Designed as a fascinating introduction to the people and culture of Mongolia, the Classic Mongolian Odyssey includes visits to traditional nomadic ger camps, exploration of the grasslands, and the chance to join in the excitement and celebration surrounding Naadam, Mongolia’s National Games.
For an intimate and genuine cultural experience, we will attend the Naadam games in the Gobi Desert, away from the increasing crowds of tourists who attend the games in Ulaanbaatar. Wrestling, horseracing, and archery are the three age-old competitions traditionally used to measure the courage and strength of nomads and warriors. Contemporary Naadam games showcase the abilities of local men, women, boys, and girls, and are also a time when family and friends get together to celebrate the short, joyful summer season.
One of our most popular journeys showcasing the diversity of Mongolia’s different regions, Classic Mongolian Odyssey: The Naadam Festival has previously been hosted by well-known personalities – including travel journalist and writer Patricia Schultz, author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller “1000 Places to See Before You Die,” which featured the Naadam Games as high on her Bucket List.
Day 1-2 Ulaanbaatar
Touring Mongolia begins in Ulaanbaatar with a visit to Gandan Monastery, the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia – the National Museum for an excellent overview of Mongolia’s history and culture – visit Choijin Lama Temple Museum – and in the evening, drive to Zaisan Memorial, built by the former Soviet Union to commemorate fallen soldiers of World War II.
Day 3 Gun Galuut Nature Reserve
Only two and a half hours from the capital, the recently established Gun Galuut Nature Reserve contains a very beautiful river valley and mountain range surrounded by rolling steppe. Among the special natural attractions, we will hope to find a small population of the endangered Argali sheep. In the evening drive to Gorkhi Terelj National Park (1.5 hours). Comprised of the southern Khentii mountain range, this mountain, forest, steppe region provides habitat for a variety of bird and plant life.
Day 4 Gorkhi Terelj National Park | Ulaanbaatar
Embark on an adventurous hike towards the Aryabal Monastery. Along the way, the path is lined with numerous signboards displaying Buddha’s teachings.En route to Ulaanbaatar stop at the Chinggis Khan Equestrian Statue in Tsonjin Boldog. The massive statue made of 250 tons of gleaming stainless steel will take your breath away.
Day 5 Ulaanbaatar | Lake Hovsgol
In the morning, fly north to Murun, the capital of Hovsgol Province, and continue overland to Lake Hovsgol. Stop at Uushgiin Deer Stones, one of the best-preserved monuments of its kind in Mongolia.
Day 6 Lake Hovsgol
Explore the lakeshore and surrounding mountains and meadows. Travelers can enjoy nature walks, kayak on the lake, or sample Mongolian-style horseback riding. Those who are interested will also have the opportunity to visit local nomads’ dwellings, and experience the ancient nomadic culture first-hand.
Day 7 Ulaanbaatar
Return to Murun for a flight to Ulaanbaatar. Along the way, stop for a picnic lunch at Lake Irkh, a small, pristine lake in the midst of the steppe that is popular with a variety of birds.
Day 8 Fly to Gobi | Yol Valley
Set off in the morning across the vast steppe to the Gobi. For the next three days, explore the stunning landscape of the Gobi, habitat for Bactrian camels, Argali mountain sheep, goitered gazelle, Golden Eagles, Saker Falcons, jerboas (similar to kangaroo rats), and many endemic reptiles.
Day 9-11 Naadam Festival | Gegeet Valley | Hongoryn Els | Flaming Cliffs
Attend the Naadam Festival, enjoy the thrills and excitement of the local Naadam Festival’s wrestling, archery and horse racing competitions. Explore the ‘singing’ sand dunes of Hongoryn Els, Tugrugiin Shiree – the site of the famed ‘Fighting Dinosaurs’ fossil find – and the Flaming Cliffs while staying at the Three Camel Lodge, our premier luxury ecolodge in the heart of the desert, and ger camps.
Day 12 Ulaanbaatar
Fly to Ulaanbaatar and discover the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum – named for the first Buddhist leader of Mongolia and a renowned sculptor. Enjoy viewing some of Zanabazar’s original works, along with the museum’s impressive collection of historical art and conclude the Mongolia tour.