Discover two of Mongolia's most distinctive landscapes on this dynamic two-week itinerary. It all starts in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, where you'll have a chance to explore before heading to Ölgii to camp under the stars in a traditional ger (yurt). Trek to Malchin Peak, see the lush White River Valley, then visit a local Kazakh family and meet the eagles they train for hunting. Ride a camel through shifting sand dunes, climb the fiery cliffs of Bayanzag, and end back in Ulaanbaatar to tour the city's top sites.


  • Trek along incredible views of the mountain massif Tavan Bogd
  • See the milky-white glacier waters of Tsagaan Gol, or "White River"
  • Discover ancient petroglyphs at Khurgan and Khoton Lakes
  • Ride a camel across the singing sand dunes of Khongoryn Els

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ulaanbaatar, Explore Ulaanbaatar
Day 2 Fly to Ölgii, Transfer to Ger Camp Ölgii
Day 3 Day Trek to Tavan Bogd Peaks Base Camp Altai Tavan Bogd
Day 4 Hike Malchin Peak via Potanin Glacier Malchin Peak
Day 5 Trek the White River Valley Altai Tavan Bogd
Day 6 Trek to Har Salaa Altai Tavan Bogd
Day 7 See the Petroglyphs of Khurgan & Khoton Lakes Khurgan
Day 8 Return to Ölgii, Visit a Local Kazakh Family Ölgii
Day 9 Fly Back to Ulaanbaatar, Sightseeing & Shopping Ulaanbaatar
Day 10 Discover Yolyn Am Gorge Dalanzadgad
Day 11 Camel Ride Across the Singing Dunes of Khongoryn Els Khongor
Day 12 See the Flaming Cliffs of the Gobi Desert Dalanzadgad
Day 13 Fly Back to Ulaanbaatar, Guided City Tour Ulaanbaatar
Day 14 Depart Ulaanbaatar  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar, Explore

Explore Mongolia's capital city of Ulaanbaatar

Welcome to Mongolia! Your flight lands in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's largest city and capital. Originally a nomadic Buddhist center, it became a permanent site in the 18th century, serving as a trade hub between China and Russia until Outer Mongolia declared itself independent. In 1924, the city was renamed Ulaanbaatar, which means "Red Hero." Modern Ulaanbaatar is known for its interesting architecture, museums, and historic sites.

Upon arrival, a private driver will collect you from the airport and transport you to your hotel for check-in. Once you've had a chance to get settled, you're free to head out and explore all the city has to offer. A good place to start is the National Museum of Mongolia, which has exhibitions of artifacts from ancient times and traditional nomadic life.

From here, head to the Choijin Lama Temple Museum and see the collection of Buddhist art and artifacts, including intricate thangka paintings and ornate sculptures. Finish the day with a meal at a local restaurant, and if you're not too tired, consider seeing a performance at the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, a historic venue that hosts various productions.

Day 2: Fly to Ölgii, Transfer to Ger Camp

A traditional Mongolian ger (yurt) camp

This morning, you'll head to the airport for your flight to the city of Ölgii (Ulgi), located in western Mongolia and the capital of the Bayan-Ölgii Aimag province. After your three-hour flight, you'll be met by your private driver, and together with a support team of cooks, guides, and other drivers, you'll make a five-hour drive across the mountainous desert ranges. This region is home to the Kazakhs, a Turkic ethnic group who originate from Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Traditionally, Kazakhs are seminomadic, raising sheep, horses, and other livestock, and keeping and training eagles for hunting. 

Enjoy your scenic drive across the desert, then arrive at your campsite in a river valley, where you'll make camp and relax with a delicious dinner prepared by the camp cooks. Take in the expansive desert sky and the quiet, peaceful evening before heading to bed and resting up for tomorrow's adventures. 

