Trip to Zavkhan

15 days
From June to September 2022
Price includes
  • Airport / hotel / airport transfers
  • hotel** in Ulaanbaatar, breakfast included
  • Domestic flights
  • Full board during the excursion
  • Mineral water
  • camp of comfortable yurts with hot shower
  • nights at homestay, under yurt of hosts
  • Travel by car + driver
  • Essence
  • English-speaking guide
  • Horseback riding
  • Camel ride
  • Local guides during hikes
  • Entrance fees to the parks and museums mentioned
  • Traditional show
  • Kitchen equipment (camping tables and chairs) and sleeping equipment (down)
Price excludes
  •   Transport international
  •   Passport & Visa Fees
  •   Repatriation insurance
  •   Travel insurance
  •   Extra drinks / alcohols
  •   Meals in Ulaanbaatar
  •   Calls
  •   Any excursion not mentioned in the program

Day 1 Ulaanbaatar

Arrival on Ulaanbaatar. Transfer to the hotel. Lunch in a Mongolian restaurant  to discover local dishes. In the evening planned a traditional show.

Ulaanbaatar (Mongolian:  "Red Hero") is the  capital  of   Mongolia. It is at the same time the political, economic, industrial, scientific and cultural center. Administratively, it has the status, unique in the country, of  municipality,comparable to that of province.

The city, which stretches from east to west at the bottom of the valley of the Tula River, over twenty kilometers, brings together more than a million inhabitants, more than a third of the country's population.

The city changed its name several times in its history; at its creation in 1639, örgöö  which gives the famous translation  Urga, in  1651  Nomyn khüree  , in  1706  Ikh khüree  , in  1912  Niislel khüree  and finally in 1924, the current name,  Ulaanbaatar.

Ulaanbaatar is located 522 km  south-southeast ofIrkutsk,  Russia,1,170  km northwest of  Beijing,1,557  km  east-northeast ofÜrümqi,  China,and 4,635  km  east-southeast of  Moscow. The city is built along the Tula River,  a stream belonging to the Selengasub-basin.  To the southeast of the city is the  Choybalsan Uul,a small regional massif culminating at 2,261  m and belonging to the  Khentii Mountains. The latter mountainous set, more important, limits the Tula Valley to the north and continues to Russia.

Ulaanbaatar is the coldest capital in the world, it enjoys a cold and dry continental climate (Dwc type according to the Koppen classification). Winter is cold and long while summer is short and cool. Almost all precipitation occurs in summer.

Day 2 Ulaanbaatar-Mini Gobi

Ulaanbaatar-Mini Gobi  280km

Departure for Mini  Gobi,  an 80 km long sand dune that extends west of Khogno Khan Mountain, starting on the west side of Batkhaan Mountain, crossing the territory of Erdenesant village of Tuv region, Burd village of Uvurkhangai region and Rashaant village of Bulgan region. The main road divides this sand dune, the southern part is called Mongolian sand and the northern part is called Khogno tarna sand. Under the influence of the Tarna River, the sand is wet and shrubs like willow, elm grow there. The landscape is very varied here.

Overnight at yurt camps  

Day 3 Mini Gobi-Karakorum-Orkhon Valley


The capital of the Mongol Empire

In the early thirteenth  century,  Genghis Khan  established Mongol rule over a territory that stretched from the Pacific to the  CaspianSea, founding an empire that included the steppes of Mongolia, Korea, North China,  and part of Central Asia. This empire is initially devoid of a capital because the Mongols are nomads.

Around 1220, Genghis Khan  established his base camp, leaving women and central administration during his military campaigns, on the site of Karakorum (name meaning "black rock"), located at the foot of the Khangai Mountains on the left bank of theOrkhon,atributary of the Selenda. Karakorum is a significant site, some 25 km from the ancient Uyghur capital Qara Balgassun (eighth  century).

Genghis Khan died in 1227 and was succeeded by his son Ögödei,  who around 1235 began work on transforming the Karakorum camp into a capital city.

A wall was built, because it was the symbol of any city. Later, Marco Polo  mentions a simple earthen embankment and Guillaume de Rubrouck  a brick wall. Four doors open on the four cardinal points. Two huge granite statues depicting turtles, with Sinisant-style inscriptions, adorn the East Gate that leads to China.

Karakorum is open to all religions and peoples of the Empire. Its inhabitants are almost all foreigners, because the Mongols refuse to settle down. Two large districts dominate: that of the Chinese and that of the Saracens, mainly craftsmen and artists. The Mongolian capital shows a high quality of life. Archaeologists have spotted hot air heating systems, irrigation canals and water supply. Agriculture appears near the city to feed the inhabitants, but Karakorum depends on agricultural imports from China.

