11 days including 5 days on horseback. Stocky Mongolian horses will carry you across wide open steppes, riversides and wooded mountains of the Orkhon river valley. Almost every nomadic nation dominating the Central Asia in different periods chose to build their capital here. Visit Karakorum – the capital of Genghis Khan and the first Buddhist monastery of Mongolia – the Erdene Zuu. Local herders will accompany and share with you their ways of life.
All accommodation (twin shared), all transfers including arrival & departure, indicated meals (B-breakfast, L-lunch, D-dinner), visits & national park fees, camping equipment, English speaking guide, expedition cook with an assistant, riding guides, horse hire
Travel insurance, meals not indicated, sleeping bags and pads, drinks, gratuities
Day 1: Arrival to Ulaanbaatar
Arrival in Ulaanbaatar (UB), the capital of Mongolia and transfer to a centrally located 4 star hotel. Afternoon guided city tour will introduce you to the highlights of the city: the Gandan Temple - city's main Buddhist center, the central city square with a grand statue of Genghis Khan and the Zaisan Memorial, an elevated hill on the city's edge providing a panoramic view of UB. Then choose to visit one or two museums from the following: Museum of National History introducing Mongolia's history from early humans to modern era, Natural History Museum with a unique collection of dinosaur fossils, Choijin Lama or State Oracle Residence-museum displaying best samples of Buddhist artwork and religious masks. The Winter palace of Bogd Khan showcasing rare statues of Buddhist deities and items of personal use of this last theocratic ruler of Mongolia is also worth considering. A show of traditional music, throat singing and contortion at 6PM will be followed by a welcome dinner. (hotel/D)
Day 2: Drive to the Khangai mountain range
Early this morning we drive (7 hours) west of Ulaanbaatar to the Orkhon river valley. The tarmac road runs across vast hilly steppe with many herds of horses, sheep and goats grazing alongside as well as an occasional ger of a nomadic herder and local people on their daily chores. You will catch a glimpse of a way of life which seemingly has not changed for centuries. The road links the capital Ulaanbaatar with central and western part of the vast country. Therefore it is always busy with a colorful scenes of local life: vehicle laden with all imaginable goods, from wool and cashmere to heavy mining machinery. In the late afternoon we erect our tented camp upon arrival to the eastern base of the Khangai mountain range. Here tonight we meet our local riding guides. (tent/B,L,D)
Day 3: Ride to Hujirt river valley, 30-35km
After breakfast the riding journey begins. A horse will be selected for you to suit your riding experience, height and weight. Riding Mongolian horses requires skills slightly different as opposed to those practiced in the West. Broken in at the age 2 or 3, they are used to a different set of commands and behavior on riders end. The local riding guides will accompany you to instruct and help. Today is a fairly easy day that allows good acclimatization. We ride up the valley and cross two easy passes and descent into the Hujirt river valley. The terrain is friendly: mostly lush meadows and open riversides. Each day the support team will move ahead to an agreed spot to serve lunch. Then the drivers and cook(s) will continue further to prepare your camp and dinner. (tent/B,L,D)
Day 4: Ride to White Church valley, 35km
We ride across wooded hills to reach the wide open valley of White Church river. The hills are covered with coniferous forest and patches of silver birch. Terrain of White Church valley allows you gallop or even a faster pace to those more experienced. Tented camp overnight. (tent/B,L,D)
Day 5: Ride to Orkhon river valley, 20km
Referred to as the cradle of nomadic culture it contains many ancient graves and historic sites within its boundaries. Your guide will give you an interesting account of the history of nomadic people who roamed these lands in different periods. The area is relatively densely populated by nomadic herders and allows plenty of encounters with them, each one an authentic cultural exchange. Dinner and overnight at the Orkhon river bank. (tent/B,L,D)
Day 6: Return trip to Tuvhun monastery, 28km
Built in 1653 and named as the "Land of Happy Solitude" the monastery served as a refuge of meditation to the first Mongolian Buddhist King - Zanabazar. He introduced Buddhism with a hope of uniting Mongols under banners of the Yellow Faith. The monastery is nestled near the summit of Shiveet Ulaan Mt. that allows vast views of a sea of forests beneath. There are several temples restored in recent years with the revival of Buddhism in Mongolia. A cave or rather a niche called "mother belly" is believed to purify your sins in the next rebirth if you crawl in and out of it. (tent/B,L,D)
Day 7: Ride to the Orkhon waterfall
The 24 meter high Ulaan Tsutgalan waterfall is formed by a small tributary dropping in to a fault in which the main body of Orkhon river flows. Upon visiting the waterfall we continue further and erect our tented camp beside the encampment where our local riding guides come from. (tent/B,L,D)
Day 8: Rest day
Enjoy this well deserved rest day. Today we visit one of our riding guides in his ger. It is a simple but reliable dwelling, perfect in extreme weather conditions and suitable for frequent moves from one place to another. Taste 'airag', the fermented horse milk the area is famous for and learn about local life and traditions. During the remaining time you are free to hike, fish or just observe the local life. This evening a delicacy of Mongolian cuisine - "khorkhog" or chunks of meat and vegetables pressure cooked with heated rocks will be served for dinner. (tent/B,L,D)
Day 9: Drive to Karakorum, visit to Erdene Zuu monastery
Our riding adventure is over. After breakfast we take a 4 hour car transfer to Karakorum - the medieval capital of Mongolian Empire. Today it is a small town but the former capital still lies in ruins since it was leveled by Chinese Min dynasty troops in 1380-ies. Present day Karakorum is recognized by the massive walled compound of the Erdene Zuu monastery. It was built in the 16th century by a Mongol King as part of his efforts to re-unite the nation under banners of "yellow" faith. The monastery suffered a tremendous destruction during anti-religion campaigns of 1930-ies with only a dozen of temples surviving to these days. We spend some time visiting the peaceful premises of the monastery as well as a few surviving artifacts of the old capital. Just outside of the walls you may as well walk the earthen hills that still contain remains of the imperial capital and try to restore it glorious times in your imagination. Tonight you will have an overnight in a traditional Mongolian felt tent known as "ger" at one of Karakorum's visitor camps. (ger/B,L,D)
Day 10: Return transfer to Ulaanbaatar
6 hour car transfer to Ulaanbaatar. Upon arrival before going to your hotel you may stop by local souvenir shops. Farewell dinner. (hotel/B,L,D)
Day 11: Departure
Transfer to airport for your return journey home. (B)
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