The timeless spirit of Mongolia can be found amid its rolling steppe and endless deserts. Embrace the intriguing way of life of Mongolia’s nomads as you explore the soaring Altay Mountains, spot wild horses on the steppe, and traverse the Gobi’s undulating dunes. In Ulaanbaatar, go behind the scenes at a paleontology lab, and visit museums and monasteries with a private guide. Then head into the countryside to sleep in the serenity of a traditional ger tent and spend time with nomadic families.
Get a firsthand look at the everyday life of Mongolian nomads at a Gobi camel-herding camp.
Examine newly excavated dinosaur fossils with paleontologists at a lab in Ulaanbaatar.
Listen to the mesmerizing sounds of khoomi throat singing during a traditional dance performance.
Itinerary - 10 Days
Day 1 — Arrive Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Arrive in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s bustling and expansive capital. Ride from the airport to your downtown hotel and enjoy an evening at leisure. Shangri-La Ulaanbataar
Day 2 — Ulaanbaatar
Today's private city tour begins with a visit to Gandan Monastery, one of the few monasteries in the city that survived Stalin’s religious purges of the 1930s. Greet red-robed monks and explore intricately decorated temples in this Buddhist sanctuary. Get an overview of Mongolia’s past at the National Museum of Mongolia, where galleries display Stone and Bronze Age artifacts, sacred relics, and tribal costumes. After lunch, tour the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, home to one of the world’s greatest collections of Buddhist art and artifacts. Shangri-La Ulaanbataar (B, L, D)
Day 3 — Ulaanbaatar/Hustai National Park
Join paleontologists for a behind-the-scenes tour of a local laboratory and examine the latest batch of dinosaur fossils excavated from the field. Then, travel west to Hustai National Park, home to the takhi—also known as Przewalski’s horse, the world’s last remaining species of wild horse. Learn about conservation efforts and try to spot these untethered beauties on an excursion through the rolling green pastures of the reserve. Tonight, stay in a luxury ger and gaze out over the grasslands as you dine on the resort’s terrace. HS Khaan Resort Hotel (B, L, D)
Day 4 — Hustai National Park/Ulaanbaatar
This morning, visit the Neolithic graves of the Ongud, an ancient Mongol people that were active during the reign of Genghis Khan. On your return trip to Ulaanbaatar, travel through the scenic foothills of the Hogno Mountain, where grassy steppe contrasts sharply with striking desert dunes. En route, get a taste of Mongolian hospitality at the home of a local family and learn about the daily rituals of the area’s nomadic tribes. Shangri-La Ulaanbataar (B, L, D)
Day 5 — Gobi/Gegeet Valley/Khongoryn Els
Fly over Mongolia’s vast wilderness to the mystical Gobi, a semiarid landscape that defies conventional notions of desert scenery. Here undulating sand dunes give way to stretches of green shrublands teeming with diverse wildlife, including Bactrian camels, argali mountain sheep, goitered gazelle, and golden eagles. On your way through the Gegeet Valley, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife including the elusive and endangered snow leopard. Tonight settle into a traditional ger at the base of Khongoryn Els, a 60-mile stretch of towering sand dunes that rise up before the craggy slopes of the Altay Mountains. Tented Ger Camp (B, L, D)
Day 6 — Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes
Rise early for an excursion through the “singing" sands of Khongoryn Els and slide across the dunes to induce their famous groaning sounds. Visit the camp of a camel-herding family and learn about the practical and spiritual importance of these animals for Gobi nomads. Continue on to Bulgan, a small city built around a natural desert spring. Stop at one of the only farms in the desert and see a local school before heading to the Three Camel Lodge. This sustainability-focused National Geographic Unique Lodge is renowned for its ambitious efforts to protect and nurture the surrounding landscapes, wildlife, and communities. This afternoon’s ger-assembly demonstration gives a fascinating introduction to your accommodation. Three Camel Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 7 — Yolyn Am
Travel to Yolyn Am, the Valley of the Eagles, and hike the valley running through the foothills of the Altay Mountains. Spot yaks, Altay snowcocks, ibex, and lammergeiers as you trek through this dramatic gorge where lush vegetation, craggy terrain, and ice fields (weather permitting) coexist. Learn more about the surrounding flora and fauna at a local natural history museum. Later this afternoon, enjoy an exclusive cooking lesson with the lodge’s chef. Discover how the nomadic lifestyle shaped local cuisine, and try your hand at making some Mongolian specialties. This evening, turn your eyes to the night sky and spot stars and constellations alongside an astronomy expert. Three Camel Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 8 — Tugrigiin Shiree/Flaming Cliffs
Head to Tugrigiin Shiree where paleontologists unearthed the famous “fighting dinosaurs” fossils of a Protoceratops and Velociraptor locked in combat. Drive to the Flaming Cliffs of Bayanzag, a landscape of rust-red sandstone concealing a trove of dinosaur fossils just below the surface. Trek beneath these rock formations, looking for fossils at your feet and taking in magnificent landscapes on the horizon. Three Camel Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 9 — Ulaanbaatar
Return to Ulaanbaatar and visit the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan. Home to Mongolia’s last emperor, Bogd Jebtzun Damba Hutagt VIII, the ornate temple complex is now a museum displaying his personal possessions and regalia. The remainder of the afternoon is free for exploring downtown. Consider stopping at the Black Market, where you can browse traditional Mongolian clothing such as dels (tunics) and riding boots. This evening, enjoy a mesmerizing performance of Mongolian dance and traditional khoomii throat singing. Shangri-La Ulaanbataar (B, L, D)
Day 10 — Ulaanbaatar/Depart
Transfer to the airport and catch your international flight home.
About Private Expeditions
National Geographic Private Expeditions are specially crafted itineraries designed for independent travelers that combine guided excursions, fascinating insights into culture and wildlife, and top accommodations. Simply select a trip and decide whom you'd like to travel with and when you want to travel. We'll take care of the rest.
This expedition is available May 15 through October 25.
Mongolia's National Naadam festival takes place from July 11 - 15, 2018 in Ulaanbaatar.
Local Naadam festivals near Three Camel Lodge will take place on June 16, August 11 and September 11, 2018
Private Expeditions are designed to fit into your schedule. You choose your desired departure date, and we'll make all the arrangements. Click the reservation request button below to get started.
Prices are per person, double occupancy and are subject to availability. Single traveler prices are available upon request.
Internal flights between Ulaanbaatar and the Gobi are an additional $450 (subject to change). International airfare to and from Ulaanbaatar is not included in the expedition cost.
A holiday surcharge may apply to certain travel dates based upon international or local holidays, as well as local events and festivals. A $900 surcharge is applicable for travel over the Naadam Festival in July.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
Contact Us: 1-888-732-2379
Call to speak with a specialist about this trip.
Other Important Details
This trip is available to children age 8 and older; please contact our reservations specialists for details or to customize this trip if your children are under 8 years.