Head into the wilderness to discover two of Mongolia's most distinctive landscapes on this active two-week itinerary. Trekking, camping, and camel rides are all on the agenda as you travel from the snow-capped peaks of Altai Tavan Bogd National Park to the sweeping sand dunes of the Gobi Desert. You'll also have some time for cultural sightseeing in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar before the trip comes to a close.

Highlights

  • Trek to mountains & rivers in the Mongolian wilderness
  • Sleep in a traditional yurt under the stars
  • Follow the steps of Marco Polo in the Gobi Desert
  • See the famed "flaming cliffs" of Bayanzag
  • Enjoy dramatic landscapes from the hiking trail

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ulaanbaatar Ulaanbaatar
Day 2 Fly to Ulgy Ulgy
Day 3 Trek to Tavan Bogd Peaks Base Camp Altai Tavan Bogd
Day 4 Trek to Malchin Peak Malchin Peak
Day 5 Trek to White River Altai Tavan Bogd
Day 6 Trek to Har Salaa Altai Tavan Bogd
Day 7 Trek to Khurgan & Khoton Lakes Khurgan
Day 8 Drive Back to Ulgy Ulaanbaatar
Day 9 Fly to Ulaanbaatar  Ulaanbaatar
Day 10 Discover Yolyn Am Gorge Dalanzadgad
Day 11 Ride a Camel in the Singing Sand Dunes Khongor
Day 12 See the Flaming Cliffs of the Gobi Desert Dalanzadgad
Day 13 Sightsee in Ulaanbaatar Ulaanbaatar
Day 14 Depart Mongolia   

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! Upon arrival in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, you'll 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. Enjoy dinner in a local restaurant before resting up for tomorrow's flight.

Day 2: Fly to Ulgy

A traditional Mongolian ger (yurt) camp

Early this morning, you'll catch a 3-hour flight to Ulgy in western Mongolia. The Kazakhs living in the area are the largest national minority and practice Sunni Islam, but several other ethnic groups also reside in the region. Upon arrival, you'll meet with a support team of drivers, cooks, and a guide. As a group, you'll travel across the mountainous desert and set up camp in a beautiful river valley.

Day 3: Trek to Tavan Bogd Peaks Base Camp

Snow-capped mountains in Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

Set off on your first day of trekking with a gradual but continuous ascent across high mountain terrain with some marshes and a couple of streams to cross. Camel drivers load up the camels and start the trip later, but soon overtake hikers, arriving at camp earlier to allow the cook time to set up operations. You'll dine by the campfire and sleep tonight at base camp.

Day 4: Trek to Malchin Peak

The vast landscapes of Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

After a hearty breakfast, start the climb to Malchin Peak. You will hike along the Potanin Glacier for an hour before arriving at the mountain. Once you reach the top, you'll enjoy spectacular bird's-eye views of glaciers and Russian territory, as the ridge overlaps with the country's border. You'll camp out again tonight after a meal provided by the group's cook.

Day 5: Trek to White River

Two yurts in a valley between the mountains and hills of Mongolia

Rise early and have breakfast at camp, then set off on a trek through the White River valley. Today's journey is an easy stroll downhill with beautiful views of snow-dusted landscapes along the way. Warm up at camp with a hot drink by the fire, then have dinner with the group before camping out overnight.

Day 6: Trek to Har Salaa

The White River valley

Today you'll leave the lakes behind and enter the mountains. Trek along the White River—its waters are milky-white due to glacial dust—as you follow one of its tributaries. Though fenced by high rocky ridges on both sides, the river valley is rich in flowers and vegetation. With a bit of luck, you may even spot a mountain goat or a marmot. In the afternoon, you'll make your way across a high mountain pass, then descend along the river. Camp in the valley below tonight: you'll likely be invited into a local ger (yurt) or home to sample some regional food or tea. 

Day 7: Trek to Khurgan & Khoton Lakes

Mountain reflections on Khoton Lake

Khurgan and Khoton are spectacular high-altitude alpine lakes surrounded by snow-capped mountains. After today's trek, you'll camp beside Khoton Lake, a place that features one of the largest petroglyph galleries in Mongolia. Dating back to the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age, the petroglyphs depict hunting scenes and representations of wild and domestic animals. You'll also have the chance to see some well-preserved ancient burial sites before dinner and another night of camping.

Day 8: Return to Ulgy

Mongolian women cooking in front of their home

After breakfast, the trekking portion of your adventure comes to an end as you start the long drive back to Ulgy. Along the way, you'll stop to visit a local Kazakh family and see their golden eagles, which they keep for hunting purposes. Upon arrival in Ulgy, get checked into your hotel and head out to dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 9: Fly to Ulaanbaatar

Monks outside a monastery in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

This morning, catch a return flight to Ulaanbaatar and transfer to your hotel. 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 10: 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 with a center that stays 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. Here you'll embark on a guided excursion that takes you most of the way out to the gorge, partly on horseback and partly on foot.

Day 11: Ride a Camel in the Singing Sand Dunes

Ride a camel across the Singing Sand Dunes of the Gobi Desert
Ride a camel across the "singing sand dunes" of the Gobi Desert

You'll have a long but memorable day of travel 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 southern 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, take a camel ride through the shadows of the magnificent 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 12: See the Flaming Cliffs of the Gobi Desert

The "flaming cliffs" of Bayanzag

After breakfast, visit the beautiful "flaming cliffs" of the Gobi Desert. The 1920s explorer Roy Chapman Andrews spent many years exploring Mongolia in the hope of finding the remains of early humans. He did not succeed in this quest, but he did stumble across some of the most extensive fossilized remains ever discovered at Bayanzag. The cliffs are bright red, and they're referred to as the "flaming cliffs" for their appearance at sunrise and sunset. Afterward, you'll drive to Dalanzadgad in the evening and stay overnight in a hotel.

Day 13: Enjoy a City Tour in Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar Government Palace

Today you'll board a flight back to Ulaanbaatar. After settling in at your hotel in the city, set out 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 14: 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 this morning before heading to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

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