The Altai Mountains, Great Lakes and Dunes.
Explore Mongolia’s most diverse region, track Snow Leopards, Argali Sheep, Saiga Antelopes 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
ACTIVITIES Wildlife, birding, hiking and nomadic culture
DURATION 14 days ex-Ulan Bator
On this itinerary, you will be traveling into Mongolia through the backdoor, starting out in the Russian parts of southern Siberia and traversing the Altai Mountains on the scenic Chuya Highway. During the time of the amazing fall colors of birch and larch, reliant on elevation, going from green to the red and yellow. The Katun River cutting the way through the mountains. The snow-capped Chuya Mountains.
Western Mongolia is a timeless landscape, home to Mongolia’s most fascinating and diverse ethnic 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. Saiga Antelopes still roam the dry steppes, an ice-age survivor, with a bulbous almost trunk-like nose uniquely adapted to extreme cold and heat. With the largest reed-beds in Central Asia and the diversity of landscapes, the Great Lakes Basin and neighboring mountains offer great birding.
We tour the region by Landcruiser, staying at our private 360° camps located among vast unspoiled landscapes. Where you will be welcomed by our local community partners.
We would love to tailor a custom trip to the Altai Mountains including the Eagle Festival for you
TO GORNO-ALTAISK & ONGUDAI
A guided afternoon visit to the famous Anokhina Museum in Gorno-Altaisk. Wherein lies the mummified Ice Maiden of Ukok, alongside impressive archaeological and historical exhibits of the region. Drive along the scenic Chuya Highway for 185 kilometres to Uch-Enmek Nature Park, crossing Seminskiy Pass at 1700 meters above sea-level. Nestled within the protected Karakol Valley, Uch-Enmek Nature Park is named after the sacred, snow-capped peak visible in the distance. There are three traditional Altaian villages here. The Altaians are a Turkic-speaking people who practiced pastoralism until the 1930s. The valley is rich in archaeological remains revealing the historical layers of the Altai since Scythians and the Huns.
A short and scenic drive will take you the 110 kilometres to either Chibit or Aktash, two villages very close to one another. On the way we will cross the scenic Chike-Taman Pass, where the new road meets the older, narrow road. The latter, constructed just before WW2 by Gulag inmates. Nowadays, the Chuya Highway, is upgraded, named by National Geographic Russia as one of the world’s ten most scenic roads. Our final stop is at the famous Kalbash-tash petroglyphs.
CHIBIT-AKTASH, KATU-YARYK PASS ABOVE CHULYSHMAN CANYON
The first day we will plan a suitable hike with you in order to explore the dramatic local scenery on foot. One of the most straightforward hikes is to visit the nearby geyser lake, called ‘Blue Eye’ by locals, a turquoise, green and blue body of water in lowland forest. There are also picturesque waterfalls six kilometres away and frothing rapids in the Mazhoi Canyon. The second day is a full day’s excursion which will take you to the very edge of scenic Chulyshman Canyon, across a broad plateau of arctic tundra adorned with many lakes and forests. Near Balyktuyul village you will visit the famous Pazyryk kurgans (grave mounds), where the world’s oldest Persian-style carpets were unearthed out of the so-called ‘frozen tombs’ of Siberia, dating back over 2000 years.
TO KOSH-AGACH & MONGOLIA
Today we drive uphill until the treeline at the village of Kurai, before changing to another 4WD vehicle to visit Jangyzkol Lake, which boasts the eternally snow-capped North Chuya Range as its stunning backdrop. Eventually we will arrive at the Chuya Steppe, a highland intermontane plain resembling the Altiplano of Peru and Bolivia. Following an overnight in the town of Kosh-Agach our Russian support team will say goodbye. Meet our Mongolian guide and driver who will take us across the border until a late lunch in Ölgii. Then we will drive downstream along the Hovd River for one hour to the Altantsögts community, where your private camp will be pitched adjacent to a family of Kazakh nomads with eagle hunters, on the north side of the eternally snow-capped twin peaks of Tsambagarav and Tsast.
Getting to know your ger neighbours, you will experience first-hand the culture and livelihoods of nomadic people. You will doubtless encounter other eagle hunters and their eagles from Altantsögts making their way to the festival site on horseback, riding motorbikes or in small trucks. Bayan-Ölgii province is largely populated by ethnic Kazakhs, who, unlike Kazakhs and Altaians on the Russian and Kazakhstan sides of the border who were forced to abandon nomadism under Stalin in the 1930s, still practice pastoralism. In fact, Mongolia is likely the largest nomadic society left on Earth.
