The Altai Mountains, Great Lakes and Dunes.
Explore Mongolia’s most diverse region, track snow leopards and ibex, traverse Mongolia’s largest sand dunes, and more.
PRICE On request $$$
SEASON June to September
TRIP TYPE Jeep Safari
ACCOMMODATION Luxury Private Camps, Tipi Tent Camps
ACTIVITIES Wildlife, birding, hiking
DURATION 10-17 days ex-Ulaanbaatar
Western Mongolia is a timeless landscape, home to Mongolia’s most fascinating and diverse ethic groups: the Kazakhs with their hunting eagles, surviving fragments of the Oirat Mongol tribes, and shamanist Tuvans.
In the Great Lakes Basin, there are more extensive sand dunes than The Gobi, in landscapes where dunes border great saltwater and freshwater lakes with a backdrop of snow capped mountains.
The Altai Mountains are habitat to snow leopards. Takhi wild horses have been reintroduced to the Khomyn Tal. Saiga Antelope still roam the dry steppes, an ice-age survivor, with a bulbous almost trunk-like nose uniquely adapted to extreme cold.
With the largest reed-beds in Central Asia, and diversity of landscapes, the Great Lakes Basin and neighboring mountains offer great birding.
We tour the region by Landcruiser, sleeping at our private 360° camps located among vast unspoilt landscapes. Where you will be welcomed by our local community partners.
We would love to tailor a custom trip to the West for you
Down to the details
Below you can find out more information about this trip, including a suggested itinerary, the fitness level required, what is included in the trip package and also some of the other customisation options available.
ULAANBAATAR TO HOVD OR ULAANGOM
Three hour flight to one of two regional airports. Drive for half a day to Altan Hökhii Uul, a single mountain in the central Mongol Altai range. First night at our luxury private 360° camps.
AT ALTAN HÖKHII MOUNTAIN
With our Myangad Mongol hosts. Traditional herders, who migrate between pastures with all their belongings loaded on to pack camels. These Western Mongol Oirats are renowned horse trainers. Learn about nomadic life, optional horse ride, day hikes. Horsemanship demonstration
TO KHOMYN TAL
Full day drive to the Khomyn Tal: semi arid grassland surrounded by lakes, rivers and large sand dunes. We set up camp near the Takh Association research centre, re-introduction site for Takhi, Przewalskii Horses (Equus przewalskii), once extinct in the wild. Meet with rangers.
SEER AND MONGOL SANDS
Explore the Khomyn Tal steppe and Seer Mountain escarpment in search of Takhi. We may also come across Mongolian Gazelles, Black-tailed Gazelles and possibly Siberian Ibex and Saiga Antelope. Good birding along the nearby Zavkhan River.
Drive to the salt water lake of Baga Nuur (Small Lake), wetlands rich in birdlife, and spectacular even for non-birders. We may see large congregations of Pallas’s Sandgrouse (Syrrhaptes paradoxus), good numbers of Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea).
Adjacent to Baga Nuur are the biggest and longest sand dunes of Mongolia, Mongol Sands. More spectacular than the famous.
MONGOL SANDS AND LAKES
Explorations of the area from our private camp. Drive to nearby Dörgön Nuur for bird watching birding: Pallas’s Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus leucoryphus), White-tailed Eagle (H. albicilla), Asian Dowitcher (Limnodromus semipalmatus) White Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni).
With some luck we may spot the rare Relict Gull (Larus relictus). Visit local nomads and their gers and livestock on foot or on camel back, to learn more about their livelihoods.
CAMEL RIDE, MONGOL SANDS
Traverse the sand dunes by camel (or on foot). Meeting our vehicles on the far side. Ride across dunes and along the shore where dunes descend to the lake There is a spectacular ovoo here, a sacred cairn where.
This is Saiga habitat where WWF are working with local herding communities to protect this rare antelope. In ice-age times millions of Saiga roamed the plains with mammoths, wooly rhinos and bisons.
