Desert Adventure in Western Mongolia
(11 days)

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day 1
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day 2
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day 3
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day 4
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day 5
Ulaagchinii Khar Nuur
day 6
Camel Riding Trip
day 7
Senjit Khad
day 8
Mukhart Oasis
day 9
Oasis in Mongolian Desert
day 10
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day 11

Detailed description



Today we will be driving to Karakorum (also called Kharkhorin).

Karakorum was the capital of Genghis Khan’s Mongolian Empire in the thirteenth century. In 1220, Genghis Khan ordered the building of Karakorum on the ruins of Turug and Uigur cities in the Orkhon valley at the eastern end of the Khangai Mountains. During the reign of Ugedei Khan, it was completed 15 years later. The town was very multicultural and culturally accepting.

The silver tree, which was once part of Möngke Khan’s palace, has become Karakorum’s emblem.

From 1220 to 1260, it was at its most prosperous. Karakorum existed as the great capital of the Euro-Asian Empire, with Mongolia at its heart, and as the epicenter of politics, trade, culture, faith, intellect, and diplomacy, as well as the most visible link in international relations.

Between 1260 and 1380, Karakorum lost its status as the capital of the Great Mongolian Empire and became Mongolia’s capital. When Kublai Khan and his younger brother, Ariq Boke, assumed the throne of the Mongol Empire in 1260, they moved their capital to what is now Beijing. Karakorum was reduced to the administrative center of a Yuan Dynasty provincial backwater.

After 110 years after Kublai Khan transferred the Empire capital to China in 1260, the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty fell in 1368, and the center of Mongolian government was shifted to its homeland. It allowed Karakorum to regain its former glory.

The town was captured and destroyed by Ming troops under General Xu Da in 1388. Nothing remains of this legendary city today.

When Abtai Sain Khan and his brother, Lord Tumenkhen, went to the 3rd Dalai Lama in 1580 to express their desire to create a temple in Mongolia, he advised them to restore an old temple in Karakorum. The Main Zuu temple of Erdene Zuu monastery is a temple in Takhai ruins that was restored in 1588 at the Dalai Lama’s suggestion.

Erdene Zuu Monastery is now all that is left of what was once a massive monastery with 100 temples and over 1.000 lamas. You’ll walk around the grounds of Erdene Zuu Monastery, which is encircled by huge 400 m X 400 m walls. You will be guided around the 3 remaining temples: the Dalai Lama, Zuu of Buddha and Lavrin Temple.

The Karakorum Archaeological Museum will be another stop on your itinerary. It’s a tiny museum, but it’s housed in a new, well-run structure with good lighting and simple English labels on display cases. The displays contain hundreds of artefacts from the 13th and 14th centuries that were discovered in the immediate region, as well as those from other provinces’ archaeological sites, including prehistoric stone tools. Pottery, bronzes, coins, religious sculptures, and stone inscriptions are among the objects on display. A half-excavated kiln is also sunk into the museum floor. The scale model of ancient Karakorum, which attempts to reflect the city as it would have existed in the 1250s and is based on descriptions written by the French missionary William of Rubruck, is perhaps the most intriguing. A Turkic noble tomb with wall paintings and artefacts, including gold objects and jewels, is on display in another chamber. A short video of the actual burial site is available.

You can also visit the Turtle Rock and the Phallic Rock, as well as a small market that showcases local artists’ work.

(Ger camp B, L, D)

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Tsenher Hot Spring

We will travel westward toward the Khangai Mountains. The Khangai Mountains are 2500-3000 meters above sea level and are largely made up of Palaeozoic period granite, intrusive chert, and sandstone. The Khangai Mountains stretch for about 800 kilometers from Zavkhan province to Tuv province. They act as the world’s water system’s continental divide.

For herds of horses, yaks, and cows, the green mountain sides and a network of smaller and larger rivers provide excellent pastureland.

We will arrive at Tsenkher hot spring resort in the afternoon. This resort gives its guests access to a large open-air pool. The pool’s hot water comes from a hot water spring that runs continuously. The water is over 80 degrees Celsius in the spring. The temperature of the water is regulated by a complex pipeline system. Some people will sit in the pool for hours, conversing with their mates while looking at the stars or scanning the night time landscape around them.

(Ger camp B, L, D) 

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Drive to Khorgo-Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park

We’ll arrive in Tsetserleg town in the morning to visit a local museum about Mongolian tradition and Buddhism in the early 1800s.

The museum was once a well-known Buddhist temple that was demolished by the Mongolian government under Soviet control. After visiting the museum, we’ll continue driving to Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake.