Day 3: Day Trek to Tavan Bogd Peaks Base Camp

Hike to your base camp amid the impressive mountains of Tavan Bogd

The day starts early as you hike to your base camp at Tavan Bogd. This mountain massif sits near the Russian border, a gorgeous craggy range with its highest peaks reaching more than 14,000 feet (4,374 m) above sea level. Together with your guides, you'll make a gradual but continuous ascent across the high mountain terrain, trekking through marshes and crossing streams. Along the way, you'll see your camp's camel drivers pass by, traveling with fast-moving camels in order to arrive at camp earlier and set up. You'll dine by the campfire and sleep tonight at base camp.

Day 4: Hike Malchin Peak via Potanin Glacier

Trek along Potanin Glacier and climb nearby Malchin Peak

After a hearty breakfast prepared by the camp cooks, you'll head out with your guides to conquer Malchin Peak, one of the five peaks that make up the Tavan Bogd. The peak towers at an elevation of more than 13,000 feet (4,050 m) and is the only one of the five that can be climbed without special equipment. The distance to the top is approximately 3.5 miles (5.8 km) and takes about six hours. 

Start with an hour-long hike along the Potanin Glacier, which takes you to the base of the mountain. Named after explorer Grigory Potanin, the glacier stretches over 8 miles (14 km) through the Tavan Bogd and into the Altai Mountains. Along the way, you'll take in the incredible scenery of this remote area, passing by clear rivers fed by the glacier ice, wildflower-filled meadows, and mountain peaks. 

Upon your arrival at the base of the mountain, begin your ascent, following the instructions of your guides as you make your way up. At the top, you'll be rewarded with spectacular bird's-eye views of glaciers and nearby Russian territory, as the ridge overlaps with the country's border. Relax at the top for a bit, then head back down and make your way back to camp, where you'll enjoy a delicious dinner before retiring for the evening. 

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Day 5: Trek the White River Valley

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

Today's outdoor adventure takes you to Tsagaan Gol, or "White River Valley," nicknamed for the river's milky-white glacial waters. In the morning, you'll depart on foot with your guides for an easy hike that offers snow-dusted landscapes along a mostly downhill trail. The river, which stretches nearly 70 miles (111 km), flows into Khoton Lake, with stunning scenery and lush vegetation all around it. After your hike, warm up at camp with a hot drink by the fire before settling in for another night under the stars. 

Day 6: Trek to Har Salaa

Take in the expansive vistas of the White River Valley

Leave the lakes behind and enter the mountains, hiking along the White River and following 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, where you'll relax at your ger camp for the rest of the evening. 

Day 7: See the Petroglyphs of Khurgan & Khoton Lakes

See ancient Turkic memorial sites at Khurgan Lake

Khurgan and Khoton are spectacular high-altitude Alpine lakes surrounded by snowcapped mountains. After breaking camp, you'll begin the next leg of your hike, which takes you to their shores, with a stop to see what is 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 settling in at your Khoton Lake campsite. 

Day 8: Return to Ölgii, Visit a Local Kazakh Family

Visit a local Kazakh family and meet their trained eagles

Break camp this morning and begin the roughly 98-mile (158 km) drive back to Ölgii, stopping along the way to visit a local Kazakh family and see their golden eagles. For centuries, the Kazakh people have incorporated eagles into their hunting practices, raising and training them from a young age to aid in hunting animals such as rabbits, marmots, and foxes. Meet a local family, learn about the history and traditions of their culture, and see the golden eagles in action.

Upon your arrival in Ölgii, your driver will drop you off at your hotel for check-in, after which you're free to rest up or have dinner at a local restaurant. 

Day 9: Fly Back to Ulaanbaatar, Sightseeing & Shopping

Visit the towering Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex

This morning, catch a return flight to Ulaanbaatar, where you'll overnight. Once you've checked in at your hotel, the rest of your day is free. You can visit some of the local shops and markets for souvenir shopping or head an hour out of the city to see the magnificent Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex. Towering at 150 feet (46 m), this equestrian statue of Chinggis Khaan (Genghis Khan) is the largest of its kind in the world. You can walk to the head of the horse for panoramic views, and the attached museum has items from the Bronze Age, as well as an exhibit on the Great Khan period.

