22965
Mongolia

Mongolia: The Land of Genghis Khan

Mongolia is a must for the intrepid explorer. Admire its limitless beauty as you discover ancient ruins, growing cities, and the incredible Gobi Desert.
Rating (5)
Program No. 22965RJ
Length
16 days
Starts at
4,479
Flights start at
1,150
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16 days
15 nights
37 meals
14 B 12 L 11 D
DAY
1
In Transit to the Program
In Flight
DAY
2
Stopover in Beijing for those on Road Scholar Air
Beijing
CITIC Hotel Beijing Airport

Activity note: This stopover is scheduled for those who've purchased their air via Road Scholar. It has been introduced solely to accommodate the revised Air China itinerary from/to San Francisco. No activities beyond private transfers to/from the airport hotel have been planned. Those who've arranged their own flights independent of Road Scholar will meet the group at the hotel in Ulaanbaatar on day 3.

Dinner: At leisure. There are two restaurants on site at the hotel.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Arrive Ulaanbaatar, Check-in, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
UlaanBaatar
B,D
Best Western Premier Tuushin

Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 12:30 p.m.

Breakfast: Buffet at the airport hotel in Beijing for those on the Road Scholar group flight.

Morning: For those traveling on the Road Scholar group flight via Beijing, we'll transfer by private bus to the Beijing Capital International Airport for for our flight to UlaanBaatar, landing at Chinggis Khaan International Airport (ULN), approximately 11 miles (18 km) southwest of the city, in the late morning.

Afternoon: Check-in and leisure time.

Dinner: We will walk to a local restaurant and have a plated welcome dinner with beverage choices of a glass of wine, coffee, tea, and water; other beverages are available for purchase.

Evening: Orientation. In at quiet room at the restaurant, we will have dinner, and the Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. Throughout the program, we will have a Group Leader and a dedicated, English-speaking National Guide accompanying us. The Group Leader will be primarily responsible for logistics, while the National Guide will lead most field trips. Both will be able to offer educational commentary and logistical support. Periods in the schedule designated as “free time” and “at leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable, according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

DAY
4
Ulaanbaatar, Monastery, History Museum, Geology Museum
UlaanBaatar
B,L
Best Western Premier Tuushin

Activity note: Getting on/off the bus; walking up to 2 miles; standing at field trip sites.

Breakfast: At the hotel, choose what you like from the breakfast buffet with beverage choices of coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We will board the bus and set out on a full-day field trip through Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. At one time, more than 90 percent of native Mongolians were nomadic herders. Now, almost half of the population lives in Ulaanbaatar. The National Museum of Mongolian History was established in 1991 to document, preserve, and display historical, ethnographic, and cultural artifacts of Mongolia’s ancient heritage to the modern era for a comprehensive look into steppe nomad history and culture. Museum staff will lead our exploration. Used for storage and the staging of a circus in the thirties, Dashchoilin Monastery was rededicated and reopened in 1990. Here we'll learn more about Buddhism from a resident lama.

Lunch: At a local restaurant with beverage choices of coffee, tea, water; other beverages are available for purchase.

Afternoon: We'll then visit the Museum of Geology and Minerals, where a local geologist will introduce us to some of what we'll see while on the road.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on-your-own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for checkout and transfer in the morning.

DAY
5
Hustai National Park, Neolithic Ongot Monuments
Hustai National Park
B,L,D
Hustai Ger Camp

Activity note: Getting in/out of 4-wheel drive vehicles; driving about 60 miles, approximately 3 hours; 12 miles of dirt roads, bumpy. Walking up to 2 miles; standing at field trip sites.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will check out of the hotel, get into 4-wheel drive vehicles, and drive to Hustai National Park.

Lunch: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Afternoon: Hustai is the home of the Przewalski horse, known locally as takhi (pronounced "ta-hee"). The last remaining breed of truly wild horse in the world, they were reintroduced into the wild in 1994 by the Foundation for the Preservation and Protection of the Przewalski Horse in the Netherlands, which flew 16 horses to Mongolia, their historic homeland, 25 years after they had become extinct in the wild. We will visit the Park Information Center and, in the company of a park biologist, and then venture deep into the the park to look for the endangered takhi horses. We will continue with our local biologist to the Neolithic Ongot Monuments. Just outside the western border of Hustaii National Park are dozens of gravesites of the Neolithic Turkic Ongot people. Some of the grave markers take the form of short, thickset humans. The oldest graves are thought to be some 4,000 years old.

