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Your journey begins with a flight to Ulaanbaatar via Istanbul. You’ll arrive the following morning and be met by your private guide who’ll drive you to your luxury hotel. Enjoy the afternoon at your leisure.
The following morning your Mongolian adventure begins in earnest as you drive to Hustain Nuruu National Park. This is the refuge of the Mongolian wild horse takhi, otherwise known as Przewalski’s horse. This native creature was extinct in the wild for 25 years before being reintroduced to the Mongolian steppe, and now nearly 400 individuals can be found roaming re-introduction sites in Mongolia and China. Observe these beautiful animals in their natural habitat and learn more about ongoing conservation efforts at the visitor’s centre.
After lunch, the tour continues to the Ongot stone complex – enigmatic stone figures depicting men from the ancient Turkic period. It’s the largest grave complex of its kind in central Asia and a real historic treasure, giving experts valuable insight into the culture of the time.
Stay: Two nights in a Cottage/Ger at HS Khaan Resort – bed & breakfast
The next step in your adventure brings you to the town of Kharakhorum, the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire and former centre of arts, politics, trade and religion. On your way, you’ll stop by the 8th century Kultegin Monument which was built in honour of a prince during the Turkic Empire.
Upon arrival in Kharakhorum, you’ll have time to settle into your cosy ger before heading out on a guided horse trek in the picturesque Orkhon Valley. The region is rich in archaeological, cultural and historic treasures, and offers a fascinating insight into the age-old nomadic culture and its influence on trade, military and religious practices.
The following day includes a visit to the Kharakhorum Museum followed by the Erdene Zuu Monastery, the largest of its kind in the country. Surrounded by over 100 spectacularly decorated stupas, the site has been a centre of Buddhist activity for centuries. You’ll be able to see the monks as they perform their daily prayers and rituals.
Stay: Two nights in a Ger at the Nomadic Expeditions Wilderness Camp – full board
A five-hour drive brings you to the ruins of Ongiin Hiid, a 17th-century temple hidden in the mountains. Regarded as the “Pearl of the Great Desert”, Ongiin Hiid was amongst the largest monasteries in the country until its destruction during the communist purges in 1939.
Stay: One night in a Ger at the Secret of Ongiin Hiid Ger Camp – full board
The seventh morning sees you driving four hours to your lodge on the border of Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park. Check in and spend the rest of the day at your leisure. In the evening, you can explore the nearby Bulagtai mountains on horseback.
Over the next few days, you’ll have ample opportunity to examine treasures and admire the dramatic landscapes of the Gobi Desert. Your search will reveal legendary fossils, including the famous ‘Fighting Dinosaurs’ at Tugregiin Shiree, and ancient rock drawings such as those at Havtsgait Valley. You’ll also spend some time with a local family to learn more about their traditional way of life, including how they herd and milk their animals.
In the Gobi, you’ll be introduced to strikingly diverse landscapes, from the fiery red ‘Flaming Cliffs’ to the surprisingly lush Yol Valley – home to unusual ice formations as well as various indigenous wildlife such as Altai snowcocks, ibex, yaks and Argali mountain sheep. It was at the ‘Flaming Cliffs’ that Dr Roy Chapman Andrews and his team uncovered the first nest of dinosaur eggs the world had ever seen. To this day, palaeontologists continue to make significant discoveries on the site.
Stay: Four nights in a Deluxe Ger at the Three Camel Lodge – full board
This morning you’ll catch a flight back to Ulaanbaatar, where you’ll have time to explore the Bogd Khan Palace Museum – home of Mongolia’s last theocrat, Bogd Jabtzan Damba Hutagt VIII. In the afternoon, you’ll transfer to the wild, tree-filled Gorkhi Terelj National Park for an overnight stay at Terelj Hotel. Enjoy the peace of the surrounding countryside and superb views over the Terelj River.
Stay: One night in a Superior Room at the Terelj Hotel – bed & breakfast
Rise early this morning and set off on a hike to the Aryabal Monastery. The road is steep, and leads to a suspended bridge evocatively named “The Bridge that Leads to Wisdom”. After traversing the bridge it’s just another 108 steps, lined with signs displaying Buddha’s teaching, to reach the temple. Your reward is sweeping views of the verdant valley below.
Before returning to Ulaanbaatar you’ll take a detour to the aptly named Turtle Rock and the Equestrian statue of Genghis Khan. This shining, 250-tonne monument of stainless steel is truly striking. Enter the two-storey base of the statue to see a replica of the ruler’s legendary golden whip. Ride the elevator to a deck within the horse’s head to drink in a beautiful view across the surrounding Mongolian steppe.
On your last full day in Ulaanbaatar you’ll visit the Gandan Monastery (the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia) as well as the recently renovated Chenrezi and Kalachakra Temples. The 82-foot high statue of Migjid Janraisig, gilded in pure gold and clothed with silk and precious stones, is another highlight. The rest of your day features the National History Museum with its displays of traditional nomadic life, historical costumes and sacred relics. In the evening, you may have time for a stroll through Sukhbaatar Square – site of the Great Khans Memorial. Finish off with a traditional Mongolian dance performance and a farewell dinner.
Stay: Two nights in a Deluxe Room at the Shangri-La Hotel – bed & breakfast
Rise early this morning for your flight back to London, connecting in Istanbul.
Jo has been excellent throughout providing us with all the info (and more) that we required.- Sarah, Lapland