Eagle hunter, Mongolia

Mongolia Eagle Festival: Steppes, Deserts & Nomads

18 days
from
£3,449
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Suitable for:
Age 18+
Activity level:
Leisurely / Moderate
Activity Rating - Leisurely/Moderate
Trip code: 
ACK
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Culture
Group size:
4–16
Min age:
18

Discover Mongolia's nomadic culture and eagle hunting in the Altai Mountains

Rolling steppe make way to stark desert; small nomadic ger camps pepper this vast land where camels and goats are herded on horseback, fermented mare’s milk is the tipple of choice, sand dunes are known to ‘sing’ and the first intact dinosaur eggs were found. Genghis Khan went forth from here on horseback to conquer the biggest land empire in history and, to this day, Buddhist and Animist traditions mix. We travel through steppe, mountains and the Gobi Desert exploring the nature and culture of this fascinating, yet little known country before making our way to the far western reaches to visit the Eagle Festival, celebrating the fascinating past time of hunting with eagles and the strong connection the Mongolian people have with their animals and land.

This departure of the Eagle Festival tour visits Gobi Gurvansaikhan N. P. at the start of the trip.

Highlights

  • Attend the Eagle Festival in the remote Altai Mountains
  • Explore Mongolia's vast wilderness stepp and Gobi Desert
  • Experience traditional nomadic culture

Key information

  • 4 nights hotels, all en suite and 12 nights ger camp with shared facilities
  • Normally 4 to 16, plus local leader, Min age 16 yrs
  • Travel by 4WD, bus and internal flights
  • This departure visits Gobi Gurvansaikhan N.P. at the start of the trip
  • Countries visited: Mongolia

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 15 lunches and 16 dinners
  • All accommodation
  • All transport and listed activities
  • All internal flights
  • Tour leader throughout
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
  • Arrival & departure transfers

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation
  • Airport ransfers for Land Only passengers
  • Visas
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailor made trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Eagle Festival, Altai Mountains

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Start Ulaanbaatar.

    The group flight is scheduled to arrive in Ulaanbaatar this morning. The tour starts at our hotel in the city centre. This afternoon/evening there will be a welcome briefing in the hotel, followed by a group welcome dinner. 

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Day 2

    Ulaanbaatar sightseeing.

    We have the whole day to discover Ulaanbaatar. Our sightseeing tour will include a visit to Zaisan Hill where we'll see the memorial painting which honours allied Mongolia and Soviet soldiers who fought in World War II. We'll also visit the Bogd Khaan Winter Palace Museum, which houses one of the largest collections in the country and we'll go on a cashmere factory tour.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 3

    Fly to Dalanzadgad; travel through rocky plains of Gobi Gurvansaikhan N.P.

    Early morning flight to Dalanzadgad, the capital of South Gobi province, then proceed to the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. Gobi Gurvansaikhan means 'Three Beauties of the Gobi' and this range marks the eastern end of the Gobi Altai mountain range. The park's landscape is extremely varied, with rocky and sandy desert plains, precipitous cliffs, ravines, salt pans and oases. We visit a spectacular natural sight of this region - Yolyn Am (approx. 50km/1.5 hours driving each way). Yolyn Am means Vulture's Mouth and is a canyon so deep and narrow that even in the height of summer winter ice can remain on the valley floor. This region is also renowned for the diversity of its wildlife and many endangered species can be found here, including Khulan, Ibex, Argali and Snow Leopard. We explore the canyon before transferring to a nearby ger camp for dinner and overnight.
    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 4

    Hiking around the Flaming Cliffs of Bayanzag.

    Today we make a short drive to Bayanzag (70 km) known as the Flaming cliffs and hike amongst colourful sands of red, yellow and orange. Bayanzag is a world-renowned dinosaur fossil exploration site, discovered in the 1920s by Mongolian and American palaeontologists. We are free to explore the region and may even be lucky enough to spot dinosaur fossils. After a picnic lunch we head to our camp for the afternoon.
    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 5

    Visit the Khongoryn Els, or 'singing sand dunes', the largest dunes in Mongolia.

    Drive to the Khongoryn Els sand dunes (approx. 200 km/5 hours driving). The Khongoryn Els stretch for 200km and reach heights of 300 meters in places. They are known as the 'Singing Dunes' because of the beautiful sound that resonates through the dunes on a windy day. The South Gobi has 100,000 camels, typically used by herders to transport their gers. 

