains in the site reflect the symbiotic links between nomadic, pastoral societies and their administrative and religious centres, and the importance of the Orkhon valley in the history of central Asia.” (UNESCO website). Late in the afternoon we arrive at a beautiful vantage point over the Orkhon River, where we spend the night. Overnight in a ger camp.

Day 8. The Orkhon Valley - The Red Waterfall - Tuvkhon Monastery - Kharkhorin

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Leaving our camp, we take an hour's drive to the beautiful volcanic canyon through which the Orkhon River flows. Here we take an easy hike along the canyon floor, and end up at the pool at the bottom of the Red Waterfall. For the brave at heart, a cool swim awaits! We hop back to our vehicle, and drive to one of Mongolia’s most impressive monasteries, where we take a three and a half hours’ hike (of which, one-hour up hill). Located at the top of a high hill with a view of seemingly endless pine forests, Tuvkhon Monastery was established during the 1650’s by Zanbazar, one of Mongolia’s most respected religious leaders. Fleeing the Manchu Emperor, the Zanbazar built a monastery in this hidden place, using a natural system of caves and adding small wooden buildings. In the afternoon we keep on driving up the river to Kharkhorin. Overnight in a ger camp.

Day 9. Kharkhorin - Elsiin Tasarkhai - Khustai Nuruu

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Built by Chinggis Khan about 800 years ago, Kharkhorin, better known as Karakorum, was famed throughout Asia as the capital of the Mongol Empire. Within the walls of this spectacular city kings were chosen, laws made and the fate of the next city to be conquered were determined. We will visit the ruins of the old city, the Erden Zuu monastery and other historical monuments in the area, and then have lunch. Leaving Kharkhorin, we pass by Elsiin Tasarkhai. Marking the northern edge of the great Gobi Desert, Elsiin Tasarkhai is a sand dune that stretches over 130 km north into the heart of Central Mongolia. At late afternoon we arrive at Hustaiin Nuruu Strictly Protected Area (SPA). The SPA was established as part of a unique project to reintroduce the world’s last surviving wild horses back to their natural environment. On the brink of extinction during the last century, only a very few Takhi or Przewalski’s horse were left in zoos around Europe. This graceful steppe horse was returned to Mongolia, and today, thanks to this special project, two herds again roam the Mongolian steppes. Overnight in a ger camp.

Day 10. Khustain Nuruu – Mongol Nomadic - Ulaanbaatar

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Today we drive back in time, to a place that recreates the lives of Mongolian nomads at the beginning of the 20th century. This was when Mongolia gained its independence from the Qing Dynasty and established itself as a reemerging nation under a living god-king. Here we shall attend a demonstration of how the nomads lived their lives during this era, and learn about some traditions that are carried on to this very day. After lunch in the camp we take the approximately one hour drive back to Ulaanbaatar. Upon arrival back in the capital city we visit the Zanbazar Fine Arts Museum. This museum holds some of the best known Mongolian works of art, including the well know ‘One Day In Mongolia’ painting, painted by B. Sharav, and considered to date as a true masterpiece. The museum also holds unique religious and other historic artifacts. In the evening we enjoy a farewell dinner, followed by a visit to the Zaisan Hill, for a view over the city at night. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

Day 11. Departure from Ulaanbaatar

  • Breakfast

After breakfast at our hotel, we will drive to the airport for our international departing flight.

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Dates & Pricing

Discounted rates:  
4 travelers – 10% discount
6 or more travelers – 25% discount

  • Prices are based on twin share occupancy.
  • Applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking their trip together.
  • The discounted price is the price for 2 people (below) less the discount.
  • Mongolian Ways Ltd. reserves the right to change tour prices and programs due to changes in flight schedule, changes in airfares, and other local circumstances.

21st September, 2017–1st October, 2017

  • $2,179 Per Person (From 2 people)
  • $317 Single Room Supplement

Additional Information


Inclusions
  • Accommodation as per program
  • Meals as indicated in the program (full board basis)
  • Drinking water
  • Private 4WD vehicle
  • Local English speaking guide
  • All entrance fees as per program
  • All transfers

Exclusions
  • Travel expenses to/from Mongolia
  • Travel Insurance
  • Mongolian visa
  • Excess Luggage
  • Gratuities
  • Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
  • Anything not clearly mentioned in the program

Accomodation
  • 2 nights in 4-star hotel in Ulaanbaatar
  • 8 nights in ger camp

Note: The listed hotels are tentative. Final hotel list shall be confirmed upon placing a booking and paying a deposit.


Testimonials

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True to their reputation, Mongolian Ways has lived up to and exceeded the standards of tour guiding....an excellent team, personable, helpful, and extremely well humored. A thoroughly well-planned tour, and the best few night's sleep I have had in a long time.

Sebastian Strassburg , Germany

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