Desert Trekking in Western Mongolia
(13 days)

Camel in Gobi
Mongolian Horseman
Mongolia Desert
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Detailed description



Today we will set of for a driving day to Karakorum (also called Kharhorin). Karakorum is the site of the 13th century capital of the Mongolian Empire created by Genghis Khan. The founding of Karakorum started on the ruins of Turug and Uigur cities in the Orkhon valley at the eastern end of the Khangai Mountains in 1220 by the Genghis Khan’s order. It was completed 15 years later during the Ugedei Khaan’s reign. The town was a very cosmopolitan and religiously tolerant place. The silver tree, part of Möngke Khan’s palace has become the symbol of Karakorum. The highest peak of its prosperity was from 1220 to 1260. The specific feature of this stage is that Karakorum existed as the great capital of the Euro-Asian Empire with Mongolia as its core and as the centre of politics, economy, culture, religion, intellect, and diplomacy and the prominent tie of international relations.

Between 1260 and 1380 Karakorum lost the status of the Great Mongolian Empire and became the capital of Mongolia. When Kublai Khan claimed the throne of the Mongol Empire in 1260, as did his younger brother, Ariq Boke, he relocated his capital to today’s Beijing. Karakorum was reduced to the administrative centre of a provincial backwater of the Yuan Dynasty.

In 1368, the rule of Mongolian Yuan Dynasty collapsed and the centre of Mongolian government was shifted to its homeland after 110 years since Kublai Khan moved the Empire capital to China in 1260. It gave Karakorum a chance to prosper again. In 1388, Ming troops under General Xu Da took and destroyed the town. Today nothing is left from this legendary city. In 1580, when Abtai Sain Khan together with his brother, lord Tumenkhen, visited the 3rd Dalai Lama and expressed their wish to build a temple in Mongolia, he advised them to reconstruct one old temple in Karakorum. The temple in Takhai ruins that was restored in 1588 according to the Dalai Lama’s recommendation is the Main Zuu temple of Erdene Zuu monastery.

Now Erdene Zuu Monastery is all that remains of what once was a huge monastery of 100 temples and about 1.000 lamas residing there. We will explore the grounds of Erdene Zuu Monastery surrounded by its massive 400 m X 400 m walls. We will be guided around the 3 remaining temples: Dalai Lama, Zuu of Buddha and Lavrin Temple.

Another place we will visit will be Karakorum Archaeological Museum. It is a small museum but housed in a modern well-run building with good lighting and display cases with clear English labels. The exhibits include dozens of artefacts dating from the 13th and 14th centuries which were recovered from the immediate area, plus others that were found from archaeological sites in other parts of the provinces, including prehistoric stone tools. You’ll see pottery, bronzes, coins, religious statues and stone inscriptions. There’s also a half-excavated kiln sunk into the museum floor. Perhaps most interesting is the scale model of ancient Karakorum, which aims to represent the city as it may have looked in the 1250s, and is based on descriptions written by the French missionary William of Rubruck. Another chamber exhibits a most recent addition, a Turkic noble tomb with wall paintings and artefacts, including gold items and jewellery. There is a short video of actual burial site.

We will also see the Turtle Rock and the Phallic Rock, visit little market behind walls exposing local arts by locals.

(Ger camp L, D)

Karakorum Temples
Praying Wheel
Buddhist Monks

Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur and Khorgo Volcano

A little before lunchtime we will reach Tsetserleg, capital city of Arkhangai province. It is a lovely little town surrounded by forested hills. Here we will visit the Buyandelgeruulekh Monastery, the town main functioning monastery and the nice little Museum of Arkhangai located in Zayaiin Gegeenii Monastery. From the museum we will walk hill upward to a small abandoned monastery and enjoy the beautiful view we have from there over Tsetserleg and the surrounding hills.

