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The Leader in Small Groups on the Road Less Traveled Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

2016 Mongolia & the Gobi Desert

17 Days from only $5895 including international airfare

Ulaanbaatar • Gorkhi-Terelj National Park • Khovsgol Lake • Gobi Desert

Trip Experience

Watch as O.A.T. travelers meet a nomadic Mongolian family and trek across the Gobi Desert. 

Trip Itinerary

From the lively city of Ulaanbaator to the vast Gobi Desert, see where this trip will take you. 

Trip Leader

Dive into the unique culture of Mongolia with O.A.T. Trip Leader Amaraa Yura.

Produced by Lauren Knapp
Mongolia's Nomads: Herding Life

Share the freedom of the steppes with Mongolian men and women who live the herding lifestyle still common in this country.

Produced by Lauren Knapp
Mongolian Naadam: Archery

Meet a Mongolian woman who is a champion sharpshooter with bow and arrow, and learn about this enduring national tradition.

Produced by Lauren Knapp
Mongolian Naadam: Horse Racing

Cheer for 10-year jockey Maralmaa as she races her horse during the Naadam Festival, when Mongolians gather to compete.

Produced by Lauren Knapp
Mongolian Naadam: Shagai

Take a look a Shagai, a Mongolian game recently added to the traditional competitions at the country’s Naadam Festival.

Produced by Lauren Knapp
Mongolian Naadam: Wrestling

Learn about the passion Mongolians have for wrestling, which has centuries of history and symbolism in their country.

Courtesy Stanislas Giroux
Seat 22

Journey through Mongolia and its surrounding countries on the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway.

New Year, New Stories

Take a look at the films that inspire filmmaker David Conover—and preview the stories that await this year.

Climate Change & Travel

Travel with David Conover to see how people—from street protesters to Heads of State—respond to a changing climate and ocean.

Produced for CuriosityStream
Big Picture Earth Trailer

David Conover's newest television series takes us from Stonehenge to Petra, from Iceland to the Oracle at Delphi ... and beyond.

Sharing Travel Moments

Hear why visual storytelling helps to build a conversation about the world from filmmaker David Conover.

Solo Traveler Experience

Meet a solo traveler who shares her reasons for exploring the world with Overseas Adventure Travel.

The O.A.T. Experience

See what you can expect when you travel in your small group on the road less traveled with O.A.T.

Travel Protection Plan

Learn about the benefits of O.A.T.'s plan—and how you can protect your entire trip investment.

FROM
$5895
17 DAYS
$347/DAY
including international airfare
16 DAYS FROM $4595 Land Adventure Only
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This trip features long flights and/or multiple connections. Learn More >

 
 

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Itinerary Overview

Wild and untamed, Mongolia is a deeply spiritual land of nomadic cultures and dreamy landscapes of snowcapped mountains, crystalline lakes, and great swathes of grassy plains and ancient desert. Even today, Mongolia evokes a time when Genghis Khan and his warrior horsemen thundered across the steppe to establish the largest land empire the world has ever known. Discover Mongolia’s diverse land and people, from the bustle of Ulaanbaatar and alpine beauty of Khovsgol Lake to the vast expanse of the Gobi Desert. Meet with nomadic herding families, learn about ancient shamanistic beliefs, ride a camel in the desert dunes, and discover why Mongolia is known as the "Land of Blue Sky" during stays in authentic ger tents—just as modern-day nomads and their ancestors have done for centuries. Travel to Mongolia, a pristine land that time forgot, for an adventure you’ll treasure forever.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 8 nights from only $2195

    Before you travel to Mongolia, experience southwestern China’s Yunnan Province. With its deep spirituality and sweeping scenic vistas, many claim that this is the legendary land of Shangri-La. Witness a forest seemingly made of stone in Kunming, discover Bai culture in the walled city of Dali, and explore the splendor of Lijiang, home to one of the best-preserved Old Towns in China.

    View Extension Itinerary
Ulaanbaatar Gobi Desert Expand All
  • Since your overnight flight to Beijing, China, departs Los Angeles very early in the morning, travelers are advised to arrive at LAX the night before.

  • Explore the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts in Mongolia

    After our early morning arrival in Beijing, we fly to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, with those who chose to take the pre-trip extension to Mystical Yunnan: Kunming, Dali & Lijiang, arriving in time for lunch at a local restaurant. The afternoon is free to relax before we gather together this evening for a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant, where we can talk about our upcoming discoveries while enjoying traditional Mongolian cuisine.

  • Today we begin a city tour of the Mongolian capital, situated on the banks of the mighty Tuul River and surrounded by holy mountains. The first capital of the modern Mongolian empire was founded in 1639 as a nomadic encampment. This ancient "city" of gers (traditional felt tents; also known as yurts in Russian) was moved to the present site of Ulaanbaatar in 1778. Today, UB (as Ulaanbaatar is commonly referred to) is a bustling metropolis of roughly a million people, where modern buildings vie with Mongolian gers, and cars often share the road with nomads on horseback. Our exploration of UB begins with a visit to Gandan Monastery, Mongolia's largest and most important center of Buddhism, which was built in 1838. Next, we'll explore Sukhbaatar Square. A famous statue of Damdin Sukhbaatar, the “hero of the revolution,” presides over the square. It was on this spot that Sukhbaatar declared Mongolia's independence from China in 1921. Less than 70 years later, in 1989, Sukhbaatar Square was also the site of the first protests against Soviet oppression, and rallies and ceremonies are still held here today. Then view exhibits on Mongolian history and culture at the Museum of Natural History.

