ROAD TO ALTAI

 

March 16th – March 27th

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Expedition Overview

Overland Winter Journey across Western Mongolia

Imagine a world that is wild, untouched and so remote that it is one of the least inhabited areas of the least inhabited countries on earth. A world where the shadows of clouds dance with shards of light from the sun across vast, treeless expanses. This is Western Mongolia! Surrounded by the vast desolate landscape of the Altai Mountains. From the snow-covered valleys where horses graze along the frozen river, the rocky, gold-tinted terrain that stretches endlessly toward the jagged ridges in the distance that gets constant dusting of snow. A world that is home to a group of people that have developed a unique relationship with one of the world’s most revered birds of prey, the Golden Eagle. This is the world of the Kazakh Eagle Hunters, who not only survive out in this amazing landscape, but who have also developed a relationship with eagles to hunt with them for prey. Hunting only takes place in the winter months, when the vast landscapes are blanketed in snow. That’s what you will experience with our unique motoring expedition that will take you to this the truly remote Mongolian territory. Ideal for those who thrive on exploratory journeys in challenging conditions that are well off the beaten path.

What to Expect

Motor Across Challenging Routes That Only Our Legendary 4×4s Can Travel.

Expedition Details

Country Mongolia
Duration 12 days
Expedition Vehicle Toyota Land Cruiser 100 series
Group Size 12 Pax
Terrain Paved Roads, Dirt Tracks, Frozen Desert & Lakes
Weather Max -7°C and Min -20°C
Drive 2100 kms
Ideal for : Active Adventure Seekers

What You'll See ...

You Will See Some of the Most Breathtaking Views During Our Western Mongolia Expedition.

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Expedition Itinerary

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DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT ULAANBAATAR

Accommodation: Novotel Hotel or Similar

Modern day Ulaanbaatar, or UB as it is affectionately known, with its grey facades and outlying ‘suburbs’ of gers (yurts) housing recent migrants, definitely has a very frontier-town feel and it offers a stark contrast to the wild, empty, remote beauty of most of Mongolia. Once you arrive in Ulaanbaatar, you will be received at the airport by our team and then transferred to Novotel Hotel. You are requested to arrive in UB by noon so that you can rest for a while and then get ready for the expedition briefing in the evening followed by a very special expedition welcome dinner. A wonderful opportunity to meet all the fellow expedition members before the start of the epic adventure.

PS: On this journey, you will be spending the last day in Ulaanbaatar, you don’t need to come in early to explore the city, unless you want to acclimate to the new time zone and rest after the long flight.

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DAY 2: Hustain Nuruu National Park and Kharkhorin

Accommodation: Ikhorin Hotel

Distance: 390 km | Drive Time: 6 hours | Terrain: Tarmac and some dirt-road

In the morning after breakfast, we start our epic overland adventure heading west. First, we will visit the Hustain Nuruu National Park, considered as home to the wild and pretty Przewalski’s Horse or called Takhi by the Mongolians, a species that has been brought back from the edge of extinction. This is the only truly wild species of horse in the world. We will explore the national park and witness the last remaining wild horses that are kept in wild habitat. And then we continue to drive further west towards Kharkhorin town, which is where we will be staying for the night. Surrounded by the typical Mongolian countryside filled with wide-open plains, deserts, waterfalls – and home to interesting animals and birds.

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DAY 3: Erdene-Zuu Monastery and Tsetserleg

Accommodation: Camping in the forest

Distance: 150 km | Drive Time: 4 hours | Terrain: Tarmac and dirt-road

Today we will explore Karakorum (also called Kharkhorin), site of the 13th century capital of the Mongolian Empire created by Chinggis Khan. At first glance it might seem like a small, nondescript Soviet-built town at first glance, but if you dig a little deeper, you will discover why this area is so important and really quite fascinating in terms of Mongolian history and culture.