In the morning we will drive to the festival site, to see the grand opening ceremonies and parade of richly-attired eagle hunters on horseback, carrying their eagles. As well as the golden eagle competitions, a range of other events will take place throughout the day, including Kok Boru (called bouzkhasi in Central Asia), which plays out here as a game of tug-of-war on horseback between two riders using a goat carcass. Other mounted displays of horsemanship involve riders picking up objects from the ground at full gallop. The entire day is a photographer’s dream. Lunch will be served in a yurt at the festival grounds.
TO HOVD & ULAN BATOR
We will take the slow and scenic route to Hovd today, skirting the snow-capped Tsambagarav Mountain and armed with a picnic lunch to make stops where we find particularly scenic views or clusters of nomads. Entering Hovd province, we might encounter an ethnic Mongol people called the Ööld, or Dzungarians. We will overnight at a nice hotel in Hovd. The next day you will fly to Ulan Bator. All of a sudden you will find yourself in a city of one million Mongols, sophisticated in parts but with unruly traffic, and half a million people living in gers orbiting the city year round. To orient yourself we suggest a stroll to Sukhbaatar Square, flanked by state buildings from the mid Soviet Era, and containing statues of Genghis Khan (seated) and Damdin Sukhbaatar (on horseback).
We suggest a morning a visit to the Gandan Monastery, the busiest Buddhist site in Mongolia. Mongols share a strong religious affinity with Tibet, mostly adhering to the Yellow Hat sect of Lamaism with the Dalai Lama as its supreme leader. Another recommendation is the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan. Bogd Khan (Bogd means ‘sacred’) was the theocratic leader of Mongolia, and the eighth of his line. After his passing in 1924, the Bolshevik leadership declared that no more divine reincarnations would take place. On the last day of the trip you will be transferred to the airport or station in time for your international flight or train to your onward destination.
This is a moderately paced trip, making good use of non-vehicle transport for much of the trip. The train journey is just over 6 hours, while the driving time back to Ulaanbaatar is around 5 hours.
Optional activities can include day hikes, horse riding, camel riding, length can be tailored to your fitness..
- English-Mongol speaking guide throughout the journey.
- All overnights in double occupancy hotel and ger (yurt).
- Cook, cooking provisions, toilet and shower tents, full bedding for 360° wilderness and river camps.
- All transport outside of Ulan Bator is provided by land cruisers, max 3 guests’ sharing each one. For small groups in the city we better use a minibus, where all the groups fit into one.
- All meals as indicated. Entrance fees to national monuments and national parks. Meals included as BLD (=breakfast, lunch, dinner).
- Air or train tickets to/from Mongolia.
- Lunch/dinners in Ulan Bator.
The trip may operate in the reverse direction, due flight schedules at the time of booking.
It is possible to enter Mongolia through Ulan Bator both ways, thus canceling the Russian Altai portion of the trip. It means to add the eagle festival to our Altai Mountains and West Gobi itinerary.
This time of the year, an extension of a few days near Ulan Bator comes recommended. Which enables to visit the Hustai National Park to see the Przewalski Horses. At this time the Wapiti Deers are in rut and vocalize a lot.
Ulan Bator Arrangements
Our trips can be customized and combined in a modular fashion. Your stay in Ulaanbaatar will be quoted separately, allowing you the choice of hotels and experiences matching your entries and exits in our capital.
All Ulan Bator services 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 Ulaanbaatar guest relations team;
Private and pristine, 360° Wilderness Ger Camps singularize our travel programs from all others in Mongolia. These innovative camps can be defined as ﬁve-star pop-up accommodations that are flexible and lightweight enough to be deployed anywhere in the country. Our camp systems, designed to be loaded onto a truck, yak caravan or camel cart, grant us access to every corner of the great Mongolian void. Our pitches are painstakingly pre-chosen for their serene, isolated beauty.
At a 360° Wilderness Ger Camp you will sleep in a traditional Mongolian ger and wake up to 360 degrees of uninterrupted landscape views in every direction.
The above gers look like any nomadic family, but they are our guest gers, deployed in the Altai Mountains. Our gers are simply but stylishly decorated with colorful Mongolian crafts, and furnished with proper beds and full bedding. Meals are served in a separate ger or traditional Mongolian marquee-style tent, each featuring diverse and delicious dishes created from traditional recipes. Every 360° Wilderness Ger Camp entourage always includes a skilled cook and a camp master.