Most people imagine Mongolia as a land of wide open steppes swaying with lush grass. It is true to some extent for the country has a much wider a variety of landscapes to explore. This is a must journey for those visiting Mongolia. Travel through steppes of central Mongolia and you will cross the Khangai mountain range to the Khuvsgul lake. En route visit the site of the capital of the Great Mongolian Empire created by legendary Genghis Khan in 13th century.
There now is the largest Buddhist monastery of Mongolia built in 16th century. It has partially survived Communist anti-religion destructions. Khangai mountain range has always given shelter and water to nomads and their animals. Enjoying an abundance of rainfall the area is rich in forest and vegetation. Wildlife here is diverse including: deer, bear, boar and marten.
The lake Khuvsgul is surrounded by 3000m peaks it holds 2 percent of worlds’ fresh water reserves. Reaching 267m in depth it is locally known as “The Mother Sea” or “The Blue Pearl” for its crystal clear waters. There live the fascinating Tsaatan whose lives revolve around the domesticated reindeer. This easy trip offers plenty of pleasure hikes and interesting cultural encounters.
All accommodation (twin shared), internal transportation, the internal flight, arrival & departure transfers, meals as indicated (B-breakfast, L-lunch, D-dinner), sightseeing & environmental fees, activity fees - kayaking, horseback riding etc.
Travel insurance, departure taxes, items of personal nature, excess luggage fees on domestic flight, meals not indicated, gratuities.
Day 1: Arrival in Ulaanbaatar (UB), guided city sightseeing
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 (6 hours) to the granite rocks of Khogno Khan Mt.
After early breakfast we climb into our jeeps and head west of Ulaanbaatar. We mostly drive on a tarmac road which runs through wide open steppe with rolling hills in the background. It is one of the main transport veins in the country, therefore busy with cars and trucks loaded with wool, cashmere, meat and other produce to be sold in Ulaanbaatar. Hundreds of horses, cows, sheep and goats graze alongside. Soon there appear some stretches of sand dunes like a silken scarf laid across vast green steppes. In the early afternoon we arrive to our camp located amidst sand dunes and mountains dotted with granite rocks. (ger/B,L,D)
Day 3: Travel to Karakorum, the medieval Mongol capital site
After breakfast take a 2 hour 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. After lunch continue driving. En-route make a short stop by the ruins of Khar-Balgas, the capital of the Uyghur empire founded in 715 AD by people from modern Xinjian province of PRC. The huge walled compound of unbaked clay is now covered in earth and grass vaguely reminding of the former glory of Uyghurs. One more hour of driving and arrive in Tsenker valley with over a dozen medicinal hot springs that emerge from the depth of the earth - each with its own mineral content. They proved to be an effective cure for a number of illnesses. On arrival take a bath or shower in the hot spring water. You may as well take a relaxing body massage at a small additional fee. (ger/B,L,D)
Day 4: Travel to Terkhiin Tsagaan lake
Longest travel day to the province of Arkhangai, a spectacular region of wooded dome shaped mountains, rugged terrain and lakes. Landscape is dotted with white gers of nomads. Thousands of yaks, sheep and horses graze alongside the road. Your destination is the Terkhiin Tsagaan lake, created by an earthquake millions of years ago and surrounded by faults, canyons and extinct volcanoes. Here we settle in a local ger camp for 2 nights. (ger/B,L,D)
Day 5: Leisure at Terkhiin Tsagaan lake
The area is perfect for a number of outdoor activities: hiking, horseback riding, swimming and birdwatching. Accompanied by local riding guides you may take a short ride to Khorgo crater. The last few hundred meters are to be climbed on foot. From the brim of the crater there opens a splendid view over the lake and the surrounding area. Alternatively, you may just laze by the shore or hike on your own. Boating and fishing options are also available. (ger/B,L,D)
Day 6: Descend the northern slope of Khangai range
Further north our route lies through the wooded slopes of Khangai Mountain range. We cross innumerable streams and springs before arriving at Zuun Lake where we stay for overnight. (B,L,D)
Day 7: Khuvsgul Lake
Another day of driving finally brings us to the Khuvsgul lake, the right place to enjoy the deserved rest after days of driving. The lake is very special to Mongolians. Fed by waters of an auspicious 99 rivers it gives source to only one river which eventually links it with its “older sister”, the lake Baikal in Russia. On arrival we will relax in a well facilitated cozy camp. You will sleep in a Mongolian yurt. (B,L,D)
Day 8: Leisure at Khuvsgul Lake
Today you may do various activities such as swimming, hiking, horseback riding or kayaking. You may as well just laze around by the vast blue expanse of the lake. (B,L,D)
Day 9: Half day drive to local airstrip
After a relaxed morning we drive to a tour camp near the provincial airstrip, Murun. (B,L,D)
Day 10: Return flight to Ulaanbataar
After breakfast we will take one and half hour flight to Ulaanbaatar. The remainder of the day is at leisure to explore this vibrant city, renowned as a city of contrasts. We will meet for a dinner in one of local multinational restaurants. (B,D)
Day 11: Leisure day in Ulaanbaatar
A spare day for shopping and self-exploration around the city. You may refer to recommendations of our team in order to make most out of it. (B)
Day 12: Departure
Transfer to airport for your return flight home. (B)
SUZANNE and BEAT
13 day overland driving tour. The tour offers an exploration of what Mongolians call "Khangai", the land of forested mountains, clear lakes and streams. It is populated by nomadic herders whose way of life has changed little since many centuries. The...
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