Welcome to Ulaanbaatar
Upon landing in Ulaanbaatar International Airport, your WildMongolia guide will meet you in the arrivals hall with your private vehicle on standby, ready to take you to your hotel for check in. The drive from the airport to central Ulaanbaatar takes around 1.5 hours.
First Stop: Ulaanbaatar
Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar is a contrast of nomadic felt gers, modern coffee chains, Soviet-era apartments, and thousands of ruggedized Toyota Priuses. It’s a testament to the pace of modernization and abilities of urbanization. On a stroll through, the city seems at paradox with itself, both old and young simultaneously: resident English-speaking entrepreneurs mingle in trendy cafes and cosmopolitan jazz bars, sharing the same street beside Buddhist temples and history museums.
Central Ulaanbaatar: Sükhbaatar Square & Genghis Khan Museum (Time Dependent)
Central Ulaanbaatar is the heart of the city’s rapid modernization push and houses nearly half of the entire country’s population. Begin with a stroll across Sükhbaatar Square, named after Mongolia’s revolutionary hero, Damdin Sükhbaatar, who can be see in-monument astride a horse in the square’s center. After crossing the square, arrive at the Genghis Khan Museum, the world’s most extensive collection of artifacts related to Genghis Khan. The museum follows the story of Genghis Kahn, orphaned as a young boy from a small nomadic tribe, and his rise to the top where he conquered and ruled most of Eurasia, creating one of the first international free trading zones along the way.
Ulaanbaatar to Gorkhi Terelj National Park
The drive from Ulaanbaatar to Terelj National Park will take around 1.5 hours.
Tsonjin Boldog Genghis Khan Statue
On the way to Gorkhi Terelj National Park, stop to stretch the legs and steep in a bit of history beneath the largest equestrian statue in the world. Here, Genghis Khan sits forever astride a steed, overlooking the Tsonjin Boldog valley. Legend has it that Genghis Khan once found a golden whip on this very site. Begin with a panoramic view from inside the gigantic horse before delving beneath into the museum where a collection of archaeological finds awaits.
Gorkhi Terelj National Park
The steep rolling cliffs and towering mountains of Gorkhi Terelj National Park give it the essence of a playground for giants, the enormous boulders and soaring Dahurian Larch and Siberian Pine trees merely their playthings. Past the initial tourist infrastructure (the national park’s proximity to Ulaanbaatar makes it a popular stop for many) pristine forest awaits, as do its full time residents: boar, deer, fox, wolves and one incredibly special bear – the Gobi bear. Known in Mongolian as Mazaalai, this is the only species of bear on the planet that lives in a desert habitat. It is estimated that today only around 50 remain in the wild, and though the chances of spotting one are incredibly rare, the only place on earth they could be spotted, is here.
Aryapala Meditation Center
Embark on a journey of inner reflection amid nature with a ~3-hour hike through the woods to the Aryapala Meditation Center, nestled deep inside the national park. The final test will be the 108 stairs leading up to the entrance of Aryapala. At the top, a Buddhist monk will be waiting to greet. This spiritual guide leads the ensuing meditation, an opportunity to embrace the power of mindfulness and meditation while immersed in nature.
URECA Ger District Carbon Credit Pilot Project
URECA is a Mongolia-based start-up company seeking to democratize access to carbon-credits via a blockchain-technology marketplace. They saw the need for change right in their backyard, where local residents spend a large percentage of their income on coal, a necessity for staying warm in Mongolia’s warm winters. Burning coal, however, causes serious health issues and is a significant contributor to Mongolia’s carbon emissions. So, URECA set up their pilot project here, installing solar electricity in these homes and producing substantial emissions reductions with cascading social benefits, all paid for by selling carbon credits. Step inside one of the solar-powered homes for dinner with the family who lives there, joined by a URECA team member who will share more about their world-changing mission.
Drive: Gorkhi Terelj National Park to Ulaanbaatar
The drive from Terelj National Park back to Ulaanbaatar will take around 1.5 hours.
Drive: Ulaanbaatar to Khustai National Park
The drive from Ulaanbaatar to Khustai National Park will take around 1.5 hours.
Khustai National Park
Khustai National Park, spanning over 50,000 hectares of steppe, is home to a vast collection of local life: over 500 plants, 30 mushrooms, 200 birds and 40 mammals. Among the vibrant ecosystem that exists here, one animal in particular shines the strongest, the Przewalski’s horse, known as “Takhi” to the locals. The Takhi was once completely extinct in the wild, but thanks to local conservation efforts, has been reintroduced to Khustai National Park in hopes of bringing the species back from the brink of extinction.
