West Mongolia and the Eagle Hunters
Detailed Tours Description
Day 1: Karakorum
After an early wake up, we will set of for a long driving day to Karakorum (also called Kharhorin).
Kharkhrin is the site of the 13th century capital of the Mongolian Empire created by Chinggis Khan. The founding of Karakorum started on the ruins of Turug and Uigur cities in the Orkhon valley at the eastern end of the Khanggai mountains in 1220 by the Chinggis Khaan's order. It 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 Mngke 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 Khubilai Khaan 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 residencing 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.
We will also see the Turtle Rock and the Phallic Rock.
Day 2: Tsenger Hotwater Springs and Baths
This morning we will driving westward in the direction of Khangai Mountains. On average, the Khanggai mountains are 2500-3000 M above the sea level and are composed of mainly granite, intrusive chert and sandstone belonging to Paleozoic era. The Khanggai Mountains is about 800 km long, ranging from Zavkhan province territory to Tuv province. They function as the continental divide of the world water system.
The green mountainsides and the network of smaller and larger rivers offer excellent pastureland for the herds of horses, yaks and cows.
In the afternoon we will reach Tsenkher hot spring resort. This resort has a large open-air pool at its customer's disposal. The hot water of the pool flows continuously in from the hot water spring. At the spring, the temperature of the water is over 80 C. A complex pipelines system regulates the water temperature. Some will spend hours sitting in the pool talking to their friends while staring at the stars or scanning the nightly nature around them.
Day 3: Tsetserleg and the White Lake
At lunchtime we will reach Tsetserleg, capital city of Arkhangai province (180 km, 6 hours). 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.
Day 4: Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur and Khorgo Uul Vulcano
Today we will relax around the White Lake (also named 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.
Day 5: Telmen Lake
Today we will head westwards passing Ikh-Uul and Tosontsengel village
of Zavkhan Province. End of the afternoon we will reach Telmen Lake. Telmen is a beautiful lake which hosts abundant birdlife. The lake lies near the boundary between the forest-steppe and steppe ecosystems. You will find different kinds of landscape around the lake such as sand dunes, beautiful mountains, green forest and several rivers and other lakes.
Lake Telmen, a closed lake basin, is slightly salty (about 4g per liter salinity).
Here you can see the rare desert flower zambaga. We will enjoy some hiking and relaxing near the lake
Day 6: Uliastai and Otgontenger Mountain
Passing through Zagastaiin Pass we will reach Uliastai, capital city of Zavkhan Province. We will have a breathtaking vies over Otgontenger Mountain. This mountain is the highest peak of the Khangai Mountain Range and culminates at 4021m above sea level.
Day 7: Bayan Nuur Make and Bor Khyarin Els Dand Dunes
We will drive for three consecutive days on Mongolia's worst roads to enter, at last, one of Mongolia's least visited regions, the Great Lakes Depressions.
Today we will drive to the largest and highest Mongolian sand dunes. Bor Khyariin Sand Dunes are 300 meter high and offer a beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding area.
Embedded in the sand dunes belt there is Bayan Lake.
Day 8: Airag and Khyargas Lakes
The Great Lakes Depressions is a region that stretches out from Uvs to Khovd aimag over about 40.000 square kilometres. The Great lake depression is a semi-arid desert region delimited westward by the Altai Mountain Range. In spring, melting snow from the Altai Mountain ends up in the depression's lakes. Being deprived of outlets to the sea, those salt lakes become giant evaporating points.
Later during the day we will reach Khyargas Lake which is famous for having the least number of mosquitoes at any time of year, and its banks are like a pleasant seashore..
Day 9: Extra Relaxing at the Lakes and Camel Riding
After having droven through half of Mongolia, we will relax for another day at the lakes. Will have chance to swim or fish in the lakes.
Day 10: Ulaangom and Kharkharaa Mountains
End of the afternoon we will reach Ulaangom, capital city of Uvs Province, where we will visit the local market to stock up with food.
After our short beak at the market we will go on driving on a rough but scenic road into the Kharkhiraa valley. We will reach the Kharkhiraa River where we will set up our tented camp. This river finds its sources in the Kharkhiraa Mountain. Its water flows into the Uvs Lake
Day 11: Uureg Lake
Today we will head for Uureg Lake, which lies close to the Russian border and Siberia. It is a large, beautiful slightly salt-water lake surrounded by glorious mountains and some snow-capped 3000 meters plus peaks. The mouth of the valley leading into the lake is lined with nomad's summer gers. The scene is breathtaking and so are the people. We will have the opportunity to visit some families.
Before reaching the lake we will cross the Ulaan Davaa Pass, enjoying the views of the red mountains and sprawling valley floor.
We will spend the whole afternoon around the lake. The lake is great for swimming and there are good opportunities for hiking, fishing, bird watching, etc.
