Through rolling dry and treeless steppe we travel southwards to Ar Burdiin Els (els means sands). This is the closest area of sand dunes to Ulaanbaatar. We will camp near the dunes where it is possible to ride camels.
We travel to nearby big basalt rock formations of Zorgel Khairkhan Uul rising up from the flat steppe. Here the wild Argali (Marco Polo sheep) can often be seen. From here our route turns westwards across the steppe. We spend our second night camping near the provincial capital of Arvakheer.
Airvakheer is a small city with a lively market and a small museum containing objects of local interest. As we depart from the city and head north we enter a different landscape, greener and covered with wild flowers such as Edelweiss. Eventually we come to higher mountains with forested slopes and fast flowing rivers. The nomads in this area primarily breed hardy yaks. We will reach the Upper Orhon Valley via a 2500m high mountain pass.
We will follow the Orhon Valley further upstream and visit with a nomadic family famous for their horses. We will have the chance to do some horse riding and choose the right horse for the trek the following day.
Three days of horse trekking begins. We depart with pack-horses and an extra local guide for Naiman Nuur (Eight Lakes), a group of mountain lakes situated at an altitude of 2200m, surrounded by a mountain range peaks at over 3000m. This is a beautiful and very remote area only accessible on horseback or by foot.
At this stage, we will have looped back to the starting point where the jeep will pick us up and take us to the nearby Orhon Waterfall, the biggest and most spectacular waterfall in Mongolia.
We head northwards by Jeep to Tovkhon Khiid, a recently restored monastery situated almost on top of a mountain. The monastery is functioning and is home to resident monks. On the other side of the mountain the road winds down into a beautiful valley in which we will be able to enjoy the Sant Hot Springs.
Further to Karachoram, the old capital founded by Chinggis Khan, now famous for Mongolia’s oldest and biggest monastery Erdenee Zu.
From Karachoram we travel down-stream along the Orhon River to Khar Balgas with its old ruins (pre-Chinggis Khan). This was once part of the Turkish capital. We set up camp on the banks of the Ogii Nuur lake, renowned for its water birds in spring and autumn.
From Ogii Nuur our route turns eastwards back to Ulaanbaatar. Only the last 200km of roads are tarmac.