Trip Details

 

Immerse yourself in the Mongolian nomad’s timeless way of life. Set out on a four-day trek on horseback, riding through fields of wildflowers across the vast steppe to sacred Mandal Mountain. Settle into a ger camp and get to know our National Geographic and nomadic hosts. Spend time exploring the lush, beautiful valley on foot visiting nomad families and enjoying the gentle rhythms of nomadic life. Go fishing in nearby rivers, try your hand at Mongolian archery, and get an intimate, authentic look at the Naadam festival at a small-village celebration.

Trip Highlights

  • View the Mongolian countryside from the perspective of a nomad, traveling primarily on horseback.
  • Watch a traditional tsam-mask dance and listen the surreal sound of khoomii, or throat singing.
  • Experience the color, passion, and pageantry of a local Naadam festival.
  • Explore the 16th century Erdene Zhu monastery and meet its head lama (his schedule permitting).

Itinerary - 14 Days

Day 1 — Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Arrive in Ulaanbaatar, where our staff will meet you for the transfer to our hotel, located within walking distance of Sukhbaatar Square, museums and shops. Kick off our expedition with a Mongolian feast at a traditional restaurant.
Puma Imperial Hotel (D)

Day 2 — Ulaanbaatar

Gather for an orientation, and then set out to visit the National Museum of Mongolia History. After lunch, delve into the bustle of the Black Market—where we’ll stock up on riding boots and dels, or traditional riding tunics, for our horseback adventure. Then head to the magnificent Choijin Lama Temple for a tsam-mask dance ceremony and a performance of the haunting sounds of khoomii, traditional throat singing.
Puma Imperial Hotel (B,L)

Day 3 — Ulaanbaatar/Kharkhorin

Today we’ll journey west through vast grasslands to the city of Kharkhorin, arriving late in the afternoon. Nearby are the ruins of Karakorum, a legendary capital of the Mongolian Empire, established by Genghis Khan and his son in the 13th century.
Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Kharkhorin/Bulgan Sum

Venture into Erdene Zhu monastery, built in the 16th century. One of the largest monasteries in Mongolia, Erdene Zhu has been a place of Buddhist activity for more than 400 years. His schedule permitting, enjoy a rare chance to meet Erdensuu, the head lama, who will talk to us about the Spirit of the Horse and Mongolia’s Buddhist renaissance. Later, settle into Lapis Sky camp in time for sunset and dinner.
Lapis Sky Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Bulgan Sum

Brush up on your horseback-riding skills and go for a warm-up ride in the valley of Teel. Visit with a nomad family and experience their way of life firsthand. Hone your photography skills during a photo class with National Geographic photographer Thomas Kelly. (9 miles optional horse riding, 3 hours)
Lapis Sky Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Begin Horse Trek/Tolgin Butts

Saddle up this morning and set out on horseback across the sweeping steppe. We’ll ride about three hours to Tolgin Butts and camp in a lovely meadow setting. (9 miles horse riding, 3 hours)
Camping (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Mandal Mountain

The second day of our horse trek is an invigorating five-hour ride over spectacular mountain passes and past Buddhist ovoos, ceremonial cairns often set in high places. In the afternoon, we’ll camp at the base of Mandal Mountain, a sacred place for the Mongols. (12 miles horse riding, 5 hours)
Camping (B,L,D)

Day 8 — Mandal Mountain

Explore Mandal Mountain on foot, and attend a Buddhist ceremony at a sacred ovoo on top of the mountain. Enjoy the rest of the day at Mandal Mountain camp going for walks, fishing, or taking an optional horseback ride to visit with nomads. (3 miles optional horse riding, 1 hour)
Camping (B,L,D)

Day 9 — End Horse Trek/Bulgan Sum

Ride back across the steppe to Bulgam Sum today, or, if you wish, return by jeep. Settle into your gers at Lapis Sky camp and enjoy time to relax and refresh this afternoon before gathering for a hearty dinner in our dining ger.
Lapis Sky Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 10 — Bulgan Sum

After breakfast, join Thomas Kelly for a photo walk, capturing images of the beautiful countryside. Go fishing for grayling and lenok trout, or practice your aim with a bow and arrow. In the afternoon, hop on a horse and pay a visit to nomads camped nearby. Spend time in their gers, learning about their everyday customs. Tonight, gather for a Mongolian barbecue.
Lapis Sky Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Naadam Festival

Today, we’ll take part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the local Naadam festival. Naadam takes place every summer in Mongolia, pitting men and boys against each other in age-old contests of manliness and physical prowess. Young men train all year to compete in the three events: bareback horse racing, wrestling, and archery. Witness the excitement close-up, taking photographs in the middle of the action and even trying out some of the sports after the competition. Later, listen to a traditional morinkhuur, or horse-head fiddle concert, as you sit around the bonfire at camp.
Lapis Sky Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 12 — Lapis Sky Ger Camp

Take advantage of a free day at Lapis Sky to soak up our peaceful surroundings. Set out on a final horseback ride, go for a hike or a fishing expedition, practice yoga or archery, pay a last visit with the nomads, or just relax at the camp.
Lapis Sky Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Days 13 & 14 — Ulaanbaatar /U.S.

After breakfast, journey back to Ulaanbaatar and enjoy an evening at leisure. The following day, depart to the U.S., arriving home the same day.
Puma Imperial Hotel (Day 13: B,L; Day 14: B)

About Adventures

National Geographic Adventures are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.

Trip Expert

Thomas Kelly

Thomas KellyPhotographer Thomas Kelly first came to the Himalaya in 1978 as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal. He now documents disappearing cultures all around the world. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he has worked with UNICEF and Save the Children to promote social programs for families. His work has appeared in articles, books, and films for National Geographic, as well as the New York Times, Time, and Natural History. His books include Himalayan Mysteries and Buddhism on the Path to Nirvana.

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Dates

2015
  • Jun 14 - 27, 2015
  • Jul 01 - 14, 2015
  • Jul 20 - Aug 02, 2015
  • Aug 09 - 22, 2015

Trip Cost

2015

$5,795

Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room add $800. International airfare to/from Ulaanbaatar is not included in the adventure cost.

GROUP SIZE: 8–15

See special terms and conditions for this adventure.

Activity Level

Moderate

This horse-riding adventure is suitable for beginners and experts alike; no previous experience is necessary. We will have a four-day horse trek riding 1 to 5 hours per day (3 to 12 miles) with options for more, or less, riding on most days. The trek will be supported by jeeps. We will stay 7 nights in traditional Mongolian gers (felt-lined yurts), 3 nights camping in spacious tents, and 3 nights in first-class hotels.

Click here for a description of all activity levels.

Contact Us: 1-888-689-2557

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