First, we will visit the famous Erdene-Zuu Monastery that consists of three temple complexes covering a large area and art historians considers this masterpiece to be the prime example of classic Mongolian and Tibetan art. Founded in 1586 by Altai Khaan, Erdene Zuu (Hundred Treasures) was the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. From here, we continue to visit the active temple of Bat Erdene-Zuu, once home to nearly thousands of Buddhist monks. We will receive blessings from the monks, more like a ritual before we go deeper into the Wild-Wild-Western-Mongolia. For those interested in knowing more about the history, you can also visit the famous archeological museum. Then we will have our lunch and continue to drive further west towards Tsetserleg town – a mountainous region with beautiful valleys, forests, and volcanic past. We will be camping in a forested area of Gurvan Davaa Pass which is located slightly away from this town.

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DAY 4: Zavkhan province and Tosontsengel town

Accommodation: Camping alongside Ider river

Distance: 360 km | Drive Time: 6 hours | Terrain: Mostly Tarmac and some dirt-road

We continue our journey heading westwards towards the Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake. The lake, known as the Great White Lake, lies within the Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National park, is at an elevation of 2060m (AMSL). Along this journey, you will also see some of the volcanic regions of Mongolia. We will visit the Khorgo volcano, one of the 10 volcanoes in the national park, that became extinct about 8000 years ago. The crater is 200m in diameter and 70-80 m deep and one side of it is covered by larch tree forest. 

 

After a short trek along the volcanic mountain, we will continue driving along the south shore of the lake of then onto a gradual mountain pass of Solongot. This pass is located on the border of Arkhangai and Zavkhan provinces and is about 2600 metres high and is considered one of the greatest mountain passes of Mongolia. Nestled in the Tarvagatain mountain range, the road to the summit is totally unpaved. It’s a long and challenging road to the summit driving through rugged landscapes. The road is full of steep and sudden turns and countless bumps of varying sizes and impacts. The drive offers dramatic views of Mongolia’s plateau. The roads will be slippery and it can get as challenging as driving on dirt roads. The drive will test skills and resilience of both drivers and the vehicles. After a while, we arrive in a town called Tosontsengel where we will be spending the night in tents next to Ider river. The view from here is truly immersive and offers a true nomadic camping experience.

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DAY 5: Khyargas Lake and Ulaangom

Accommodation: Hotel

Distance: 550 km | Drive Time: 9-10 hours | Terrain: Mostly dirt-road + Frozen Lakes

Today will be one of the longest driving days of the expedition. One of the interesting places we will see enroute is the mineral lake formed by tectonic movements called Telmen, located between Numrug and Telmen soums. Most Mongolian lakes and water bodies are sacred and fishing is more or less taboo. Nobody lives direct along the lake shores and most of the lakes are therefor rather isolated. From here we drive further to visit a local nomadic family and have lunch with them. These people continue to preserve the nomadic way of life, connecting with the nature and wildlife around them. 

Later in the afternoon, we continue our drive towards the shores of Khyargas lake, one of the largest lakes of western Mongolia. It is a saltwater lake amidst semi-desert in the Great Lakes Depression. The region around Lake Khyargas is one of the climatic most extreme regions world-wide. The difference in temperature between the deepest temperature in winter and the highest temperature in summer is extreme in this geographical depression. We would have camped alongside the lake. But considering the fact that we have camped for the past 2 days, we decided to push further towards Ulaangom where we will be staying in a proper hotel for the day with private utilities, hot shower and toilets. It is a bit tiring, but your efforts would be rewarding with the comforts of warm and cozy hotel room for the night.

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DAY 6: Ulgi town

Accommodation: Brick Houses

Distance: 300 km | Drive Time: 6 hours | Terrain: Mostly dirt-road

The day we will be heading towards the westernmost region of Mongolia, considered as the gateway into the Mongol Altai. A land of high mountains crystal lakes and rugged glaciers. Its raw, rugged and remote, and for centuries been isolated – both geographically and culturally – from the Mongolian heartland. With its glacier-wrapped mountains, shimmering salt lakes and hardy culture of nomads, falconry and horsemanship, western Mongolia is a timeless slice of Central Asia. Mostly of the inhabitants are the Kazakh people who have a slightly different culture than their Mongol cousins, herding yaks and goats while being famed for training and hunting with eagles. We will be staying in a town called Ulgii. Due to its remote location, the town grew at a much slower pace than many other cities in Mongolia. We will drive further west and staying near the Khatuu River in traditional mud and brick houses built by the Kazakh people. Located deep in the Altai Mountains, a place where Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia meet, this place is the home to the most fascinating and diverse ethnic groups – Kazakhs with their thriving, age old eagle hunting tradition, descendants of various Oirat Mongol tribes, and shamanist Tuvans. We will be hosted by these hardy herders in these rather unknown parts of Mongolia.