Dinner: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for checkout and transfer in the morning.

DAY
6
Kara Korum, Ger Set-up Demonstration
Kara Korum
B,L,D
Munkh Tenger Blue Sky Ger Camp

Activity note: Getting in/out of 4-wheel drive vehicles; driving about 175 miles, approximately 6 hours; paved roads.

Breakfast: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Morning: We will board our 4WD vans and drive overland to Kara Korum, the ruined city of Genghis Khan's capital. This UNESCO-listed 13th-century city served as the seat of power for an empire that stretched across two continents. Kara Korum was the capital for only 40 years, before Kublai Khan moved it to Beijing. Destroyed by invading Manchurians, all that visibly remains today is the enigmatic Turtle Rock.

Lunch: En route to Kara Korum at a ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea and water included.

Afternoon: We will watch a demonstration of how a ger is assembled, then lend a hand in setting it up.

Dinner: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Erdene Zhu Monastery, Local Monk, Kara Korum Museum, Bazaar
Kara Korum
B,L,D
Munkh Tenger Blue Sky Ger Camp

Activity note: Getting in/out of 4-wheel drive vehicles; driving about 1 hour. Walking up to 2 miles; standing at field trip sites.

Breakfast: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Morning: We will take a field trip to explore the legendary Erdene Zhu Monastery. The oldest Buddhist monastery in Mongolia, it was built in the 1580s using stones from ruined Kara Korum and is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape. It grew to include more than 60 temples with 1,000 monks in residence by the late 19th century, but in 1939 the local Communist regime ordered its destruction. Many monks were killed. Only the outer walls and three small temples survived, converted into museums. Erdene Zhu became a place of Buddhist worship again after the fall of Communism in 1990. We will converse with a local monk and learn more about Mongolian Buddhism.

Lunch: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll take a field trip to the Museum of Kara Korum. Its exhibits—with explanations in English—include artifacts from the 13th and 14th centuries, as well as ongoing scientific explorations. The museum provides a good introduction to Central Mongolia and the UNESCO Heritage Site of the Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape. We’ll then visit the local bazaar where nomads come to get their supplies and chat with local people.

Dinner: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for checkout and transfer in the morning.

DAY
8
Nomadic Family Visit
Ongi Monastery ruins
B,L,D
Secret of Ongi Ger Camp

Activity note: Getting in/out of four-wheel-drive vehicles; driving about 175 miles, or approximately 6 to 7 hours; dirt roads. Hiking around the ruins of the original monastery; sturdy walking/hiking shoes recommended. Respectful dress (long sleeves, long pants or long skirt, removal of hat) to be observed when visiting the monastery and temples.

Breakfast: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Morning: We will head south across the Gobi steppe to the Ongi Monastery ruins, stopping en route to visit with a local nomadic family and learn more about the nomadic way of life. We will see how mares are milked and how Mongolian dairy products are produced, and can take part in these activities.

Lunch: En route at a local restaurant, with water included.

Afternoon: In transit.

Dinner: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for checkout and transfer in the morning.

DAY
9
Ongi Monastery Ruins, Flaming Cliffs
Bayanzag (Flaming Cliffs)
B,L,D
Gobi Tour Ger Camp

Activity note: Getting in/out of 4-wheel-drive vehicle; driving about 115 miles, approximately 5 hours; dirt road. Hiking about an hour at the Flaming Cliffs; uneven terrain, sturdy walking/hiking shoes are recommended. Sun protection (hat, long sleeves, sunscreen) a must.

Breakfast: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Morning: Tucked away in the dry hills, Ongi Monastery was once among the largest in Mongolia with more than 1,000 monks, before it was razed to the ground during the 1939 Communist purge. Today it is being rebuilt by some of the monks who survived. We will walk around the monastery ruins and visit a new temple built on the ruins of an old one. We’ll then travel south to the Flaming Cliffs area. During our drive, we will stop for photos along the way, and arrive at the camp in time for a late lunch.

