On this 10-day highlights tour, you'll step back in time, traveling across the vast plains, steppes, mountains, and deserts of this remote and beautiful country. Sleep in traditional nomadic camps, ride a camel across massive sand dunes, and swim in crystal clear lakes. Explore the ruins of ancient cities and temples of the Mongol Empire, then wander through the ultra-modern capital city, all while enjoying legendary Mongolian hospitality.

Highlights

  • Experience nomadic life in a traditional Mongolian ger (yurt)
  • Climb the Chinggis Khaan statue and enjoy vistas over the plains
  • Learn about the history of the Mongolian Empire and visit historic sites
  • Visit the Singing Sand Dunes in the remote Gobi Desert
  • Search for wild Takhi horses on a twilight adventure in the mountains

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ulaanbaatar Ulaanbaatar
Day 2 Explore Terelj National Park Terelj National Park
Day 3 Hike in Khustain Nuruu National Park Ger camp
Day 4 See Ugii Lake Ger camp
Day 5 Sightsee in Kharkhorin Kharkhorin
Day 6 Visit Ongi Monastery Saikhan ovoo
Day 7 Go for a Camel Ride on Sand Dunes  Sevrei
Day 8 Discover Yolyn Am Gorge Dalanzadgad
Day 9 Enjoy a City Tour in Ulaanbaatar Ulaanbaatar
Day 10 Depart Ulaanbaatar   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar

Welcome to bustling Ulaanbaatar and enjoy one last day in civilization before we head out to the plains!
Apartment buildings in Ulaanbaatar

Welcome to Mongolia! Arrive in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city. You will be met by an English-speaking guide who will accompany you to your hotel in the city center. The rest of the day is yours to relax or explore. You'll go on a guided city tour at the end of the itinerary, but in the meantime, you could head out to see a few sights this afternoon if you're up to it. Consider stopping into the National Museum of Mongolia for an overview of the country's history and culture, or wander around the colorful temples in the Choijin Lama Temple Museum complex. Then have dinner in a local restaurant before getting some rest.

Day 2: Explore Terelj National Park

Visit the world's largest equestrian statue at the Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex
The world's largest equestrian statue at the Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex

This morning, set off into the Mongolian countryside on the way to Gorkhi Terelj National Park. As you make your way east out of the city, stop to visit the world-famous Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex. Here you will learn about the history of the Mongolian Empire and visit the famous giant statue of Chinggis Khaan on horseback. You can even ride the elevator up to the horse's head to see breathtaking views over the plains. 

Then head further into Terelj National Park. Drop by your ger (yurt) camp — a traditional Mongolian accommodation — where you'll have lunch and drop off your bags. In the afternoon, visit Turtle Rock and climb up the mountain path to the beautiful Aryapala Meditation Temple. Return back to camp for dinner and to relax after a long day exploring.

Day 3: Hike in Khustain Nuruu National Park

Search for wild Mongolian horses in the twilight hours
Mongolian horses in the wild

Wake up early to enjoy the sunrise before you begin the drive along well-traveled country roads towards the mountains and plains of Khustain Nuruu National Park. Once you arrive, settle into a mountain camp before heading out into the twilight to try and spot takhi, the last wild horses in Asia. When the sun has gone down, you'll head back to the camp for dinner. Warm up beside the fire before getting some sleep.

Day 4: See Ugii Lake

Sleep in a traditional ger on the shores of Ugii Lake
A traditional ger (yurt) on the shores of Ugii Lake

Continue your journey through Mongolia today, traveling southwest from Khustai to the beautiful Ugii Lake. Popular with Mongolians and international tourists alike, the lake is a wildlife hotspot that's home to flocks of migrating birds throughout the year. In spring and summer, the shores are dotted with colorful wildflowers. 

Tonight you will stay overnight in a traditional ger camp right on the shores of the lake. You'll be able to spend the afternoon relaxing next to the water. Opt to go fishing or on a boat trip, or if you're feeling up to it, brave the water and go for a quick swim! 

