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Mongolia: Land of the Blue Sky

Mongolia

from £3,999 per person 15 2
Including optional travel insurance or a price reduction of £71 if not required
  • Small Group < 25 Small Group 25 or less
  • VIP travel service VIP door to door
  • Full Board Full board

Vast, atmospheric landscapes and traditional nomadic life

Nicknamed the ‘Land of the Blue Sky’ due to being cloudless for more than two thirds of the year, Mongolia is a land of undiscovered beauty, and is still relatively new to the tourist scene.

Spend four nights in hotels, and 10 in tourist ger camps on a 14-night tour exploring this remote pocket of Asia. Head off the beaten track and journey through a land that time forgot, exploring vast landscapes of rolling green steppe, majestic mountain ranges with snow-capped peaks and the sweeping golden sand dunes of the Gobi Desert.

Get a taste of nomadic life and meet local yak and camel-herding families, enjoy performances of ‘khoomii’, Mongolian throat singing, and the ancient art of eagle hunting, before a hearty communal dinner as you relax in the peaceful wilderness of your ger camp. Learn about the country’s fascinating history, once the starting point of the world’s largest contiguous empire ever known, led by the famed warrior Genghis Khan, see the impacts the rise of communism had on the country during the 20th century, and discover the fervent following of Buddhist culture prevalent today.

As you travel keep your eyes peeled for native wildlife including Przewalski’s Horses, ibex, Angali wild sheep, lammergeiers and the two-humped Bactrian camel in a selection of the best national parks and nature reserves. With endless panoramas of pristine landscapes, space and fresh air, this rarely visited land offers immense rewards for those with an adventurous spirit.

Including...

4 nights in hotels, 10 in ger camps and 1 in flight

41 meals: 14 breakfasts, 13 lunches and 14 dinners

Excursions
  • Included city tour of Ulaanbaatar
  • See endangered Przewalski horses
  • Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes
  • Tsenkher Hot Springs
  • Meet a yak breeding family
  • Erdene Zuu Monastery
  • Ongi Monastery
  • Meet a camel breeding family
  • Bayanzag’s ‘Flaming Cliffs’
  • Hike to Yolyn Am ice field
  • Terelj National Park

View Full Itinerary

Day 1 UK-Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

After taking Saga’s included VIP door-to-door travel service to the airport, fly overnight to Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia.


Day 2 Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar

Arrive in Ulaanbaatar and transfer to the locally rated 4-star Ramada Ulaanbaatar City Centre for a two-night stay.

The capital of Mongolia is a fast-paced metropolis in the making, that’s changing by the day. Founded in 1639 as a nomadic Buddhist monastic centre, the city has developed into a sprawling, industrialised centre of high-rise buildings, now home to almost half of Mongolia’s total population. After you’ve settled in to your new surroundings, look forward to welcome briefing from your tour manager and a welcome dinner this evening at the hotel. D


Day 3 Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Gandan Monastery

After breakfast set off on an included city tour of Ulaanbaatar.

Highlights include the ornate Gandan Monastery – home to a 26.5-metre statue of a Buddhist figure featuring precious stones and gilded with gold leaf, the National Museum of Mongolia – holding a collection of over 57,000 Mongolian artefacts dating from prehistory to the 20th-century, and the Zaisan Hill complex – a memorial honouring Mongolian and Soviet soldiers killed in WWII. You’ll also stop at Sukhbataar Square in the city centre to see the impressive Government Palace, the brightly coloured National Opera House, and large bronze seated statue of Genghis Khan, the founder and first leader of the Mongol Empire. This evening look forward to a traditional dance performance and a demonstration of ‘Khoomi’, Mongolian throat singing. 

Dinner is at a local restaurant. B, L, D

Gandan Monastery Ulaan Baatar Mongolia Asia

Day 4 Hustai Nature Reserve, Mongolia

Przewalskis horses

Depart Ulaanbaatar after breakfast, and travel to the Hustai Nature Reserve.

En route you will stop at a large supermarket with a large choice of items including snacks and drinks which you may wish to purchase. In Mongolia it is customary for guests and visitors to reciprocate hospitality in the form of gifts for the children of the family. You may therefore like to take the opportunity to purchase some gifts in advance during your supermarket visit. Afterwards, continue to the Nature Reserve where you’ll see Przewalski’s horses, an endangered horse breed native to the steppes of Central Asia. Driven to extinction in the wild from the 1960s onwards, primarily through interbreeding with domestic horses, recent reintroduction efforts have seen wild populations successfully sustained at several sites in Mongolia. You’ll visit the local information centre where you can learn about the history of the last surviving subspecies of wild horse, as well as the history of the nature reserve.

Stay overnight at the Hustai Resort Camp, a ger camp in the nature reserve. B, L, D


Day 5 Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dune, Mongolia

Hugnu Khan National Park

Today continue to Elsen Tasarkhai, known also as the ‘Mini Gobi’.

