Camel riding in the Gobi Desert
The Khongor Sand Dunes, Gobi
Life with the Nomads
Inside a Kazakh ger, with child in crib
A Kazakh eagle hunter prepares
for the competition.
Photo by M. Ketterer
Kazakh eagle hunters in their finery.
Photo by M. Ketterer
- All activities described in the itinerary
- Twin/double basis overnight accommodations: 4 nights in Ulaanbaatar (4-star hotel), 4 nights in a Ger Camp, 2 nights in Ger Guest stay (at Festival) and 2 nights in a Ger of a Kazakh family
- Trip Leader: KarmaQuest Director Wendy Lama
- English speaking Mongolian guide
- Entrance fees to Protected Areas
- All transfers by bus/minibus in the city and by 4WD Russian minivan in the countryside
- All breakfasts, lunches and dinners except where noted (picnic lunches in countryside)
- Farewell dinner
Cost does not include:
- International flights to/from Mongolia
- Domestic flights: approx $550 (subject to fare change)
- No single supplement available while staying in nomad family Ger or Guest Ger stay).
- Travel insurance (emergency medical evacuation insurance required, trip cancellation and travel insurance recommended)
- Bottled water and alcoholic drinks
- Video camera fees ($50/person)
- Sleeping bag (optional)
- Camel rides
- Tips and gratuities
- Laundry and items of a personal nature
- Other services not specifically mentioned as “included”
-Donation to monasteries or social service projects (optional)
What do you know of Mongolia? ... That in the 12th century Genghis Khan ruled the Mongol Empire, which after his death became the largest contiguous empire in history, stretching from Europe to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Today it is the 18th largest and most sparsely populated country in the world, bordered by China on the south and Russia on the north. Its 3 million people are far outnumbered by an estimated 50 million livestock: primarily goats and sheep, but to the casual visitor, the prevalence of horseback travel and fermented mare's milk kumis is perhaps most memorable.
And yes! It is home to the Golden Eagle Festival portrayed in the film, The Eagle Huntress.
Join KarmaQuest's Wendy Lama on this trip exploring Mongolia's colorful history, cultural traditions and nomadic ways of life.
The trip begins in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar from where we'll fly to the South Gobi. Over three days, while staying in a Ger Camp, we’ll take a short hike through the Singing Sand Dunes; and we'll see where dinosaurs roamed 70 million years ago. Their eggs are now fossilized in stone. We'll also pay a call on a camel-herding family and take a short camel ride (optional) before we head back to "UB" (Ulaanbaatar) and points far west.
At the foot of the Altai Mountains, we'll stay in a traditional ger (the nomads' yurt-like home) hosted by a Kazakh family. We'll observe their horse-riding and eagle-hunting skills up-close before moving on to the Golden Eagle Festival, where riders show not only their hunting skills and proud eagles but their elaborate hunting attire (photo left.) We'll explore the stunning Altai Mountains on foot and/or horseback before flying back to UB.
This trip is a moderately active journey. There will be day hikes in the sand dunes and mountain foothills. Travel by vehicle is often on unpaved bumpy roads. Ger accommodations are well tended, outfitted with beds and carpets; toilets may be a short walk away.
For a more challenging adventure trip -- involving six days of trekking, horse riding and camping, attendance at the Eagle Festival, and a visit with a nomadic family -- please see our other Mongolia trip Horse Riding Amongst the Tsaachin Reindeer People of Mongolia's Taiga.
Day 1: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. Transfer to your hotel (note: most international flights arrive late at night). Overnight in a hotel.
Day 2: Get to know Ulaanbaatar. Today we will visit a few notable sites in UB including a Buddhist monastery and the national museum. Later we'll enjoy a traditional arts performance and a welcome dinner. Note: All meals on the trip are included in the trip price.
Day 3: Fly to South Gobi. Today we'll be in the Gobi Desert! We’ll walk through Yol Valley (Lammergeier’s Gorge), a picturesque narrow valley rich in wildlife including the Bearded Vulture known as the Lammergeier. Overnight in a Ger Camp.
Day 4 : Khongor Sand Dunes and the life of a camel herder. We'll drive across the Gobi (a hundred miles) to the magnificent Khongor Dunes, (photo left) which reach up to 300 yds in height and up to 100 miles in width. They are said to "sing," their sounds emitted by their creator, the wind. We'll walk to a high point on the dunes for an uncommon view. We will also have a chance to see the nomadic life of the camel herders in the Gobi and taste traditional dairy products made of camel’s milk. Camel riding is optional. We’ll return to overnight at the Ger Camp.
Day 5: Flaming Red Cliffs and dinosaur discoveries. Complete dinosaur skeletons and fossilized eggs of the Cretaceous period were discovered here in the 1920s by American paleontologist, Roy Chapman Andrews. Their discovery made international headlines, being the first known fossil dinosaur eggs to have been found. We'll see and learn about their rarity. We'll drive to see the Red Flaming Cliffs, known locally as Bayanzag, and pedestal rocks formed by the aeolian effect on the sand and rocks over millions of years. Overnight in a Ger Camp.
Day 6: Fly to Ulaanbaatar, free time. Arrive in Ulaanbaatar and have an afternoon free to explore on your own. We'll point you in the direction of the main square where families and youth hang out; or on a walking tour of this fast-changing city. Overnight in a hotel.
Days 7 & 8: Fly to Western Mongolia, camp with a Kazakh family. Catch an early, 4.5 hr flight across the country to Ulgii town and drive into the mountains where the nomads live. They move with their herds in pursuit of the best grazing lands. We'll stay in a guest-ger, and spend time in their own cozy ger, tasting local specialities including an amazing variety of dairy products as well as kumis (fermented mare's milk).
Days 9 & 10: Golden Eagle Festival. Today we will drive to and attend the annual festival, where hunters gather from far and wide -- a social gathering as well. Kazakh riders will begin the event by parading with their eagles perched on their arms. They will be judged for their elaborate clothing and accessories. In the evening Kazakh musicians will perform traditional songs and dances. On the second day, the eagles are released to soar from atop a cliff to attack fox skins dragged by their owners on horseback. They are judged on their skills in grabbing the “fox,” their speed, and “gripping” technique. The Kazakhs will also compete in their traditional game called “kekbar” where they pass a goat skin amongst their team-mates as a test of their strength and horse riding prowess. Later awards will be announced and in the evening, we'll enjoy a celebration dinner. Overnight for two nights in a Ger Camp.
Read the "The Untold History of Eagle Huntresses" and a National Geographic interview with the film director, for greater insight into the drama behind the film and story.
Day 11: A short trek in the Altai. Today we will drive further into the Altai Mountains and enjoy a short hike to a panoramic point overlooking the valleys and a lake. Overnight in a Ger Camp. Hiking is not strenuous.
Day 12: Morning transfer to the airport and fly to UB: On our last night in UB, we'll gather for a farewell dinner and overnight in a hotel.
Day 13: Ulaanbaatar. Today you'll have free time to rest or explore on your own before your departure.
Trip Cost: -- From US$4,290/person, depending upon group size
Single supplement: US$450/person (single occupancy not available in Kazakh nomad ger camp)
Please get your deposit in soon as space is limited to 9 persons. The trip may fill up quickly.
Deposits are due April 30, 2017; final payment is due June 30
For more information and a detailed itinerary... please contact
KarmaQuest Ecotourism and Adventure Travel
Tel: (650) 560-0101/
699 Spindrift Way, Half Moon Bay,
California 94019 USA