    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 6

    Explore the Singing Sand Dunes and visit a nomadic camel breeding family.

    Today we have a full day to explore the sand dunes and surrounding area. We will take the opportunity today to visit a camel breeding family and get a glimpse of the way of life of the nomadic herders of these parts.

    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 7

    Explore the region of Bayan Gobi and the Bichigt Khad petroglyphs

    Our journey continues through classic Gobi desert scenery of flat stony plains with small rocky outcrops and patches of sand across the Khatan Suudal Steppe. We stop for a picnic lunch and then continue our drive to the Bayan Mountain Range to view some petroglyphs, called Bichigt Khad. The rock inscriptions and pictures here date back to 3000 BC; we will see paintings including depictions of ibex, argali and men riding horses. It is possible to see some of these from the vehicles (better so with binoculars) but for those who wish, it is also possible to hike up to the cliffs for closer inspection of these Bronze Age works of art (the main cliff is a steep climb for 50-60m and walking poles are required so we usually visit the smaller cliff, which is more accessible). We are in the vechicles almost all day today and cover approx. 385km. 

    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 8

    Transfer to Avaikheer via Mt Ikh Bogd.

    First we drive to Tsagaan Agui (White Cave), then pass over Taats River,  from where the majestic Ikh Bogd Mountain (the highest mountain in the Gobi Altai Mountain Range) should be visible in the distance. We stop for a picnic lunch and then skirt the eastern edge of Mt Ikh Bogd. Drive on to Arvaikheer, the capital of Ovorkhangai Aimag and on the northern edge of the Gobi. We cover around 415km today - expect to be on the go for approx. 11 hours. 

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 9

    Visit Avaikheer Museum; on to Kharkhorin via Shankh Monastery.

    This morning we visit Arvaikheer local market and the museum, which contains nature collections, stone figures and Turkic scripts. After lunch we set off for Kharkhorin, stopping en route to visit Shankh Monastery, once the home of the great Mongolian theorist Zanabazar. We arrive to camp in the evening in time for dinner. Total driving: approx. 150km / 4 hours. 

    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 10

    Visit Karakorum and Erdene Zuu Monastery; drive to Mongol Els or 'Little Gobi Desert'.

    This morning we visit the 13th century capital of the Mongol Empire - Karakorum. Karakorum was established by Ogedei Khan and remained the Mongols power base until Khublai Khan established Beijing as the capital. Here we will visit the Erdene Zuu Monastery (meaning Hundred Treasures), this is the largest 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 Stalin's purges of the 1930's but an impressive wall with 108 stupas and a number of temples still remain.

    After lunch we drive (for about 2 hours) to the Mongol Els or 'Little Gobi Desert' as it is known, a unique belt of sand dunes in the steppe. We check into a nearby ger camp head out to explore the surrounding region. It is an incredible sight to witness the Bactrian camels wandering the desert dunes whilst horses graze on the green steppe nearby. We will also visit Mt Khogno Khan, the small temple at its base. This region is also renowned for its birdlife, including steppe eagles. Mt Khogno Khan offers a great spot for bird watching where we will stay for a while before we return to camp in the late afternoon.
    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 11

    Transfer to Khustain Nuruu N.P trek to see wild horses.

    In the morning we head to the Khustain Nuruu National Park, famous for the re-introduction of Mongolia's wild horse (approx. 200 km / 3 hours driving). The Takhi Horse or Przewalski's horse was once native to Mongolia and almost became extinct earlier this century, though thanks to the efforts of several Mongolian and international organizations, these magnificent wild horses now roam once again on the steppes of KhustainNuruu National Park. We will visit the Project Information Centre and take a guided hike to see the wild horses.

    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 12

    Drive to Terelj National Park.

    After breakfast we transfer we transfer (for approx. 5 hours) to the Terelj National Park, known for its fascinating rock formations and green meadows carpeted with wild flowers. We spend the day exploring these and also visit the Aryabala Meditation Temple which offers great views out over the park. After lunch at our camp we will make a short trip to visit a local nomadic family to see how they live and hear about the nomadic way of life, here we will also enjoy a tasting experience of homemade dairy products, such as yoghurt, cheese, curds and traditional salty milk tea.