Sunsets and sunrises in this dramatic scene can be stunned. They make us feel as if we are the only people on earth or as if we have reached the edges of the viable world.
We will camp along the lakeshore
Day 12: Achit Lake
From here we will drive to Achit Lake. Achit Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the province. It is on the border of Uvs and Bayan Ulgii provinces, and is an easy detour between Olgii and Ulaangom. It offers stunning sunsets and sunrises as well as good fishing. The lake is home to an astonishing array of water bird flocks.
Before reaching the lake we will cross the Ogotor Hamar Pass from which you will have breathtaking views of the region.
We will hike the whole afternoon around the lake.
Day 13: Olgii (Ulgii)
Today we will reach the most western aimag of Mongolia, Bayan-Olgii. Unlike the rest of Mongolia, which is dominated by Khalkh Mongolians, about 90% of Bayan-Olgii's population are Kazakh, almost all of them Muslims.
Olgii, capital city of the aimag is a Muslim influenced ethnically Kazakh city. It is home to a mosque.
Olgiis mosque and madrasah (Islamic place of learning) is worth a quick look, especially on Friday at lunch time when weekly prayers are held, though you may not be allowed inside. The mosque holds the offices of the Islamic Centre of Mongolia. Its unusual angle is due to its orientation to Mecca.
We will spend the afternoon strolling around in the aimag centre. We will visit the museum that has some interesting displays and gives a good overview of Kazakh culture. We will also pay a visit to the mosque.
Day 14: Namarjin Valley and the Tsambagarav Mountain
After breakfast we will set of for Namarjin Valley. On the way you will have excellent views of Tsambagarav Mountain (4200 meters), one of Mongolia's most glorious snow-capped peaks. We will also drive along several Kazakh settlements and a beautiful turquoise lake. The grassland in this valley is covered with a carpet of alpine flowers.
Day 15: Bayangol Valley and Khar Us Lake
In the beginning of the afternoon we will pass Khovd, capital city of Khovd Provinve.
Sangiin Kherem is the Mongolian name for the remains of the Manchu fort in the Northern part of Khovd city, Mongolia. The fort was built in the 18th century, and later became the seat of the Manchu amban and his office. The fort has a quadratic layout, the walls are made of clay. There were gates at the east and west and watch towers at the four corners. The fort's walls were surrounded by water ditches, with wooden bridges to access the gates. The remaining walls are 3 metres high and 1.5 metres thick , oriented at the four corners of the earth, each side was 0.33 km. According to Russian geographer M. V. Pevtsov, who visited the city in 1878, the height of the walls back then was 4.5 metres. The southern portion of the fort was occupied by the Manchu amban, treasury, offices, and military barracks. The eastern part was occupied by commercial firms, a Chinese Buddhist temple and a mosque. Since the year 1912 when city Khovd was liberated from the Manchu administration and the fort was taken by force, the citadel declined.
The whole day we will explore the region of lush valleys, dozens of little lakes and permanently snow-capped peaks.
The whole day we will explore the region of lush valleys, dozens of little lakes and permanently snow-capped peaks.
We pass through Bayangol Valley from where you will have a fine view over Khar Us Lake.
In the evening we will set up our tents close to a nomad family. We will experience the warm hospitality offered by the Mongolian families. For dinner we will be offered a typical Mongolian barbeque that will be prepared by nomads. Those who want will have the opportunity to try the "airag" or fermented horse milk. Our guide - translator will help us to forge contact with the local population.
Day 16: Tsenkheriin Agui Cave
The Tsenkheriin Agui (also known as Khoid Tsenkher) caves are for their cave paintings, dates from 20.000 years ago. Interesting is that both mammoths and ostriches are depicted on the walls, proving that both lived in Mongolia up to approximately 15,000 years ago.
The cave has numerous passages to explore. The largest cavern (12 by 18 meters) is about 15m high.
We will make a short trekking in the caves area.
Day 17: Davri
For today on we will start driving again eastwards, reaching Altai town after 2 days of intensive driving.
We will overnight close to Davri.
Day 18: Alta
Today we will reach Altai, capital city of Gobi-Alta Province. Alta is nestled between the mountains of Khasagt Khairkhan Uul (3579m) and Jargalant Uul (3070m).
We will overnight somewhere past Altai.
Day 19: Boon Tsagaan Nuur Lake
A chain of large and small saline lakes lies at the foot of the Gobi-Altai in the broad inter-montane depression between the Khangai and Gobi-Altai ranges . They are shallow, with a saucershaped depth profile, and vary considerably size both seasonally and from year to eyar. Some may dry out completely in certain years . They all receive their inflow from rivers which rise in the Khangai Mountains, and no permanent inflow comes from the Gobi-Altai. The principal lakes are the Boon
Tsagaan Nuur, Tatsiin Tsagaan Nuur, Adgiin Tsagaan Nuur, Orog Nuur .
