Desert Skies: A Journey Through Gobi and the Golden Eagle Festival

Explore the mystical Gobi Desert, with its towering dunes and rugged mountains, and experience the awe-inspiring Golden Eagle Festival of the nomadic Kazakh hunters. This adventure delves deep into Mongolia's breathtaking natural beauty and celebrates its vibrant cultural heritage, promising unforgettable memories and stories to tell!
Duration 11 days 10 nights
Fitness Easy

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      Daily Highlights

      Day 1Ulaanbaatar
      Arrival - Ulaanbaatar

      Explore the dynamic blend of ancient traditions and modernity in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s thriving capital. Here, traditional gers and serene Buddhist monasteries coexist with contemporary high-rises, creating a unique urban landscape. Upon your arrival, a local Mongolian guide will welcome you and escort you to a centrally located hotel, conveniently situated near various cultural attractions, including museums and shops.

      During your stay, make sure to visit the Chingghis Khan Museum, Mongolia’s largest and newest museum. It houses an impressive collection of over 10,400 artifacts that chronicle the expansive history of the Mongol Empire’s great khans, from the Xiongnu era to the late 20th century. Cap off your day with a welcome dinner at a distinguished local restaurant, where you can savor traditional Mongolian cuisine amidst the city’s bustling atmosphere. This juxtaposition of old and new highlights Ulaanbaatar’s unique charm and provides a comprehensive introduction to Mongolia’s rich cultural heritage.

      Day 2Ulgii
      Tsambagarav Mountain

      Embark on an exhilarating journey to Ulgii, the capital of Bayan-Ulgii province, located in the westernmost part of Mongolia. This region is notably distinct, with ninety percent of its population being Kazakh, Mongolia’s largest ethnic minority. A morning flight will whisk you away to this remote area, where the rugged Altai Mountains have helped preserve the unique language and traditions of the Kazakh people amidst some of Mongolia’s most breathtaking landscapes.

      Enjoy a scenic two-hour drive to the snow-capped Tsambagarav Mountain. En route, marvel at the pristine beauty of Tolbo Lake, which reflects the dramatic contours of the surrounding Khunguin Mountains. Upon arrival, settle into your traditional ger accommodation and take the opportunity to explore the majestic surroundings with short hikes.

      Conclude your day with a dinner in the restaurant ger, where you can relax and enjoy local cuisine in this picturesque setting, surrounded by the natural beauty of Mongolia’s vast wilderness.

      Day 3Bayan-Ulgii
      Golden Eagle Festival

      Start your morning with a drive to the Golden Eagle Festival, where you’ll witness the grand opening as Kazakh eagle hunters parade on horseback with their eagles. The day features competitions focusing on traditional hunting outfits and the eagles’ speed and agility, with eagles being judged as they swoop down from a cliff to their owners’ arms.

      If time allows, visit a local Kazakh family – this is a wonderful opportunity to immerse in local culture. Kazakh craftswomen are known for their vibrant embroidery and textiles, and their homes are a visual delight with handcrafted felt carpets and intricately embroidered tapestries that reflect family traditions.

      End the day with dinner and an overnight stay at the ger camp.

      Day 4Bayan-Ulgii
      Golden Eagle Festival - Awards Ceremony

      Today’s Golden Eagle Festival highlights include eagles being released from a cliff to pursue fox skins dragged by horseback. They’ll be judged on speed, gripping technique, and their ability to capture the target. Concurrently, Kazakh hunters will engage in kukbar, a horseback tug-of-war, testing their equestrian skills, strength, and agility. Additional festivities include horse races and traditional Kazakh games like Tenge Ilu, where riders scoop money from the ground at full gallop, and Kyzguar, a courtship game played by young men and women.

      The day concludes with an awards ceremony in the late afternoon, celebrating the winners. In the evening, enjoy a celebratory dinner accompanied by a local musician serenading with melodies from the Altai Mountains.

      Day 5Ulaanbaatar
      Bayan Ulgii - Ulaanbaatar

      Transfer to the airport for a return flight to Ulaanbaatar.

      Check in to your hotel upon arrival and spend the afternoon at leisure.

