Mongolia’s Great West
A vast area comprised of mountains, plains, deserts, dunes – this is where the majestic large salt lakes are located.
Western Mongolia is predominantly populated by ethnic groups with Turkish roots, as a result of the invasions of the past centuries and the migration of nomadic ancestors.
These ethnic groups are the Kazakhs, Uriankhai, Tuva, Khoton and Durkhuuds, representing approximately 10% of the population.
It is in this vast region of beautiful scenery that we offer you a stay, to meet these people, to meet their still-intact cultures, amidst breathtaking landscapes, near the borders of Mongolia, Russia and China.
The trek will be only a pretext to travel between culture, nature and freedom.
Day 1: Reception at the airport.
Installation at the hotel in Ulaanbaatar. City tour and the great Gandan monastery. In Ulaanbaatar there are 7 major monasteries and several temples and palaces; the most visited are the Gandan and Bogdo Khaan, or Winter Palace, whose construction began in 1890.
Ulaanbaatar is built on the banks of the Tuul River, formerly Urga, in honor of the son of a Mongol lord. The name of Ulaanbaatar was given to the capital of Mongolia during the revolution of 1921. The name means “red hero.” The streets of the capital are constantly busy, including late at night. The city is divided into several neighborhoods that are very unique, and we can still see yurts in the city center. The growth of Ulaanbaatar is surprising and you will find in the capital all the amenities of modern life. Spend night at the Edelweiss Hotel or similar quality lodging.
Day 2: Domestic flight to reach Ulgii
Bayan Ulgii aimag is the most western of the country, bordering China and Russia. It is Kazakh territory, which includes 80% of the population, compared to only 5% in the rest of the country.
At the foot of the Altai also lives another minority, the Tuvas, a shamanistic Turkish ethnic group which consists of less than 2,000 people. This is the most mountainous aimag of the country and the area of steppes, deserts and hills that border the Altai massif is quite narrow. Ulgii is a city founded in 1921, where we find almost everything—shops, banks, hotel and guest-house, theater, a beautiful museum presenting the Kazakh culture, a temple and of course a mosque, since the Kazakhs are Muslims.
A little over 4 hours by plane to cross half of the country, over 1,640 km, crossing beautiful and varied landscapes, passing from green stretches to sandy deserts.
Early morning arrival in Ulgii, Kaderbeck will be there to welcome you. Breakfast, then Kaderbeck will show you around the neighborhood, the city, the countryside… Ulgii is a surprising city, planted along the river, a town of another “age.”
Upon landing on the dirt track, we feel that life here is different…
After lunch, you will take the road towards Tsengel.
Tsengel is a “sum,” a small village lost among the vastness, at the edge of a small river, it is here where the Tuva family lives, with whom you will spend the night.
Meeting, sharing, whether you are accompanied by a translator or only by Kaderbeck, our local guide (who speaks some English), you’ll quickly find that it is always possible to communicate.
Day 3: Tsengel-Sirgal
It is within a landscape of mountains and rocks that your route will take you to Sirgal.
A grand place in the middle of which live Kazakh families, scattered here and there, some living in huts made of wood and brick, others preferring the yurt for the summer season.
A peaceful life at the rhythm of daily tasks, tending livestock, but also and above all picking up “argal,” cow dung and horse manure, which are the only fuel. Here, a few bags of argal go for a good price.
You will spend the evening in a Kazakh yurt.
First introduction to the Kazakh rhythm, lively and festive in a yurt decorated with famous Kazakh carpets, felt carpets and other decorations that are made by the women. These carpets are passed from generation to generation and it is quite common to find the manufacture date embroidered on them, and sometimes, the name of the woman or women who carried out the work.
Spend night with a nomadic Kazakh family.
Day 4: Sirgal
It is in this vast plateau you will go to meet another Kazakh family, in another place, another atmosphere, but with the same gaiety and joy to welcome visitors.
Kazakhs, proud of their origins and culture, also have music which sounds very similar to the Muslim world.
Religion is also present but remains discreet, much less strict than in most other Muslim countries; women have a significant place in society and in this region of cultural crossroads, Islam has also managed to adapt to Mongolia.
The Kazakh yurt remains very different from the Mongolian yurt, bigger with a lighter roof structure, allowing the absence of support posts, which in turn offers a larger space. But you’ll have time to see and enjoy for yourself the sometimes subtle differences between these ethnic groups…
Meet the “Burgitchin.” Eagle hunters in western Mongolia … in the foothills of the Altai. A
voyage to discover an ancestral culture. On the border between China and Russia, a few
dozen kilometers from Kazakhstan, western Mongolia is populated by several ethnic groups, Tuvas, Kazakhs and … are the most important. Making Bayan Ulgii, a cultural crossroads that gives this area a special appeal, but still unknown and protected by its remoteness from the capital. The most important culture is Kazakh, who came from Kazakhstan long ago. Kazakhs
live in this semi desert area and have developed their own culture, a mix between Kazakh
and Mongolian culture, which creates here an especially strong identity. It is in this wild and
rugged country that Kazakhs practice and perpetuate the tradition of eagle hunting. The Burgitchin, hunters, but also trainers, live closely with their eagle, a symbiosis with the animal, between respect and submission…without really knowing who submits to the other.
