Gobi Crossing – 10 Days

Adventure Tour

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    This tour is provided by

    Stone Horse Expeditions

    We offer guided horseback riding expeditions through the cultural and wilderness landscapes of two of Mongolia’s premier parks, Gobi desert tours, hiking trips and herder family ger (yurt) stays. Our team of experienced trip leaders and guides is made up of Mongolian and international personnel who have worked in conservation, tourism and wilderness travel.

    • 10 Days
    • Group Size6 guests
    • Mongolia

    The Gobi Crossing is our desert expedition exploring the more remote parts of the Gobi, and with most nights spent in tented camps. It brings you not only to some of the iconic sites like the “Vulture Gorge”, “Flaming Cliffs” and “Singing Sands”. I takes you through amazing landscapes and to prehistoric sites that reflect the long and intriguing human history of this region. Much of the Gobi Crossing is in Mongolia’s largest National Park – Gobi Gurvan Saikhan or “The Three Beauties of the Gobi”. It also takes in local protected areas and sites. The Gobi Crossing allows for enough time to take in the landscapes, the vistas, and the silence of the desert. Spend evenings in a desert camp and watch the amazing night skies.

    Prices Includes

    Included – accommodation in Ulaanbaatar (2 nights) and during the Gobi Crossing, all transportation, all entrance fees, meals, snacks and drinks. We provide tents, mats and sleeping bags, and carry desert camping equipment including kitchen and group shelter, dining table and stools, privacy shelter for washing. A minimum of 2 guests is required for the expedition to go.

    The Gobi Crossing is an expedition traveling through some remote areas even by Mongolian standards which is the most sparsely populated country on earth with an average populations density of 0.5 persons/square kilometer. Cell phone coverage is relatively good though, as mobile service is a very important means of communications for Mongolia’s rural and nomadic herder communities.

    While the dates of our Gobi Crossing are in the more moderate seasons, avoiding the summer heat and extreme winter cold, we still can encounter sudden temperature changes and extreme weather, namely dust/sand storms, sometimes accompanied by rain/snow. As in any desert, flash floods are something to be very aware of – never camp in a dry river bed, or areas potentially exposed to sudden run-off after a desert down-pour.

    The Gobi Crossing in May is likely a warm weather trip, with pleasantly warm temperatures in the days (20 + Celsius, 70 + Fahrenheit) and nights moderate, only nights in higher altitude campsites might have below freezing temperatures.

    The Gobi Crossing in October is a cool weather trip, with night time temperatures mostly a bit below freezing, and day time temperatures likely between 10 – 15 degrees Celsius (50 – 60 Fahrenheit). These are averages, but the weather conditions may vary from these!

    Please Note

    Make sure you are prepared well for the Gobi desert travel. It does not mean expensive and very specialized gear, but suitable clothing and some essential items. Please read and take our recommendations serious.

    We travel in robust 4×4 vehicles and with local drivers who are experienced in these conditions and knowledgeable about the Gobi destinations and routes. Our expedition vehicles carry water supplies, provisions and First Aid Kit, and a set-up for camping and cooking. This includes a group shelter (tent), sun shade tarp, and sleeping tents (usually 2 person tents, but as solo traveler you need not share a tent – unless you prefer). We provide sleeping bag suitable for the travel season, as well as sleeping mat.

    We carry a satellite phone and GPS, and our team members will have cell phone service with different local providers that have coverage in the Gobi settlements/administrative centers we pass.

    Adventure Travel

    for a Great Desert Experience

    We travel in 4×4 vehicles with experienced desert drivers and guides. A full camp and kitchen, our provisions and water travel with us, so we are free to choose our overnight camps in the desert. The first and last day of the 10 days of travel are on sealed roads. Most of the remaining travel is on dirt roads or tracks, and occasionally off-road/track though we take care not to make new tracks or drive on fragile ground.

    There can be slight changes to the itinerary, if herders have moved, or due to the weather and travel conditions. Winter itineraries will have to be adjusted a bit to accommodate shorter hours of day light.

    Arrival Day in Mongolia

    Transfer from airport/train station to guesthouse in Ulaanbaatar. Depending on time, orientation meeting with your guide, museum (dinosaurs) visit, shopping if necessary for your Gobi Adventure.

    Day 1

    Departing Ulaanbaatar early by 4×4 vehicles, travel to Middle Gobi provincial center. Stop for lunch and fuel. Continue south to visit the landscape of Tsagaan Suvraga (White Shrine), then on to South Gobi province. Overnight in Gobi Oasis Ger Camp near Dalanzadgad, South Gobi provincial center.

    Day 2

    After breakfast, we drive to the Eastern Beauty Mountains and enter Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park. Travel to Yoliin Am and hike into this gorge that is in most years ice filled even in the desert summer.

    After lunch, we ascend to a steep pass where we stop for a view of the rugged mountain landscape. We drive down into the Dungene Valley and travel down the valley, with stops for wildlife spotting and for a picnic lunch. Before the gorge narrows we emerge onto the desert plains, where amazing views of the vast landscapes with distant mountain ranges open. We descend one more time to cross the gorge near its narrowest point and look down on the ruins of an old monastery, now marked by a stupa.

    From here, we turn South to reach tonights desert camp site. We set up our camp not far from the summer camp of a camel herder family.

    Day 3

    After breakfast in our tented camp, the Camel guides arrive with the Camels for this morning’s ride. We experience the desert landscape from camel back. Our experienced guides lead us as we move along in a string of camels, each of us holding the next camel’s lead line. This is a safe and fun way of camel riding for novices..