    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 13

    Drive to Ulaanbaatar via Genghis Khaan Statue

    After breakfast, we drive to the giant Genghis Khaan Statue, standing at 40 meters tall and made of stainless steel it is quite a sight! Here, we have some time to fully explore the statue and surrounding area before making our way back to Ulaanbaatar where we have the option to go and see a live performance of traditional Mongolian song and dance. Performed by the world famous Tumen Ekh dance troupe, we will see throat singers, contortionists and Tsam dancers. Total driving: approx. 140 km / 3 hours.

    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 14

    Fly to Olgii; visit a nomadic Kazakh village

    In the morning we fly to Olgii in western Mongolia, from where we drive off-road for about an hour to Sagsai village. Here we visit the home of the Kazakh people; there will be plenty to see and do. We spend the day seeing how they go about daily life, taking care of and milking the cows, goats and sheep and we may even get to help process the dairy products. We will also be able to sample their traditional food and taste home-made yak cheese and yogurt. This is a great opportunity to explore the real way of living like a nomadic family and to personally experience their friendliness and hospitality. In the afternoon we return to Olgii and stay overnight at Ger Camp.
    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 15

    Eagle festival.

    Today we attend the Eagle festival. For the first day of the festival we will see the competition for the best Kazakh costume, horse racing and archery. In the evening we will see a cultural performance in the local theatre.
    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 16

    Another day at the Eagle Festival

    Today we have another chance to witness the competitions and events of the Eagle festival. We will be able to see a demonstration from the eagles and their hunters, a camel race and the lively competition of Kukhbar. Kukhbar is essentially a fighting match on horseback where two riders have to fight over a goat skin each trying to claim possession of it. After enjoying the festivities we return to camp for dinner.
    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 17

    Fly to Ulaanbaatar; free time in the city.

    After breakfast we transfer to the airport for the mid-morning flight to UlaanBaatar, arriving in the nation's capital at midday. We transfer to the hotel and freshen up before a light lunch. This afternoon is free for last minute sightseeing or souvenir shopping around UB - cashmere, leather goods and traditional handicrafts are all good options and the guide will recommend the best places to go for these. Night owls may want to sample the nightlife of UlaanBaatar!
    Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 18

    End Ulaanbaataar.

    After breakfast the trip ends in Ulaanbaatar.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Mongolia

All nationalities require a full passport that must be valid for 6 months beyond the intended length of stay. It is your responsibility to have the correct personal documents and to obtain your own visa, if one is necessary, in accordance with the regulations of the country you are to visit. The information below is primarily for UK passport holders, and other nationalities should check with their travel agent or the relevant embassies. We are not responsible for the actions of local immigration and customs officials, whether at points of entry or otherwise, and any subsequent effects. Almost all nationalities, including British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand, require a single entry visa for Mongolia. If you think you may be exempt you must check requirements with your local authorities or your agent. The current cost of a visa for British Citizens is £50 and further information can be found here. American passport holders are offered 30 days visa-free entry to Mongolia on presentation of a valid passport at the time of entry. Visa regulations can change without notice: please check the current regulations in good time to obtain a visa if one is required.

Vaccinations

Mongolia

There are no mandatory vaccination requirements. Recommended vaccinations are: Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatitis A. Dengue fever is a known risk in places visited. It is a tropical viral disease spread by daytime biting mosquitoes. There is currently no vaccine or prophylaxis available for Dengue, and therefore the best form of prevention is to avoid being bitten. We recommend you take the usual precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 15 lunches and 16 dinners included.

Traditional Mongolian diets are very meat and dairy heavy. Whilst there will be opportunities to try some of these products such as dry-curd and fermented mare’s milk, the meals provided in the ger camps are generally western meals, at times with an Asian influence. There will normally be some form of soup and salad as well as a main course and desert. Vegetarians are generally well catered for, if you are vegetarian or have other dietary requirements please make sure to inform us in advance. Breakfasts can vary from place to place, some are buffet style whilst others are set, normally cereal, bread and possibly a hot dish will be provided. On some days a pack lunch will be provided, this is often still a proper meal (though without the soup). Water is provided and will generally be from 5L water-containers so make sure to bring a water bottle to decant into. Tea, coffee, soft drinks, beer, vodka and (most of the time) wine are available to buy at the ger camps. There is opportunity to buy snacks in Ulaanbaatar and on a couple other occasions along the way when we drive through towns or villages.