Now only around 50,000 remain, in Russia and Kazahstan, with only a very small populaUon in Mongolia. They are very skiosh and hard to see, as they tend to run if their hear a vehicle within a distance of 2 or 3 kilometers. One day for explorations of the area and its wildlife and one day with the community.
TO JARGALANT HAIRKHAN MOUNTAIN
Cross the Dörgön Steppe into Khar Us Nuur National Park. The village of Chandmani is famous for its claims of being the original place for throat singing (hömii). To our private camp in a valley below Jargalant Hairkhan Mountain, with views to Khar Us Lake. The mountain is snow-capped unUl July, small stands of birch grow on the lower slopes.
AT JARGALANT HAIRKHAN MOUNTAIN
Hiking into the Rashant Valley of Jargalant Hairkhan Mountain, where ice and snow remain long into summer, Mongolia’s highest waterfall. Visit a sacred spring, famous for its healing powers.
With luck we may see Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica), Argali Sheep (Ovis ammon). This is Snow Leopard habitat where WWF has placed camera traps for research. Our local hosts are partners in conservaUon programs working with both WWF and Snow Leopard Trust.
Birds include Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), Chukar Partridge (Alectoris chukar), Altai Snowcock (Tetraogallus altaicus) and Wallcreepers (Tichodroma muraria).
TO KHAR KHATUU VALLEY
Half-day drive around Khar Us Nuur, the freshwater lake with the largest reed beds of Central Asia. Hovd is a mulUethnic small town, as it has several Mongol tribal groups, also Kazakhs. Visit the museum on the main square. ConUnue to in Bayan-Ölgii province and divert from there to the Khar Khatuu Valley via Tolbo Lake. We set up camp below the snow-capped Sair Mountain (3990 meters).
KHAR KHATUU VALLEY
Two days for exploraUons of this uncommon part of Bayan-Ölgii. Hosted by Kazakh nomads. Kazakhs are Muslims and have more elaborate gers (here called yurts). Here Kazakh traditional culture is actually stronger than in neighboring Kazakhstan, including hunUng with Eagles, also craq and embroidery skills. Learn about Kazakh life and traditions. Hiking and explorations of the surrounding mountains.
This is a moderately paced trip, avoiding long back-to-back jeep travel days. We like to spend a couple of days 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 include day hikes, length can be tailored to your fitness; the ability to hike 10 or 12 km (6-7 miles) in rugged terrain will enable you to make the most of this trip.
There is an opUonal 10km camel ride which will require 2 or 3 hours in the saddle (helmets provided), alternaUvely you can walk, or take the vehicles the long way round. Horse riding can also be arranged with some host families.
- 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.
Its is possible to compress this trip into 13 days ex-Ulaanbaatar, 15 days in Mongolia (means one full day, rather than two full days in each key location and/or skip one destination).
Or two shorter options:
- Great Lakes Exploration (Hovd to Ulaangom, or Hovd to Hovd) – 8 days ex-UB
- Altai Mountains ExploraUon (Hovd to Olgiy) – 8 days ex-UB
As a private trip it is possible to adjust the itinerary to focus more on specific interests, such as bird watching, searching for charismaUc mammals, meeting local nomads, or additional day walks.
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.
There are some seasonal variations of this itinerary depending on location of host communities and other local conditions. The trip may operate in the reverse direcUon, due flight schedules at the Ume of booking. The trip may operate in the reverse direcUon, due flight schedules at the Ume of booking.
The region is remote, we will be up to 6 hours drive from the major towns and regional airports. DomesUc flights to Ulaanbaatar may not be daily. Comprehensive emergency medical and evacuation insurance is required.
Our Local Hosts and Partnerships
Our conservation partners for this journey are WWF Mongolia and the Takh Association.
Both organizations practice people centered conservation, meaning local communities are incentivized to protect wildlife, and supported in diversifying their pastoral livelihoods.
We have partnered with two community organizations supported by WWF to help them develop community based tourism.
At the Khomyn Tal, the Takh AssociaUon is working with locals who have been trained as rangers: they now check remote sensor cameras as an integral part of their herding work. You will meet these amazing herders on the trip.