River Canyons & East Gobi
Float one of the world’s most beautiful wilderness rivers, each evening arriving at one of our unique stream-side camps. The canyons of this river are simply stunning. Hike or ride a camel across the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve labyrinth rock formations.
PRICE On request
SEASON June to August
TRIP TYPE River rafting Float Trip
ACCOMMODATION Private 360° Camps streamside and in the desert
ACTIVITIES Rafting, hikes, photography, ride camel, meet nomads
DURATION 12 days ex-Ulan Bator
This is a very special river trip through The Hövsgöl Canyons, Mongolia’s most scenic river valley. Each year, along with our sister fly fishing operation, we establish a string of comfortable ger camps along the river. For this non-angling trip, we float from camp-to-camp over 3 or 4 days on the river. The floats are half days why there are opportunities to hike up the sides for stunning views each day.
The river is remote and difficult to access, boat travel is the best way to properly discover this river canyon. We start these trips at the head of the canyon section and end where it reaches towards steppes. Carved through limestone and granite, The Hövsgöl Canyons are inaccessible for vehicles for most parts. It is flanked by spectacular cliffs and rock pinnacles. Also travel to the wildlife-rich East Gobi where there are migrating nomads in the landscape.
We would love to tailor a custom trip to the river for you
To orient yourself in Ulan Bator we suggest a stroll to central Sukhbaatar Square. Visit to the National Museum of Mongolia to admire its ethnographic collections of nomadic culture and examine the history which led to the imperial era of Genghis Khan. From there we divert to the Gandan Monastery, the busiest Buddhist site in Mongolia. Mongols share a strong religious affinity with Tibet. leader. After lunch at a local restaurant, we continue to the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan.
Domestic flight to Mörön in Hövsgöl province and 3-4hour drive to the river canyons through jaw-breaking scenery. Arriving at the first of the river camps. For the next two days you will float through picture-perfect river canyons between cliffs of granite and limestone that soar hundreds of meters above the wild river. Our team of professional river guides use top spec US-manufactured rafts equipped with full safety gear. Choose to take the oars on the raft, pilot your own inflatable kayak, or simply sit back and let our guides do the work. Each day on the river is divided into half-day floats to allow stops for streamside photos and to hike up to scenic lookout points for glorious landscape vistas. Each evening you will float into a new 360° camp, furnished with all the amenities of an African tented safari, but deep in the heart of remote Mongolia. Two full days of inspiring, untamed adventure.
Hustai National Park
Rising early, you will return to the capital by plane. At Ulan Bator you will be met at the airport for a one-hour transfer to the Hui Doloon Hudag plains, a steppe area west of the city where the famous horse races take place every July. Here you will recharge in the comfort of mansion-like, modernized gers with windows and a terrace at HS Khaan Ger Resort. Evening time is your own. The next day we will do a game drive through Hustai National to see wapiti deer and Przewalski horses, called takhi in the Mongol tongue. The takhi, a truly wild horse closer to zebra than horses, became extinct in Mongolia in the 1960s but were successfully rehabilitated after animals were donated from zoo parks across the world.
To East Gobi
You will return to Ulan Bator and have an early lunch in the city before departing on a five-hour drive to Ikh Nart Nature Reserve. The tarmac road runs beside the Trans-Mongolian Railway towards Beijing, as the grasslands gradually give way to arid Gobi plains. Beyond the town of Choir, the true Gobi reveals itself, crowned with labyrinthine rock formations as you reach the Ikh Nart uplands. Rich in wildlife. Your private 360° Wilderness Ger Camp will be ready and waiting at Elst, a pristine pitch in an isolated section of the reserve.
Ikh Nart Nature Reserve
On the first day we will spend it exploring the Ikh Nart area on foot, or if you prefer, by horse, camel or mountain bike. The rugged, rock-strewn topography harbors a rich panoply of wildlife. As well as Argali sheep, you might encounter Siberian ibex and many bird species including enormous cinereous vultures and graceful lesser kestrels, the subjects of ongoing scientific study here. You’ll probably encounter local herding families, hardy and hospitable Gobi herders who frequently migrate in and out of the area with their livestock. The following day we will move camps, travelling 13km eastwards to the Ikh Nart Rocks Ger Camp. To do so, you can travel by jeep, camel or on foot. Jeep permits wider exploration of the reserve on route, whereas by camel or on foot will require the better part of a day to navigate through the other-worldly landscape of granite rock formations, many looming as high as multistory buildings.
To Beijing or Ulan Bator
After breakfast we will drive 80km north to the small town of Choir and prepare to catch the overnight train into China, which rumbles out of the small station on at 11:37am twice per week. Alternatively, you may wish to drive to Ulan Bator and stay the night at a hotel before departing the capital by plane or train. Two hours before arriving in Beijing, the train skirts its way through the Great Wall, the world’s largest monument to the perpetual incompatibilities between pastoral and sedentary peoples.
This is an active river rafting trip. We use state of the art Aire rafts. The river has a few easily negotiated rapids (Grade 2+). You can choose to paddle or ride an oar boat rowed by one of our crew. This is a wild river with variable flow conditions, often low and clear, it can also rise quickly: it remains raft-able in most conditions.
An optional and highly recommended activity is the hiking upside valleys and to overlooks. We can arrange inflatable kayaks for experienced paddlers, we don’t however offer specific kayak or canoe instruction, so this option is only for experienced paddlers.
- All overnight accommodation outside of Ulan Bator.
- All transport and activities as per itinerary.
- All meals outside Ulan Bator.
- Camp entourage including cook, camp master and guide.
- National Park entry fee.
- Domestic flights.
- Air or train tickets to/from Mongolia.
This river trip works well in combination with our Khan Khentii and East Gobi itineraries. It is also a good stand-alone experience as a get-away from Ulan Bator. You can extend this trip with an additional night at the scenic Lake Hovsgol, just three hours drive to the north of the river.
Ulan Bator Arrangements
Our trips can be customized and combined in a modular fashion. Your stay in Ulan Bator will be quoted separately, allowing you the choice of hotels and experiences matching your entries and exits in our capital.
All Ulan Bator packages include:
- private chauffeur service to and from the airport at the start and end of your trip;
- city guide and private driver available as required;
- the services of our Ulan Bator guest relations team;
The Hövsgöl Canyons and its river is managed by our sister fly fishing operation, Fish Mongolia, who have signed agreements making this the world’s second Taimen Sanctuary. Taimen are the ultimate mega-trout. They are the largest member of the salmonid family. Taimen can live for nearly fifty years and reach sixty inches (1.5 meter) in length.
Our entire river operation is focused on Taimen conservation and involving the local communities in these efforts. If we are lucky, we might see some of these fish swims by our rafts as we float past.
Denver Zoo Foundation has conducted mammal research for more than two decades at Ikh Nart Nature Reserve. Ikh Nart is an intact Gobi habitat with apex predators such as the hard-to-see wolves and lynx with prey species Argali sheep and Siberian ibex. Khulan, the Asiatic wild ass and Mongolian gazelles come and go in and out of the reserve area.