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 a regional Naadam festival at a small-village celebration.
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. Following a full orientation with your fellow travelers and your guides, enjoy a Mongolian feast at a traditional restaurant.
Tuushin Hotel (D)
Day 2 — Ulaanbaatar
Following breakfast this morning, set out to visit the National Museum of History to learn about the rich cultures and traditions of Mongolia. This evening we will enjoy a tsam-mask dance ceremony and a performance of the haunting sounds of khoomii, traditional throat singing, at the National Ensemble of Song and Dance. Tuushin 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, 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 — Local Naadam Festival
Today, we’ll take part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience at a local Naadam festival nearby our camp. Naadam takes place every summer throughout 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.
Tuushin Hotel (Day 13: B,L; Day 14: B)
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.
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.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What To Expect
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.
Due to the size of the horses, there is a rider weight limit of 195 lbs.
Contact Us: 1-888-689-2557
Call to speak with an Adventure specialist about this trip.