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.
The Diversity of the Gobi Desert
Gobi – the name evokes images of vast expanses of sand dunes, red colored sediments rich in dinosaur fossils, camel riders and heat reflections above the desert landscape. While all these sights can be seen on the Gobi Desert Tour, there is much more to this landscape that is so rich in natural and human history. The Mongolian Gobi is a diverse landscape where rugged mountain ranges rise above the expansive plains of the desert.
The largest National Park of Mongolia is situated here – “Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park”, which translates into “The Three Beauties of the Gobi”. These three mountain ranges are habitat for Argali, Ibex and snowleopard. The rock formations of the Gobi here have yielded some spectacular paleontology findings such as the first dinosaur eggs, and the first found specimens of Velociraptor and Protoceratops. This area is now protected as “Baynzag Park”.
The Gobi desert tour shows you the diversity of the landscapes, and takes you to some of the iconic sites – the Yoliin Am Gorge and the Khongoryn Els – Singing Sands. During your desert exploration you will meet with people of the Gobi who have used the desert grasslands for millennia to develop their nomadic herding lifestyle based on the skillful use of the scarce resources of these dry lands.
The 6 day itinerary allows for enough time to enjoy the Gobi experience and make the overland return journey a pleasant drive through the steppes of Mongolia back to Ulaanbaatar, while visiting intriguing landscapes, historic and prehistoric sites along the way.
Included in the tour prices quoted here is accommodation 1 night before and 1 night after the Gobi Desert tour in Ulaanbaatar, and all accommodation, meals, fuel/transportation, entrance fees during the Gobi Desert Tour. We provide sleeping bags and mats for your trip, but you are also welcome to use your own.
For the 6 Day Gobi Desert Tour to leave, a minimum of two guests is required. If you would like to take the tour by yourself, we charge a single supplement of an additional $ 500.00, so the total tour price will be $ 2,450.00.
Make sure you are well prepared for travel in the Gobi, both for hot and cold weather! Even in summer there can be cold spells like anywhere in Mongolia, and some travel in the Gobi is in the mountains, so make sure you have also warm clothes.
Travel Seasons and Activities during Your Gobi Tour
For your Gobi desert tour, keep in mind this is adventure travel depending on weather and road/track conditions, as well as on the seasons with which some of your local hosts move to favorable pastures. Its part of the Gobi experience that a family may have moved with the livestock to a new place, and the travel distance and time to reach them might vary a bit.
The overland return tour from Ulaanbaatar to the Gobi lets you experience the vastness of the country as you travel through several ecological regions – from the edge of forest steppe near Ulaanbaatar through the steppes and into the desert steppe and desert. The itinerary is designed to break up the long drive, taking stops to rest and see sights along the way.
Our Gobi desert tour runs year-round, and obviously the daylight hours differ a lot – with a good 16 hours of daylight in the Gobi in the height of summer, to about 10 hours in the middle of winter. Therefore, the route needs to be adjusted a bit to keep your desert travel safe and comfortable. In the summer, there is more opportunity for hikes and other activities along the way, while in winter time we would travel shorter distances and hours, and make up with indoor activities.
Learn about Local Food, Traditions and Daily Life – Join in the Activities!
An important aspect of your Gobi Desert Tour is meeting local people and learn about their life and traditions. Depending on your interests, and travel time, we may spend time preparing and tasting traditional food, learning about and practicing crafts like felt making, helping with chores of livestock husbandry. Our guides know local families who are happy to receive guests and share their knowledge and skills, and serve local cuisine.
During home stays with herder families, meals are cooked by your hosts. Common dishes are home made pasta, dumplings, soups – with meat of goat, sheep or cattle. Traditional dairy products, varying depending on the season, are also an important part of the local diet. Country side home cooking is hearty, in the Gobi often seasoned with local herbs and special prepared preserves.
Your Personal Needs
But don’t worry if you are vegetarian, or have other-than meat and dairy preferences or requirements. Our guide and driver carry other foods, like bread and cereals for breakfast, and can set up your “continental” breakfast served with freshly brewed coffee if you prefer that instead of meat soup in the morning.
Also, Mongolian hosts have come to understand well that foreign visitors may not be big on meat, and they will be able to cook vegetarian varieties of some of the signature dishes. And by all means, let us know in advance if you have allergies and special needs in terms of food and drink.
Pick-up from guesthouse/hotel, and drive from Ulaanbaatar south, through the central (Tuv) Province and to Dund (Middle) Gobi Province. You will drive through the Mongolian steppe – seemingly endless, undulating plains of grasslands. Lunch in a local restaurant with typical Mongolian dishes in Mandalgobi, the provincial capital of Middle Gobi Province.
South of Mandalgovi, we will leave the paved road to reach Tsagaan Suvragaa, or “White Shrine”. An escarpment formed by multi-colored sediments overlooks the grasslands, an impressive landscape feature. Often, you will see kestrel perched on the rock walls or flying in the canyons below your viewpoint.