Lunch: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Afternoon: Next, we will drive to the Flaming Cliffs, called Bayanzag by nomadic Mongolians. This is one of the most renowned paleontological sites in the world, where dinosaur eggs were discovered in 1922. The heat and low humidity of this beautiful part of the Gobi have protected and preserved the numerous fossils that have been found here.

Dinner: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for checkout and transfer in the morning.

DAY
10
Khongoryn Els, Seruun Bulag Cold Spring
Khongoryn Els
B,L,D
Gobi Erdene Ger Camp

Activity note: Getting in/out of 4-wheel-drive vehicle; driving about 110 miles, approximately 4 hours; dirt road, bumpy. From the ger camp to the sand dunes is an additional 10 miles in each direction. Hiking at the Seruun Bulag Sand Dunes requires appropriate dress for sun protection with long pants and hiking shoes.

Breakfast: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Morning: We’ll travel further south to Khongoryn Els, driving through vast desert badlands that stretch out into the distance. Lone gers and nomads on camelback seem to hang suspended in mirages, while the desert floor is strewn with a range of colorful rocks. The Gobi here has a stark beauty and provides many opportunities for photographs of the landscape and people. Upon arrival at the camp, we’ll check in and freshen up.

Lunch: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Afternoon: We'll take a field trip to explore Seruun Bulag—the amazing cold spring originating from along the dunes—as well as the Khongor River. Before returning to camp, we'll admire the panorama of rocky mountains, river, and the Gobi's massive dunes.

Dinner: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
Nomadic family, Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes, Camel Ride
Khongoryn Els
B,L,D
Gobi Erdene Ger Camp

Activity note: Getting in/out of 4-wheel drive vehicles. Hiking on sand dunes is easiest barefoot. Camel riding along the edge of the dunes, approximately 1 hour, requires appropriate dress for sun protection with long pants and hiking shoes.

Breakfast: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Morning: We will learn more about nomadic culture while talking with nomads and observing their daily activities. Then, we'll drive to the sand dunes where we will climb and listen for the “singing sands” of Khongoryn Els. These are the largest dunes in the Gobi: 60 miles long, 8 miles wide, and reaching 700 feet high. The dunes are under the force of constant winds that produce the “singing” effect—more of a low rumble—due to the movement of the sands. Those who are feeling adventurous may go for a camel ride.

Lunch: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Afternoon: At leisure.

Dinner: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for checkout and transfer in the morning.

DAY
12
Gobi Gurvansaikhan Park, Yolyn Am Canyon
Yolyn Am Canyon
B,L,D
Khan Bogd Ger Camp

Activity note: Getting in/out of 4-wheel drive vehicle; driving about 150 miles, approximately 6 to 7 hours; dirt roads, bumpy.

Breakfast: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Morning: We will take the southern road through Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. Named after the three ridges that rise dramatically from the desert, it is inhabited by nomadic families who make a living from their herds of camels, sheep and goats. The cashmere goats here are highly prized for their fine wool.

Lunch: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Afternoon: After lunch, we'll make a brief visit at the local museum before stretching our legs on an easy three-mile roundtrip hike into Yolyn Am Canyon (Vulture's Mouth), which cuts a narrow path into the rocky slopes of the Gurvansaikhan Mountains. Never feeling the warmth of the sun, the cool canyon sometimes shelters snowbanks that remain frozen long into the summer.

Dinner: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for checkout and transfer in the morning.

DAY
13
Paleontology Museum, Terelj National Park, Archery Demo
Terelj National Park
B,L,D
Juulchin Bayalag Ger Camp

Activity note: Getting on/off the bus; driving approximately 1/2 hour to Gobi airport for flight to Ulaanbaatar. Driving about 50 miles, approximately 2 hours to Terelj National Park; paved road. Hiking uphill to the Temple of Meditation, approximately 1/2 hour to main temple (hiking shoes recommended); just over 100 stairs to reach the temple entrance. Respectful dress (long sleeves, long pants or long skirt, removal of hat) to be observed when visiting monasteries.

Breakfast: Early at the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Morning: We will say goodbye to the South Gobi and transfer to the airport for our flight over the central part of Mongolia back to Ulaanbaatar. Upon arrival in Ulaanbaatar, we'll load the bus and drive to the Hunnu Mall, where we'll visit the Museum of Paleontology's satellite hall and listen to a paleontologist from the Mongolian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Paleontology and Geology. According to UNESCO, the Mongolian Gobi Desert is the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir in the world.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, with coffee, tea, and water included; other beverage are available for purchase.