      Day 6Gobi Desert
      Fly to Gobi Desert / Yol Valley

      In the morning, take a flight to the Gobi Desert, the largest desert in Asia, spanning parts of China and southern Mongolia. The Gobi is known for its cold climate, varying elevations, and diverse landscapes that include sand dunes, rocky hills, and sparse vegetation. Upon arrival, you’ll visit Yol Valley National Park, a green oasis amidst the desert, where you can hike through ice-covered streams and spot unique wildlife like the Lammergeiers, birds that feed primarily on bone marrow.

      In the afternoon, experience the nomadic lifestyle firsthand by visiting a local family. Learn about their daily activities such as animal herding and milking, and discover traditional practices like making milk tea. Mongolia’s enduring nomadic culture offers a glimpse into a way of life that has remained unchanged for centuries, with about 30% of its population still living nomadically, moving with the seasons in harmony with nature.

      Day 7Gobi Desert
      Moltsog Sand Dunes

      A journey to Moltsog Els, one of the Gobi Desert’s enchanting areas blanketed with sand dunes. Here, you can either explore the vast dunes on foot or experience the unique thrill of riding a Bactrian camel. Visit a local camel herding family to immerse yourself in their traditional lifestyle and enjoy their warm hospitality.

      After lunch, ready to partake in an afternoon of engaging activities at the lodge. You can saddle up for horseback riding or join a cooking class where you’ll learn to make traditional Mongolian dumplings, including the crispy Khuushuur and the succulent Buuz.

      Day 8Gobi Desert
      Khavtsgait Valley

      In the morning, drive to Khavtsgait Valley to explore the hillside adorned with hundreds of ancient petroglyphs dating back up to 7000 years. These images, etched into basalt rock, depict early hunters pursuing ibex with bows and arrows, riding bareback—indicative of a time before saddles were invented.

      Spend the afternoon watching a documentary on Roy Chapman Andrews, the explorer who first discovered dinosaur eggs at the Flaming Cliffs. Later, visit these iconic cliffs, renowned for their red-orange hue that glows at sunrise and sunset, and rich in paleontological history, including ongoing fossil discoveries.

      Day 9Ulaanbaatar
      Gorkhi Terelj National Park

      Today, fly back to Ulaanbaatar. Visit Chinggis Statue, a colossal 131 ft. tall steel structure of Chinggis Khaan on horseback located at Tsonjin Boldog—a site of historic significance where Chinggis Khaan reputedly found a horsewhip, a symbol of his destiny to unite the nations under heaven. This site offers visitors a chance to climb to the horse’s mane for panoramic views and delve into the history of Mongolia’s ancient empires.

      Then it’s a short drive to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, nestled in the southern Khentii mountain range. This area, a blend of mountains, forests, and steppes, supports diverse bird and plant life. Spend the late afternoon hiking in the mountains to explore the natural beauty of the park.

      Day 10Ulaanbaatar

      Begin your day at the Aryapala meditation temple, perched on the mountainside. This sacred site is a haven for many locals seeking tranquility and spiritual insight.

      Return to Ulaanbaatar and visit the Gobi cashmere factory, where you’ll gain insight into the production processes of one of the world’s finest cashmere. Witness firsthand the transformation of raw yarns as they are dyed, knitted, and meticulously quality-checked. Shopping time! At the factory store, have the chance to scoop up some luxurious cashmere goods, perfect for treating yourself or finding unique gifts.

      Cap off the evening with a cultural immersion at a local performance, where traditional Mongolian dancers and khoomi throat singers showcase their art. Conclude the beautiful evening with a farewell dinner at a renowned local restaurant, celebrating the rich flavors and vibrant culture of Mongolia.

      Day 11Sky

      Home sweet home awaits! After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Reflect on the wonderful memories you’ve created and rest up, ready for your next grand adventure.

      Safe travels!

    What's Included

    • UNIQ eBooklet including daily itinerary and recommendations for attractions, dining and shopping
    • Accommodation on twin sharing basis in hotel as stated on bed & breakfast basis
    • All transportation & transfer on an air-conditioned vehicle
    • All transportation & transfer on Jeep in Gobi
    • Local English-speaking expert guide in each city
    • All entrance fees in sights stated
    • Domestic flights in Economy Class as stated

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