Day 5: Departure for Sagsai
Sagsai is a small village in the middle of vastness.
It is not far from the hamlet where the yurt of Amarbeck, Kazakh and eagle trainer, is located. Discover this culture which originated from the depths of time.
The eaglets are captured in the nest, around the age of 2 months, just before they obtain their adult plumage.
From the moment of their capture, the eagles will be given all the care and attention possible. Only one person has the right to care for, feed it, give it confidence, to build day after day, this link that unites the hunter to his eagle.
Day 6: Sagsai – Lake Tolbo
Transfer Sagsaï – Lake Tolbo by vehicle (3-4h).
First hike of about 4 hours to stretch your legs and enjoy the breathtaking view from a beautiful gazebo above the lake. A view of the entire region, a grandiose panorama between the Altai and Tsambagarav massif. Spend the night in Tolbo in traditional lodging or with a nomadic family.
Lake Tolbo is found at 2,090m, at GPS point: 48°32’38’’03 90°06’23’’47
Day 7: Tolbo/Namardjin.
Continuation of the road to Tsambagarav. Along the way, meet with nomadic families, eagle trainers. The valley which lies in the foothills is irrigated by a river that brings together nomads in this green area. Ger camps, herds, proud horsemen—images that take you gently into another world, the very particular world of western Mongolia.
4-5 hours of vehicle before setting up the bivouac near a nomadic camp between
2,800 and 2,900m above sea level.
Namarjin is found at 3,100m, at GPS point: 48°38’20’’06 90°44’21’’06
Day 8: Namardjin/Khokh Nugarni Davaa base camp.
Departure for the journey on Tsambagarav, a large loop around the massif, to reach Khokh Nurgani pass, located north of the massif. Rocky landscape above greener valleys, we feel the scope of this surprising massif, an ice world in the heart of the steppe.
About 5 hours walk to reach the pass and go up the bivouac. The starting point is about 3,000m above sea level, about 7km steady rise until about 2,700m altitude with a slope between 15 and 20%, then down over 7 kilometers to the Khokh Nurgani Davaa pass at 2,900m.
Khokh Nurgani Davaa base camp is at 2,950m, at GPS point
Route: 14km Hiking time: 5 hours
Day 9: Base camp/Tsast Uul 4,195m/Camp 1
A long day of walking on the glacier. Start early, to go up along a pristine rocky shoulder towards the summit.
The Tsambagarav is covered with a shell of ice that gives it the allure of a high mountain. 6 hours walking to climb Tsast Uul, the “Snow Mountain.”
The massif crossing requires the use of an ice ax and crampons.
However, it does not present technical difficulties.
Then descent to a pass situated due south, a small bowl between 2 peaks, Tsast Uul and Yamat Uul, “Goat mountain,” a magical place amidst these ice ridges. Five hours from the Tsast Uul summit, will be necessary to reach the pass and set up camp 1.
You will climb 7km to the summit at 4,195m above sea level with a slope between 25 and 40% in the steepest part and descent of 6km from the first pass at 3,450m. Climbing a small summit at 3,740m before joining the Yamatiin Davaa pass at 3,210m—route on this small mountain of about 6km, including 3 uphill and 3 downhill (slope between 15 and 20%).
Yamatiin Davaa, where camp will be set up, is at 3,210m, at GPS point:
Hiking time: 7 to 8 hours Total route: 19km
Day 10: Camp 1/Two nearly 4,000m peaks/Camp 2
Beautiful route on the glacier, to finish crossing the massif. Three hour walk from camp 1 to Yamatiin uul at 3,800m and 7km before Khokh Uul summit at nearly 4,000m. Grandiose 360° panorama, Altai to the west, the Kharkhira & Turgen which constitute another 4,000m massif isolated a little to the north/east.
Then, depending on time, descend towards the bivouac, or do a small loop to reach the last summit, Tsambagarav. The slope is steep and soon gives way to a more rocky area.
Climb 5km at 20% incline to the top of Yamatiin Uul at 3,800m altitude, and descend 3km to a small pass at 3,530m. Climb the Khokh uul summit at 3,900m before descending along 5km with a steep slope between 25
and 30% to reach camp 2 near a small glacial lake at 3,050m
Total route of around 18km Hiking time: 7 to 8 hours
Camp 2 is situated at 3,050m, at GPS point: 48°38’02’’31 90°55’50’’40
Day 11: Camp 2/Namardjin Last day on the Tsambagaray.
