Friday, September 22, 2006

Gobi desert beauties

You will be staying in tented camp. Visit Buddhist monasteries enjoying recent revival, sites of dinosaur fossils, an ice gorge and ride a camel through the Khongoriin Els sand dunes. This program combines the ancient traditions of Buddhism with the natural beauty and grandeur of the pristine nature. Erdenezuu is the largest functioning monastery in Mongolia and is slowly and lovingly being restored to its former glory after many years of abandonment and neglect during socialism era. The Monastery is situated at where the ancient capital of Mongolia Karakorum located. It was here that Chinggis Khan assembled his mighty cavalry to conquer half of the known world. Further we head into the Gobi area. The sites of the Gobi are varied and unique, like the valley at Yoliin Am, known as Eagle Valley, whose depths support huge glacial sheets that remain until hot summer months, or the massive sand dunes. Of great interest to foreign travelers and scientists alike are the dinosaur remains scattered throughout the Gobi.

Day 1

At the prearranged time we will head west into the countryside. The scenery is wide-open steppe with rolling hills in the background. We will stop for lunch along the way and reach the mountain called ‘Khogno Khan’ in the late afternoon. It is about 6 hours drive from Ulaanbaatar. This mountain is perfect for some afternoon hiking and there are remains of an ancient monastery, which should be explored. Dinner and overnight will be at the tented camp.

Day 2

Today we will drive on to Karakorum, the ancient capital of Mongolia. There is a small local township there now. This is about 2 hours drive from Khogno Khan Mountain. On arrival the first and most obvious landmark is the remains of the Erdenezuu Monastery’s vast walls. This monastery was built in 1586 and is surrounded by a massive 400m x 400m wall. Not a single nail was used in the construction of the ornate temples, only a few of which remain standing after the communist purges. We will visit this monastery and then head on to the Orkhon River and set our camp in the river’s shore.

Day 3

Today we will make a trip to the Orkhon Waterfall, situated in the Orkhon Valley. This valley is known as the cradle of Mongolian civilization as many of Mongolia’s ancient monuments lie within its borders. Today we will visit some of its natural beauties. The Orkhon Waterfall marks the halfway point of the Orkhon River, the longest river in Mongolia. The area surrounding the waterfall is green and forested and we will spend the day walking in the area and having a picnic lunch. This area of Mongolia is well known for producing the best ‘airag’, or fermented mares’ milk, in the country. Many locals will love to challenge you to a singing game, the loser having to consume a whole bowl of the ‘airag’, so beware when visiting local families! The drive from our camping spot to this area is about two-and-a-half hours and in the afternoon we will drive until we reach our camping spot and set our camp. Overnight and dinner

Day 4

Today we start driving towards the Gobi desert. The scenery will change into the vast open steppe that meets with the horizon at the edge. There will be occasional nomadic families’ gers in the distance. We will have a packed lunch on the way and in the afternoon we will come to our camping spot by the Ongiin River, where we will stay for the night. There is the ruin of Ongiin Monastery nearby, which we will visit.

Day 5

Continue driving to the flaming cliffs at Bayanzag. The first discovery of dinosaur eggs, as well as bones, was made in this area in the famous American expedition of the 1920’s. There will be a chance to meet local nomadic people and to visit their gers. Overnight will be at the tented camp near the flaming cliff.

Day 6

Today we drive west along the Altai Mountain range until we reach Khongoriin Els. Reaching heights of 800m, these are Mongolia’s largest sand dunes. Locally they are called the ‘singing dunes’ because of the tons of sand, which shift in the wind, making a strange sound similar to that of distant aircraft. The drive is about 6 hours long. We will stay overnight in a tent close to the dunes.

Day 7

After some long days of driving we will have the opportunity to use a different type of transport. We will be riding on camels today to explore these massive sand dunes. The two-humped camels are very comfortable to ride, as they walk slowly and gently and we will be well supported by the humps, sitting comfortably between them. Our camel man will take us to the sand dunes. We will take our lunch with us and ride back to the camp in the evening.

Day 8

Today we will drive to Yoliin Am (Eagle Valley). This is a long valley with high cliff walls, which shade some areas of the valley floor from the sun for the entire year, allowing the stunning ice sheets to form. We will walk through the valley and see the ibex grazing on the cliff faces. The wildlife in the area is abundant and the desert plants vibrant and varied. The areas we will be visiting are situated in the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, which encompasses the ‘Three Beauties’ peaks and the eastern-most points of the Altai Mountains. Overnight at the tented camp.

Day 9

After breakfast we will drive to Baga gazriin chuluu in Dundgobi aimag. The drive is about 250 kms. On the way we will stop for lunch. Overnight will be in tent nearby Baga Gazriin Chuluu.

Day 10

After breakfast we will drive towards Ulaanbaatar, on the way we will stop for lunch. In the late afternoon we will reach Ulaanbaatar city and transfer you to your hotel.

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