See the best of Mongolia on this sweeping 14-day tour through the country's colorful urban centers and wild natural landscapes. Highlights include swimming in beautiful Ugii Lake, camping overnight in a traditional ger (yurt), visiting Ongi Monastery, and riding a camel on the sand dunes of Khongoryn Els. You'll also hike in the deep rocky gorge of Yolyn Am, boat on Khuvsgul Lake, and do some cultural sightseeing in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar.

Highlights

  • Camp under the stars in a traditional Mongolian ger (yurt)
  • Learn about the history and culture of the Mongolian Empire 
  • See the magnificent white cliffs of Tsagaan Suvarga
  • Ride a camel across the eerily beautiful Singing Sand Dunes 
  • Look for wild Takhi horses on a twilight adventure in the mountains

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ulaanbaatar Ulaanbaatar
Day 2

See Ugii Lake

Ger camp
Day 3

Sightsee in Kharkhorin

Kharkhorin
Day 4 Visit Ongi Monastery Ger camp
Day 5 Go for a Camel Ride on Sand Dunes  Homestay
Day 6 Discover Yolyn Am Gorge Ger camp
Day 7 See the "White Stupa" Ger camp
Day 8 Explore Caves & Craters Ger camp
Day 9 Enjoy a City Tour in Ulaanbaatar Ulaanbaatar
Day 10 Visit Terelj National Park Terelj National Park
Day 11 Hike Around Khuvsgul Lake Ger camp
Day 12 Enjoy Khuvsgul Lake Khuvsgul Lake
Day 13 Boat Around the Lake Khuvsgul Lake
Day 14 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: See Ugii Lake

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

After breakfast, continue your journey through Mongolia, 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. First, 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! 

Day 3: 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. 

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Day 4: 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 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. 

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

Day 5: 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 magnificent "singing sand dunes" of the Khongoryn Els in the south Gobi Desert. 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 enjoying another night under an amazingly starry sky.

Day 6: Discover Yolyn Am Gorge

Drive through the Altai Mountain passes on our way to the Vulture's Mouth
Driving through the Altai Mountains

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.

Day 7: See the "White Stupa"

Tsagaan Suvarga, the "White Stupa"

Today you'll visit Tsagaan Suvarga, which means "White Stupa." A stupa is a small shrine containing the remains of an important or especially revered Buddhist Lama. The white cliffs here, towering above a lunar-like landscape, are immense, and the area is perfect for some easy hiking. Stay overnight in another camp tonight.

Day 8: Explore Caves & Craters

Baga Gazriin Chuluu in the Gobi Desert

Baga Gazriin Chuluu, literally meaning "the Little Rocky Place," is located in the northern Gobi Desert. The main attraction here is the crater high above the desert steppe with fantastic views over the landscape below. Inside the crater, there's a sacred spring — the waters are said to cure blindness. You can also step into a cave where devout Buddhists come to meditate. 

Day 9: 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: 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 11: Hike Around Khuvsgul Lake

Ice-skating on Khuvsgul Lake

Early in the morning, fly to Moron, the capital of Khuvsgul province. Your local guide and driver will meet you at the airport and take you on the two-hour drive to Khuvsgul Lake. Enjoy some easy hiking around the lake and the surrounding forest. You'll overnight in a ger camp.

Day 12: Enjoy Khuvsgul Lake

A Mongolian man with his horse on Khuvsgul Lake

You will wake up at your camp, located right by the lake, which is the largest in Mongolia. Depending on the season, you might get the chance to go ice-skating or boating. In the evening, you'll dine outside at camp and enjoy a sky full of stars.

Day 13: Boat Around the Lake

A boat on Khuvsgul Lake

Today you'll enjoy another day on Khuvsgul Lake. You'll have the chance to go on a boat tour, and you might even see some reindeer herders in action. You'll have free time later in the afternoon to enjoy the sunset over the lake and have one last meal under the stars before heading back to civilization the next day. 

Day 14: Depart Ulaanbaatar

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

Head to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, where the trip ends. The adventure has come to a close! Safe travels!

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