After the stop at the White Shrine, we continue southwestwards and connect again with the sealed road, and reach Omno Gobi (Southgobi) Province, and soon the capital Dalanzadgad. We stop for dinner and shopping if needed, and then continue to Gobi Oasis (Baynburd) Ger Camp.
After breakfast, we set out to travel westwards, first North along the Eastern Beauty Mountains, until we turn South at a big sign marking the entry to Mongolia’s largest National Park – “Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park”. Translating into “The Three Beauties of the Gobi National Park”, it is named after the three mountain ranges at its core.
This morning we visit the famed “Yoliin Am”, the “Vulture Gorge”. At the entrance to the valley leading to the gorge, we pass the ranger station and pay our park entrance fees. The drive to “Yoliin Am” from here is up a winding valley, the mountain slopes covered with green patches of dwarf juniper. And with a little luck, you will spot Ibex in the rugged rock walls on either side of the valley. Arriving at the parking lot after a fifteen minute drive, we hike from here into the gorge. Depending on the season, you will sooner or later reach the ice sheet filling the valley bottom. The steep walls of the canyon prevent the sun from reaching the bottom, and the ice accumulated during wintertime prevails throughout the desert summer in most years.
If the weather is favorable, and you like a longer hike, the driver will bring you to the opposite end of the gorge, and you can hike through the entire gorge – a hike of about 2 hours.
You may see Pika, and hear their whistling, in the rocks nearby as you hike the trail into the gorge. And high above in the sky you will probably see large birds circling in the sky. “Yol”, the “Laemmer Geier” after which the gorge is named, has an impressive wingspan, and you might also see eagle and other vultures.
After a picnic lunch upon arrival back at the vehicle, we will continue westwards to Khavtsgait Bag to see ancient petroglyphs on back rock slabs. It’s a bit of a climb to the petroglyph sites, nowadays on a well defined trail. And once on top, the view across the desert plains and onto the little settlement of Khavtsgait below is rewarding.
From the petroglyph site, we proceed to the Gobi Nomads ger camp, where we spend the night.
Today we travel westwards, North along the mountain ranges of the park, until we cross a small pass from where we get the first glimpse of the 180 km long sand dunes of Khongoryn Els.
We continue westwards, getting closer to the dunes, and eventually reach the area of their highest elevation. Overnight is at the Gobi Tuguil Ger Camp, from where we take a camel back ride to explore the sand dunes. Depending on arrival time and the local weather conditions, we explore the dunes today evening, or in the morning of the next day.
Khongoryn Els is the western most point of our Gobi tour, and today we begin the travel back. Tonight’s destination is Baynzag, also known as the “Flaming Cliffs”. On the way there, we once more visit the Western Beauty Mountains, entering a winding valley leading to a temple and meditation retreat established on a small rugged peak by the local community. Their work is still ongoing, with extending the temple complex high above the desert plains to the North. It’s a short climb up the stone stairways, and once again, it’s a rewarding view from up here. You might also see ibex in the rugged mountains of the vicinity here.
After the temple visit, we travel to the vicinity of Baynzag. There, we stay in a Herder’s Home Stay, where there is opportunity to learn about herder’s daily life, traditional dairy production and camel husbandry. Meals here are Mongolian home cooking.
In the morning, we visit the famous site of “Baynzag”, also known as “Flaming Cliffs”. It’s a landscape of red sediments, with canyons and escarpments and sand dunes below. It’s a picturesque landscape, and it is another famous paleontological site, perhaps the most significant dinosaur site worldwide. It became well known internationally through the expeditions in the 1920ies of the American Museum of Natural History lead by Roy Chapman Andrews. Mongolian and international scientists have excavated and continue to work here, and a modern visitor center is planned for “Baynzag Park”. Among the sensational finds here were dinosaur eggs, many specimens of protoceratops, bird-like dinosaurs, and a crocodile Shamosuchus.
It is interesting to take an extended walk here amongst the canyons and on cliff tops, with caution not to venture onto or below overhanging promontories. Green desert plants stand in stark contrast to the red ground, and it is interesting to see many living reptiles, small lizards, camouflaged among the rocks and sand and seeking shelter around plants. The Mongolian name “Baynzag” refers to the wealth of Saxaul (zag) bushes in the surrounding plains of the Flaming Cliffs.
In the afternoon, we travel back to Dalanzadgad, the provincial capital of South Gobi province. Overnight in hotel. If time allows, you can visit one of the local museums (local history and natural history, or the camel museum).
We have an early start to travel back to Ulaanbaatar. To break up the drive, we take a diversion about halfway to Baga Gazriin Chuluu, an interesting landscape of granite rock formations. It’s a local protected area, and habitat to Argali (mountain sheep); there is also an old monastery nestled in this picturesque landscape. We have a picnic lunch here before setting out for the last few hours drive to Ulaanbaatar. Check into hotel or guesthouse.