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Day 5: Sightsee in Kharkhorin

Visit the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire in the 13th Century
Kharkhorin, the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire

Today you'll uncover some of Mongolia's history and culture as you head south to the ancient city of Kharkhorin. Also known as Karakorum, Kharkhorum, Qara Qorum, and Harhorum, this was the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire between 1235 and 1260. While none of the original city stands above ground today, there is a UNESCO museum onsite that explains the history of this important site and showcases some of the most exciting archaeological discoveries.

Next to the museum is the 16th-century white-walled Erdene Zuu Khiid Monastery, which still functions as a working center for Lamas and Buddhists from around the world. Nowadays, Kharkhorin itself is a rather nondescript Soviet-style town, but visiting the museum and the monastery will make you feel like you've taken a step back in time. 

Day 6: Visit Ongi Monastery

Explore the ruins of Ongii Monastery, once the largest Buddhist temple in the world
The ruins of Ongii Monastery, once the largest Buddhist temple in the world

This morning you'll set off on a long journey to Ongi Monastery in Saikhaan-Ovoo. Founded in 1600, the Ongi Temple was once the world's largest Buddhist university, with four separate colleges sitting on the banks of the River Ongi. Today, the ruined temples are a haunting reminder of the anti-religious purges of the 1930s. Take a tour through the ruins along the river and in the surrounding hills, then visit the newly founded temple to learn about the four Lamas who are reviving the ancient traditions that were lost here when the original temples were destroyed by Communist armies in 1939. 

In the afternoon, you will learn to build your own traditional ger. For dinner, enjoy a hearty supper of khoorhog (roasted goat) under a starry night sky in this beautifully wild and rugged landscape.

Day 7: Go for a Camel Ride on Sand Dunes 

Ride a camel across the Singing Sand Dunes of the Gobi Desert
Riding a camel across the Singing Sand Dunes of the Gobi Desert

You'll have a long but memorable travel day today as you head south across the immense Altai Mountain range on your way to the legendary "singing sand dunes," the Khongoryn Els in the south Gobi Desert. It's also known as the Hongorïn Els. You'll be following in the footsteps of the famed Italian explorer, Marco Polo, who visited these dunes during the height of the Mongolian Empire in the 13th century. 

Just before sunset, you'll take a camel ride through the shadows of the huge dunes and the mountainous sandy landscape. Then settle in for dinner at a local camp and enjoy another night under an amazingly starry sky.

Day 8: Discover Yolyn Am Gorge

Drive through the Altai Mountain passes on our way to the Vulture's Mouth
Yolyn Am Gorge

After breakfast, make your way back along the southern side of the Altai Mountains in the southern Gobi Desert until you reach the Yolyn Am Gorge. Meaning "Vulture's Mouth," the Yolyn Am is a deep rocky ravine. The center is frozen solid throughout most of the year. Between June and September, the majority of the ice around will be melted but even in the height of summer, you'll still be able to see patches of snow and ice outside the valley walls. You'll go on a guided excursion that takes you most of the way out to the gorge, partly on horseback and partly on foot. Enjoy one last night of camping before heading back to civilization the next day. 

Day 9: Enjoy a City Tour in Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar Government Palace

After breakfast at camp, leave the Altai Mountains for Dalanzadgad, where you will board a flight back to Ulaanbaatar. After settling in at your hotel in the city, you'll go on a guided city tour. Take some time to explore the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, the palace where Mongolia’s eighth Living Buddha lived for two decades. It's a wonderful place to see traditional Buddhist paintings and sculptures. After the tour is over, you'll sample modern Mongolian cuisine in one of several excellent restaurants.  

Day 10: Depart Ulaanbaatar 

It's time to say goodbye to Mongolia and Ulaanbaatar
A morning scene in Ulaanbaatar

Squeeze in some more sightseeing or souvenir shopping before heading to the airport. Safe travels!

More Mongolia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Mongolia? Check out these other Mongolia itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 

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Map

Map of Highlights of Mongolia - 10 Days
Map of Highlights of Mongolia - 10 Days