By Jeep to the Gobi
Overland desert tour | 15 days
A classic journey for the intrepid overland traveller — journey by train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar before driving south by jeep to Ghengis Khan’s ancient capital at Karakorum. Staying in comfortable ger camps along the way, the journey takes in the ruins of Ongiin Hiid Monastery as a prelude to the vast semi-arid Gobi Desert.
Day 1: Fly to Beijing
Day 2: Arrive in Beijing
Day 3: Tour China’s capital city
Day 4: Travel by train to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia
Day 5: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar
Day 6: Tour Mongolia’s capital city, taking in the imposing Ganden Monastery
Day 7: Drive to Piece of Sand
Day 8: Drive to Karakorum
Day 9: Drive to Ongin Hiid
Day 10: Journey by Jeep to the Gobi Desert
Days 11&12: Gobi Desert including the flaming cliffs at Bayanzag and Yolynam’s remarkable ice gorge
Day 13: Fly to Ulaanbaatar
Day 14: Fly to Beijing
Day 15: Fly to London
guide price £3,495 per person
Fiona’s travel tipsWHAT TO EXPECT: It is not uncommon for drivers to stop at 'gers' — they are not lost but like to get local and seasonal information on travelling through regions with no roads.
DON’T MISS: An absolute highlight is the annual Naadam Festival in mid-July, which celebrates the traditional sports of riding, wrestling and archery.
TAKE WITH YOU: Everything from T-shirts to thermals. The weather changes constantly, especially in the mountains and you can expect everything from hail to sunshine. For riders a sheepskin ‘seat-saver’ will do just that!
INTERESTING FACT: Mongolia is the world’s second-largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. Around 30 per cent of its population are nomadic or semi-nomadic and the predominant religion is Tibetan Buddhism.
BEST TIME TO GO: We suggest travelling any time between May and October to get the best of the weather.
JOURNEY TIME: 10 hours (indirect)
“A tremendous success, ‘South Zeal’s’ detailed planning and choice of local agent paying off, as ever. Though I’ve travelled extensively in remote areas I still found Mongolia one of the most challenging lands to have visited, physically and, sometimes, culturally – but also one of the most rewarding and special. One needs stamina and, specifically on the cross-country driving, anyone with back problems or whose body might not withstand hours of being wrenched and shaken up should look elsewhere.
However the rewards are enormous in the beauty of the scenery; the flora and (now and again) the fauna and the insights into nomadic life and ancient cultures. My guides and drivers were excellent. You gave ample advice about the uncertain standards of accommodation and food and with few exceptions I was very content with both. I was really glad that I had included some non or only local travel days at each of the camps to balance the long drives and take in the surroundings. The secret is to be selective, and not try to do too much.”
“Inspiring landscape that can be harsh and completely unforgiving but so, so beautiful. Nomadic peoples living hard simple lives and happy with their freedom. Freedom and a nature which they know and love.”
Mrs Gretta Robertson, Mongolia
“ It was great. Fiona was really helpful, making modifications to suit my budget and inclinations, and listened to what I wanted. The camp was terrific, the food wonderful…My guide thought it was very funny that I thought there was too much food put it in front of me, and I tend to eat it. When I told her I didn’t want to get fat, she looked amazed....not getting fat is something which hasn’t really caught on in Mongolia yet! Mostly I was the only tourist at the camp, and I was an object of some curiosity, as single females travelling are rare. The camp staff adopted me a bit, and were just lovely. I was treated like family.”
Sue Murray-Jones, Mongolia, June 2011