Classic Mongolia and the Naadam Festival
Camping in the Khentii Mountains | 12 days
Mongolia is a frontier waiting to be explored. From Ulaanbaatar, drive into the foothills of the Khentii Mountains, where you can spend time walking and riding in the surrounding hills. Continue to Karakorum where Ghenghis Khan launched his fierce campaign to subdue Russia and China. The climax of your visit is the Naadam Festival, an enthralling celebration of the three manly sports of riding, wrestling and archery. Amid mounting tension, Mongolia’s sturdiest countrymen pit their wits against each other for the glorious accolade of champion wrestler.
Day 1: Fly to Ulaanbaatar
Day 2: Tour Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital city
Day 3: Drive into the foothills of the Khentii Mountains
Days 4&5: Take advantage of the walking and riding opportunities in the mountains
Day 6: Return to Ulaanbaatar by car
Day 7: See The Piece of Sand
Day 8: Continue to Karakorum where Ghenghis Khan launched his fierce campaign to subdue Russia and China
Day 9: Return to Ulannbaatar
Days 10&11: Naadam Festival
Day 12: Fly to London
guide price £3,575 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