Weather

September/October is very much shoulder season in Mongolia. Temperatures can vary quite widely from very hot to freezing and you should pack for both hot and cold weather as you’ll be in a t-shirt one minute and a down jacket the next. This is possibly the best time to visit the Gobi Desert as the temperatures cool down and the crowds have mostly gone. In Olgii, where the Eagle Festival takes place, the weather is likely to be cold with temperatures averaging 7’C.

Ulaanbaator

Ulaanbaator

Is this trip for you?

Mongolia is 6.5 times larger than the UK but with a population 21 times smaller. Understandably this means that large tracts of the country do not have much infrastructure. Much of our time is spent in areas where roads are barely tracks through the landscape. On this trip we go further into the wilderness than the average visitor to Mongolia and whilst this allows us to travel through stunning parts of the country, encountering few people other than the odd nomad, it does mean that some days involve long and bumpy drives. The longest driving days are in Bayan Gobi and the drive to Arvaikheer where we are on the move all day. These drives are balanced out with some downtime to relax and just take in the incredible surroundings or offe, with the option of going for a walk or even, at times a horse or camel ride. There are some scheduled hikes, looking for wild Takhi horses, visiting the Singing sand dunes, Vulture canyon or the Flaming cliffs, for instance. These are relatively short, no more than one or two hours on mostly flat or undulating terrain. The Flaming Cliffs hike may not be recommended if you have an acute fear of heights and can involve some scrambling, however, it’s possible to still enjoy great views of the cliffs and opt out of the walk.

The climate in central Mongolia is generally pleasant in summer when the trip runs. In the Gobi Desert, however, temperatures can get well above 30’C, even approaching 40’C.

This is a trip that goes off the ‘tourist trail’ and comes to the encounter of local nomads. It takes us through spectacular and diverse wilderness and gives us an insight into a fascinating country unlike any other.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailor made trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

4 nights hotels, all en suite and 12 nights ger camp with shared facilities

We use hotels in Ulaanbaatar and Arvaikheer and ger camps elsewhere. Gers are similar to yurts, generally airy and comfortable with beds and, normally, a central wood burning stove (though in the summer the stoves are not normally needed). The bathrooms are shared and all have hot water (however due to the remoteness of the camps this can, at times be erratic). Many of the ger camps now have 24hr electricity in the ger itself for charging batteries. If there is no charging facility inside the ger itself then there are charging facilities in the common area (though this may during limited periods of the day only when the generator is turned on). Accommodation at the eagle festival will be four people per ger, for the rest of the camps it will be two people per ger and hotels will be on a twin share basis too. Due to the remoteness of Ulgii, there is a limited choice of accommodation and the ger camps here are more basic than elsewhere. There may also be rare occasions when a single cannot be guaranteed in a particular ger camp.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailor made trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

  • Reviewed October 2019
    Chris Goddard

    Eagle Festival

    Advice given by Exodus regarding the transfer in Beijing was inadequate. Much more detail is needed. Many lost souls were wandering the airport for some time. Perhaps a step-by-step description ? Chinese airport personnel were generaly rude, and less than helpful. The whole trip was generally fine. Exodus were advisied that one of us was gluten-free, but this information was not given to the tour guide beforehand, which Exodus stated it had been. Probably did not make a huge difference in the end as Gluten free food is largely unknown in Mongolia (not entirely unexpected).

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Eagle festival was stunning

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Namja (??) did an excellent job in leading the tour. He was very well versed in local history, and very keen to help and assist when required. Thouroughly reccommend this guide/group leader.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Gluten free travellers - take plenty of food ! Make sure you understand the intricacies of Beijing airport transfer - in advance !

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    No
  • Reviewed October 2019
    Jeremy Reed

    Excellent trip.

    Just returned from.this Mongolia trip. It was a wonderful holiday. Mongolia is vast and fascinating. The holiday was made more enjoyable and informative by our guide MG. The Eagle Festival was unbelievable. 120 eagle hunters with their beautiful Golden Eagles.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The Eagle Festival

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader MG was amazing. Knowledgeable and well organised. Took all the stress of travelling. Well done MG.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take more money. The Ger camps sell beer and wine. Plus you need c $100 per person for tips and incidental paid for by the group leader. Plus you need to tip the group leader at the end of the trip.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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