    We ride to the foot of Zuramtai Mountain (Ground Squirrel Mountain), where our cars meet us to take us to a scenic spot for today’s picnic lunch. In the afternoon, we explore Zuramtai Mountain, taking a hike up a red canyon, where we might spot desert bird life before climbing out of the canyon for another sweeping view of the desert plains. We visit other sites to see ancient petroglyphs on boulders. We spent another night on our tented desert camp.

    Day 4

    Today we turn North again, our route is through the center of the local district Bayndalai  where we can stop at some real country side shops. We continue, passing a rock formation known as the “Camel Rock”, traveling through the area know as Shavartai with gentle foothills of the rugged mountains ahead. We traverse the mountains and on their North side, make our way up a small winding valley. We climb to a small Buddhist temple, statue and meditation retreat build by the local community here.

    For lunch, we drive to the center of Bulgan District, a center of vegetable growing thanks to a permanent desert spring. We can stock up on some locally grown foods, and meet local growers, before we head out towards the Flaming Cliffs.  There we take a walk exploring the cliffs. From the top plateau there is a great view onto the Saxaul forests below and to the mountain ranges of Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park in the North. If weather permits, we spend time to enjoy the sunset and understand why this iconic landscape came to be called “Flaming Cliffs”. Overnight at nearby Ger Camp (if open at this time of season) or in our own tented camp.

    Day 5

    We travel Westwards again, along the North side of the Western Beauty Mountains, until we come to a valley marked by a high wall of red sediments, with many birds nests; this is the entrance to Gegetiin Am. This gorge between the Bayn Bor Mountain and Western Beauty Mountains is known for flowers blooming in winter time. A permanent creek flows in the gorge.

    On the drive through the gorge we stop to watch for wildlife. We take a hike up a small side valley that opens up and from where we can climb higher. We have watched Ibex and spotted Red Deer here in the mountains. This is also snow leopard habitat, as much of the mountain ranges in this park are.

    After lunch in the gorge we travel turn West when we emerged on the Southern end of the gorge, now headed to the “Singing Sands”. After a while we catch the first glimpse of the Easternmost reaches of the sand dunes that stretch along 130 kilometers. As we travel westwards, the dunes gain in altitude, the vista is getting ever more impressive, with desert plains in the foreground, the undulating band of sand dunes and dark, rugged mountain ranges in the background.

    We stop to get a closer look at the sand dunes near their highest elevation, spending time walking in the dunes. Great photo opportunities, and the more adventurous travelers might want to scale the dunes. At this time of year and in late afternoon, the temperatures should be moderate for such an exercise.

    We leave the sand dunes to enter the remoter desert landscapes west of here. Traveling in the evenight light, we look for a good camp site in the desert. Another night for star gazing – weather permitting.

    Day 6

    A day of true desert landscapes, we travel on a remote track, sometimes through stands of saxaul forest. In the hills here we have seen Argali, and once a white wolf. Our lunch time destination is the center of Baynlig District, now one of the more modern country side centers. Getting closer to the settlement, we see herds of camels and the camps of herders. At this time of year, we may see them shearing camel.

    We take lunch in a local restaurant and start the drive to the small valley and location of “Bichigt Khad”. Here, petroglyphs from several periods are concentrated on rock faces. We spend time to explore and photograph the ancient depictions of animals, humans and abstract symbols. We find a good camp spot for the night, close to the rock art valley or a little further away in a granite landscape.

    Day 7

    Passing through the District Center again, we have opportunity to stop by at a local handicraft ger shop, before we travel to the “White Cave”. This is an important prehistoric site, where artifacts of dating about 750,000 old have been identified by archeologists. Picnic lunch.

    The afternoon is spent with another  scenic desert drive, traveling towards the mountain range of Baga Bogd Mountain, with also Ikh Bogd, nearly 4000 meters high and often snowcapped at this time of the year, in sight.  Finally we take a rough track down into the valley of an ephemeral river with stands of desert elm trees. We reach the gorge and campsite of “Khuren Khad” where we make camp. A shot hike takes us to the mineral springs that Khuren Khad is known for. This campsite is at a higher elevation with cooler night time temperatures.

    Day 8

    An early start today of the journey to Arvaikheer, the capital of Uvurkhangai Province. Picnic lunch enroute. A monument for horses outside town, with the statue of the famous race horse “Arvaikheer” signifies the reverence for horses in this country. Besides the statues of horses, there are also the skulls of many honored horses here, decorated with a blue Hadag, the ceremonial silk scarf.

    From Arvaikheer we travel through a picturesque valley to Kharkhorin, the ancient capital of Mongolia. The drive to through a picture book Mongolian country side scenery, with summer camps of herders and large herds of horses, and other livestock.

    In Kharkhorin, we stay at a ger camp or overnight in the dormitory of the Buddhist monk’s school if it can be arranged.

    Day 9

    We visit Erdenezuu Monastery and the sites of archeological excavations, and take a guided tour in the museum in Kharkhorin. Impressive displays on the history of Mongolia, and the history of the ancient city throughout different empires, before Chingis Khan made it the capital of the Mongolian empire.

    After lunch we travel east wards on the sealed road to reach Hustai Nuruu National Park, where we stay over night in a ger camp. Hustai Nuruu National Park is the site of a successful re-introduction project of the Takhi, a true wild horse and a sacred animal to Mongolian people. After being extinct in the wild, the last sighting of a wild takhi was in 1969, Takhi or Przewalski Horses, have been re-introduced in Mongolia.

    Day 10

    Breakfast at the ger camp. A naturalist/guide can bring us to locations to view herds of Takhi. Other wildlife in the park includes Red Deer, wolf and others. After lunch at the ger camp, we travel back to Ulaanbaatar, a drive of approximately two hours. Time for last minute shopping in the evening for those who leave early the next day. Farewell dinner/drinks (or breakfast)

    Departure Day

    Transfer to Airport. City tour or other activities if your departure time is later in the day.