Afternoon: We'll then transfer to Terelj National Park, which is named after an alpine plant related to wild rosemary. It abuts the 4,600-square-mile Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area, where very few people live. At an altitude or over 5,000 feet, Terelj has a sweeping alpine landscape of temperate grassland and small pines dotted with rustic gers and grazing livestock. With instruction from our local expert, we will try our hands at shooting a traditional Mongolian bow, used at Naadam archery competitions. Those who would like can also take a short ride on a Mongolian pony in the park.

Dinner: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
14
UlaanBaatar, Genghis Khan Statue, Throat Singing
UlaanBaatar
B,L
Best Western Premier Tuushin

Activity note: Getting on/off the bus; driving about 50 miles, or approximately 2 hours; paved roads. Elevator inside Genghis Khan statue, then stairs up to horse-head portion of the statue.

Breakfast: At the ger camp, with coffee (likely instant), tea, and water included.

Morning: We will return to UlaanBaatar, stopping on the way at the huge statue of Genghis Khan. Erected in 2008, it was made from 250 tons of stainless steel. The statue is an unforgettable sight. Those who wish to may climb the stairs up to the horse's head.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, with coffee, tea, and water included; other beverages are available for purchase.

Afternoon: We will transfer to the International Koomii School in the city center. We’ll learn from an accomplished singer who was a member of Tumen Ekh—the award-winning Mongolian National Song & Dance Ensemble—about Mongolian throat-singing and how the singers produce their eerie sounds. A single vocalist can produce two and sometimes three distinct tones, or overtones, simultaneously.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on-your-own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
15
Bogd Khaan Palace Museum, Free Time
UlaanBaatar
B,L,D
Best Western Premier Tuushin

Activity note: Getting on/off the bus. Respectful dress (long sleeves, long pants or long skirt, removal of hat) to be observed when visiting Bogd Khaan Palace.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel, with a choice of juice, coffee, tea, and water.

Morning: At leisure, until 11:00 a.m., when we'll gather in the lobby of the hotel to depart for Gandan. Gandategchinlen—translated as “the great place of complete joy”—the monastery on Dalkha Hill where a monk will shed light on Buddhism and tell us about the monastery. The original building, dating from 1809, was in the center of the city. The structure we see today was built in 1838 and became the country’s primary center of Tantric Buddhism. In the 1930s, the Communist government carried out the destruction of nearly 1,000 monasteries and the murder of many thousands of Buddhist lamas (venerated spiritual teachers). Gandan was one of the few that survived physically, though its gold and bronze Megjid Janraisig statue of the Buddha was taken to Russia during World War II and allegedly melted down for bullets. After the fall of Communism in the 1990s, the monastery was rejuvenated and the massive statue was rebuilt with nation-wide donations. Said to be the largest indoor statue in the world, it stands more than 75 feet (23 meters) high.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, with coffee, tea, and water included; other beverages are available for purchase.

Afternoon: We'll visit the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum. Mongolia’s last Bogd Khaan, or Living Buddha, lived for 20 years in this compound, built between 1893 and 1903. Unlike other old sites in Ulaanbaatar, this one escaped destruction in the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. Six temples remain, as does a ceremonial gate built without the use of nails. On display are many of the gifts presented to the Bogd Khaan. We'll then visit Buddha Park and the Memorial on Zaisan Hill above Ulaanbaatar, honoring Mongolian and Soviet soldiers killed in WWII. Its sculptures and murals celebrate Mongolian-Soviet friendship, and a Soviet tank that Mongolia contributed to the war effort is enshrined. The 300-stair climb to the top of the hill rewards you with panoramic views of Ulaanbaatar and the surrounding mountains. We’ll then enjoy a folk performance at the Drama Theater, including music, dance, and throat singing.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a farewell-to-Mongolia dinner and drink a toast our Mongolian adventure. Share favorite experiences with your new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
16
Program Concludes
In Flight
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out 11:00 a.m. See your program’s travel details regarding transfers.

Breakfast: Buffet at the hotel, with a choice of juice, coffee, tea, and water. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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