Khustai National Park Nomadic Immersion
Among the many lifeforms who call the Steppe of Khustai National Park homes, humans are also one. Join a nomadic herder family for the day to immerse in a lifestyle 10,000-years-old and counting. Experience what life is like on the Steppe with daily tasks like milking the cows, processing the dairy, collecting argali (dry droppings of cows used for fuel and as mosquito-repellent) and herding the cattle and sheep.
Morin Khuur: Mongolian Horse Fiddle
After a long-day’s work, the nomadic family returns home to put up their feet. This is when the Morin Khuur (Mongolian horse fiddle) comes out. Enjoy folksong performance from one of the household and bask in the ambiance of the horse fiddle, with sounds that are at once rich, deep and ancient.
Ger Art Gallery
From the outside, this ger looks like any of its neighbors, but inside, a trove of intrigue awaits. Step into a world of color inside the ger where the art of modern Mongolians are hung on the wall, providing a small window into the hearts, minds and motivations of this country’s artistically inclined.
The Artisanal Cheese Maker
What if Mongolia could take all the milk they produce and turn it into cheese? Well, they already make a traditional Mongolian cheese, similar to cottage cheese, but the concept expanding the cheese boundaries compelled a former governor to the extent of doing it himself. He learned the craft of cheesemaking from a wandering Dutchman and combined it with the rich and full-flavor dairy unique to Mongolia to produce a one-of-a-kind Gouda hailed for its complex nutty and salty flavors. Sit down for a chat with this governor-come-cheesemaker and taste his 28th edition Khustai Gouda for yourself!
Takhi Wild Horse Conservation
The central Asian wild horse locally known as Takhi, but also known as Przewalski’s horse, were thought to be completely extinct in the wild in the 1960’s. Luckily, a chance meeting between a Mongolian conservationist and a German researcher started the initiative to reintroduce these wild cousins of the domestic horse, and in the early 1990’s, Khustai National Park became one of the main reintroduction sites. See these magnificent beasts for yourself as they make their daily trip to the watering hole where they can be viewed respectively from a short distance.
Drive: Khustai National Park to Ulaanbaatar
The drive from Khustai National Park back to Ulaanbaatar will take around 1.5 hours.
Flight: Ulaanbaatar to Dalanzadgad
Your guide and private chauffeur will escort you to the airport and help you check in for your flight, at this point your Ulaanbaatar chauffeur will bid you farewell. Your guide will escort you on the 1.5-hour flight from Dalanzadgad to Ulaanbaatar. Upon arrival in Dalanzadgad your new chauffeur will be waiting to greet you and escort you to your vehicle.
Next Stop: The Gobi Desert
Welcome to one of the world’s largest deserts: the mystical Gobi, a landscape where undulating sand dunes give way to stretches of green shrublands teeming with diverse wildlife. Expect a medley of ecosystems, 33 to be exact, ranging from desert basins to low mountains to rocky terrains that stretch for miles on end, each with their own Mongolian name to boot.
Valley of the Vultures: Yolyn Am
A couple hours drive from Dalanzadgad, on the edge of the rocky Gurvansaikhan National Park, is Yolyn Am, which translates to “Valley of the Vultures”. This sheer canyon in heart of the Gobi desert is famous for its year-round ice field and, as the name implies, the Lammergeiers, or “Bearded vultures”. These amazing birds nest precariously in the towering cliffs and are the only vertebrates whose diets consist of ~80% bones. Enjoy the scenery up close, on foot or on horseback, through the canyon’s grassy meadows, small streams, and wending valleys, the sunlight bouncing off wildflowers and desert plants with grazing sheep and ibex roaming the sheer facades.
An hour’s drive will bring you to the doorstep of your home for the next three nights.
The concept of the “Spare Ger” is an ancient Mongolian tradition. Ger or yurt is an ingenious architectural invention that is perfectly suited in its versatility for the nomadic lifestyle across all seasons and terrains of Mongolia. Traditionally the Spare Ger is a multi-purpose structure which can be used as a play house for the children, a shelter for new-born animals, a storage space or furnished as a guesthouse. WildMongolia’s “Spare Ger” is designed to be a delicate balance of luxury and authenticity. Your local nomad hosts will escort you inside where a king-size bed awaits along with all the comforts and amenities of a mobile 5-star hotel, in the wilderness of Mongolia. The Ger stay is located far away from the usual commercial foot traffic, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding natural beauty and the dazzling evening show – the starry night sky.
Meet up with a professor from the Institute of Paleontology of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences who will be joining today’s excursion as an expert guide.