We will eat lunch in a local restaurant. In the evening we will reach Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake. It is one of the most beautiful lakes of the country. The lake is surrounded by extinct and craterous volcanoes, and was formed by lava flows from a volcanic eruption many millennia ago. As a result of the volcano eruptions the landscape is covered with black volcanic rocks.

(Ger camp B, L, D)

Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur

Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur and Khorgo Volcano

Today we will relax around the Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur. We will make an excursion to the top of Khorgo Uul Volcano and we will pass the gorges that lead from Tariat to the volcano. The volcano crater is 200 m wide and 100 m deep and is covered with trees at the back and around the opening of the crater. To the south of Khorgo there are numerous basaltic “gers” formed during the cooling of lava; some of the gers have gates and upper holes and reach 1.7 m high.

(Ger camp B, L, D)

Khorgo Uul

Kholboo Nuur, Lake

Zavkhan aimag is situated in the western part of Mongolia. The eastern edge of Zavkhan aimag is the western flank of the Khangai Nuruu, the second highest mountain range in Mongolia, and a spectacular area of forests and lakes, dotted with snow-clad peaks, white-water streams and hot and cold springs. The southern and western parts of Zavkhan, usually ignored by visitors and Mongolians because of poor roads and transport, is a sharp contrast – a land of vast deserts, salt lakes and sand dunes where rain falls once or twice a year.

Otgontenger Uul is the highest peak of the Khangai Nuruu range and Mongolia’s 5th highest mountain. Its peak is at 4020 meters above the sea level. Othgontenger is the only mountain of the Khangaii range that is capped with a glacier.

Otgontenger is one of the worshipped mountains of Mongolia.  Worshipping began during Khunnu times by the first governing state of Mongolia, and this tradition continues to the present day. Historically, this mountain was initially protected in 1818. The peak and its environs have been protected since 1992 to converse the high mountain ecosystem. The south face of Otgon Tenger Uul is the biggest granite wall in Mongolia.

We will have a long day driving to reach at the end of the day Kholboo Nuur Lake. Today we will pass small towns such as Nomreg, Tudevteyand Santmargats. We will overnight close to the Kholboo Lake.

(Tented Camp B, L, D)


Kholboo Nuur
Wild Mongolia

Trekking along Bayannuur River

Our trek will start step from Bayannuur River not far from village where we will set our camp for the night. We might pass by a small salt lake (if it rained enough).

(Tented Camp B, L, D)

Desert River

Bayannuur Lake

Today we will reach Bayannuur Lake and trek for two consecutive days along the lake. The salt lake, among the Bor Hyariin Els sand dunes is beautiful place, scenery is fascinating.

(Tented Camp B, L, D)

Desert Lake

Desert Lake

We will leave Bayannuur Lake behind us to trek to our sand dune crossing pass. It will take us a full day to reach that point. We will camp at the feet of the sand dunes and get ready for the big crossing.

(Tented Camp B, L, D)

Mongolia Desert

Bor Khyariin Els Sand Dune

Today we will trek through the Bor Khyariin Else Sand Dunes. We will cross this 15 km wide sand dune to end the day along a small river running south of the sand dune. We will set camp between the sand dune and the Khungiin River.

(Tented Camp B, L, D)

Bor Khyariin Els

Khunguin River

For the next two days we will trek stream upwards along the Khungiin River.

(Tented Camp B, L, D)

Desert Trekking


Today we will drive back to Uliastai town. Uliastai is surrounded by mountains on all sides. It is one of the remote aimag of the country. Quiet and pleasant town. Enjoy your free afternoon to explore this little community.

(Hotel B, D)

Mountain in Steppe

Flight back to Ulaanbaatar

Flight back to Ulaanbaatar. We will drive back to Ulaanbaatar, the capital city. Our team will take you directly to your hotel. You may enjoy the free afternoon to catch up all the places you haven’t visited yet. Opt to see the beautiful cultural show enjoy the colourful and rhythmic Mongolian dance, throat singing and admire the contortionists.

(B, D)

Uvs Province