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DAY 7: Horse riding with Eagle Hunters

Accommodation: Brick Houses

Distance: NA | Drive Time: NA | Terrain: NA

This day of the expedition was planned specially to coincide with the Kazakh new year called Nauryz, the day of the spring equinox. This way you not only get learn about the Kazakh tradition and culture but also see them in their traditional clothing, greeting each other as they believe the more generous the celebration is, the happier the year would be. The festival is not just unique to Mongolia’s Kazakh community but for all the Kazakh people across the world. Typically, Kazakh families live together in a single yurt, which holds items that are important for their nomadic lifestyles including milk churns, meat mincers, bed frames and family portraits. Beds and clothing are often made of skins of yaks or wolves. Horses are central to the nomadic Kazakh way of life and while we are living with families we may be invited into a warm and beautifully decorated family yurt to drink some fermented mare’s milk which is a staple part of the Kazakh diet.

You will also witness and get mesmerized by their ancient custom of hunting with eagles on horseback, a tradition that has been practiced for thousands of years. You will gain an exclusive view of this exhilarating sport and get enthralled by the skills of the hunters and the speed of their majestic golden eagles. Unlike the eagle hunters during the summer which are more of a touristy performance, during winter you will get to experience a more authentic hunting. After an inspiring demonstration, adorn some traditional furs and mount your horses, as you set out with the Kazakh to prepare you for your very own eagle hunt.

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DAY 8: Khovd town – Jargalant Khairkhan Mountain – Omno Uliastai Valley

Accommodation: Exclusively created Ger Camps

Distance: 250 kms | Drive Time: 4 Hours | Terrain: Dirt Roads

After breakfast we will begin our drive towards one of the larger cities in Western Mongolia – Khovd. The tree-lined streets give the town a more pleasant feel than other Mongolian towns. There isn’t much to see in this city except a nice enough place to stop and stock up on supplies. It’s much closer to the borders of China. Instead of staying in the commercial town, we would head towards the Jargalant Khairkhan Mountain where we would be staying in private camps located in Omno Uliastai Valley. It’s also the home to the elusive snow leopard. Jargalant means “Happy” in Mongolian language and the sacred mountain is one of the main shelter places in the winter and a water source for the local nomads. Today will be also your first camping experience in traditional Mongolian Ger Camps.

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DAY 9: Snow Leopard Trek

Accommodation: Exclusively created Ger Camps

Distance: NA | Drive Time: NA | Terrain: NA

You wake up for the beautiful sunrise at the country side where you can see local people milk their Goats, Sheep’s and Yaks. If you are interested, you could participate in the activity, get fresh milk and prepare coffee or tea with breakfast. After breakfast we visit a sacred tree located near the camp, that is considered to protect the mountains. The local people offer prayers to this tree every day morning. We will do a small prayer before you start your hike in search for the elusive snow leopards at the foothills of the Altai Mountains.

We closely work with WWF rangers who will accompany us to go in search of this mysterious cat. WWF has setup special motion sensors to track and study the movement of the elusive snow leopards. You will follow the tracks of any territorial markings and pawprints you may discover. Apart from the snow leopards, the area is also home to argali sheep, Siberian Ibex, saiga antelope, grey wolf and corsac fox. Before it gets dark, we plan to hike back to our campsite and spend a wonderful evening around the campfire.