The imperial palace, called Qarchi ("castle") by the Mongols and Wan-an kung ("Palace of the Thousand Tranquility") by the Chinese, rises in the center of a courtyard surrounded by several enclosures, the largest measuring 200 meters by 225. A mound 28 meters high hosts the imperial yurt. Guillaume de Rubrouck reports that the palace itself adopted a basilical plan with five naves, separated by large wooden pillars. The great khan sits at the bedside, sitting like a god above the subjects on a podium with two access stairs. But the Mongolian palace remains on the whole very simple. It reflects the hesitant first steps of a people who still know nothing about architecture and urban planning.

In 1256 Möngke,the fourth great khan, built a huge  five-storey stupa, one hundred meters high, which revealed the favors that the Mongols granted to   Buddhism.

Visit to the Monastery of Erdenezuu

Once we have arrived on site we will visit the most beautiful and oldest Buddhist monastery Erdenezuu built between 1585 and 1586. The stones from the ruins of Karakorum  were used in the construction. It is surrounded by a wall presenting 108  stupas,108 is a sacred number in Buddhism, and the number of pearls in a Buddhist rosary (mala). The monastery was damaged by war in the 1680s, but was rebuilt in the eighteenth  century and by 1872 it included 62 complete temples inside.

For centuries, Erdene Zuu was the most important religious shrine in Mongolia.

In 1939 communist leader Horloogiyn Choybalsan  destroyed the monastery, as part of a purge that resulted in the disappearance of hundreds of monasteries in Mongolia and the death of more than ten thousand monks. Three small temples and the outer wall with the stupas remained; the temples became museums in 1947. It is said that this part of the monastery was spared from destruction because of pressure from Joseph Stalin. One researcher claims that it was US President Franklin Roosevelt  who asked Stalin to spare the monastery in 1944.

Erdene Zuu could have existed as a museum only; the only functioning monastery in Mongolia was Gandantegchinlin Monastery  in the capital,  Ulaanbaatar. However, after the fall of communism in Mongolia in 1990, the monastery was handed over to the lamas and Erdene Zuu became a place of worship again. The site was restored at the end of the century and has partially regained its religious aspect. Today Erdene Zuu remains an active Buddhist monastery as well as a museum that is open to tourists.

Direction The Orkhon Valley

 The Orkhon Valley  is located in central Mongolia, some 360 km southwest of Ulaanbaatar. The site covers a grassland area of 121,967 ha, along the historic Orkhon River, and includes a buffer zone of 61,044 ha. Of great archaeological richness, the Orkhon basin has been home to successive nomadic cultures that, since prehistoric times, have developed there in harmony with the natural landscape of the steppes, giving rise to the unique mode of economic, social and cultural organization of this region. A centuries-old setting for major political, commercial, cultural and religious activities of successive nomadic empires, the Orkhon Valley was a crossroads of civilizations, connecting East and West across the immense Eurasian continent.

Historically, successive waves of nomadic peoples have found in the Orkhon Valley a suitable place for their settlement. The first traces of human occupation date back to the sites of Moiltyn Am (40,000 to 15,000 years ago) and "Orkhon-7" which indicate a first occupation of the valley some 62,000-58,000 years ago. The valley then continued to be occupied during prehistory and the Bronze Age, and it was in the protohistoric period and at the beginning of the historical period that the Huns, various Turkic peoples, the Uighurs, the Khitans, and finally the Mongols settled there successively.

At the height of its cultural rise, the inscribed property housed the historic city of Karakorum, the prestigious capital of the vast Mongol Empire founded by Genghis Khan in 1220.

Within this cultural landscape is a series of archaeological remains and structures in place, including the Turkish memorial sites of the sixth-seventh centuries, the Uighur capital of the eighth-ninth centuries of Kharabalgas, and the former capital of the Mongol Empire in the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries of Karakorum. Erdene Zuu, the oldest Mongolian Buddhist monastery still in existence, as well as the Tuvkhun Hermitage and the Western Shankh Monastery, testify to the importance and continuity of the religious traditions and cultural practices of Northern Buddhism, whose respect for all forms of life enshrines the sustainable management practices of this unique cultural landscape of the steppes of Central Asia.

Installation in a yurt camp

Day 4 Orkhon Valley-Ulaan Tsutgalan Falls

We stay on site in the valley to do an equestrian hike or a hike.

Visit of the Ulaan-Tsutgalan Falls

16 meters high and formed 20,000 years ago following numerous earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the Orkhon Falls flow on a black stone transforming any ray of sunshine into a rainbow... A real colorful show not to be missed! Successive irruptions have covered the Orkhon valley with black volcanic rocks, which emerge in the middle of a green steppe. The falls themselves form a very pleasant site. The Orkhon River digs at this point a green gorge about twenty meters deep, and large  övöo  are erected at the top of the cliffs and at the foot of the falls, as if to better remind us how important these falls are in Mongolian culture. Due to drought, falls are often limited to a tiny flow, but when going down the river, smaller falls are found a little further away. And if you visit them on a rainy day, you will see them with all their power. In both cases, the surroundings are superb.

