Travel overland from Ulaanbaatar across the fascinating plains of Mongolia.
Discover the magic of Mongolia on an overland tour through this remote country. Beginning in Ulaanbaatar, travel to Mongolia’s colourful towns, ancient ruins and stunning national parks. Learn about the conquests of Genghis Khan, bathe in effervescent hot springs and spot bountiful wildlife as you traverse this epic country’s great plains. Tucked away between Russia and China, Mongolia remains one of the world’s enigmas, a true Intrepid destination with a fascinating mix of cultures and landscapes. See ancient Karakorum, quirky Ulaanbaatar and the legendary grasslands on an unforgettable overland journey through Mongolia.
Day 1: Ulaanbaatar
Border information: If you are joining in Ulaanbaatar, you will most likely enter Mongolia at Ulaanbaatar Chinggis Khaan International Airport (IATA code: ULN).
If you arrive early, the day will be free to explore the Mongolian capital, before a group meeting in the evening.
Day 2: Ulaanbaatar
This morning we head out on a guided tour to see some of Ulaanbaatar’s best and most treasured sights, including the Gandan Monastery and the National Museum. This afternoon we will spend a few hours exploring the Black Market. This huge market contains every single item a Mongolian may need, so a trip here will certainly give visitors a fascinating insight into people’s lives, whether they are nomads or urban apartment dwellers.
Day 3: Ögii Lake
Today we drive out of the city and into the vast plains of Mongolia. We hope to arrive at Khar Bukh Balgas ruins in the early afternoon. Khar Bukh Balgas was built during the Kitan period in about 1000CE, and was part of a chain of fortresses that were used to govern and control the northern region and borders of the Kitan state. Upon arrival at the site, we will explore the ruins and learn about the various kingdoms that dominated Mongolia during that era.
After our visit to the ruins we will drive to Ögii Lake where many nomadic families spend their summer. The lake is famed for it’s great bird watching opportunities. In Ögii Lake we will stay in a local nomadic ger-tent camp set up for guests. These are large gers, each usually containing 2 or 4 beds.
Day 4: Kharkhorin
Today we have an early start as we head to Mongolia’s earliest capital, Kharkhorin (otherwise known as Karakoram). Our first stop on the way to Kharkhorin will be at the Kultigen Monument. This massive stone tomb was built in honour of a Turkic prince and warrior killed in a nearby battle. We then continue on a fairly short drive to Kharkhorin. Kharkhorin was famed throughout Asia at the capital of the Mongol Empire. We will visit the ruins of the old city, the Erdene Zuu monastery, and other historical monuments in the area. In Kharkhorin we will stay in a ger camp.
Days 5-6: Orkhon Valley
For one of the best examples of Mongolia’s legendary natural beauty, a journey through the Orkhon Valley is unbeatable. The stunning valleys, volcanic rocks, waterfalls, forests, streams, wild yaks, and nomadic ger tents dotted around the landscape make for an unbelievably scenic trip. The valley is also home to the Tuvkhon Monastery – one of Mongolia’s oldest Buddhist monasteries, Tuvkhon was first established in 1648 CE by the 14-year-old Zanabazar, the first spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia on his return from his studies in Tibet.
Days 7-8: Tsenkher
Today our trip heads north, crossing the Khangai Nuruu Mountains through a series of passes until we reach an area that Mongolians call ‘The Paradise of the Horse Herders’ due to its lush grasses and open valleys.
We drive to the Tsenkher hot springs, where water flows out of the ground at 82°C, and where we can enjoy a relaxing soak. The following day we will take a short, easy walk to meet one of the many nomadic families that spend their summers in the region. The afternoon is free to explore the valley and surrounding hills either by foot or by horseback. In Tsenkher we will stay at a ger camp.
Day 9: Tsetserleg, Tamir River
This morning we drive to Tsetserleg, the provincial capital, where we will make a short visit to the local market. If time permits, we will also visit the provincial museum. We will then continue our journey north past the Tamir river, and will wild camp tonight.
Day 10: Chuulut Canyon
Today we continue north past Taikhar Chuluu (a massive rock which is connected to local mythology) and the Chluulut Canyon to arrive at our ger camp near the Khorgo volcano. In Chuulut Canyon we will stay at a nearby ger camp.
Day 11: Khorgo
This morning we will take a hike to the top of the Khorgo Volcano and take in the incredible views over its perfect crater. From the top of the volcano we continue our hike though fields studded with pine trees, stopping off en route at the Yellow Dog Cave, an interesting volcanic phenomenon. We will then return to the truck and continue our journey north. We will aim wild camp tonight in the remote plains north of Khorgo.
Days 12-13: Zuun Lake, Mörön
Over the next few days we continue driving north on one of Mongolia’s most beautiful routes, crossing high mountain passes, vast grasslands, and small creeks. We hope to arrive at Mörön, the provincial capital, the following afternoon. We will visit the local market, Danzadarjaa Monastery and the local museum. If we don’t have time on this section of the trip, then we can visit the town after coming back from Khövsgöl Lake. We will aim to wild camp near Zuun Lake and near the town of Mörön.
Days 14-15: Khövsgöl Lake
This morning we will drive out to an ancient burial site featuring Mongolia’s mysterious deer stones, these are memorial stones representing important leaders and warriors, carved with deer motifs. After visiting the site, we continue our trip northward to one of the world’s biggest fresh water sources, the stunning Khövsgöl Lake. One of the most interesting ethnic groups living near the lake is the Tsaatan, also known as ‘The Reindeer People’. A small tribe of Tsaatan consisting of about 40 families lives with its herds of reindeer in the forests around the lake. These graceful animals provide the tribe with all its basic needs – milk, meat and transportation. As there are very few Tsaatan left and this is a mobile population, we may meet them but there are no guarantees – however, the scenery of the area is well worth the exploration. The following day we will take a hike around the forests and meadows near the lake. We will hike through thick pine forests carpeted with flowers and explore the setting of Mongolia’s ‘Blue Pearl’.In Khövsgöl Lake we will stay at a ger camp.
Days 16-18: Selenge River, Bulgan
We will spend the next 3 days crossing central-northern Mongolia on our way back towards the capital of Ulaanbaatar. The long road offers diversified landscapes, from vast, open steppes to beautiful sand dunes. We will aim to wildcamp in the plains east of Mörön on the first day of this journey, by the Selenge River on the next day, and on the outskirts of the town of Bulgan on the day after that.
Day 19: Amarbayasgalant Monastery
This morning we will try to visit the Amarbayasgalant Monastery. Built between 1727 and 1736 by the Manchu Emperor Enkh Amgalan, Amarbayasgalant is among the largest monasteries in Mongolia to have survived the purges of the 1930s. With about 60 monks living and studying here, the monastery functions today as one of Mongolia’s central religious institutions, and consists of 29 different temples, all built in the classic Tibetan style. Tonight we will wild camp near the monastery.
Day 20: Ulaanbaatar
Today we have a full day drive from northern Mongolia back to the city of Ulaanbaatar. This evening is free to relax and explore, and to have a wellearned final meal and drinks in one of the city’s many restaurants! In Ulaanbaatar we will stay in our comfortable joining hotel.
Day 21: Ulaanbaatar
Border information: If you are leaving in Ulaanbaatar, you will most likely exit Mongolia at Ulaanbaatar Chinggis Khaan International Airport (IATA code: ULN). Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Ulaanbaatar.
Images courtesy of IntrepidGroup