The Two Sides of the Gobi Desert

Deep down the Gobi Desert

The Two Sides of the Gobi Desert

Gobi Desert

  • Overland Discovery
13 Days
5 Flights
Child friendly

The Gobi Desert, one of the world’s largest deserts, spans over the territories of China and Mongolia. The name alone ignites the imagination of adventure seekers- towering sand dunes, double-humped camel caravans, and nomads living in far flung arid lands in their traditional gers (yurts). This trip features the best the Gobi Desert has to offer, on both the Mongolian side, and on the Chinese side of the international border that divides the desert. Join us on a once in a lifetime journey across the shifting sands, camel trails, and other secrets this magnificent desert keeps hidden.

Next Departures

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 ✈ Dalanzadgad – Yolin Am

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

This morning we drive back to the airport, for the short domestic flight down to the Gobi Desert. We land in 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. Upon landing in Dalanzadgad we meet our driver, and embark on a one and a half hours’ drive 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- 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. 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 4. Khongoriin Els – Bayan Zag

  • 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. We arrive at Bayan Zag around lunch time and spend the afternoon exploring the cliffs on foot, as we wait for the sunset to set the cliffs “aflame”, if weather permitting of course. We then take the about one-hour’s drive back to the ger camp in which we stayed in our first day in the Gobi.

Day 5. Dalanzadgad ✈ Ulaanbaatar – Terelj National Park

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

This morning we drive back to Dalanzadgad airport, for the flight back to Ulaanbaatar. Landing back in the Mongolian capital, we embark on the one and a half hour drive to Gorki-Terelj National Park. The park features unique rock formations, scenic valleys, a winding river, and restful groves of trees. Many nomads live in the park itself, where they find good grazing for their animals. If time permits, we will take a short hike to a nearby hill, from where we watch the sun set over the park (weather permitting of course). We will spend the night in a ger camp in the park.

Day 6. Terelj National Park – Ulaanbaatar ✈ Baotou – Ordos

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

This morning we take an easy hike to the famous Turtle Rock, a symbol of wisdom and longevity to the Mongolian people. We then continue hiking to Ariabal Temple. The temple has been recently reconstructed, after the original temple had been destroyed during the communist purges of the 1930’s. A site of great tranquility, it functions today as a meditation center to Buddhist monks. After lunch, we leave the park and drive back to Ulaanbaatar’s airport, from which we take an afternoon flight to Baotou. Landing in Baotou, the industrial heart of Inner Mongolia, and by no means a place one would want to stay at, we take the two and a half hours’ drive to Ordos, to which we arrive rather late in the evening, and where we set for the night.

Day 7. Ordos – Alxa Zuqi

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Not far out of Ordos we visit the Mausoleum of Ghengis Khan. Despite the fact that the great Mongol leader found his death somewhere on the way back home after yet another successful military campaign in China, most historical facts shows there is no chance his remains are actually buried where the Chinese government has decided to erect an impressive monument to commemorate the forefather of the Mongol nation. Today this somewhat memorial hall, somewhat shrine serves as a center for a cult of Inner-Mongolians which worship here the great Khan as if he is a god. We then make for Alxa Zouqi, a small town with a large Mongolian population, on the edge of the Badain Jaran Desert. On arriving at Alxa Zouqi, we shall go to explore the local Mongolian Buddhist Temple and the street where items made of jade or other semiprecious stones can be bought. Overnight in Alxa Zouqi.

Day 8. Alxa Zouqi – Kulat-U

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Heading towards the desert, on a highway full of trucks carrying exports into Mongolia and returning with loads of Mongolian coal, we reach our lunch stop. We leave our bus here and get into four-wheeled-drive vehicles that will take us to the heart of this remote desert. The Badain Jaran Desert is home to the world’s highest sand dune, rising to some 500 meters, and offers challenging drives as well as marvelous landscapes of sand seas extending to the horizon. We stay the night in the small settlement of Kulat-U beside a small salt lake. Overnight in a simple guesthouse at Kulat-U.

