"All Mongolians are born with a GPS - If there is no road, we make one. We roughly know the direction. We have always been nomads”.
Gandan Khiid Monastery
When we arrive in Mongolia's hectic capital, we will be accommodated at our hotel located approx. 15
minutes from Ulaanbaatar's central Sükhbaatar square.
In the afternoon we start exploring Mongolia - the Land of the Great Khan with nomads and eternal blue
We visit Gandan Khiid, the center of Mongolian Buddhism. The abbot of Gandan Khiid, today the supreme
Buddhist in Mongolia, studied at the Dalai Lama's religious academy in India and holds the title of Gavj. The
monastery comprises a complex of buildings on a hilltop northwest of the center. There are five beautiful
temple buildings in the complex.
After this first insight into Mongolian Buddhism, we visit one of Ulaanbaatar's beautiful and informative
museums and the central Sükhbaatar Square in front of the Parliament.
“The White Stupas”
We drive across the plains towards southern Mongolia until we approach Tsagaan Suvraga or "The White
Stupas", rising from the ground like the typical landscapes in a western.
The area was once under water and is therefore rich in fossils. At this point, we are passing through some
of the harshest landscapes in the world, and it is not surprising that the population is scattered out across
this vast area, when you drive across the steppes.
The annual rainfall is next to nothing, sandstorms are frequent, you get hot summers and freezing cold
winters, and then there is the dreaded Zud. The Mongolian term for an extremely snowy winter, when
livestock are unable to find food through the snow cover, and large numbers of animals die from starvation
and cold. It is not uncommon for over 1 million livestock to die in a winter with Zud.
The harsh climate has left its mark on the area, but nevertheless people live here.
The Gobi Desert
We set course for the Gobi Desert and the national park Gurvan Saikhan, which is the largest national park
in Mongolia with iconic sand dunes, ice canyons, so-called badlands, fantastic mountain landscapes and
We drive through the national park from the eastern border in Yol. In Yol we visit the small nature museum
at Yolin Am. It has a collection of dinosaur eggs and bones as well as a stuffed specimen of the very rare
snow leopard, of which there are only approx. 600 left.
From the museum, we drive a short distance before reaching Yolin Am, which we will explore on foot. We
will experience the somewhat baroque sight of an ice-filled gorge in one of the world's driest places.
In Gurvan Saikhan we also find the narrow gorge Dugany Am, which is ice-filled almost all year round. We
will spend the night close to the majestic sand dunes of Hongoriin Els.
"The Singing Dunes"
We enjoy the spectacular nature around our camp which is dominated by Hongoriin Els. Hongoriin Els is the
largest and most spectacular sand dune range in Mongolia with a height of 300 meters, 12 km wide and
100 km long.
The dunes provide a very photogenic background and they make an eerie whistling sound when the wind
moves over the sand, which is why it is also called "The Singing Dunes".
Hollywood has always given the impression that the Gobi Desert is a sandy desert like the Sahara. However, the truth is that only 5% of the desert is sand dunes. The rest are rocks and scrubland.
This is because the Gobi Desert, due to its northern latitude and high terrain and canyons, which can be
covered with ice and snow until midsummer, is a cold desert with extreme changes in temperature.
Camel riding is optional.
Flaming Rocks At Bayanzag
We leave the Gobi Desert and its imperceptible transition to steppe behind us as we continue our journey
north through saxaul forest and the vast steppes that are so characteristic of Mongolia.
The nearly leafless saxaul bush grows in the sand, in rocky valleys and on hillsides, acting as a natural
barrier to moving sand and preventing further spread of the desert. We reach Bayanzag - The Flaming Rocks.
Bayanzag is a particularly beautiful area with many canyons, where rocks and sand provide a wide range of
bright colors such as yellow, orange and red, especially at dusk.
Bayanzag is famous among paleontologists as important fossil finds have been made here, including the world's first discovery of dinosaur eggs.
Ongiin Khiid to Karakorum
We continue across the steppes of central Mongolia. At Ongiin Gol we visit the ruins of Ongiin Khiid, located at a bend in the river. The monastery was totally destroyed during the Stalinist purge in 1937 and unlike many others, it was not rebuilt after 1990. Buddhism was introduced by Altan Khan - a late descendant of the great Genghis Khan. He met the Tibetan leader Sonam Gyatso in 1578 and converted to Tibetan Buddhism. This event led to nearly 700 monasteries being built across the country. In 1937, the communist government started a real campaign against Buddhism on Stalin's orders. Almost all monasteries were destroyed, and approx. 35,000 monks were either killed or transferred to labor camps in Siberia. After the re-introduction of religious freedom in 1990, most monasteries were rebuilt in their original style.
