MONGOLIA – Tsaatan Journey

This programme of 14 nights/ 15 days in the remote areas of Mongolia is one of those special opportunities to venture where very few have done before. A ‘Bucket List’ destination for adventurers?  – Yes indeed. 

 

Transport used:      UAZ 452 Russian Minibus (best for terrain), Hyundai Starex or Toyota Land Cruiser (depending on the                                                number of participants)  and horses.

Dates Available:      May – Oct (for enquiries outside this time frame  please feel free to contact us)

Highlights: 

Travel in the most remote region of Mongolia

Meeting with a genuine nomadic tribe

Horse Trekking in remote mountain areas

Visiting Lake Khuvsgul

Itinerary:   

 Day 1 – Arrive in Ulaanbaatar

Your guide and personal driver will meet you from the airport or train station and help you to check in to your 3 star city centre hotel.

After a rest, you will enjoy an evening meal in a traditional Mongolian restaurant to fortify you for the journey ahead!

 Day 2 – Travel to Mörön City

Your guide will greet you at 5 am in your hotel’s reception and you will set off together on the long drive north. Breakfast will be taken as a picnic whilst on the road and along the way you will stop off at various sights including Erdenet City, where you will eat lunch, and Uran-Togoo extinct volcano for some quick sightseeing. You will arrive in Mörön City at approximately 6 pm and check into a beautiful but old and slightly worn Soviet built hotel for the night. 

 Day 3 – Renchinlkhumbe

Drive deep into the northern Mongolian Taiga. This day is spent mostly driving as you delve into one of the most remote and difficult terrains on earth. Your expert driver will pick out the best and most comfortable tracks to ensure your comfort and you will see the landscape changing as you travel further north from spectacular forested mountains to rolling plains and sparsely forested marshland bisected by wide rivers, crossed using old floating military bridges. You will also begin to meet local people who live their lives completely removed from the rest of the world. You will eat a picnic lunch in the countryside and rest overnight in a basic country guesthouse. 

Day 4 – Tsaatan Lodge

A short drive from the guesthouse you will arrive at the Tsaatan lodge. This ger camp (A traditional ger is a portable, round tent covered with skins or felt and used as a dwelling by several distinct nomadic groups in the steppes of Central Asia)  is built on a spur of land jutting out into a deep river on two sides and is staffed and run entirely by local nomads. The staff will have opened the buildings and heated your gers for your arrival and you will enjoy a relaxing afternoon and evening under the expansive Siberian sky. If the weather is good then your guide will take you for a few hours fishing for the elusive Taimen Salmon and if not then you will play games in the rough wood house that forms the heart of this charming camp.

Day 5 – Tsaatan Village

Rising soon after dawn for breakfast you will be helped by the local nomads to pack your equipment onto your horse for the next leg of the journey. From the camp, the mountains become impassable by car so you will be spending the day riding into the mountains in order to reach the Tsaatan Village where true reindeer herders are spending their summer. Upon arrival your guide will help you to pitch your tent, settle in and meet the Tsaatan. Eat a traditional Tsaatan meal of mostly dairy products and a little meat in the evening and then camp alongside the reindeer herders in the Siberian Taiga.

 

Days 6 & 7- Living with Reindeer herders

For the next 2 days and nights you will live with reindeer herders helping them with their animals, learning how to make traditional cheese and crafts and riding the reindeer through the mountainous forests. Each night will be spent under canvas so remember to bring your warmest sleeping bag! 

Day 8 – Return to Tsaatan Lodge

Mounting your horse you wave goodbye to your new friends and trek once again into the hills. Returning to the Tsaatan lodge you will have the chance to wash clothes, shower and rest in a proper bed before continuing your journey the next day. 

Day 9 – Khuvsgul Lake & Toilogt camp

Setting off early in the morning you drive through the hills passing remote encampments and frequent pictorial markings setup to aid local nomads find their way through these winding valleys. By the afternoon you will emerge from the mountains surrounding the lake and drive up its west side to the comfortable Toilogt camp. Upon arrival there will be a barbecue of mutton shashlik cooked on the shore of this beautiful blue lake. Supper will be taken in the camp’s restaurant. 

Day 10 – Boat trip, kayaking and hiking

Using the camp as your base we will enjoy a range of activities today starting off with a hike up into the mountains above to catch some beautiful panoramic views of the lake. Afterwards, when the sun is at its highest you will take part in an informal kayak race with a prize going to the winner and in the early evening catch an old tug steamer across the lake to a small Tsaatan encampment on the far side where you will be able to discuss your recent experiences in taiga with another group of Tsaatan. 

Day 11 – Boat museum, shaman and antique/ local craft market

After your tug boat ride the day before you will no doubt be interested in seeing more of Lake Khuvsgul’s maritime history so first thing in the morning after breakfast we will travel to a boat museum on the lake shore in Khatgal. The boats here were used during socialist times to ferry lumber, coal and steel up and down the lake for exporting into Russia but now they have been adapted for visitors to tour them. Everything about this boat museum is just wonderfully authentic, from the rickety pier to the giant rusting hulks of the old boats and even Mongolia’s only diving station, this museum is a must see for anyone in the region. On the way back to the camp we will meet with one of Mongolia’s most famous shaman, Enkhtuya. She is an ethnic Tsaatan who speaks Mongolian as a second language and will be happy to sit with you and answer any questions you have on any subject at all. Particularly interesting are the rituals she will perform to divine the future should you ask for guidance on a course of action going ahead. Nearby there is a large crafts and art market where local people gather to sell their traditional crafts. Prepare for a hectic and overwhelming display of handmade knives, clothing, furs as well as many antiques from the region. 

Day 12 – Bulgan Raashan health camp

Leaving Toilogt camp after an early breakfast you will take the long drive south to Bulgan province which you passed through on the way north. This time you will stop off at a newly opened health retreat (Raashan) where local people will administer traditional treatments and massage to help you relax and recover after your long journey. This Raashan is very comfortable but is definitely not a traditional western spa. The treatments are taken seriously and you may even find them slightly uncomfortable but this is a great chance to experience the kind of thing that Mongolians themselves do whilst on holiday in their own country! 

Day 13 – Mongolian Secret History Complex

Before returning to the city we stop off overnight at the Mongolian Secret History complex just to the north of the city. The complex offers comfortable, indoor hotel rooms and is built near the site of an ancient shaman shrine. Here you will have a chance to ride camels and horses, practice archery and meet with some local nomads in order to understand the differences between people of the different regions of Mongolia and the way that they live their everyday lives. 

Day 14 – Ulaanbaatar City Tour

Arriving in the city in the late morning we will check into your hotel and set off on a city tour. This tour takes in Gandan Monastery, Sukhbaatar Square, the Choijin Lama’s Palace, The Bogd Khaan’s winter palace, Zaisan Monument, cashmere shopping and the iconic State Department Store. In the evening you will enjoy a traditional show and meal in town.                       

Day 15 – Depart

Your guide and driver will take you to the airport or train station and wish you well on your departure and future travels.

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