Arrive in Ulaanbaatar, transfer to the group hotel. Those not on the group flights will meet the group at the hotel.
This morning we start the day after breakfast with the trip briefing and then strike out on an introductory tour of Ulaanbaatar, including Sukhbaatar Square and Gandan Monastery. After lunch we fit the bikes then the afternoon is free to explore the town until early evening when we board the overnight train to Erdenet - Mongolia's third largest city and home to one of the largest copper mines in the world. Overnight in comfortable sleeping compartments on the train and we'll have dinner on the train.
Our train arrives early in the morning and our support vehicles and crew meet us. After breakfast on the outskirts of town, we set up the bikes and head out, quickly finding ourselves in the countryside cycling on smooth dirt tracks. The small township of Bugat makes a convenient lunch stop. After lunch our route takes us through a pine forest and over a small pass, Chuluutiin Davaa. The descent is quite steep and gravely until we emerge from the forest to a long plain leading to tonight's camp near Tal Tolgoi well. Ride approx. 50km.
After our first night near local herding families we cycle through undulating country before descending to a bridge over the Altaan (Golden) River. Rock formations in the area hint towards a volcanic past. The riverbanks make an idyllic spot for a picnic lunch. It is a long steady climb to Tuluugiin pass where the scenery changes dramatically as the forests give way to open steppe, at least for a while. Today is our longest cycling day on the trip, made worthwhile by tonight's camp near two extinct volcanoes Mt Uran and Mt Togoo. Ride approx 75km.
Today we pass through undulating country, past small lakes and herds of horses. Steppe eagles can be seen in this area. We stop for lunch with views across the steppe. After lunch we continue on tracks around the southern side of Mt Khairkhan (1862m) and make camp in an open green valley beneath Kholbooriin pass (1649m). Ride approx. 60km.
The day begins with a bit of exertion as we make the short climb in the morning up to the pass, giving us far-reaching views across the countryside. Down the other side we wind along gentle river valleys before emerging at the township of Khairkhan. After lunch on the outskirts of town we pass a series of small lakes before choosing a lakeside camp - complete with sandy beach for sun-bathing, weather permitting! Ride approx. 50km.
Today we follow the Khunjiin River as it rises gently towards its headwaters. River valleys like this provide fertile pasture for grazing livestock and are popular campsites with local herders. Wetlands near the river attract birdlife, including demoiselle crane. Overnight in the upper reaches of the river valley, beneath Mt Chingeltei. Ride approx. 60km
After a short climb to the headwaters of Khunjiin River at Uran Khutul pass, it is downhill to the Tamir River where we have lunch on the banks. Near the river we will pass burial grounds dating back to 8th Century AD. We camp tonight on the banks of the Tamir, not far from Ikh Tamir, or 'Great Rock'. Locals say that if you can throw a rock over the rock, it will bring you good luck for the rest of the journey - a good test of cricket fielding skills! Ride approx. 55km.
Today is a half-day and we make a good start to make the most of the afternoon for a chance to rest. Tsagaan Davaa is the most challenging pass of the journey (300m ascent) but the graceful descent to the provincial capital of Tsetserleg makes the climb well worthwhile. Tsetserleg means 'Garden' and this township has one of the prettiest settings of any in Mongolia, nestled in a cul-de-sac of mountains. We pitch camp by the Tsetserleg river. The afternoon is free to fish, catch up on household chores (washing), or journey into town to explore. An important stop is the Fairfield bakery/café run by a British couple. Ride approx. 30km.
We are now close to the Khangai Mountains and a short ride takes us to the foothills. The rolling country of Arhangai has been replaced by forested hills of larch and pine with dramatic alpine peaks in the distance. There a three short passes today, with lunch on the third before descending to tonight's camp. This afternoon we enjoy the facilities of a Ger camp at Tsenger Jiguur springs, complete with Japanese bathhouse - a dash of luxury in the middle of our Mongolian odyssey! Ride approx. 25km.
Our route now takes us into the heart of the Khangai Mountains, following well-marked 4WD trails. Herders still inhabit the valleys, yet yaks have replaced cows as the milk-producing animals. We follow picturesque valleys and camp beneath Mt Ondor Khairkhan (2312m). A relatively long day and challenging if conditions are windy. Ride approx. 65km.
Today we cross the Khangai Mountain range on good jeep tracks and drop down to the Orkhon River on the longest, smoothest descent of the journey. This Orkhon River flows to the ancient capital, Karakorum, then on to Lake Baikal in Russia and further northwards to the Artic Ocean. After lunch we continue downstream to our overnight camp on the river banks. Overnight camp by the Orkhon River. Ride approx 55km.
We ride out from camp following undulating terrain, crossing and recrossing the Orkhon river as we make a beeline for the fertile plain chosen by Chinggis Khan as the location for the capital city of his empire. 'Karakorum' is derived from a Turkic language and means Black Rock, and shares this name with mountains in Pakistan. Arriving in the ancient capital in the early afternoon, we check into the Karakorum Ger camp for hot showers and a well-earned rest. This afternoon we head out to explore Erdene Zuu monastery, the largest and most famous monastery in Mongolia. Built in 1586 under the direction of Abtai Khan on the ruins of the ancient capital, much of the monastery was destroyed during Stalinist purges of the 1930's, but an impressive wall with 108 stupas and a number of temples still remain. We spend the night in traditional Mongolian Ger(s). Ride approx. 35km.
We make a good start this morning for the 400km drive back to Ulaanbaatar. Travelling at an easy pace, there's always time for more exercise, we stop at the Mongol Els to run up and down sand dunes. Picnic lunch along the way. Check into our hotel on arrival in Ulaanbaatar - hot showers and cold beers!
Free day to explore Ulaanbaatar, last minute souvenir shopping - cashmere and leather products at bargain prices make great buys. Alternatively take one of the optional excursions close to Ulaanbaatar. In the evening we will enjoy a performance of traditional Mongolian song and dance by the world famous Tumen Ekh Troupe before a farewell dinner, then evening transfer to the airport. Passengers travelling independently will leave the group this day.
Fly to London.