What could be more exciting than traveling through the vast steppes of Mongolia in a fun jeep. Discovering all that Mongolia has to offer.
Soon after leaving Ulaanbaatar we begin to see the archetypal landscape of Central Mongolia; rolling green grasslands brimming with wild flowers. You will also see the gers used by the nomads along with their animals dotted across the landscape, as are wild animals from eagles to marmots. We will first strike camp close to the village of Erdenedalay.
Today, we will be passing through the province of Middle Gobi and eventually arrive into the South Gobi province. Here the landscape will become noticeably more parched. We will pass Erdenedalay, which is home to a beautiful Buddhist monastery. On the way to the village of Mandal Ovoo we also pass through the flat stone desert where mirages on the horizon are the only things that grow out of the harsh rocky ground. Bayan Zag is an area of ancient rock formations, red cliffs, and scrub land. Amidst the vast emptiness dinosaur skeletons are sometimes to be found.
As we depart we can see the mountain range of Altai Nuruu to the south. The mountains rise up from the desert plains to reach an altitude of more than 2800m. The higher rainfall levels in this elevated region turn the landscape green, in contrast to the desert below. We will cross the mountains over a 2200m high pass and will camp to the south of the range near the ruins of a monastery.
We will visit Yolyn Am (the valley of the eagles), known for its dramatic, primordial landscape and wildlife. This narrow, sheltered valley contains snow and ice-sheets even in the mid-summer period. The area is home to snow leopards, ibex, Marco Polo sheep and the Gobi bear (the only desert bear in the world). We camp for the night near Yolyn Am.
We travel on to the provincial capital of the South Gobi; Dalanzadgad. With a population of 17,000 and a lively market and museum containing good local and natural history exhibits. From here we travel northwest and set up camp near the sand dunes of Moltsog Els. This location offers beautiful scenery of mountains and steppes and sand dunes, as we camp you will get a great feel for desert life.
The landscape flattens out but on the horizon you will always be able to see the mountains rising towards the sky at a height of 3600m. The landscape will become gradually greener and soon signs of nomadic life return. We will pass the small settlement Bulgan and enter the province of Ovorkhangai, where we will be camping near the small village of Guchin Us.
Traveling through the provincial capital of Arvaikheer, we will start entering the lush pine forests of the Khangai Mountains. We will rest near groups of nomads so as to get a good feeling for their daily life and challenges.
The nomads here produce a type of yogurt that is considered to be the best in Mongolia which we will, of course, be able to sample. We will then travel to Karakorum, the capital of the old Mongolian empire founded by Chinggis Khan. Virtually nothing remains of the old city but the Erdene Zuu monastery still stands. Built in 1585 by Abtai Sain Khan, this is the oldest Buddhist monastery in Mongolia consisting of beautiful temples, statues and stupas.
From Karakorum the route turns eastwards towards Tsesterleg, the capital of the province of Arkhangai. Tsesterleg is a small town situated amidst picturesque forested hills. On the way to it, you can visit and relax in the natural hot spring at Tsenkher.
From Tsetserleg we will continue traveling east towards Tsagaan Nuur. The road becomes increasingly rugged as we approach a mountain pass crossing at an altitude of around 2000m.
It is time to enjoy a free day at the lake. The lake itself is situated 2060m above the sea-level, it is surrounded by mountains and extinct volcanoes that rise skywards to a height of 3000m.
From Tsagaan Nuur we will drive north towards Khovsgol Nuur, a journey that will be taking us 2 days. En-route we can go camping near the village of Shine Ider.
Traveling via Moron, the capital of Khovsgol province, we reach the majestic lake Khovsgol. This lush region is criss-crossed by rivers, some of which we must cross. This can be difficult after rain upstream and there are no bridges.
We will stay at the lake. It is possible to walk along the lake, hike into the partly forested mountains, or simply relax and take in the beauty of this 136km long lake at the foot of the majestic Sayan Mountains. Hopefully we will also be able to visit the Tsaatan reindeer herding families and witness their unique culture.
We head back to Moron and from there we will drive south-east in the direction of Ulaanbaatar. In the evening we will camp near Khutag Ondor in Bulgan province.
Today we will cross the Selenge river, the main river in Mongolia, we will be passing by extinct volcanoes. We will also pass by Bulgan, the small capital of the province of the same name, and continue accross rolling steppe to Bugat. The winding road leads across a pass surrounded by meadows teeming with wild flowers in summer.
Onwards towards Erdenet, Mongolia’s third largest city, with a population of over 60,000 people and home to one of the world’s biggest copper mines. In Erdenet paved roads (finally) begin, but instead of following these we detour across dirt roads all the way to Amarbayasgalant Khiid Monastery. This is one of the most beautiful monasteries in Mongolia. Built between 1727 and 1736, it is one of the few monasteries to have partly escaped destruction during the Soviet era. The monastery was originally built to house the remains of Zanabazar, the first Bogd Gegeen. We will camp near the monastery and visit the temples the next day.
By visiting the monastery in the morning when the religious ceremonies are taking place you will see it at its most active and interesting. The monks pray and chant, while pilgrims from across Mongolia visit the temples. We continue back along the main road to Ulaanbaatar via Darkhan.