These impressive sand dunes form part of the Mongol Els dunes, stretching 80-kilometres through a unique landscape of forests and mountains. Next visit Hugnu Khan mountain in the picturesque Hugnu Khan National Park. Designated a national park in 2003, the spectacular wilderness covers 47,000 hectares and is dotted with both ruined and active temples. The ecosystem of the park is particularly fascinating as steppe, characterised by grassland plains, meets taiga – boreal forest landscape. You’ll have free time to explore, and perhaps take a hike through this incredible landscape. Look out for rare animals such as ibex, hawks and even wolves.

Stay overnight at the Hoyor Zagal Camp. B, L D


Day 6 Tsenkher Hot Springs, Mongolia

Tsenkher hot springs, Mongolia

After breakfast drive to the Tsenker Hot Springs.

Mineral and hot springs have long played an important part of Mongolian traditional medicine, both for healing and relaxation. At the Tsenkher the sulphur springs emerge from the ground at temperatures of 86 degrees, and is pumped into splash pools used by both tourists and locals. This afternoon visit a yak breeding family to experience the traditional customs and lifestyle of the local residents.

Stay overnight at the Duut Resort Camp, where the shared facilities include both outdoor and indoor baths and showers using the spring water, perfect for relaxing after a long day. B, L, D


Day 7 Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake, Mongolia

Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake

Today embark on a long but rewarding day of travelling through remote landscapes to the Khorgo National Park, home to the extinct volcano, Khorgo Mountain.

En route you’ll pass the ‘Hundred Tree’ – a sacred tree covered in thick layers of scarves left by worshippers, Chuluut River Gorge – a 25-metre deep rock canyon made up of basalt from the lava of extinct volcanos, and Taikhar Rock – a 20-metre high granite rock with 150 writings etched across its surface, the oldest dating back to the 6th century. There is a 150 metre climb to reach the edge of the volcano should you wish to look in.

Spend the next two nights at the Maikhan Tolgoi Camp on the picturesque shores of Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake. B, L, D


Day 8 Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake, Mongolia

Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake

Today is free to spend at leisure.

Perhaps relax and enjoy the magnificent views across the 16-kilometre lake, or perhaps join an optional excursion, trekking around the Khorgo Mountains, horse riding, or a visit to a nomadic family.

This evening look forward to a Mongolian barbeque of ‘Khorkhog’ when food is grilled with hot stones. B, L, D


Day 9 Karakorum, Mongolia

Erdene Zuu Monastery

After breakfast start your journey to the former capital of the Mongol empire under Genghis Khan, Karakorum.

The ruins form part of the UNESCO-listed Orkhon Valley, an extensive area pastureland preserved for its use in nomadic pastoral traditions across two millennia. Visit the Erdene Zuu Monastery, the oldest surviving Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. Originally constructed in the 16th century, when Tibetan Buddhism was declared the state religion of Mongolia, the monastery remains an active monastery as well as a museum open to tourists. You’ll also visit the Karakorum Museum exhibiting artefacts including pottery, bronze, religious statues from the 13th and 14th centuries, recovered from the surrounding area. There will also be a pause at the local market and supermarket for an opportunity to buy snacks.

Stay over night at the Ikh Kharom Hotel in Kharkhorin. B, L, D


Day 10 Ongi Monastery, Mongolia

Ongi Monastery

Continue travelling south through open landscape, and watch the scenery change from forest steppe to semi-desert.

After reaching your camp, continue to the Ongi Monastery. Founded in 1660, the Ongi Monastery consisted of two temple complexes, including four Buddhist universities. Accommodating over 1,000 monks at a time, Ongi was one of the largest monasteries in Mongolia. During the 1930’s communism spread throughout Mongolia, and in 1939 the monastery was destroyed and over 200 monks were killed. However in the 1990s, three monks returned to the ruined site and begun to rebuild on the foundations, and today tourists can explore the remaining ruins, and visit the small museum housed inside a ger.

Stay overnight at the Secret of Ongi Camp within walking distance of the Ongi ruins, perhaps treating yourself to massage (extra charge). B, L, D


Day 11 Bayanzag, Mongolia

Bayanzag

Catch your first glimpse of the Gobi Desert today as you drive to the region of Bayanzag, known as ‘Flaming Cliffs’ due to the vivid colours of orange and red due to the sandstone soil.

The nickname was first given by Roy Chapman Andrews, an American palaeontologist who visited the area in the 1920’s, and discovered the world’s first nest of dinosaur eggs here in 1922. To date, the remains of over 100 dinosaurs have been found in Bayanzag. After lunch at the Gobi Tour Camp, drive to the top of the cliffs from where you can choose to take a 45-minute walk, or alternatively stay with your transport.

