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zMongolia's Naadam Festival + Gobi Desert

10 days

Never more than 16 guests

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based on 1 Review

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Small Group Discoveries for our World Travelers

+ Witness thrilling tests of courage and strength at the Naadam Festival as spirited contestants including young boys and girls gather from distant corners of Mongolia to compete in wrestling, archery and horseracing.
+ Gain insight into the nomadic life and culture of the Mongolia’s dauntless residents when you meet with camel breeders and stay in a traditional canvas and felt ger.
+ Follow in the footsteps of the original Indiana Jones as you discover the Flaming Cliffs where adventurer Roy Chapman Andrews discovered the first-known nest of dinosaur eggs.
+ Discover the remarkably diverse landscapes of Mongolia, from steppe and meadow to desert and mountain, as you travel deep into Terelj National Park, the Gobi Desert and Yol Valley.
+ Feel the ancient rhythms of the Silk Road on a guided excursion to Karakorum, the fabled capital of the once mighty Mongol Empire.

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Day
1

July 10, 2017: Welcome to Ulaanbaatar

On arrival at the airport, you’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to the 5-star Shangri-La Ulaanbaatar Hotel, ideally situated in the heart of the city near Great Chinggis Khaan Square.  Tonight, we’ll take you to a Mongolian opera based upon a story by Dashdorjiin Natsagdorj, a 20th-century poet and writer who is widely hailed as one of the founding fathers of modern Mongolian literature.

Day
2

July 11, 2017: The Naadam Festival

Mongolia’s most important festival began centuries ago to test the courage and strength of nomadic warriors. It’s celebrated throughout the land, but the festival events here in the capital are the best and the competitions are the fiercest. Indeed, participants and onlookers come from all across Mongolia for the celebrations and contests.
 
The excitement begins this morning when you attend the opening ceremonies at the Mongolian State Academic Theater – a colorful pageant featuring skilled dancers, athletes, and musicians. Then the competitions get underway! The wrestling championships can involve over 1,000 contestants but with no weight classes and 16 thrilling contests running simultaneously, the competition progresses quickly. The archery contest dates back more than 2,000 years and is a test of strength and military prowess. Bows are still crafted in the traditional Mongolian fashion from sinew, wood, deer horn and bamboo and strung with deer tendon.
 
After lunch, we’ll take you to the outskirts of the capital to witness the horse racing competitions, an audience favorite that attracts Mongolia’s finest herdsmen, horses and racers. Covering distances ranging from 9 to 20 miles across the vast Mongolian steppe, these races are a test of both endurance and speed for both the horses and their riders; some of them are boys and girls as young as six years old!  Meals B+L+D

Day
3

July 12, 2017: Along the Tuul River

Setting out from Ulaanbaatar after breakfast, this morning’s scenic drive transports you to a pristine setting along the gently meandering Tuul River. Here on a bluff overlooking the river and the rugged hills beyond, you’ll check in to the inviting Tuul Riverside Lodge, an authentic Mongolian-style encampment. Your private Ger is constructed with a wooden lattice frame, and more than 80 sturdy roof poles which are all covered with multiple layers of insulating felt to keep you comfortable. With a private en suite bath, cozy bed and traditional furnishings, you’ll delight in a leisurely 2-night stay here along this sacred river. In the afternoon, you’ll embark on a guided horseback adventure across the river and into the surrounding hills. Take in the sweeping vistas and spend time with a local family of herders for a fascinating look into the daily life and customs of Mongolia’s nomadic people.  After dinner, you can relax in your Ger, enjoy the congenial company of your fellow guests or take a walk through the vast grasslands and rolling hills that surround the Camp.  Meals B+L+D

Day
4

July 13, 2017: Mongolian Culture + Wildlife

This morning you’ll learn firsthand how Mongolians distill their traditional liquor from cow’s milk. It’s a complex process that has been passed down for generations and the spirit that is produced is quite potent – which you can taste for yourself if you wish! After lunch, we’ve made special arrangements for a fascinating discussion with a local representative from the highly-regarded World Wildlife Fund. You’ll learn about Mongolia’s indigenous wildlife and a bit about the flora and geology of the region. This evening, you’ll sit down to a traditional Mongolian barbecue of lamb and goat prepared with hot stones. Afterwards, a shamanic performance around the campfire offers additional insight into the beliefs and customs of Mongolia’s nomadic people.  Meals B+L+D

Day
5

July 14, 2017: Fly into the Gobi Desert

After breakfast, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your included flight deep into the Gobi Desert. With its rich history colored by the exploits of adventurers and explorers, the Gobi is respected as one of the harshest environments on the planet, with extreme temperature and seasonal changes. But it’s also a land rich with geological diversity and a remarkable variety of wildlife including Blacktail gazelle, wild camel, antelope, ibex, the endangered Gobi bear and the Argali sheep – the largest wild sheep species in the world. Upon arrival, you’ll journey along the flanks of the Altai Mountains and into the fabled Khongoryn Els, also known as the Singing Sand Dunes. Covering hundreds of square miles and soaring up to 1,000 feet, these remarkable desert dunes are know for the distinctive sound they make as the sands shift in the wind. After a congenial luncheon prepared by a Nomadic chef, you’ll continue to the Gobi Erdene Ger Camp. Your private Mongolian-style accommodations include an en suite bathroom.  Meals B+L+D