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DAY 10: KHAR US LAKE

Accommodation: Exclusively created Ger Camps

Distance: 150 kms | Drive Time: 5 Hrs | Terrain: Dirt + Frozen Lakes

Jargalant Khairkhan Mountain is an isolated extension of the Mongol Altai mountain range. Located in the middle of Khar-Us Lake Depression, the diversity of habitats and wildlife at the site is rich in many ways. This mountain crowns a teardrop-shaped massif encircled by Khar Us, Khar and Dörgön lakes. We will head out from our camps towards Khar-Us lake which is vast marshy delta and one of the third biggest lakes in Mongolia. The lake depression has tectonic origins, but due to prolonged drying, the shoreline has become more sloping, and have the largest reed beds in Central Asia. Hence, it’s difficult to reach because of the marshes, making it an intersection 4×4 section of our adventure. We will spend time driving around the lake and the dunes formed around the shore. Since its winter, the lake would be frozen making it even more interesting and challenging driving section on the lake. And we come back to our Ger camps to celebrate our last night in the Mongolian country side.

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DAY 11: Ulaanbaatar

Accommodation: Novotel Hotel or Similar

Distance: NA | Drive Time: NA | Terrain: NA

Today we bid adieu to Western Mongolia and fly back to Ulaanbaatar. The approx. flight duration is 4 hours and the time difference is 1 hour. In the evening we will have our very exclusive farewell dinner. 

Please Note: Flights out of western Mongolia are famous for delays (this is a mountain area and unsuitable conditions for flying are not uncommon). As a result, it is very unwise to plan on departing internationally on the same day. You can end up missing your flight!

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DAY 12: depart from Ulaanbaatar

Accommodation: NA

Distance: NA | Drive Time: NA | Terrain: NA

Depending on the time of your flight you will be transferred to the airport for the departure back to your home.

Recommendation: Ulaanbaatar doesn’t need more than 1 day to explore. So, in case your flight is in the evening, you can spend time in the morning to explore the town on your own or we can also arrange a guided tour for you. It’s not necessary for you to stay for another day just for this.

What Our Clients Say ...

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Your Expedition Vehicle

TOYOTA LANDCRUISER 100 series

Dates & Prices

Dates Price per Person Interested?
 March 16th – 27th $7,199 INQUIRE TODAY

The quoted price is per person on double occupancy basis unless otherwise noted, and are subject to change without notice. Families travelling with kids are requested to contact us for exclusive family prices. Solo travelers and groups with more than 2 members and those who need single supplement are requested to contact us for the differential pricing. Optional activities are at an additional cost. All prices are quoted in U.S. dollars.

What's Covered & What's Not

  • Exclusive Expedition Vehicle for each team of 2 people
  • Fuel for Expedition Vehicle
  • Domestic flight from Hovd to Ulaanbaatar.
  • Nomadic Road Expedition Leader throughout the trip
  • Exclusive Expedition Photographer cum Filmmaker throughout the trip
  • Local cultural expert and hospitality staff throughout the trip
  • 4x4 support vehicle
  • Field Chef & Technical Crew throughout the expedition
  • Accommodation for all nights on twin share basis – Specially prepared private tented/ger camps to provide exclusive experiences away from the tourists and in special locations.
  • Specially prepared meals throughout the expedition. The Lunch & Dinner will be prepared on all days based on your preference keeping in mind your food restrictions if any. And almost all our lunch will be a picnic lunch somewhere in the most scenic location possible and dinners will be private expedition style setup.
  • Bottled water and refreshments.
  • Welcome Dinner & Farewell Dinner
  • Entrance fee for entry into National Parks
  • Horse Ride in the Altai Mountains with the local eagle hunters
  • Local Spotters for Snow Leopard Trekking and logistics
  • Airport transfers
  • Third party liability insurance for the expedition vehicle
  • All excursions, entrance fees, and visits as described in the itinerary
  • International Flights
  • Visa
  • International Driving Permit
  • Breakfast and Lunch on Day 1.
  • Comprehensive Personal Insurance(s)
  • Personal medication
  • Extras like room service, drinks, optional excursions and items of personal nature like laundry, tips, phone calls etc.

Come explore some of the least accessible places in Western Mongolia.

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