Mongolia’s Naadam Festival is a brilliant time to visit the country if you are interested in immersing yourself into the “buzz” of the nation’s most celebrated ancient events. This is a wonderful itinerary that fuses much the best Mongolia has to offer in the central northern regions with an annual Naadam Festival that everyone should experience at least once their life time. This itinerary is also being offered as a standalone itinerary without Naadam Festival – for those that really wish to experience it even when a naadam isn’t available. Its that good.
Day One – Overland Trip Across Central Mongolia towards Mongol Els Sand Dunes for Bactrian Camel and Horseback Riding to Locally Respected and Honored Khadagt Khoshuu Site (B, L, D – Overnight in extra Mongolian Nomadic Ger – Home Stay): In the morning you will depart from Ulaanbaatar 08am and travel by public bus Rashaant village for 280kms, along the way you will see many scenic locations from the bus as it drives by vast nomadic pastures. Upon arrival a rural vehicle will take you to the Mr. Byambatogtoh’s family (first family), they will prepare and greet you with an afternoon lunch. Afterwards Mr. Byambatogtoh and/or his sons will guide you to the locally worshipped site of Khadagt Khoshuu that is 10.5kms away. When you arrive, you will dismount from your camels or horses and either observe or even participate with the herders’ local customs that honor the site. In the early evening you will return to the family’s ger where you will be welcomed with dinner before retiring to the family’s extra ger to rest and sleep for the night.
Day Two – Afternoon Horseback Riding Trip to Mongolia’s Northern Gobi Desert Sand Dunes for some Trekking to the Locally Famous Desert Oasis known as Swan Lake (B, L, D – Overnight in extra Mongolian Nomadic Ger – Home Stay): After breakfast, you will continue your trip by horseback to next family where you will be greeted by Mr. Idertsogt and his family with an afternoon nomadic lunch and tea. After your meal and some rest, you will have an afternoon horseback ride to the beautifully scenic Swan Lake that is located at the base of the Mongol Desert Sand Dunes. This roundtrip is generally a 6km horseback ride – Swan Lake is both a pristine example of the beauty of co-existence of extremes (desert and water) as well as vibrantly intoxicating home to Swan Couples that are testimonies to strength, tolerance and passion. Later you will return to the family where you will be warmly invited to enjoy your evening dinner before returning to the family’s extra Ger for rest and sleep.
Day Three – Afternoon Horseback Riding Trip to visit the famed Mongolia’s Queen Manduhai Filming Location followed by Overland Travel to Ancient Karakorum (B, L, D – Overnight in Mongolian Ger Camp): In the early morning you can participate with the family with the daily nomadic chores that include milking of livestock before your breakfast. Afterwards, Mr. Idertsogt will guide you as your horseback riding trip will take you to the location of the monument that was constructed for the featured film about Queen Manduhai (5km round trip). In the afternoon, you will return to the family where they will prepare and serve you with a farewell lunch and tea. This afternoon you will travel overland to the Ancient Capital City of the Mongol Empire known as Kharakorum where you can spend time walking through the ruins as well as visit the Erdenezuu monastery that is located within its fortress walls before retiring to a nearby ger camp. Kharakorum was established in 1220 and flourished both as Mongol Empire’s Capital for 32 years as well as Mongolia’s Capital for 140 years and Erdenezuu Monastery is Mongolia’s first Buddhist Monastery established by Abtai Sain Khan in 1585.
Day Four – Overland Trip to Arhangai Province’s Tsenher Hot Springs for Relaxation (B, L, D – Overnight in Mongolian Ger Camp): After breakfast, you will travel overland to Arkhangai Province which is commonly referred to as the ‘horse breeders’ paradise’ as its pastures are geographically rich in vast green fields and clear river valleys. Some travelers and locals refer to Arhangai Province as to be comparative with Switzerland with its amazingly beautiful mountains, cliffs, rapid rivers, and green forests. Today you will enjoy the natural bounties of Tsenher Hot Springs where the hot spring water flows out of the ground at 82° C and overnight at the ger camp.