Day
6

July 15, 2017: Adventures in the Gobi Desert

Situated close to the sweeping desert dunes of Khongoryn Els, our encampment is the perfect base for today’s adventures. Accompanied by our experienced, native-born guide you’ll embark on a variety of excursions that take you deep into the captivating landscapes of the Gobi. Camel rides, visits with local herders and their families, and dune walks are on today’s agenda as you explore and learn more about the natural wonders of the Gobi and its inhabitants.  Meals B+L+D

Day
7

July 16, 2017: Onward to Bayanzag – The Flaming Cliffs

We’ll depart camp after breakfast for the scenic drive to Bulgan, a small provincial town where we’ll have lunch. In the afternoon, we’ll follow in the footsteps of Roy Chapman Andrews as we explore the Flaming Cliffs of Bayanzag. Fondly known as the “Original Indiana Jones,” Mr. Andrews was a storied adventurer and naturalist who went on to become one of the most respected directors of the American Museum of Natural History. It was here amidst this stark expanse of desert sands and towering red sandstone cliffs where he found the first-known nest of fossilized dinosaur eggs in 1922. Petrified forests and the remains of numerous animals including the skeleton of the hornless rhinoceros, the largest known mammal, have also been recovered in the same area. Continue to the inviting Three Camel Lodge where you’ll enjoy two nights in a private Ger with traditional hand-painted furnishings, local artwork, comfy bed with camelhair blankets and an en suite bathroom.  Meals B+L+D

Day
8

July 17, 2017: Excursion to Eagle Valley

After breakfast, you’ll set out from camp for today’s excursion into Yolyn Am – also known as Eagle Valley. Accompanied by your expert guide, you’ll explore the region’s rugged terrain, including areas with high cliffs and canyons so deeply shaded that sheets of ice can endure well into summer! With sharp eyes and a bit of luck, you might spot soaring eagles and the wild sheep and goat that graze high up the canyon walls. A small natural history museum at the entrance to the valley provides more information on the flora, fauna and geology of the valley. After lunch, you’ll return to the Three Camel Lodge where your afternoon is free to enjoy the pristine and picturesque surroundings.  Meals B+L+D

Day
9

July 18, 2017: Back to Ulaanbaatar

This morning, we take you to the airport in Dalanzadgad for your included flight back to Ulaanbaatar. On arrival in the capital, you’ll travel into the steppes outside of the city to spend time with nomadic herdsmen and their families. You’ll experience their traditional ways of life and learn about the livestock upon which they depend for food and transportation – oxen, yaks, camels and horses. Late in the afternoon, a specially-arranged meeting with a local artist in Ulaanbaatar offers insight into the local arts scene. This evening, you’ll enjoy a presentation of folkloric music and dance followed by dinner and an overnight at the 5-star Shangri-La Hotel.  Meals B+L+D

Day
10

July 19, 2017: City Sightseeing + Departure

After breakfast, your guided city tour begins at Gandantegchinlen. Built in the mid 19th-century, this is the largest and most important monastery in Mongolia and is the only one where Buddhist services continued uninterrupted during the Communist regime. Within this impressive Tibetan-style complex, you’ll see the Janraisig statue, a spectacular 82-foot tall image of a Buddhist Bodhisattva gilded in pure gold and adorned with silk and precious stones. Your sightseeing also includes the National History Museum with exhibits spanning millennia of Mongolian history and culture and the Fine Art Museum, known for its outstanding collection of sculptures, religious scroll paintings and traditional Mongolian masks. After a festive farewell dinner, you’ll be escorted to the airport for your overnight flight back to the United States.  Meals B+L+D

Private Tour Add-Ons

Be a Beijing Insider

This Private Tour just for your traveling party includes your choice of deluxe or luxury hotel, 5 meals and extensive sightseeing with your own personal car, driver and guide.

Be A Hong Kong Insider

Our resident guide will take you around town like a savvy insider to discover facets of Hong Kong which few visitors ever glimpse! We include transfers, a choice of fine city-center hotels, our exclusive Be a Hong Kong Insider full-day private tour, and more!

Moscow

Our 4-day FreeStyle Travel package with a choice of city-center hotels, breakfast daily, in-depth private car sightseeing expertly guided by our own resident staff, and chauffeured airport transfers

Mongolia MapSearch

Family + Friends

Travel is one of  life's most rewarding experiences, perhaps even more so when it's shared with those you love! Combine our limited-time pay-in-full discount with our Family & Friends offers and save even more:
  • Save $50 more per person when 3 guests go
  • Save $100 more per person with 4 people
  • Save $150 more per person with 5 people
  • Save $200 more per person with 6 or more people!

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