"Get to discover how national parks work within Mongolia, taking you into the real country and see what Mongolian hospitality is all about!"
Approximately 17% of Mongolia’s landmass is under some kind of environmental protection; this tour will take you to some of the country’s ‘quieter’ and lesser-known national parks and nature reserves. Admire the striking natural beauty of wild Mongolia as you tour through the vast middle Gobi and the mountain forest steppe scenery of Khentii. The adventurous and active 16-day itinerary takes you into the real country; not only will you be going ‘off the beaten track’, but you’ll actually travel in the opposite direction to most travellers! The trip combines camping with traditional homestays, allowing you to get a more authentic and genuine experience of rural life as you live alongside local families in ger accommodation (felt yurts).
Begin your adventure on a local train, which will carry you into the eastern Gobi. You’ll camp in the Mongolian granite belt where you can admire amazing rock formations as well as the world’s largest wild sheep, Argali sheep. The area is also one of the world’s biggest breeding sites for the Cinerous Vulture. Next, you’ll have the chance to stay at a family-run conservation project tackling desertification in Mongolia – the Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project. You’ll explore the Gorkhi Terelj National Park with traditional herders, learn then Bujee art of making a Mongolian deel and take an informal cooking lesson. Head deeper into the wild Khentii Province and discover the region where the legendary Genghis Khan was born, raised and perhaps even secretly buried…
Eternal Landscapes are experts on Mongolia, choosing to specialise rather than spread ‘worldwide’. They ensure that their visits have a minimal impact on the natural environment and wildlife in a number of ways. Firstly, when tourists are able to observe wildlife in their natural habitats, this is alongside the ranger for the particular protected area. Eternal Landscapes have also received training from one of Mongolia’s wildlife Non-Government Organisations. This tour involves a visit to the Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project. Eternal Landscapes supports this family-run, non-profit conservation project by donating part of tourists’ trip payment to the project. The project aims to combat desertification by planting seedlings and nurturing them into trees. Tourists even get to plant their own tree, getting a real hands-on experience of conservation.
Eternal Landscapes aims to limit the impact of camping on the environment. Wherever possible, existing campsites are used and kept small. If necessary, permission is always sought from local families or park rangers. Litter is carried until it can be disposed of responsibly, and Eternal Landscapes ensures that they always leave campsites in a better condition than they were before. 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.
Ulaan Baatar (City Walking Tour): Explore the lively and somewhat dusty city of Ulaan Baatar on an informal walking tour. A curious blend of ‘East meets West’, take the time to understand the character and community of the city which, in passing, can be difficult to truly appreciate. Originally a nomadic city, it now provides a glimpse into modern 21st century life in Mongolia, which might contrast with the rest of your trip.
Ikh Nart Nature Reserve: Travel south on the Trans-Mongolian train to Shiveegobi where you’ll be met by your driver. Your journey will then continue south, through diverse and ever-changing scenery from steppe to desert. You’ll transfer to Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, a semi-desert steppe and grassland environment which was established as a reserve in 1996. Here, the threatened Argali Sheep (the world’s biggest mountain sheep) still survives, and other species including Siberian Ibex and Cinereous Vulture also call the place ‘home’. Take in the landscape, with rugged terrain, trees growing amid rocks and freshwater springs in the surrounding desert steppe. Camp overnight, and spend the next day exploring the protected area.
Ikh Gazriin Chuluu: Characterised by granite rock formations surrounded by steppe and semi-desert habitats, this is a place the guidebooks might have failed to mention. Enjoy the tranquillity of the remote area and explore the huge rock formations. Your trip assistant will be on hand if you’d like a guided walk through the area.
Gobi Oasis: Visit a small, not-for-profit conservation project in Mandalgobi that has been run by a family since 1975. In order to combat desertification in the area, the project plants seedlings and nurtures them into trees. You will stay with Byamba and Radnaa, Gobi Oasis’ founders, at their pleasant ger homestay. Visit the nursery and, if you’d like to, plant your own tree, adding to the 45 that Eternal Landscape’s guests have already planted! You’ll undoubtedly be inspired by the hard work and dedication of Gobi Oasis who are committed to conserving their country.
Gorkhi-Terelj National Park: This park, covering an area of 2,864 square kilometres, is nicknamed by locals ‘the museum of natural wealth’. Once you see its rolling hills, rock formations and winding rivers and streams you’ll understand why. View ‘Turtle Rock’, a symbol of good fortune and wisdom and explore the area before enjoying a picnic lunch. Later, you’ll make your way to the ger home of herders Naraa and Bujee. You’ll have two days to explore the area by foot or on horse-back. Naraa or a member of his family will be happy to lead you to a spectactular viewpoint of the Khan Khentii Mountains. Get involved in nomadic herding life, helping with the livestock and learning to cook traditional Mongolian cuisine!
Baldan Bereeven Khiid and Öglögchiin Wall: Learn about the epic history of Genghis Khan and the old peoples and cultures of Mongolia as you journey through Khentii Aimag, so-called because of the imposing Khentii Mountains located in the north-west of the province. Visit Baldan Bereeven Khiid (formerly one of the country’s most important monasteries) which was destroyed during the Stalinist 1930s, and circumambulate as the monks once did. You’ll also see Öglögchiin Kherem (Almsgiver’s Wall), which dates from around the 8th-10th centuries. The enormity of the wall, which runs through the forest for approximately 3.2 kilometres, indicates that it was an important site for Mongol tribes. Visit the site of what is thought to be a royal Mongol graveyard.
Dadal: Pay a visit to this small community, home to the Buriat ethnic group who live in traditional log houses and have a richly distinct culture. Dadal is thought to be the birthplace of Chinggis Khan, and the spot is reportedly marked by the Delguun Boldog monument. The landscapes to the north of Dadal are truly fantastic and definitely worth exploring, so make the most of your free day to discover the area at your own pace.
Bayan Adraga: After an early lunch in Dadal you’ll journey to Bayan Adraga, positioned near the Onon River and the Daurian Steppe Lakes which are registered as a Ramsar International Wetland and are home to numerous birds. The area’s principal use is as grazing land for livestock and many small farms grow crops in the region.
Ondorkhan: Spend one final night in Khentii Province at Ondorkhan, the capital of Khentii Aimag. Again, this is a place often neglected by the guidebooks, but you’ll find it to be a lively town with fantastic food and even a bit of karaoke, a local favourite! You’ll even enjoy the luxury of a hot shower and perhaps a Wi-Fi connection (although this is never guaranteed!)
Ulaan Baatar: Wake early for your transfer back to Ulaan Baatar, so that you arrive by early afternoon. On the way, stop at a colossal statue of Chinggis Khan and survey his homeland with him. When you reach your final destination at Ulaan Baatar, say farewell to your team and use the rest of your day to create your own experience of modern Mongolia. If you’d prefer, a guide can be available to help you discover urban life in the city’s downtown area.
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