    After lunch at a local restaurant, we stop at the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, home to a collection of Mongolian art from prehistory through the early 20th century, along with works by Zanabazar, a 17th-century artist and Mongolia's first spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism. Zanabazar has been referred to as the "Michelangelo of Asia." Afterwards, we ascend the 200 steps to the top of Zaisan Hill to enjoy panoramic views of the city and the four sacred mountains that surround it—Bayanzurkh, Chingeltei, Khairkhan, and Bogd Khaan.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, we’ll delve deeper into Mongolia’s spirituality by visiting a shaman in his home and participating in a shamanistic ritual. Our visit will reveal how many modern-day nomadic practices—including the blue flags and mounds of sacred stones called ovoos—can be traced to shamanistic beliefs that have been shaping Mongolian culture since the days of Genghis Khan.

    Later, we'll enjoy traditional Mongolian cuisine during a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local Kazakh family, giving us the chance to glimpse into the daily lives of our gracious hosts. Then we'll return to our ger camp, where we'll have some leisure time before a traditional hot-stone barbeque.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    This morning we’ll travel east into the Mongolian countryside. Our destination is Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, a nature reserve set in a deep valley between forested hillsides, granite boulders, and mountain streams. Nomads roam the surrounding hills, which are home to some 250 different bird species, rare brown bears, and a wealth of scenic hiking trails. After a short drive—in which we’ll pass by the park’s famous Turtle Rock—we’ll enjoy a hike to Aryabal, a scenic meditation temple.

    Then, we’ll return to our camp for lunch before meeting a local nomadic family. With the family’s help, we’ll milk their cows and learn how to turn the milk into cheese. Tonight, we’ll have dinner together at our ger camp.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    Today begins with a visit to a rather remarkable monument. The people of Mongolia decided to honor Genghis Khan in a big way—by erecting a statue of him astride his horse that stands 131 feet high atop a 33-foot-high coliseum. Built at the site where legend has it Genghis Khan found a golden whip that inspired his future conquests, it is said to be the world’s largest equestrian statue.

    After returning to our camp for lunch, we’ll visit a nomadic horse-breeding family to better our understanding of the nomadic lifestyle. This will be a rare opportunity to experience modern Mongolian life firsthand. Nomads learn to ride horses as soon as they can walk, and spend much of their lives in search of stray animals—for there are almost no fences in the entire country. After a demonstration of horse-catching techniques, we’ll return to our camp for a lesson on how to build a traditional Mongolian ger. We’ll have dinner together at our camp this evening.

  • Today we'll return to Nalaikh to visit the Sain Nomun Monastery, where local monks will be waiting to show us how to practice meditation. 

    Next, we'll have lunch together at a local restaurant in Ulaanbaatar before visiting Naran Tuul, sometimes called the Black Market. In browsing its labyrinth of stalls, you'll find clothing, bags, leather boots, Mongolian antiques, saddles, a variety of local foods, and much more. The market will also provide you with a unique opportunity to mingle with locals and experience life in the bustling capital.

    After exploring Naran Tuul, we'll head to our hotel with enough time for dinner on your own in Ulaanbaatar.

  • Explore the western shore of Lake Khovsgol in Mongolia

    After breakfast, we visit a workshop that produces traditional morin khuur (horse head fiddles), registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage of Art and Cultural Objects list. Mimicking the shape of the all-important horse, this bowed instrument features a long neck with a carved horse head at its end and two horse-hair strings. At the workshop, we’ll learn how the ritual of morin khuur playing has become intertwined with Mongolia’s history and culture.

    Then we head to the airport for a flight to Moron, the administrative center of northern Mongolia’s Khovsgol Province. After our late afternoon arrival in Moron, we’ll have lunch at a local restaurant and continue with an overland journey to our ger camp along Khovsgol Lake.

    One of Mongolia’s most picturesque destinations, Khovsgol is an idyllic landscape of thick evergreen forests, flowering meadows with grazing yaks, rugged mountains, and crystal-clear streams and lakes. Khovsgol Lake is a pristine alpine lake some 100 miles long, situated close to the Siberian border. The surrounding region is home to camels of the Gobi and reindeer of the taiga (coniferous forest), as well as several Mongolian ethnic groups, including Buriat, Khalk, Darhat, and the Tsaatan.

    Tonight, we’ll have dinner together at our camp.

  • Encounter reindeer and yak herding families on the Mongolian steppe

    After breakfast, we begin the day with a morning excursion out onto Khovsgol Lake, whose crystal-clear waters are home to such species as Siberian grayling, pike, perch, salmon, and sturgeon. After our boat ride, we enjoy a leisurely horseback ride along the shores of the scenic lake. The rest of the day is at leisure, with lunch at the camp's restaurant. You may wish to take advantage of this time by embarking on some elective hiking through this scenic region. This evening we'll gather together and dine under the Mongolian stars with an outdoor dinner and bonfire by the shores of the lake.