Yurt camps

Day 5 Orkhon Valley-Tuvkhun Monastery-Tsenkher Hot Spring

Direction the hot spring of Tsenkher on  the way we visit the monastery of  Tuvkhun.

TuvkhunMonastery, in Mongolian Tuvkhun Khiid (meditation monastery), was built in 1654 by Zanabazar one of the greatest representative of Buddhism in Mongolia who was also an artist and great sculptor. A path through the forest will take us to  tuvkhun Monastery which is at the top of a mountain covered with conifères at 2300 meters. This monastery was built by Zanabazar, son of a noble family and direct descendant of Genghis Khan. He was the 1st Jebtsundamba Khutuktu of Mongolia in 1653. This Mongolian equivalent of the Dalai Lama was the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism from the school of "Yellow Hats". We will eat our picnic at the very top of the rocky promontory from where we have a splendid 360 degree view of the Khangai mountain range and the national park. We descend by the other side of the mountain and walk along the beautiful valley full of horses.

The hot springs of tsenkher

The region ofArkhangai is rich in ancient volcanoes, 25 km southeast of Tsetserleg (capital of Arkhangai), there are hot springs among which the hot spring of Tsehkher at 1860 meters above sea level, at 85 ° C is very famous for its healing effects. The site is very nice, it is located in a beautiful wooded valley. Composition:  sodium carbonate, hydrocarbonate, sulfate, fluorine and hydrogen sulfide.

Overnight at the Hot Spring Camps

Day 6 Tsenkher Hot Spring-Tsetserleg-Terkhiin  Tsagaan lake

Direction the lake of Terkhiin  tsagaan

Terkhiin TsagaanLake, "white  lake of the Terkh River", is located at an altitude of  2060 meters. It is the jewel of the Arkhangai and one of the most beautiful lakes in the country. It is the result of the volcanic eruption of Mount Khorgo. Moreover, it is surrounded by craters of other extinct volcanoes. It is 16 km long and 4 to 10 km wide. Its area is 61 km², its average depth is 20 meters. There are many  pike and many other species of fish. It remains frozen for much of the year. This area is still wild, you may encounter  axis deer,  swamp deer,wildboar,  ducks   or large cormorants.  

In the Natural Park of Khorgo – Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur,one can also observe and  climb Khorgo,an extinct volcano rising to 2240 meters above sea level east of Lake Terkhiin Tsagaan. The easy hike of about 16 kilometers will take you to the top of this extinct basalt-covered volcano, which was active 8000 years ago. Its crater is  200 meters in diameter and 70 to 80 meters deep, and is surrounded by small groves of trees. It has been protected since 1965.

Overnight at the camps

Day 7 Khorgo-Terkhiin Tsagaan nuur natural park

Khorgo-Terhiin Tsagaan Natural Park nuur  15km

Horseback riding or hiking around the extinct volcano of Khorgo  and Lake  Terkhiin  Tsagaan.

Day 8 Terkhiin Tsagaan natural park-Ider River

Direction the province of Zavkhan. On the way, we pass by  the hills of Solongot. Lunch at a local restaurant in  Tosontsengel. Theistallation  of the camp on the banks of the river Ider.

Day 9 Ider River-Lake Ulaagchnii Khar

Crossing the  province of Zavkhan. The area is home to many natural wonders, such as Mount Otgontenger,landscapes of dunes and turquoise lakes. We  arrive in a semi-desert area to Lake Khar,a superb body of water in the middle of the dunes.

Day 10 Lake Ulaagchnii Khar-Mount Erdenekhairkhan-Senjit Rock

Randonnée  in the region of Lake  Khar.Discovered breathtaking landscapes, typical of the Gobi, surrounding a lake with turquoise waters.

Hike through the mountains of Erdene Khairkhan,to the site of  Senjit Khad,a rock formation resembling an arch.

Day 11 Lake Khar-Uliastai-Bogd River

We pass through the hills of Zagastai before arriving in  Uliastai,the capital of the  Zavkhan region where we visit the  local market.  

Departure for the bogd river where the camp is established.  

Day 12 Bogd River-Mount Otgontenger

Ldiscovered the Mount  Otgontenger National Park. Themain sites: the waterfalls and Lake  Badarkhundaga,which is located at the foot of Mount Otgontenger  that can be discovered  during a  hike.

Day 13 Mount Otgontenger-Uliastai

Hiking to visit the artificial waterfalls  located on the Bodg River, or free time to quietly enjoy this bucolic nature.

Return route to Uliastai  where we settle in a small local hotel.

Day 14 Uliastai-Ulaanbaatar

Uliastai-Ulaanbaatar  1200 km 2h flight

Day 15 Return