In the afternoon, drive to the Dream Gobi Camp in Bayanzag where you stay overnight, enjoying private bathroom facilities and views of the Gobi desert. B, L, D


Day 12 Khongor Sand Dunes, Mongolia

Khongor Sand Dunes

Set out after breakfast to the Khongorriin Els sand dunes in the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park.

Some of the largest and most spectacular sand dunes in Mongolia, reaching up to 300 metres high and 100 kilometres long, the dunes are popularly known as the ‘Singing Sands’ due to the melodic noise they make as the wind moves the sand. Have your camera ready to capture the dramatic scenery of perfectly contoured rippling dunes and undulating crests, as the sand dunes seem to change colour from sunrise through to sunset. This afternoon visit a local camel breeding family when – should you wish – you can enjoy a camel ride through the dunes.

Stay overnight in the Gobi Erdene Camp in the National Park, where you’ll stay in wooden houses with bathrooms. rather than traditional gers. B, L, D


Day 13 Yolyn Am, Mongolia

Yolyn Am Ice Field

Continue travelling south to Yolyn Am, a deep gorge in the foothills of the Altai Mountains in the Gurvansaikhan National Park.

The valley’s name translates as ‘Lammergeier’s Mouth’, after the huge raptors that inhabit the narrow ravine. Set off on a trek of around six kilometres in total, through the valley to the Yolyn Am Ice Field, where the gorge is filled with blue ice up to several meters thick, which, in most years, lasts throughout the summer. As you walk, look out for Argali wild sheep and ibex tiptoeing across the sheer rock faces above, Pallas’s pikas – small mammals of the rabbit family, found only in the mountains of central Asia, and numerous bird species including Yolyn Am’s eponymous bird, the lammergeier.

You’ll also enjoy a visit to the Gobi Museum before heading to the Gobi Mirage Camp where you’ll stay overnight. B, L, D


Day 14 Terelj National Park, Mongolia

Terelj National Park Turtel Rock

It’s an early start today as you transfer to Dalanzadgad airport for a 90-minute flight back to Ulaanbaatar. On arrival, head for Terelj National Park, pausing en route to meet an eagle owner with his eagle – an opportunity to get close up to one of these magnificent birds that have traditionally been used for hunting by Mongolian eagle masters and owners for centuries. During your meeting, you’ll see the eagle at work as you witness a hunting demonstration when the eagle will fly after a ‘faux’ fox.

Afterwards, continue to Terelj National park, considered one of the most scenic areas in all of Mongolia, and one of Ulaanbaatar’s most popular tourist attractions. Located 70 kilometres north-east of the capital city, the national park comprises forested alpine mountains, curious rock formations and scenic valleys carpeted with a variety of wild flowers. Set out on a light hike though the park, taking in Turtle Rock, a 24-metre high rock formation in the shape of a turtle, now considered the symbol of Terelj, and Aryabal Meditation Temple, built in the 1990’s for monks practising meditation in the park. When viewed from a distance the shape of the temple resembles that of an elephant’s head, with the 108 stairs leading up to the temple symbolising the dangling elephant trunk.

Stay tonight at the Terelj Lodge Camp in the national park. B, L, D


Day 15 Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar

This morning drive to Tsonjin Boldog to the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, a 40-metre tall stainless steel statue of the Mongol leader.

The statue was erected in 2008 on the banks of the Tuul River facing east towards Genghis Khan’s birthplace, and sited where, according to legend, he found the golden whip that inspired his future conquests. Ascend by lift to the viewing platform on top of the horses head, and take in the panoramic views of surrounding complex and scenery beyond. Drive back to Ulaanbaatar where you can enjoy lunch at a hotel, and spend the rest of the day at leisure in the city. Perhaps pick up some authentic souvenirs for friends and family or seek out some of Mongolia’s famous cashmere.

Enjoy a farewell dinner tonight and spend your final night at the locally rated 4-star Ramada Ulaanbaatar City Centre. B, L, D


Day 16 Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia-UK

Depart your hotel after breakfast and transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK and included door-to-door travel service home. B


Experience authentic ger camps

A ger is a traditional Mongolian tent that has been used for over 3,000 years, since the Mongols started nomadic life, and is still used by nearly half the country’s population today. Made from wooden columns and lightweight felt covers, the circular tents can be easily dismantled and moved to better grazing lands as the seasons change. During your tour you’ll stay in a selection of tourist ger camps run by local communities.

Camps consist of up to 40 tents with comfortable beds, and are equipped with electricity, separate toilet and shower facilities with hot water, and a restaurant – usually serving both European and Mongolian cuisine. Tourist camps are usually set in the most spectacular of locations, offering incredible views of the surrounding landscape. A stay in a ger camp is the best way to experience authentic nomadic life first hand, and will likely be a highlight of your trip.


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Mongolia: Land of the Blue Sky

Mongolia

from £3,999 per person 15 2
Including optional travel insurance or a price reduction of £71 if not required