  • After breakfast, we’ll experience A Day in Life of modern Mongolia, first stopping to meet with members of a yak-herding family on the Mongolian steppe. Our meeting will reveal the austere lifestyle of these nomadic families, who depend on the long-haired bovine for virtually all of their core needs: milk, food, shelter, and clothing.

    Next we explore the nearby town of Khatgal to learn more about the daily lives of the people in this remote area. Here, we’ll visit a local school which Grand Circle Foundation is proud to support. After a discussion hosted by one of the school’s teachers, we will walk to a local bakery and meet with a local women’s sewing group.

    Back at our camp, we’ll have lunch together, and enjoy an afternoon at leisure before dinner.

  • After breakfast and some time at leisure, we drive back to Moron and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Then we head to the airport for a flight to Ulaanbaatar, arriving in late afternoon. Dinner is on our own this evening.

  • After a morning at leisure, we leave Ulaanbaatar and fly to the Gobi Desert. Covering much of southern Mongolia, the Gobi Desert is a breathtaking region of semi-arid desert terrain that is dazzling in its variety—from rocky outcrops to barren stretches of seemingly endless, rolling gravel plains. It is the world’s coldest and northernmost desert, as well as a great repository of dinosaur remains. Caravan routes have been crossing the Gobi since ancient times. When Marco Polo, seeking the fabled capital of the Kublai Khan, encountered this vast and unforgiving landscape in the 1270s, he proclaimed, “It consists entirely of mountains and sands and valleys. There is nothing at all to eat.” But nomads—and wildlife—do survive here (and you will certainly be well-fed as we venture into this mysterious, otherworldly region). Once we land, we enjoy an included lunch before continuing our drive through the stunning Gobi landscape that rolls out to the horizon. You might keep your eyes peeled for the wildlife that makes its home in the great desert, from golden eagles and saker falcons to Argali mountain sheep, goitered gazelle, and a variety of reptiles. This area is also the last refuge of wild two-humped Bactrian camels and home to the rare snow leopard and desert-dwelling Gobi bear.

    We’ll have dinner in our desert camp.

  • Today we explore Yol Valley (also known as Vulture Valley). We’ll travel across the Gobi Desert to the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains and enter this deep gorge in a Mongolian national park. We’ll hike here amid impressive mountain scenery and learn about this area’s endemic plants and local wildlife, including the valley’s namesake, the lammergeier vulture (yol in Mongolian). One of the valley’s most striking sights is glacial ice that extends six miles down the gorge in the winter, some of which often lingers through September or even year-round. After enjoying a boxed lunch, we return to our desert camp to enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. Dinner is included at our ger lodgings.

  • Bayanzag Flaming Cliffs, Gobi Desert, Mongolia

    We begin the day with a visit to an area of the Gobi Desert known as Bayanzag, but more commonly referred to as the Flaming Cliffs. The region is famous as the location of the first nest of dinosaur eggs and other fossils found here by the American paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews in the 1920s—and it was he who nicknamed the site "Flaming Cliffs" for the surreal, glowing orange color of the surrounding rocks and cliffs. We’ll enjoy a bit of light trekking among Flaming Cliffs before driving to another striking feature of the Gobi Desert, Moltsog Els.

    While only about 5% of the Gobi Desert is sand, we explore one of the few regions of the Gobi covered in dunes at Moltsog Els. Then, after a box lunch in the desert, we visit with a nomadic family engaged in the breeding of Bactrian camels. After learning about Gobi nomads and their camels, you will get to hop aboard one of the twin-humped beasts for a ride into the sweeping desert sands of the mysterious Gobi Desert.

    Back at our camp, you will have time to relax before an included dinner.

  • Statue of Damdin Sukhbaatar in front of the Parliament building, Suhbaatar square, Ulan Bator, Mongolia

    After breakfast, we drive to Dalanzadgad, where we make our final flight to Ulaanbaatar. We have some free time at our hotel in UB before we gather together for a performance of traditional Mongolian entertainment and to celebrate our adventure at a Farewell Dinner.

  • Depart for the airport for a flight to Beijing, where you'll enjoy an overnight stay. Or, if you're taking Siberian Odyssey: Lake Baikal & Irkutsk, depart for your flight to Irkutsk and begin Day 1 of your post-trip extension.

    • Meals included:

    Transfer to the airport for your return flight home.

  • POST-TRIP EXTENSION:
    Siberian Odyssey: Lake Baikal & Irkutsk

    6 nights from only $3195

    Explore the remote beauty of southern Siberia, an atmospheric land of ancient and modern Siberian cultures, and nature at its most unspoiled. Visit the Siberian cities of Irkutsk and Listvyanka, and spend time at a former Cossack settlement along the shores of majestic Lake Baikal, the largest and most ancient body of fresh water on Earth.

    View Extension Itinerary

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