This adventure across Mongolia will take you both on and off the beaten path. Though designed with an eye on photography, the itinerary also allows one to experience authentic Mongolian culture and history firsthand, with intimate interactions with Mongolia’s people and visits to its most iconic sights.
First, explore the fascinating mix of ancient and modern culture in Ulaanbaatar before setting out for the remote and rugged westernmost region of Mongolia, home to the Altai Mountains. Here, you’ll meet the Kazakhs, Mongolia largest ethnic population, who celebrate a centuries-old tradition of hunting with golden eagles and you’ll have the opportunity to photograph and learn more about their lifestyle. You then journey to Hustain Nuruu National Park where the last wild population of Przewalski horse thrives. Continue overland to mystical Kharakhorum, the 13th-century capital of the Mongol Empire, where you will explore Erdene Zuu, purportedly constructed from the ruins of the ancient capital. Of course, no visit to Mongolia is complete without a foray into the legendary Gobi Desert. Based at the award winning Three Camel Lodge, visit the majestic, fossil-rich Flaming Cliffs, interact with nomadic families and witness a traditional Naadam celebration; these three days will be especially memorable.
Throughout your journey, Jeffrey will lend his creative talent, tips, insights, and photography experience to guests on this exclusive, small-group journey. During the trip, there will be optional sunrise and sunset excursions, night explorations, and opportunities to produce intimate portraits, cultural documentation, and landscape images. Our goal is to support your interest and passion.
Day 1 Welcome to Mongolia!
Ulaanbaatar is an intoxicating mix of old and new – a capital city where high rises are juxtaposed against nomadic gers. After a short rest we will head out to explore and photograph the city.
Day 2 Explore Ulaanbaatar
Today will be brimming with opportunities to see and photograph Ulaanbaatar’s past and present. Begin with a visit to Gandan Monastery, the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia. Visit the National History Museum, the Zanabazar Art Museum, and stroll through Sukhbaatar Square.
Day 3 Fly to Ulgii
Fly to Ulgii, located in Mongolia’s westernmost province. This rugged and remote land dominated by the Altai Mountains is where the Kazakhs have made their home.
Days 4-5 Eagle Hunter’s Family
Spend the next two days photographing and getting to know a Kazakh eagle hunter and his family. You’ll have the opportunity to learn how they train the eagle, what is involved in the competition at the annual Golden Eagle Festival, and go on a hike or horse safari to explore the surrounding area.
Day 6 To Hustain Nuruu National Park (via Ulaanbaatar)
Fly to Ulaanbaatar and drive an hour to Hustain Nuruu National Park, also known as Khustain Nuruu (the birch mountains). This preserve is home to the last remaining species of wild horse, the takhi or Przewalski’s Horse, as it is also commonly known.
You’ll also visit Ongot, the largest burial complex in Central Asia. This vast plain of tombs is littered with mysterious stone figures from the Turkic period (7th – 9th centuries). They provide historians with a rare, tangible record of the Turkic culture.
Early evening further explore the park looking for the Takhi. The cool weather of the evening and the early morning are best to spot these wild horses.
Days 7-8 Kharakhorum
On the morning of day 7, drive to Kharakhorum (four hours), where you will visit Erdene Zuu Monastery, reputedly built from the ruins of this ancient Mongol capital. You will have the opportunity to meet with Baasan Lama, the abbot, as well as explore the surrounding town and visit a local school.
Day 9 Drive to Ongiin Hiid
Drive through dramatic and varied landscape to the Gobi. We will stop along the way to photograph herds of horses and Bactrian camels, as well as the ruins of a 17th-century temple in Ongiin Hiid situated in a beautiful mountainous region.
Day 10 Drive to Hongoryn Els in the Gobi
Essentially a travel day as you journey 7-8 hours south to the Gobi desert. The terrain will constantly be changing from the Mongolian steppes with intermittent hills until you reach the Gurvansaikhan Mountains. Settle in and explore your camp’s remarkable location – set next to a giant sand dune and a small, flowing stream that supports a field of grass and local herdsmen.
Explore the dunes. Photograph at sunset. Enjoy a relaxing evening in camp.
Day 11 Drive to Three Camel Lodge
We have the morning to continue our exploration and photography of the dunes before driving to the Three Camel Lodge.
Day 12 Local Naadam Festival
Spend today photographing and enjoying the local Naadam Festival where local nomads will compete in the “three manly sports” including wrestling, archery, and horseracing competitions. These three sports traditionally measured the courage, strength, and pride of nomads and warriors, although men, women, boys, and girls all take part in contemporary Naadam games.
Day 13 Nomadic Family | Flaming Cliffs
In the morning, travel to Moltsog Els, one of the Gobi’s regions covered by sand dunes. Here, you’ll visit with a local camel herding family to learn more about their daily life. Return to the Lodge for lunch and then head out for an exploration of the Flaming Cliffs, renowned as a rich paleontological site and home of the world’s first nest of dinosaur eggs.
Day 14 Return to Ulaanbaatar
Fly back to Ulaanbaatar and visit the Bogd Khan Palace Museum, home of Mongolia’s last theocrat, Bogd Jabtzan Damba Hutagt VIII. Enjoy a performance featuring traditional Mongolian dancers and khoomi throat singers followed by farewell dinner at a fine local restaurant.
Day 15 Departure
Transfer to the airport for your departure.
About your Trip Leader: Jeffrey Davis
Jeffrey Davis works as a professional photographer, producer, director, and advocate. He has traveled and worked in over fifty countries. Recent exhibitions of his fine art landscape and portrait photography took place at the San Francisco International Airport Museum, Stanford University, The MUMM Fine Art Photography, The Moat Gallery, and other high profile sites. His photographic prints are part of major corporate, nonprofit, and individual collections. Jeff served as Executive Producer for Travels To The Edge, a 26-part-award-winning PBS Series that is broadcast in over 100 countries. He served as a guest lecturer on travel, photography, and advocacy at Canon Digital Learning Centers, Apple Computer, REI, the QE2 Ocean Liner, and other venues and taught introductory photography classes to diverse audiences. He recently produced, directed, and shot short documentary video projects for Genentech and Google and fundraising and advocacy films for a range of nonprofit organizations including PPB (child malnutrition), Resurge (international burn surgery for the poor), and Hope Services (support for adults with developmental disabilities). In 2017, Jeff lived in a remote region of southeastern Sierra Leone for four and a half months to support a health care initiative. His formal education includes an Engineering degree in Product Design with honors from Stanford University and a MBA from Harvard University. He has led photo cultural tours in India, Cuba, Iceland, and other regions of the world.
Trip Dates & Pricing
Dates:Aug 20, 2019 - Sep 2, 2019
8-11 participants: $7925 per person/double occupancy
12-14 participants: $6980 per person/double occupancy
$550 per person
Please note: This supplement covers single accommodation in all locations except in Ulgii.
Single occupancy is not available at the Ulgii Wilderness Camp.
Moderate touring for travelers with an interest in photography who want to view Mongolia through the lens of their camera and capture unforgettable images. The itinerary is also designed to support companions and other valued guests who appreciate this type of rich, cultural travel and landscape. There are many unique features of this program designed to support travelers with a passion for photography. Non-photographers will find the journey wonderful as well.