Erdene Zuu Khiid
Genghis Khan established a supply base here in the mid-13th century and Ögedei, his son and successor,
ordered a huge capital built on this site to honor his father.
Karakorum was a popular place in Mongolia for about 40 years until Kublai Khan moved the capital to the
city we know today as Beijing. A decision which ultimately led to the collapse of the mighty Mongolian
Kublai Khan's decision was controversial at the time, and is still debated with great enthusiasm among Mongolians today.
Erdene Zuu Khiid was the first monastery in Mongolia founded by Altai Khan in 1586 and it is considered, together with Gandan Khiid and Amarbayasgalant Khiid, as the most important monastery.
Within the walls, three temples escaped the purge of 1937. The three temples are dedicated to the three
stages of the life of the Buddha - childhood, youth and adulthood.
Horseback riding is optional.
Mountains of Arkhangai
We continue our journey through hills and forests until we reach Arkhangai Aimag and the provincial capital Tsetserleg, splendid by Mongolian standards, beautifully situated in the mountains of Arkhangai.
We visit the Aimag Museum, which is one of the best in the country with displays of traditional Mongolian
lifestyle, costumes, tools, musical instruments, weapons, saddles, religious icons and art.
The museum is located inside the Zayain Gegeenii Sum temple complex, built in 1586 and expanded in 1679. The temple miraculously escaped the religious purges of 1937 due to the bold move of turning the
temple into a museum.
We also visit Galdan Zuu Khiid, which from its location on a mountainside overlooks the city. The temple is
built behind an impressive seven-meter-tall Buddha in front of Bulgan Uul - an almost vertical rock with
some ancient Buddhist inscriptions.
"The White Lake"
We leave Tsetserleg and move further into the wild, western part of Mongolia to the pristine lake Terkhiin
Tsagaan Nuur, also known as "The White Lake". The landscape now changes to a more mountainous and
rough looking landscape.
Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur is surrounded by volcanic craters, pine-covered lava fields and occasional herds of
yaks in Khorgo-Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park.
We pass the sacred rock formation Taikhar Chuluu. Many local legends are attached to Taikhar Chuluu. The
most famous is that a great hero once crushed a giant snake by throwing a rock at it.
Before we approach Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur, we make a short detour north of the main road to the beautiful
Chuluut Gorge. Near the gorge stands the sacred tree Zuun Salaa Mod, draped with blue prayer shawls.
Surrounded by extinct volcanoes at 2,060 m above sea level, Terhiin Tsagaan Nuur is one of the most
beautifully situated lakes in Mongolia.
The giant from Jargalant
We experience an abundance of natural beauty with mountains, lava fields and deep forests. We leave the
national park and drive to the volcano Khorgo Uul 2,240 m. The crater of Khorgo Uul is 200 meters wide
and 100 meters deep.
It is relatively easy to get to the crater rim, from where we have a fantastic view of the surrounding
pineforests with mountains and volcanoes on the horizon.
Near Khorgo Uul we find "Basalt Ger" on the southern slope. A bubble of solidified lava formations.
To the north in the direction of Zuun Nuur we drive into Khövsgöl Aimag - the northernmost Aimag in Mongolia. We pass through the small town of Jargalant, which is beautifully situated near the confluence of
Ider Gol and Khonjil Gol.
Jargalant is known throughout Mongolia for having been the home of the local shepherd Öndöör Gongor, who was approx. 2.50 meters tall, some sources even claim 2.63 m.
"Switzerland of Mongolia"
We set course for Khövsgöl Nuur on the border to Russia, also known as the "Switzerland of Mongolia" due
to the hilly and conifer-covered terrain around the lake. Khövsgöl Aimag is dense forests, wild rivers, sparkling lakes, craggy mountains up to 3,500 meters high, and then it is home to reindeer, shepherds, shamans and a rich wildlife. We continue until we reach the Khövsgöl Nuur National Park and the southern tip of huge Khövsgöl Nuur at the town of Khatgal. We camp on the western side of Khövsgöl Nuur.
Known as the Blue Pearl of Mongolia, Khövsgöl Nuur stretches 136 km into the Siberian taiga. Measured by
area, it is the second largest lake in Mongolia, but when it comes to depth, it is the deepest and the world's 14th largest freshwater source.