Day Five – Overland Trip to Mongolia’s White Lake – Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake for Horseback Ride Trip to “Khorgo” Volcano and Yellow Dog’s Cave (B, L, D – Overnight in Mongolian Nomadic Ger Camp): After breakfast, you will travel to White Lake for 185 km by rural vehicle. White Lake is an astonishingly beautiful lake – the lake is about 20 km long and 16km wide, it supports Pike and other fish as well as rare birds’ species can be found here. You will be served lunch when you arrive at Mr. Batbold’s ger camp. Then you will travel by horseback for 20kms (round trip) to a volcanic crater called Khorgo which is 2100m above sea level. From the summit there is a splendid view of the whole lake region, as you continue your journey, you will also visit the famous Yellow Dog’s cave (a local legend stated that a compassionate monk kept a sick dog in this cave in order to protect it from being killed). In the evening, you will return Batbold’s family and be welcomed with a farewell dinner and milk tea before retiring to your Ger.
Day Six – Overland Trip Across Central Mongolia to Galt Hot Springs (B, L, D – Overnight in Mongolian Ger Camp): After breakfast, you will overland drive through the wooded slopes of Khangai Mountain Range and cross high mountain passes. Along the way, you will have a picnic lunch before arriving at Galt Hot Springs where you can relax in properly outfitted hot springs and overnight at the ger camp.
Day Seven – Overland Trip Northwards to Mongolia’s famed Lake Khuvsgul for Horseback Riding Trip and some Trekking (B, L, D – Overnight in Mongolian Ger Camp): Lake Khuvsgul is truly a highlight of any trip to Mongolia and today you head north to the crystal clear waters – it is the deepest lake in Central Asia, measured with a maximum depth of 262 meters. The reflections of larch forests and majestic Mountains around the lake are truly amazing; 96 rivers and streams feed into Khuvsgul Lake and the Egiin River exits from it. On the way we will pass through Murun which is the capital of Khuvsgul Province before reaching the overnight destination at the ger camp located next to Khuvsgul Lake.
Day Eight – Early Afternoon Horseback Riding Trip to Mongolia’s Reindeer People (B, L, D – Overnight in Mongolian Ger Camp): After breakfast, you will visit the nomadic family. Upon arrival at Mr. Enkhbayar’s home, his family will serve you a hot tea and dairy products. Then you will start your horseback riding trip journey (10 kilometer round trip) to Shar Tsaram where you will have an opportunity to meet a Reindeer family. You will enjoy in the breath taking landscapes of Khuvsgul Province which is already renown both domestically and internationally for its pristine natural beauty. You will greatly enjoy trekking along the beautiful shoreline and a picnic lunch surrounded by picturesque landscapes. In the late evening, you will return to the camp for a dinner and tea to be followed by a deep and relaxing sleep in your Ger.
Day Nine – Trekking Trip along Mongolia’s Khuvsgul Lake (Overnight in Mongolian Ger Camp): After your breakfast, you can spend it trekking around the lake’s beautiful scenery. The scenery of the area is well worth the exploration time! Possibly you can also travel by boat on the Lake on your own as camp organizes the full day and half day boat trip. Tonight you will overnight in a ger camp next to the lake.
Day Ten – Overland Trip and Trekking Trip to the Extinct Mongolian Uran Volcano (B, L, D – Overnight in Mongolian Ger Camp): After breakfast at camp, you will drive to Bulgan province. Today you will enjoy hiking up to the extinct Uran volcano. This extinct volcano lies near the road, and stretches from Moron to Bulgan town. The reserve occupies a territory of 8 square kilometers with an elevation of 1,686 meters above sea level. It has been protected since 1965, and today enjoys the statue of “Natural Monument “. On the top of the extinct volcano is crater, 500 to 600 meters wide and 50 meters deep, filled with a small “crater lake” about 20 meters in diameter. There are green wood in the center of the Crater Lake. It is a really fascinating mountain. Red deer, Argali, Wild boar, Siberian Ibex, ruddy Shelduck, and duck are found in this area. Tonight you will overnight in a ger camp nearby the Mountain.
