"Get off the beaten track with this true Mongolian community inspired stay! Mountains and lakes, mixed with authentic history!"
Discover the mighty northern mountains of Mongolia and take ‘the road less travelled’, discovering communities and places that the guidebooks might have failed to mention. The rugged and powerful landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for a nomadic adventure, with crystal-clear lakes, craggy mountains and immense steppes. Meet the tough and enduring people who survive in often challenging conditions, but are still ready to extend a warm and hospitable welcome to travellers. Sleep in a traditional felt yurt, or ger, and embrace nature as you share the land with grazing livestock. The immense power of the country’s landscapes is a defining part of any trip in Mongolia, and this is reflected in this 17-day tour’s itinerary.
You’ll combine hiking with relaxation by the lakeside at Khovsgol Nuur National Park, and trek into the Khoridol Saridag Mountains, a protected area notable for its contrasting blend of bare arid upland areas and verdant low-lying alpine fields. Led by a local livestock herder, you’ll end the trek with a stay in his family’s ger. Later, celebrate ‘The Three Manly Games’ at a traditional Naadam festival. Until recent times, Mongolia seemed a place so remote and distant that travel there would be inconceivable. However, the country is slowly opening up, exposing its wilderness of treasures to the world.
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 – City Walking Tour: Explore the melting-pot that is Ulaan Baatar, a dynamic and dusty city that many tourists never take the time to get to know. Take an informal walking tour, giving you the chance to discover the city’s character and vibrant community.
Amarbayasgalant Khiid: Transfer to the station where you’ll embark on a train journey to Raashant, a small settlement to the north of Ulaan Baatar. After meeting your driver, you’ll enjoy a picnic lunch before journeying on to Amarbayasgalant Khiid through Selenge Aimag. The province is defined by picturesque scenery of forest steppes, verdant fields of wheat, barley and sunflowers and river basins. The monastery complex of Amarbayasgalant Khiid is located at the foot of Mount Buren-Khaan in a ruggedly beautiful Iven Valley. The valley, watered by the Iven River, has long been a vital source of water for nomadic herders and their livestock. Enjoy one free day here, exploring the monastery and its magical surroundings.
Bulgan: Continue on your tour to Bulgan, which, although is the capital of Bulgan Province, is a peaceful and small town. If it suits your interests, stop along the way at Erdenet and haggle at the local market. Enjoy dinner in a local restaurant, before indulging in some traditional Karaoke! OK, so it might not be what you’d expect from a quiet provincial town but that’s the evening pastime of choice for many locals. If this isn’t your cup of tea, breathe the clean air with as you sit and chat in the local square.
Selenge Gol: Journey on to your camp on the Selenge River. Watch the sun set behind the horizon with the magical river valley in the foreground as you perch atop a rocky ridge. The Selenge is Mongolia’s main river, formed by the convergence of the Ider and Delger rivers. It provides an important ground water source for the country, as well as contributing the most substantial source of water for Siberia’s Lake Baikal. The Selenge basin is an important region in terms of natural ecology, covering around 173,000 square miles.
Khovsgol Nuur National Park: Stock up on supplies in the bustling market of the lively town of Murun, capital of Khovsgol Province. Drive on to Khatgal, a small community to the south of Khovsgol Nuur before journeying on to the lake’s western shore. Leaving Khatgal, stroll through pine forests and enjoy views of fields and meadows before moving on to your final destination of the ger camp at Khovsgol.
Khovsgol Nuur National Park: Spend the next two days at your leisure. Enjoy the spirirutual surroundings of Lake Khovsgol and go ‘off the beaten track’, exploring secret areas of the alpine lake. Stroll in the shady forests and next to lagoons, and take a refreshing dip in the lake’s waters. Indulge in a spot of bird-watching; many water birds take shelter in gravel bars that act as protective barriers for the lake’s lagoons.
Khovsgol Nuur National Park: Trek Lake Khovsgol and Khoridol Saridag, where the Siberian forest meets the central Asian steppe and there are a variety of habitats including ponds, water-meadows, forests, lakes and steppe woodland. The dramatic mountainous landscape formed by the Khoridol Saridag Range creates some unforgettable scenery. Walk through thick Tundra vegetation, with wildflowers and lush greenery. Trek over the Khirvesteg pass into the Arsain Gol Valley and, depending on weather and the group’s ability, climb the Ikh Uul mountain or its surrounding ridges. Follow the route of nomadic herders, passing by seemingly abandoned cabins. The trek is led by Bambakh, a local herdsman who, at the end of the hike, will welcome you into his summer ger home.
Khatgal: Spend the day with Bambakh and his family, learning more about nomadic traditions and ways of life. Go horseback riding with your guide, and learn to cook traditional Mongolian mutton pancakes, ‘or khuushuur’. Help out with yak-milking, or watch as daily life passes by from the comfort of the ger. Toast to new friendships in the evening, and together appreciate the wild beauty of Mongolia. Enjoy a traditional Mongolian ‘khorkhog’, a barbeque of sheep or goat meat cooked over hot-stones in a pot hanging over an open fire. Of course, there will also be a vegetarian option!
Khatgal Naadam: Celebrate the Naadam Festival with the locals. The purpose of the two-day festival is to celebrate the ‘Three Manly Games’. Enjoy the fun atmosphere and colour, and the displays of sportsmanship on show as the Mongolian people take pride in this old tradition. Spend the next two days mingling with locals from the small town centre of Khatgal as well as visiting herders and explore side-stalls, before returning each evening to your homestay.
Ulaan Baatar: Transfer to Murun and say ‘good-bye’ to your team before flying to Ulaan Baatar. Explore the city at your leisure, or request a guide or trip assistant to help you explore the more urbanised side of Mongolia.
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