At the end of this last day of 7 to 8 hours of walking, you’ll practically have covered the entire massif, around 100km. Arrival at Namardjin where we will wait for the vehicles. Bivouac and meal to celebrate this route.
Leave for camp 3 at 3,100m, you will have a nice, steep 35% climb to bring you to 3,700m altitude (2km) then descent of 4km, it will be the hardest part of the day, then, you will have a 15% slope over 12km interspersed with small climbs to finally reach your starting point at Namanjir.
Hiking time: 7 to 8 hours
Route: about 18 km
Depending on your technical and athletic level, it is quite possible to change the route and offer a much easier trek around the massif, without having to crossing the peaks. Do not hesitate to ask us about it.
Day 12: Namandjin/towards Olgii um
4 hours of trail before reaching the village of Olgii for some shopping, then you will continue your route to a place conducive to your bivouac, perhaps next to the small lake Olgii also called Khar Uus Nuur.
In Mongolia, the naming of places remains complicated and many villages, lakes and mountains share the same name. In a discussion, to designate this village, we will give more information, for example we say to describe this village Olgii, (which has the same name as the capital of the province), “the village of Lake Khar Olgii Uus.”
You will arrive in a semi-desert area, where fewer nomads live. Spend night in tents.
Day 13: Olgii sum/Lake Khuyargas
The Khyargas or Khyargas Nuur Lake is a salt lake located in Uvs province in western Mongolia. It is located in the desert like steppe of the Great Lakes basin. The lake is protected by a national park since 2000 and is an example of diversity for its wildlife. Khyargas is among the four largest lakes in the country, 75km long by 31km wide. At the center, its average depth is 80m, with some much deeper areas. It is fed by a smaller lake, called Airag lake, that lies at its southern end. The latter being freshwater. The area was listed as a nature reserve in the early 2000s. In this region there are also many headstones and statues dating from the Turkish period (7th-9th century).
Day 14: Lake Khuyargas
Day of walking and relaxing by the sea… beautiful landscapes of this huge lake with views of the high peaks to the north, feelings of peace and freedom. You will definitely have a chance to see the geckos that live in this desert area.
Day 15: Lake Khuyargas/Bor Khar els – dunes
A step that will lead you through Khar Bor Els dunes, whose name means “dark brown sand.” A string of dunes that stretches fifty kilometers. Depending on the wind, crossing the dunes can be complicated and the driver will need to get some information from nomads or at the village, to know the most favorable place at the moment.
The dunes are located in the department of Zavkhan and will remind desert lovers of the dunes of North Africa, they are at an altitude of 1,535m.
GPS point 48°20’37.01″ 94°58’53.81″
Day 16: Hiking in the dunes
Day spent walking in the dunes, you may have the chance to see a gazelle, or a hare, many animals live in the area, and it is not uncommon to see signs of wolves.
Or in the small granite massif which is in the middle of the valley next to the dunes and in which many live argali (wild sheep).
Day 17: Khar Bor Els/Ulangom
You will continue your journey in this sandy desert area that will lead to
Ulaangom. Ulaangom is a beautiful town…
Ulaangom is a city that has existed since 1686. In the 1870s the
Dechinravja monastery was built, reinforcing the importance of the city. The population of the city is about 20,000, which represents more than a quarter of the population of the aimag.
5 to 6 hours of trail before arriving in Ulaangom.
Check into local hotel to enjoy the benefits of good shower.
Day 18: Domestic flight Ulaangom/Ulaanbaatar
Check in to hotel in Ulaanbaatar and free time at the end of the day.
Day 19: Day at the Capital
Last visit, the time to do some shopping for souvenirs and then it will be time to attend a concert of traditional music and dancing. Overnight at hotel
Tour Length: 19 Days
Tour Type: GIT & FIT
Tour Price: Upon request
Transfers between airport/hotel/airport
Local English-speaking guide (Olgii)
Driver and Russian mini bus vehicle throughout the stay
In Ulaanbaatar and for transfers: Japanese 4X4 vehicle
3 nights at hotel in Ulaanbaatar
Overnight stay at local hotel in Ulaangom
Meals during the stay unless specified in the “does not include” section
Domestic flights Ulaanbaatar/Olgii and Khovd/Ulaanbaatar
Local trekking guide
Admission to the parks and museums mentioned
Music & traditional Mongolian dance show
Excess baggage on domestic flights – All baggage together allowed is 15kg
All visits or meals not mentioned in the program
Any excursion not mentioned
Travel Period: May to September
More information upon request.