It is one of the country’s most beautiful lakes. The lake was formed by lava flows from a millennia-old volcanic eruption and is surrounded by extinct and craterous volcanoes. The landscape is coated with black volcanic rocks as a result of the volcano eruptions. The lake is about 15 kilometers long and reaches a maximum depth of 20 meters. Hills with steppe and woodland steppe vegetation characterize the landscape immediately surrounding the lake.

(Ger camp B, L, D)

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Free day at Khorgo-Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park

The Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake is a perfect place to unwind today.

We will go on an excursion to the top of the Khorgo Uul Volcano in the morning. Khorgo Peak, a volcanic field, is about 4 kilometers from the lake. The volcano crater is 200 meters wide and 100 meters deep, and it is surrounded by trees at the back and around the opening. There are numerous basaltic “Gers” formed during the cooling of lava to the south of Khorgo Mountain; some of the them have gates and upper holes and exceed 1.7 m in height.

We will also visit the Single Man cave, which is small on the outside but rather large on the inside. Afternoons are ideal for planning optional events such as valley trekking, lake boating, swimming, horseback riding, or visiting a nearby family to learn about nomadic life.

(Ger camp B, L, D)

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Drive to Telmen Lake

We’ll travel west today, passing through Zavkhan Province’s Ikh-Uul and Tosontsengel villages. We will arrive at Telmen Lake in the late afternoon. The lake is located at the crossroads of the forest-steppe and steppe ecosystems. The closed lake basin of Lake Telmen is mildly salty. Three islands dot the lake, which serves as a stopover for migratory birds. The unusual desert flower “Zambaga” can be seen here in early spring. We’ll hike around for a bit and may you find peace in the wandering.

(Tented camp B, L, D)

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Drive to Ulaagchinii Khar Nuur National Park

We’ll travel to another natural wonder, Ulaagchinii Khar Lake in Zavkhan Province, which is one of the most beautiful places in the province. The Zavkhan province (aimag) is located in a transitional zone between central Mongolia’s fertile Khangai mountain range and the harsh Great Lakes Depression to the west. Zavkhan, sandwiched between two distinct regions, has its own climate and landscape, ranging from snow-capped peaks to steppes and lakes surrounded by sand dunes. To the east of the Great Lakes Depression, the lake is located in a dale in the Khangai Mountains. It is about 1000 kilometers west of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital city. The freshwater lake is bordered on the north by massive sand dunes and on the south by mountainous terrain. It will be a thrilling, adventurous, and breathtaking drive. We arrive at the Ger camp near the lake in the late afternoon and rest for a few hours before embarking on a four-day camel ride through the scenic area.

(Ger camp B, L, D)

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Camel riding at Ulaagchinii Khar Nuur National Park

Our camels will arrive after breakfast at the Ger camp, and our camel guide will lead us through the scenic valley of Black Lake, past massive sand dunes. The landscape is a bleak semi-desert. The climate is typical of steppe climates, which have precipitation that exceeds evapotranspiration and are intermediate between desert humid climates.

We will spend three nights in a tented camp. This experience immerses you in the nomadic lifestyle. We’ll also hear about two humped Bactrian camels and how to care for them like nomads do in their everyday lives. Tented camping will be available at the lake’s edge for the night.

(Tented camp B, L, D)

Camel Riding Trip

Camel riding to Senjit Stone Arch

We’ll continue to Senjit Rock, which is perched atop a hill. The rock used to be whole, but over millions of years, a powerful wind carved the gate into its current shape. The gate is 6 meters wide, 3.5 meters tall, and it adds to the natural beauty of the region. We’ll stay near the stone arch for the night. (Tented camp B, L, D)

Senjit Khad

Camel riding to Mukhart Oasis

Today’s camel trek will take us through the vast sand dunes to Mukhart Oasis. It’s an incredible location where a river emerges from massive sand dunes and is home to a variety of bird species. We’ll have plenty of time to discover the oasis once we arrive. We are experiencing Mongolia’s unusual landscape, which consists of a combination of desert, grassland, and a large lake. The Mukhart River rises underneath the sand dunes and winds its way through the desert, eventually joining the Zavkhan River.

(Tented camp B, L, D)

Mukhart Oasis

Camel riding to the camp

The longest camel ride will take place on the final day. We’ll follow the camel guide all the way back to the camp. Before the camel ride, you will have the opportunity to stop by the camel guide’s Ger for some tea. Finally, we’ll return to the ger camp for a rest. We might head to Zavkhan province later that night, depending on the flight time the next day. 

(Ger camp B, L, D)

Oasis in Mongolian Desert

Flight back to Ulaanbaatar

The time has come to leave and fly back to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital. You can use your free afternoon to see as you fit. You could always go see the lovely cultural exhibitions and admire the contortionists while watching colorful and rhythmic Mongolian dances. 


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