Day Eleven – Overland Trip to Mongolia’s Hidden Gem – Amarbayasgalant Monastery (B, L, D – Overnight in Mongolian Ger Camp): After your early morning breakfast at camp, you will continue your overland travel to Amarbayasgalant monastery. Upon arrival at tourist camp close to the monastery, you will be served a lunch and tea. Afterwards you will make walking tour for 2 kilometers to the monastery. During your visitation to the monastery, you will be introduced about history, uniqueness of Monastery and daily life of monks. Later on you will walk back to the camp for dinner and overnight in Ger.
Day Twelve – Overland Trip Back to Ulaanbaatar (B, L, D – Overnight in Hotel): After breakfast, you will drive to Darkhan for 160km. Upon arrival in Darkhan, you will have your lunch at Raja’s Curry House and then continue your journey back to UB city. Check in hotel. It’s going to be a great time for stretching your legs before your evening’s dinner at a fine restaurant – afterwards its best to get an early rest in preparation for the Naadam Festival.
Day Thirteen – Experience the BUZZ of the Opening Ceremony of Mongolia’s Naadam Festival (B, L, D – Overnight at Hotel): Get ready for a fun filled day! Today you will see and experience the buzz of the grand Opening Ceremony of Mongolia’s National Naadam Festival with its elaborate introduction ceremony featuring dancers, athletes, horse riders, military parades, long singers and musicians. Afterwards, the MEN of Mongolia, 512 wrestlers, will enter the stadium and showcase their strength and amazing skill; wrestlers come from both nearby and far off distant regions of Mongolia to compete.
In the afternoon, you will have lunch at a restaurant nearby to ensure that you don’t miss out on a marvelously colorful Naadam Festival archery competition; many Mongolians wear their own region’s ethnic costumes. In the evening, after an energetic day, you will have a wonderful evening dinner among you and your travel colleagues where you can swap and share your day’s experiences. Its best to rest early as the next morning will start early with the Naadam Festival’s horse races, so right after dinner we will be transferring you to your hotel.
Day Fourteen – Mongolia’s Naadam Festival – Horse Race Trip and Closing Ceremony (B, L, D – Overnight in Hotel): It’s time to get up, more Naadam Festival activities await you! This morning you will experience the brilliant madness of Naadam Festival’s horse race field and the unsurpassed cultural opportunity to watch the ‘daaga’ (2-year-old horse) race of 10km at “Hui Doloon hudag” with Mongolian racers from all corners of Mongolia. As the horses gallop into the final stretch towards the finish line, the energetic crowd charges the atmosphere and emotions of trainers and finalist are at their peak – crowds of locals surround the baby horses as they make their way to their mothers; for Mongolians these are heart-touching moments and brings tears to many.
While you are waiting for Naadam Festival next race, you will have a great opportunity to relax in a Naadam tent, visit local horse trainers, buy some local handicrafts and have a picnic lunch. In the afternoon, soyolon (5-year-old horse) race will start for 25km – Soyolon horse is the fastest and most powerful. Mongolians often say that the one who stands in dust of Soyolon race will be blessed till next Naadam Festival. So don’t be surprised if you see many businessmen, crowds of people wearing fancy traditional garments, as well as the Mongolia ‘strong-men’ that will wait for Mongolian fastest of the Soyolon horses.
After the Naadam Festival race, we will drive back to the main Naadam Festival stadium and follow up on the last two rounds of the wrestling competition that is followed by the closing ceremony. By this time, you may or may not be tired (the evening is yours to explore as you don’t have to wake up early if you don’t wish), we will take you to your hotel – where a wonderfully hot shower awaits you.
Day Fifteen – Ulaanbaatar (B): Breakfast at the hotel and departure.