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Mongolia: Land of the Nomad

Alternate Itinerary
July 05 - 17, 2014 (13 Days)

Days 1 & 2 — U.S. / Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Depart on an overnight flight to Ulaanbaatar and check into our centrally located hotel upon arrival.
Ulaanbaatar Hotel

Day 3 — Ulaanbaatar

Spend the morning at the Gandan Monastery, Mongolia’s largest functioning Buddhist monastery—one of very few to survive Stalin’s crackdown on religion during the purges of the 1930s. Listen to the horns calling lamas to temple, observe the monks’ daily rituals, and visit the adjoining Megjid Janraisig and Kalachakra Temples. This afternoon, get an overview of Mongolia’s history and culture at the remodeled National History Museum, where Stone and Bronze Age artifacts, sacred relics, traditional costumes, and implements of everyday life are on display. At the Natural History Museum examine the fossilized dinosaur bones and eggs found in the Gobi, and step into the paleontology lab, where local scientists prepare recently discovered fossils. Gather tonight for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Ulaanbaatar Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 4 — Ulaanbaatar/Gün-Galuut Nature Reserve

This morning, join a senior U.S Embassy official for an introduction to the current political and economic climate over breakfast. Then drive east to Gün-Galuut, a nature reserve near the Khentii Mountains where the steppe converges with stunning wetlands. Enjoy the rest of the day to explore the area on a hike or an optional horseback ride. Tonight, stay in a traditional ger, a felt-lined yurt.
Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 5 — Gün-Galuut Nature Reserve

Spend the day exploring the area on a hike or an optional horseback ride, and search the for endangered Argali mountain sheep. In the afternoon, visit a local nomadic family.
Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Gün-Galuut Nature Reserve / Ulaanbaatar

Enjoy a morning at leisure before returning to Ulaanbaatar. Along the way, stop to view the 131-foot-tall Genghis Khan equestrian statue and explore small villages depicting daily life and traditions during Genghis Khan’s era. This afternoon, visit the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum, which displays one of the world’s best collections of Buddhist art and artifacts.
Ulaanbaatar Hotel (B,L)

Day 7 — Naadam Festival

This morning, attend the opening ceremony of Naadam—Mongolia’s famous annual festival and sporting event—at the National Stadium. Dressed in traditional garb, participants compete in the “three manly sports” (wrestling, archery, and horse racing). After the pageantry of the opening ceremony, witness the pomp of the ritualized archery and wrestling contests. Then transfer to the horseracing field outside of Ulaanbaatar to experience the excitement of thundering hooves during the traditional horse race.
Ulaanbaatar Hotel (B,L)

Day 8 — The Gobi / Gegeet Valley / Khongoryn Els

Soar over the vast steppe on a flight to the mystical Gobi, site of some of the most important paleontological discoveries of the 20th century. Over the next four days, discover the wildlife and varying landscapes of the desert, home to Bactrian camels, Argali mountain sheep, and saker falcons, as well as rare species such as snow leopards and Gobi bears. Stop in Gegeet Valley, the habitat of the elusive snow leopard, en route to the Khongoryn Els, a 60-mile stretch of rippling sand dunes that soar up to 600 feet and trace the edge of the Altai range. Take in the sunset on this stunning and remote desert landscape, and spend the night in a nearby ger camp.
Gobi Discovery Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 9 — Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes

After breakfast, encounter the “Singing Sands,” dunes known for the uncanny, deep groan the sand emits when the dunes’ surface is disturbed. Stop in at the camp of a camel herding family and experience traditional Mongolian hospitality. Take a ride on a Bactrian camel if you wish. After lunch, settle into your deluxe ger at Three Camel Lodge, voted in 2009 one of the "Top 50 Eco-lodges" by National Geographic Adventure magazine.
Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 10 — Yolyn Am

Awaken early to watch the rising sun infuse the desert with glowing hues of orange and gold. Travel to Yolyn Am, or Eagle Valley, a dramatic chasm that cuts a narrow path through the foothills of the arid Altai Mountains. Set out on a hike through this lush spot, keeping your eye out for native vultures called lammergeiers, ibex, and gazelles. Later, visit the local natural history museum.
Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 11 — Tugrigiin Shiree / Flaming Cliffs

Drive to Tugrigiin Shiree where paleontologists discovered the famous “Fighting Dinosaurs” fossil in the 1970s. In the afternoon, head to Bayanzag, also known as the Flaming Cliffs. Here, brilliant red sandstone harbors a treasure trove of dinosaur fossils and eggs. Look for fossils and hike down into the gorge to take in the breathtaking span of the desert landscape.
Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 12 — Gobi / Ulaanbaatar

Fly to Ulaanbaatar this morning, arriving in time for lunch at a local restaurant. Then venture into the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, home of Mongolia’s last theocrat, Bogd Jebtzun Damba Hutagt VIII (Mongolia’s 8th Living Buddha). In the evening, take in a performance of traditional Mongolian dance and khoomi, or throat singing.
Ulaanbaatar Hotel (B,L)

Day 13 — Ulaanbaatar / U.S.

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight, or continue on the extension.