"A real chance to see rich culture in the true meaning of the word, living the life of those who do it every single day, taking in life changing experiences."
The wilderness of western Mongolia is the location for this avian adventure. With over 100,000 residing in western Mongolia, the Kazakh people are the country’s largest ethnic group. Many Kazakhs hunt with eagles, a traditional type of falconry that harnesses the aggression and power of female golden eagles (or bürküt). Immerse yourself in the ways of a Kazakh Eagle Hunter, living alongside them and their family and observing the preparations they make for the ‘Eagle Festival’ you’ll later attend. This adventure provides a totally unique opportunity to learn from some of western Mongolia’s most renowned and respected hunters, and also to discover the beautifully barren landscapes of the country’s Altai region.
You’ll begin your tour in Mongolia’s capital city, the cosmopolitan melting pot that is Ulaanbaatar. Your time in this modern city will provide an interesting contrast with the majority of the tour, which is defined by wild landscapes. You’ll also spend time at Gorkhi Terelj National Park, gaining an insight into traditional Mongolian ways of life before heading further west to experience Kazakh culture. Undoubtedly one of the tour’s highlights is the ‘Eagle Festival’ which is all about admiring the speed, power and grace of the female Golden Eagle and celebrating Kazakh culture. Take this unique opportunity to mingle with local townspeople and hunters while you cheer on your hosts!
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Eternal Landscapes are experts on Mongolia, choosing to specialise rather than spread ‘worldwide’. Working with real people, the company asks that when you go on one of their trips, you try to embrace the differences and enjoy the challenges of life in Mongolia rather than expect the Mongolian people to change their ways to suit you. This not only gives you a more authentic experience, but also makes the whole thing more respectful and enjoyable for the local people too. In contrast to some larger tour companies, where ‘small’ groups can mean 18 people, Eternal Landscapes keep group sizes small (between two and six). This means that the trips can be more intimate and personal to your interests, and also prevents local communities and the environment from being overwhelmed.
The disposal of waste, particularly plastics, is a big issue in Mongolia. As part of its commitment to responsible travel, Eternal Landscapes helps cut down on plastic waste by paying a local NGO (the Mongolian Quilting Centre) to craft material tote-bags to be given to tourists for free at the start of their trips. Eternal Landscapes has also organised and financed a three-day waste collection in a national park for the last two years, in partnership with the local community and rangers. The company aims to have realistic responsible travel goals that they can evidence, and are constantly striving to evaluate their achievements and weaknesses so they can increase their commitment to sustainable travel in Mongolia.
Ulaanbaatar (City Walking Tour): Dive into the melting pot that is Ulaanbaatar, a city where East meets West and a layer of dust might, for the passing traveller, mask the character of the pulsating capital that hides beneath. Explore by foot and enjoy the chaos of cosmopolitan life before you head into Mongolia’s wilderness.
Gorkhi-Terelj National Park: This National Park, covering an area of 2,864 square kilometres, is a natural playground of rock formations, streams, rolling hills and rivers. Visit the famous and aptly named ‘Turtle Rock’ and the Aryapala Temple. Enjoy a leisurely picnic before making your way to ‘ger’ accommodation provided by a local herding family. Explore the wilderness which is home only to nomadic herder by foot or on horse-back. Your hosts will be happy to take you to a viewpoint overlooking the Khan Khentii Mountains, and you can repay them by helping out with herding some of the livestock! Take advantage of staying in an authentic homestay by learning tradition skills including cookery or how to make a Mongolian ‘deel’.
Fly to Khovd and Tsambagarav National Park: In the morning you’ll transfer to the airport for a fight to Khovd. When you arrive, you’ll be met by the Eternal Landscapes team before commencing your drive to Tsambagarav through intense landscapes. Tsambagarav Uul National Park makes up part of the Mongol Altai Mountain Range; the 4208m mountain that the park is named for is one of the country’s most stunning peaks blanketed in snow and surrounded by valleys. You’ll stay with a Kazakh family at the mountain’s foot, spending days hiking in the region or driving around in the tour vehicles.
Bugat: Drive into the Bayan Ulgii Province where you’ll stay experience warm Kazakh hospitality staying with the Janatkhan family in the district of Bugat. On your way, pass by the alpine lake of Tolbo Nuur, and meet the Amanjul family who are traditional Kazakh herders living by the lake’s shore. Be prepared to be flexible as this day depends on what time you depart Tsambagarav as well as the weather and the schedule of the families you’ll meet. Like other Kazakhs in western Mongolia, the Janatkhan family practise hunting with eagles. Although at this time they will not be hunting, you’ll be able to observe them training their magnificent birds and help with daily tasks. Learn about the culture and customs of the Kazakh hunters, and get up-close-and-personal holding an eagle!
Ulaankhuus: Travel through the provincial capital of Ulgii, where you’ll stop for a hot shower and a wander through the local market before you head on to Ulaankhuus. You’ll spend the next two days in the wild landscapes of this area which is close to the Khovd River. You’ll stay with the Bashahan family, learning more about the traditions, history and culture of the Kazakh eagle hunters.
Sagsai: Take a short transfer to Sagsai which is near Ulgii and home to two related families who will host you. You’ll spend two nights here, experiencing the warm hospitality of the families and also the Sagsai Eagle Festival. You may be able to watch the men train for traditional horse games that are part of the Eagle Festival.
Eagle Festival: Depending on your departure date, you’ll spend two days at either the Sagsai or Ulgii Eagle Festival. The festival celebrates Kazakh culture through an appreciation of the speed, power and accuracy of the female Golden Eagle (or ‘bürküt’). You’ll have a rich cultural experience as you mingle with townspeople, nomads and hunters alike. Your Eternal Landscapes team will be available during the event to help explain the rules of the competitions that take place, as well as more about the tradition of eagle hunting. Be prepared to see many international visitors.
Ulgii: Journey to Ulgii where you’ll have some time to explore at a leisurely pace. Buy some hand-crafted embroidery and locally-spun wool, and later have a hot shower. Dine with your hosts (either the Jako family or their friends/relatives) and enjoy more warm hospitality.
Ulaanbaatar: Say a fond farewell to your Eternal Landscapes team as you make your way cross-country to Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. You’ll be met by a driver who will escort you to your hotel. Make use of an Ulaanbaatar guide to help you explore the city’s downtown area, or ‘go your own way’!
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