The Khavtsgait Petroglyphs
Drive through the breathtaking expanse of the Gurvansaikhan National Park to a jagged ridge that harbors the secrets to the Gobi’s ancient past. Emblazoned on the flat surface of these black rocks are ancient drawings of animals and deities, etched by the hands of Bronze and Iron age peoples 4,000 years ago.
Bayanzag: The Flaming Cliffs
Behold one of the Gobi’s most dramatic and dramatically named sights at the otherworldly Bayanzag. The Flaming Cliffs, as they are known in English, are so called for the spectacular fiery glow of the red-orange sandstone bluffs at sunrise and sunset. It was here, in 1923, that Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews and his exploration team from the American Museum of Natural History found the first nest of dinosaur eggs the world had ever seen.
Fossil Site: VIP Access
Continue on to some of the richest dinosaur fossil sites in the Gobi desert, where creatures such as velociraptor have emerged from the dust and rock to captivate the world. WildMongolia has arranged special VIP access to a dig site that is usually off-limits to the public to give you an up-close look at one of the Gobi’s unearthed fossils.
Pop-Up Dinner Experience Beneath the Flaming Cliffs
Bask in the magical essence of the Gobi with a private dinner beneath the Flaming Cliffs curated and prepared by a top chef.
Hongoriin Els: Singing Sands
Prepare to be humbled before the vast expanse of Hongoriin Els, the largest stretch of sand dunes in the Gobi desert (nearly 1,000 square kilometers in reach). Hongoriin Els is also known as “Singing Sands” for the low-pitched groaning the emit, a result of the fine grains being brushed by the wind. The journey through the Gobi today covers over 200km of vast steppes and sand dunes including a pass through Dungenee Canyon and Gegeet Valley, the later being home to the highly elusive desert residing snow leopard.
Sunset Camel Ride
The star of this evening’s sunset sand dune ascension is none other than the Bactrian camel, also known as the Mongolian camel. The Bactrian camel is easily distinguished by its double-humped back and is truly a creature of awe, being adaptable to extreme climates, temperatures and altitudes. They are also the only species of camel still found in the wild and live only here, in the Gobi. Enjoy a, somewhat bumpy ride, up the silky dunes with the prismatic sunset on the horizon and the Hongoriin River below.
Gobi Bonfire Dinner Party
A surprise is waiting back at the Spare Ger – a bonfire celebration with dinner and entertainment! The acclaimed Umnugovi Music and Drama Theater troupe has set up shop for a private performance in the middle of the desert. Sit back, relax and enjoy the traditional Mongolian performance beside a roaring fire licking flames up toward the velvety desert sky.
Flight: Dalanzadgad to Ulaanbaatar
Your guide and private chauffeur will escort you to the airport and help you check in for your flight, at this point your Dalanzadgad chauffeur will bid you farewell. Your guide will escort you on the 1.5-hour flight from Ulaanbaatar to Dalanzadgad. Upon arrival in Ulaanbaatar your new chauffeur will be waiting to greet you and escort you to your vehicle.
(Option A) Gandantegchinlen Monastery
Locally referred to as Gandan, this is the main monastery of Ulaanbaatar, with a history dating back to early 19th century. Spared by the Communist purge that saw the mass demolition of hundreds of monasteries and temples across the country, the restored Gandantegchinlen was, for a time, the only functioning Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. From children feeding the famous Gandan pigeons to lamas scurrying back and forth to visitors kneeling in prayer, Gandan is one of the core landmarks of Ulaanbaatar’s identity. While wandering the complex, make sure not to miss the awe-inspiring Megjid Janraisag Temple. The original temple was melted down by the communists during World War II to make bullets for the war, but was rebuilt in the mid 1990s with financial and metal donations (gold and silver).
(Option B) Narantuul Open-Air Market
What is a visit to a city without a stop at its central bazaar. The title of the central bazaar rightfully belongs to Narantuul, the largest open-air market in Ulaanbaatar. As the locals say if whatever you’re looking for exists in Mongolia, it can be found at Narantuul. Peruse the multitude of offerings, from interesting artifacts to traditional clothes to unusual trinkets. The only rule, don’t forget to haggle for a fair price!
VIP Dinner at Choijin Lama Temple Museum
An architectural masterpiece and one of the oldest structures to remain standing in modern Ulaanbaatar, Choijin Lama Temple is both a museum and a house of faith. Built in the early 20th century by the last lama-king of Mongolia, the Temple is a tranquil little spot in the beating heart of Ulaanbaatar city.
Enjoy an exclusive farewell dinner in the temple museum to cap off your Mongolian adventure with a VIP bang.
Depart for Home
You WildMongolia guide and driver will meet you in the lobby of your hotel to take to you to the airport (~1.5 hours drive), help you check in for your departure flight home and bid you farewell.