Day 9. Kulat-U – Soumin Jaran

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

In the morning we visit the small Mongolian temple next to the salt lake. We then continue our exploration of the desert, and at about lunch time we reach the area of more than 150 lakes that dot the yellow dunes. We climb to the top of the dunes for a marvelous view over several lakes and stop at Yinderitu Lake, whose waters are believed by the locals to cure a sick person from stomach diseases. Another short drive through the dunes brings us to Soumin Jaran, a beautiful lake with a beautiful Mongolian temple beside it. We visit the temple, now inhabited by only one monk, and stroll along the lake shore. Overnight in a simple guesthouse at Soumin Jaran.

Day 10. Soumin Jaran – Alxa Youqi – Zhangye

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

We leave Soumin Jaran and drive almost to the top of one of the highest dunes in the area for a spectacular view of the lakes and the seemingly endless seas of sand. From here we take a 2½-hour hike to Nuritu Lake. After a quick lunch there, we ride on two-humped camels to a point from where we can enjoy marvelous views over desert and lakes. We then take to vehicles to drive out of the desert. En route we visit the wall of singing sand and the brave can have a quick bathe in Bor Tulguu Lake. We leave the dunes and stop at the small local museum to learn more about the desert and its surroundings. Back on a solid asphalt road after three days of crossing the dunes, we reach the small settlement of Alxa Youqi. Here we say farewell to the drivers of the four-wheeled-drive vehicles, as we hop back to our vehicle and take the afternoon drive to the city of Zhangye, where we enjoy a much needed shower and comfortable accommodation of a four-star hotel.

Day 11. Zhangye- day excursion to Binggou and Dan Xia

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

We drive out of Zhangye and on to Bing Guo. Located at the foot of the Qilian Mountains, this lovely valley consists of marvelous sandstone formations. We take a short hike down the valley and climb up to an observation point for a breathtaking view over this unique landscape. We then continue to Dan Xia, a spectacular mountain with somewhat psychedelic patterns of colors in the rock. If weather permit, we wait for the sun to set over Dan Xia, enhancing the shades and shapes of this bizarre natural phenomena. We then take the one and a half hours’ drive back to Zhangye.

Day 12. Zhangye ✈ Beijing

  • Breakfast

This morning we drive to the small airport by Zhangye. From here we take a flight to either Xian or Lanzhou, where we will connect on to the evening flight to Beijing. Arrive in Beijing airport, and transfer to hotel by the airport (using the hotel shuttle services), where we spend our last night of the trip.

Departure from Beijing

  • Breakfast

This morning return to Beijing airport (again, using the hotel shuttle services) for the international flight out of Beijing.

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Dates & Pricing

Discounted rates: 

4 travelers – 15% 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.

7th June, 2018–19th June, 2018

  • $4,909 Per Person (From 2 people)
  • $476 Single Room Supplement

19th July, 2018–31st July, 2018


30th August, 2018–11th September, 2018


Additional Information


Inclusions
  • Accommodation as per program including breakfasts
  • Domestic and regional flights: Ulaanbaatar/Dalanzadgad/Ulaanbaatar/Baotou-Zhangye/Lanzhou/Beijing
  • Meals as indicated in the program (Full Board basis, excluding meals in Beijing)
  • 4WD vehicles in Mongolia and in Badain Jaran, vans or busses in China
  • Bottled water throughout the trip
  • Local English speaking guides
  • Badain Jaran travel permit
  • Entrance fees for all sites indicated in the program

Accommodation in Mongolia, out of Ulaanbaatar, with no attached showers and toilets. Accommodation in Badain Jaran with no attached showers and toilets


Exclusions
  • International airfare to Ulaanbaatar, and from Beijing
  • Travel insurance
  • Mongolian tourist visa
  • Chinese tourist visa
  • Excess luggage
  • Gratuities
  • Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
  • Anything not mentioned in the program

Accomodation
  • Ulaanbaatar: Chinggis Khan Hotel 4*
  • Yolin Am: Gobi Discovery I ger camp
  • Khongoriin Els: Gobi Discovery II ger camp
  • Terelj National Park: Terelj Lodge ger camp
  • Ordos: Tulip Inn Taihua Hotel 4*
  • Alxa Zuoqi: Alashan Hotel 4*
  • Badain Jaran: Local families, or simple and basic guesthouses
  • Zhangye: Dinghe International Hotel 4*
  • Beijing: Langham Place Beijing Capital Airport 5*

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


Transport
  • 4WD vehicles in Mongolia and Badain Jaran
  • A/C coach/minivan in China

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