"Dominated by the Khangai mountains, explore all that the Khangai have to offer from rich culture, diverse nature and panoramic views for miles and miles"
Central Mongolia is dominated by the imposing Khangai Mountains, a range which helps to form an incredible back-drop to this nomadic adventure. Explore wild and rugged landscapes, with jagged mountain peaks, wildflower fields, verdant valleys and alpine lakes fringed to the south by the forests of the Siberian Taiga. Not only will you experience the incredible diversity of the landscapes that form the Khangai, but you’ll also learn about the ways of life of the people that call this remote region ‘home’. You’ll alternate between camping in tents and staying with local families in gers, traditional felt yurts. Living with local people in homestays gives this trip a real sense of authenticity and you’ll gain an insight into nomadic ways of life in a way that tourists who stay only in hotels simply couldn’t.
Travelling on foot and, if you want to, on horseback, you’ll gradually gain more of an understanding about life in rural areas of Mongolia, travelling ‘ger to ger’ and meeting different herder families. Journey along the Orkhon River with a nomadic family and meet herders who are based in the mountains of Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park, one of Mongolia’s natural gems. You’ll attend ‘Felt and Yak Festivals’ in Ulaan Tsutgalan, celebrating the local community with a variety of events, music and dance. You’ll also explore a contrasting aspect of Mongolian life, discovering the modern, cosmopolitan city of Ulaan Baatar and getting a great all-round perspective of Mongolia’s many faces.
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.
Ulaan Baatar: Take an informal walking tour through this melting-pot of a city which has an interesting ‘East meets West’ feel. Explore on foot, taking the time to really get to know the character of this cosmopolitan, dust and vibrant city and its inhabitants.
Khogno Khan Nature Reserve: Continue to Khogno Khan, a hallowed granite mountain surrounded by sandy dunes, peaceful valleys, freshwater springs and open steppe landscape. You’ll sense the spirituality at this sacred site, which was once home to an important monastery. The Nature Reserve, with its specialised taiga and steppe plants, is a protected area. Watered by the vital Tarna River, an oasis in the dramatic Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes provides a home for many birds, including the Demoiselle Crane. Take a three – four hour hike around the mountain’s foothills, discovering Erdene Khambiin Khiid, a small working monastery, and the ruined 17th century Uvgon Khiid monastery. Take an optional camel or horse trek and enjoy spectacular views of dunes and mountains.
Ulaan Tsutgalan: Journey to the Orkhon Waterfall at Ulaan Tsutgalan, driving along the Orkhon River en route. The river (part of an UNESCO World Heritage Site) is considered the cradle of Mongolian civilisation and today provides an essential water source for nomads and their livestock. The area around Ulaan Tsutgalan was formed by several volcanic eruptions, and you can often see different types of igneous rock on the ground. Marvel at the 20-meter high Orkhon Waterfall, formed by a series of rivers and small streams. Stay at a small ger camp owned by Tomorbat and his family. Help Tomorbat’s sons to milk the yak herds in the morning, and enjoy stunning views of the river gorge and spectacular night skies.
Ulaan Tsutgalan: Spend the day exploring the area at your leisure, creating your own Mongolian experience. If you wish to join, part of the day can be spent visiting the area’s local families and learning more about the ways of life for yak herders in the region.
Felt and Yak Festival: These festivals are held at Iaan Tsutgalan with the aim of promoting tourism and industry by focusing on the region’s unique features. However, although encouraging tourism, the festivals feature plenty of local involvement, drawing in enthusiastic local Mongolian spectators as well as Westerners. Enjoy the spectacles of yak racing, yak polo and even a yak beauty pageant! As is typical of Mongolian festivals, there will be a concert of traditional dance and music. The festivals celebrate local community and encourage collaboration in order to ensure a better future for the herding communities in the region.
Cooperative Ar Arvijin Delgerekh – Arkhangai: Get to know the families involved with this cooperative, which works with herders producing spun yak wool to help them diversify and increase their income. Walk from ‘ger to ger’, meeting the families working with the cooperative and gaining an insight into their lives. Yaks play a vital role for livestock herders in the high-altitude regions of Arkhgangai, providing meat, wool, dairy products and transport. They are also incredibly resilient, able to survive in an inhospitable climate and to quickly recover from their winter weight loss in the spring.
Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park (Great White Lake of the River Terkh): Rise early for a day on the road, driving through the heartland of Arkhangai Aimag and the northern slopes of the Khangai Mountains. You’ll stop for around two hours in Tsetserleg’s provincial capital, where you can explore at your leisure. Barter at the bustling local market and enjoy the view from the Galdan Zuu Temple. Continue on your journey to the Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park, one of Mongolia’s natural highlights with its craggy mountains, volcanic craters and river valleys. Stay at a family ger camp for your first night at White Lake.
Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park (Great White Lake of the River Terkh): Spend the day trekking from the family ger camp to your White Lake campsite, discovering the lakeside area along the way. The ridge tops provide amazing views over the mountains and lake. Alternatively, travel with the drivers to the campsite and enjoy the freedom to explore from there. Another option is to trek on horse-back rather than on foot.
Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park: Enjoy a free day, either relaxing by the lakeside or hiking in the surrounding area. Take a picnic and explore at your leisure. Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur is a large freshwater lake with ten tributary rivers and over 6000 hectares of internationally important wetlands with Bar Headed Geese, Ruddy Shellducks and Northern Lapwings all making their homes in the lake’s bays and peninsulas. The lake is one of the 70 IBAs (Important Bird Areas) in Mongolia and is also part of a scheme to protect migratory water birds (the East Asian Australasian Flyway). The open steppe and coniferous forest areas are also home to Siberian Marmots and Grey Wolves.
Kharkhorin and Orkhon River Valley: Visit the home of Tumee and Jargaa, traditional herders based near the Orkhon River. Get involved and help them with their daily tasks, and take an optional horse-trek. Visit Kharkhorin, the centre of the Mongl Empire in the 13th century. Visit the oldest monastery in Mongolia (Erdene Zuu Khiid) and the fascinating Kharkhorin Museum which will bring the history of the area to life. Weather allowing, you could climb ‘Turtle Hill’, which provides a panoramic view over the town and surrounding steppe. There are many artefacts atop this hill, including one of the four turtles reputed to have been placed at each of Ogodei Khan’s capital city gates.
Ulaan Baatar: Make an early start on your transfer back to Ulaan Baatar so you can arrive in the city by late afternoon. Say ‘good-bye’ to your team and use the rest of the day to explore the city at your own pace. If you’d rather, an Eternal Landscapes guide or trip assistant can help you discover modern Mongolian life in downtown Ulaan Baatar.
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