The Eastern Steppes
Mongolia’s Wild East. The largest remaining wild grasslands on earth. Free ranging herds of perhaps 2 million Mongolian gazelles roam an area 20 times larger than the Serengeti. The birthplace of Genghis Khan.
PRICE On request
SEASON June to September
TRIP TYPE Jeep Safari
ACCOMMODATION Private 360° Camps and Ikh Nart Ger Camp
ACTIVITIES Touring, wildlife, birding, hiking
DURATION 11 days ex-Ulaanbaatar
Our Eastern Steppes itinerary begins with a train journey into the East Gobi to visit Ikh Nart Nature reserve, a rocky plateaux that is home to abundant Argali wild sheep and Ibex. From here we set out into the Eastern Steppes, a sea of grassland where nomadic herders and millions of gazelles co-exist, traveling by jeep and accompanied by our support crew. Our objective is to visit two remarkable grassland reserves, Khar Yamaat and Toson Hulstai, hopefully encountering herds of gazelles en route.
North of the steppes we reach forests and meadows of the Onon River; Genghis Khan’s homeland and perhaps where he was buried in secret. Our return route to Ulaanbaatar takes us to Öglögchiin Herem, a 13th century royal burial site. The journey offers remarkable birding, especially at the numerous steppe lakes we pass. Five of the world’s crane species may be seen in this region including the rare Siberian Crane.
We would love to tailor a custom trip to the West for you
Ulaanbaatar to East Gobi, by train
Board the train for the 6 hour journey into the Gobi (Dornogobi Province) on the Trans-Mongolian Railway. Disembark at a tiny railway station in the middle of the Gobi steppes and transferred by vehicle the last 40km to Ikh Nart Nature Reserve and Nomadic Journeys “Red Rock” Ger Camp. The nature reserve is home to an estimated 500-700 Argali Sheep (Ovis ammon) and 100-200 Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica). Full day exploring Ikh Nart and wildlife viewing walks.
Into The Eastern Steppes
Drive north east, via Gun Galuut Nature Reserve. Hopefully we will see White-Naped Cranes and Swan Geese at wetlands en route. Following the Herlen River we enter the classic grassland landscapes of the Eastern Steppes. Arrive at Khar Yamaat Nature Reserve, an area of low rolling hills south of the Herlen.
Exploring Khar Yamaat, and Toson Hulstai Nature Reserves. Now one the Easterns Steppes proper there are less herders, and the steppes feel even more wild, with much taller grass. We will search for herds of gazelles. They may be elusive as they follow good grazing, occasionally herds of over 10,000 are seen. Very rarely mega-herds of over 250,000 gazelle have been seen. Morning and evening hikes, birding.
Along the Onon River
Head north to the Onon River. This is in the forest steppe zone, the transition from grassland to Siberian forest, we begin to see small stands of birch and pines. Hiking and opportunity to visit local Buryat families. The Buryats are a Mongol tribe centered around the Baikal region; as a forest people they more often live in log cabins than gers and herd more cows and horses than sheep and goats. Visit Dadal village which claims to be the site where Genghis Khan was born.
To Öglögch Wall & Daurian Steppe Lakes
Following the Onon westwards towards Ulaanbaatar. Öglögchiin Herem (Almsgivers Wall) is a significant historical site with number of 13th century graves, thought be a Royal burials site. Other Archaeological remains here date back to the time of the Huns. At the Daurian Steppe Lakes we may see the rare Siberian Crane. We visit Baldan Bereeven Monastery ruin, once and important monastery with over 8000 lamas that was destroyed in the Stalinist era. The 40ft high statue of Genghis Khan marks our final approach to Ulaanbaatar.
This is a moderately paced trip. We spend two nights in most locations in order to explore the area, and visit with the locals. Travel days are generally limited to 5 hours of driving time, occasionally 6 – 7 hours may be required.
Activities can include day hikes, length can be tailored to your fitness. Birdwatching can be excellent on this trip.
- All overnight accommodation outside of Ulaanbaatar.
- All transport and activities as per itinerary.
- All meals outside Ulaanbaatar.
- Camp entourage including cook and guide.
- National Park entry fee.
- Domestic flights.
- Air or train tickets to/from Mongolia.
- Hotels in Ulaanbaatar.
- Imported drinks.
This journey can be extended by spending extra time at Ikh Nart or on the Eastern Steppes or at Jalman Meadows which can be reached directly on the last day rather than heading into Ulaanbaatar. Can be shortened by one day, omitting Ikh Nart, and heading directly east.
It is possible to adjust the itinerary to focus more on specific interests, such as bird watching.
Our trips can be customized and combined in a modular fashion. Hence our Ulaanbaatar packages are quoted separately, allowing you the choice of hotel.
All Ulaanbaatar packages include:
- private chauffeur service to and from airport at start and end of your trip;
- city guide and private driver available as required; and
- the services of our Ulaanbaatar guest relations team.
The Eastern Steppes is a region of global conservation significance. Khar Yamaat SPA is now under management by WWF, while TNC are supporting Tolson Hulstai SPA. WCS has done extensive scientific research on the gazelles, and are working with herder community groups to support gazelle conservation in the region.
On the Onon River Nomadic Journeys have partnered with WWF to create the worlds first Taimen sanctuary. Taimen are a rare salmonid fish, a giant trout, found in several of Mongolia’s rivers. Nomadic Journeys sister-organization, Mongolia Rivers, is the exclusive fly fishing eco-tourism operator on the river (more info: MongoliaRivers.com)
On this trip we spend one night at Nomadic Journeys’ Red Rock Camp at Ikh Nart on the way to, or returning from your private 360° camp. This is a well-appointed low impact ger camp with no permanent structures.
Bedrooms, dining room, and even hot shower are all housed in traditional Mongolian gers. At the end of the season the camp is fully dismantled for the winter, and re-erected the following spring.