Day 10: Discover Yolyn Am Gorge

Drive through the Altai Mountain passes on our way to the Vulture's Mouth
Hike through Yolyn Am Gorge, also known as the Vulture's Mouth

It's time for more outdoor fun as you meet your guides and head to the Yol Valley and Yolyn Am Gorge. Located in the Southern Gobi, this picturesque valley is renowned for its dramatic rock formations, crystal-clear streams, and plentiful flora and fauna. The gorge, whose name translates to "Vulture's Mouth," is a narrow canyon with walls that tower at more than 650 feet (200 m) and a deep ravine that stays frozen through most of the year. 

Here, you'll embark on a guided trek that takes you out to the gorge, traveling both on foot and by horseback. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as ibex and argali sheep, and learn about the geological and historical significance of the park and its importance for biodiversity conservation. You'll also stop at the park museum, which has information on the region's wildlife, as well as dinosaur fossils and remains found in the area. After the hike, head to the town of Dalanzadgad and your next ger camp to overnight. 

Day 11: Camel Ride Across the Singing Dunes of Khongoryn Els

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

The next leg of your travels takes you south, across the desert steppes and Altai Mountain range to the legendary Khongoryn (Hongorïn) sand dunes. Stretching more than 120 miles (200 km) through the arid Gobi, the dunes are Mongolia's largest, with high peaks that offer incredible views against ever-shifting white sands, and they've even earned the nickname "singing dunes" due to the melodic sounds they make when the wind blows the sand. 

The drive takes you across the badlands, where you'll see lone gers and nomads on camelback, all of which seem mirage-like against the desert sky. The desert floor is also scattered with colorful rocks and minerals, adding to the otherworldly atmosphere. At the dunes, do a meet and greet with local camels, then mount up for a ride through the shadows of the shifting dunes and desert landscapes. After your ride, settle in at your ger camp and enjoy dinner under the desert skies.

Day 12: Bayanzag's Flaming Cliffs

Watch the sunset across the "flaming cliffs" of Bayanzag

You're off to the Bayanzag region, home to the famed Bayanzag Flaming Cliffs, a gorgeous area where at sunset, the surrounding cliffs appear to blaze like fire. Depart your camp at Khongor in the morning, making the three-hour drive across the desert landscapes. Upon arrival, have lunch at today's camp, then begin your exploration of the cliffs.

Hike around on foot to get an up-close look at these incredible rock formations, or you can also travel around the cliffs via car. Immerse yourself in this pristine wilderness, and you might see traces of ancient dinosaurs and actual dinosaur bones! Take in the awe-inspiring sunset over the fire-red cliffs, then make the drive back to Dalanzadgad, where you'll check in at your hotel and overnight.

Day 13: Fly Back to Ulaanbaatar, Guided City Tour

Learn about Mongolia's eighth living Buddha at the Winter Palace

Take a private transfer to the airport today for your final flight back to Ulaanbaatar. Once you've arrived and checked in at your hotel, make the most of your last full day here with a guided city tour. Visit the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, the palace where Mongolia's eighth living Buddha lived for two decades and a wonderful place to see traditional Buddhist paintings and sculptures.

You'll also have the opportunity to visit the newly opened Chinggis Khaan Museum and marvel at its collection of archaeological artifacts from the Mongolian Great Empire, led by the legendary Chinggis Khaan (Genghis Khan). Visit local shops for some last-minute souvenir shopping, then end the day with modern Mongolian cuisine at one of the city's many excellent restaurants.

Day 14: Depart Ulaanbaatar

Time to say goodbye to mystical Mongolia

Sadly, it's time to say goodbye to Mongolia. After breakfast, your private driver will transfer you to the airport and your flight home. Safe travels! 

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Map of Mongolia Mountain & Desert Adventure: Altai Tavan Bogd National Park & Gobi Desert - 14 Days
Map of Mongolia Mountain & Desert Adventure: Altai Tavan Bogd National Park & Gobi Desert - 14 Days