As the lakes shrinks in summer, it leaves areas of salt marsh, especially to the east of the lake.
Today, we continuing further drive to the large saltwater Boon Tsagaan Nuur lake (in the south-west of Bayankhongor Province), at the end of Baidrag river that is located at the foot of the Gobi-Altai Mountain Range.
Boon Tsagaan Nuur is one of the main stopover sites of migratory birds and also breeding ground. This site is very popular with birdlife, especially the relic gull, whooper swan and geese. We will record most ducks, geese, waders and passerines in this lake.
Day 20: Bayankhogor
Our next stop will be Bayankhongor. Bayankhongor town is the capital city of Bayanhonger province.
Bayankhonger encompasses three major geographical zones. The city is located in the central grass steppe zone, but to the north there are the Southern slopes of the Khangai Mountain Range with its luch forest zone and to its south there is the Gobi Desert.
At the end of the afternoon we will reach Shargaljuut hot springs. Shargaljuut hot springs and health resorts are located 60 km from the Bayanhongor aimag center in Shargaljuut soum. There are located on the north west bank of the Shargaljuut river on a rocky pass. There are more than 100 mineral hot springs that are named for human body parts and organs based on the shape of the spring sprouts/fissures. The hot springs are between 45 C and 96 C and even flow during the cold Mongolian winter.
Day 21 and day 22: Drive back to Ulaanbaatar
For 2 days we will drive back to Ulaanbaatar. We will pass again Karakorum and take the same road back.
Optional Day: Tovkhon Monastery and Orkhon Water Falls
Our next stop will be at Tuvhon Monastery, established during the 1650s by Zanabazar, one of Mongolias most respected religious leaders. The monasterys wooden buildings are integrated with a natural system of caves perched hear a hilltop, from which you have beautiful views of the Orkhon Valley and the surrounding pine forests. On the top of the cliff, a pile of stones to worship a god of this mountain forms a hill. It is called Ovoo.
In the Quaternary era a volcano erupted near the beginning of the Tsagaan Azarga or White Stallion River and the lava flowed down the Orkhon valley forming the 10 meter thick layer of basaltic rocks. The basaltic layer was crosscut by the Orkhon River continuously and the canyon was formed as a result.
At the beginning of this canyon lays the 20 meters high, 10 meter wide waterfall. The most adventures of you will climb down the canyon and swim the lake located at the food of the waterfall.
Optional Day: 2 days trip to Khoton and Khukhan Lakes on the way to the Tavan Bogd Mountain
Form Ulgii we will drive further westwards into the direction of the Tavan Bogd Mountain. We will reach in the afternoon the Khoton and Khukh an Lakes.
1 or 2 Optional Day: Overnight in a Khazak Eagle Hunters Family
During these two days we will live a life of a Kazakh eagle hunter! We will be follow our eagle hunter and his bird on horseback for 3-4 hour treks through the Altai Mountains looking for prey. The rest of the time we will be interacting with the family members (Kazakh people tend to have large families) and experiencing their daily life. Kazakh people are known with their warm hospitality so prepare to feel greatly welcome in their home.
Optional Day: Tolboo Lake
On the way from Olgii to Khovd, we will stop for a day at Tolboo Lake, a pristine sweat water lake, situated at 2080 metres above sea level. The lake is the site of a famous battle in the 1920's struggle for Mongolian independence and several monuments recognize the heroism of Mongolian soldiers. We stop in Deluun village to visit the local WWII monument, then continue to the Chigertei River, whose unusually warm water is fed by a nearby hot spring.
Optional Day: 3 days trip to Eej Khairhan Mountain
This ancient stone massif Eej Khairkhan rises from the desert and resembles a prone woman. The massive has 7 interconnected water pots. When the first pot is filled up, it creates a little waterfall by spilling its excess water to the next pot through the stone threshold, which is 40 to 50 cm long.
Nearby the water pots there is a little cave monastery where the monk knows as the Monk with the white horse and the white camel lived. About 30 minutes walk westwards are some spectacular, ancient rock paintings of ibex, horsemen and archers. This area was protected in 1992.
Optional Day: Tsagaan Agui Cave, Cave Drawings and Petroglyphs
Today we will have a long day driving to Bogd village. On the way we will stop at Tsagaan Agui Cave also named White Cave.
The White Cave is located close Bayanlig village. It is situated in a narrow gorge, and is home to numerous ancient cave drawings. The cave once housed Stone Age human beings 700,000 years ago. It also features a crystallined inner chamber.
There are also Petroglyph Writings close to Bayanlig village. Bichig Khad, literally Stone with writings. They have been dated to 3, 000 years ago and are considered sacred. While the animal drawings here also provide evidence that Mongolians have been domestic, there is other evidence that that they once farmed and domesticated animals. One example is a domesticated cow ploughing the ground.
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