In Khatgal we can see Sükhbaatar III. The only ship in the proud fleet of Mongolia, one of the worlds largest landlocked countries.
Shamans and reindeer herders
We wake up in the best surroundings at Khövsgöl Nuur, and today we will be introduced to the special
Mongolian shamanism. Shamanism is particularly practiced in this region of Mongolia, and we visit a family
of reindeer herders.
Whether shamanism is a regular religion is debatable. There is no divine being or textbook. Shamanism is known throughout the world in many different forms and has played a significant role in Mongolian self-
understanding. A cornerstone of shamanic belief is maintaining a balance with nature. Today, nomads can still be seen zealously refilling peg holes when they move their camp. The reindeer herders, The Tsaatansan people, are a true nomadic people. They resemble the Nordic Sami or the Tuva in Siberia in their traditional way of life.
They have herds of reindeer and live in tipi-like tents instead of gers. Their entire existence is based on their
reindeer herds, which provide milk, hides, antlers for carving and medicine, transport and meat.
We leave magnificent Khövsgöl Nuur and head south to the Aimag capital of Mörön, which is cooler than
most Mongolian cities and has relatively few ger tents because nearby forests provide plenty of trees for settlement.
Approximately half way we pass Erkhel Nuur, a saline lake rich in bird life and fish and we visit Uushigiin
Uver close to Mörön which is magnificent with its collection of 14 upright carved stones erected almost
4,000 years ago.
Of the 700 stones said to exist throughout the world, 500 are located in Mongolia and the stones at
Uushigiin Uver are said to be the best collection of these stones. The most unique one is carved with a head
of a woman.
Togoo Uul - Uran Uul
We drive east from Mörön and leave Khövsgöl Aimag in favor of Bulgan Aimag. The northern part of this
wild Aimag is characterized by alpine forests that gradually slip into the dry steppe plains of the central
The main rivers are the Orkh Gol and the Selenge Gol, both of which flow into the Bulgan Aimag from the
southern Övörkhangai Aimag. As a result, southern Bulgan is one of the very few regions in Mongolia that
has regular agriculture.
Uran-Togoo Tulga Uul Natural Reserve is protected and is located about 60 km. west of Bulgan city around the extinct volcanoes Togoo Uul and Uran Uul. It is possible to hike in and around the craters.
Ulaanbaatar & home
The last day of our long and exciting journey around the vast and diverse country offers such an unusual
luxury as asphalt.
When we arrive in noisy and boisterous Ulaanbaatar, we will undoubtedly experience a great contrast from the calm, vast and sparsely populated landscape that we have experienced for the past two weeks. On arrival in Ulaanbaatar, we experience a traditional folk concert at either the Datum Ekh Ensemble or the National Drama Theatre.
The concert with traditional folk music is a beautiful display of Mongolian folklore and traditional performance with, among other things, acrobatics and throat singing.
A beautiful cultural end to an exceptional four-wheel drive nomadic adventure around scenic and contrast-filled Mongolia.
What's included ?
Airport pick-up and drop-off
All meals on the trip
All transportation in 4x4 vehicle
All entrance fee
English-speaking local guide.
English speaking tour leader
Tips for local guides
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to travel to Mongolia?
Mongolia is completely safe to travel in. Mongolians can be introvert, but friendly towards strangers
How does the booking process work?
Your spot will be secured as soon as we receive your deposit payment. This deposit is refundable up to 10 days after your booking.
You will receive an invoice for the balance payment 9 weeks before the trip starts.
To know more about our booking policy, please check our
How do I get visa?
Many nationalities, especially EU travel visa free, but we recommend that you check with your nearest Mongolian representation.
What is the minimum/maximum number of participants on this trip?
We will need 7PAX minimum to run this trip and only take a maximum of 16PAX + guide and Jan the tour leader. There will be 3PAX+driver in each, so plenty of space and everyone has a window seat
How do I fly to Ulaanbaatar?
The program have been fitted to Turkish Airlines from/to Istanbul, which are the flights that Jan, the tour leader will use and recommend from Europe. If you choose other options or if you are already there, we will meet in Platinum Hotel
Do I need to bring cash?
Practically everything is included, so you basically only need money if you buy drinks, souvenirs and tip for local guide. Bring USD in cash and you can exchange to local currency in Ulaanbaatar.