At the horse race, Mongolia

Mongolia: Steppes, Deserts & Nomads - Nadaam Festival

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Traveller ratings
4.8 / 5 from 8 reviews >
Trip code: 
ACMB
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Festival Holidays
Group size:
4–16
Min age:
18

Discover the remote Mongolian steppe, the Gobe Desert and the country's nomadic traditions, including the vibrant Nadaam Festival.

8 July (7 July ex-London) Itinerary

Rolling steppe make way to stark desert; small nomadic ger camp 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. In July, all over the country, people come together to compete in wrestling, archery, horse-racing and ankle bone flicking during the Naadam Festival but traditions can be witnessed throughout the year. We travel through steppe, mountain and the Gobi desert exploring the nature and culture of this fascinating, yet little known, country.

Highlights

  • The spectacularly varied Mongolian landscape - vast rolling steppe, mountains and deserts
  • Sleep in traditional style ger camps (Mongolian tents)
  • Karakorum, the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire
  • The rolling sand dunes and landscape of the Gobi desert
  • One of the last remaining nomadic cultures in the world
  • Wrestling, archery, horse-riding and bone-flicking at the Nadaam Festival

Key information

  • 6 nights hotel, all en suite, 8 nights ger camps
  • Travel by 4WD vehicle, bus and one internal flight
  • Some long drives through very remote country
  • Also Eagle Festival and non-festival departures
  • Countries visited: Mongolia

What's included

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

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request)
  • Airport transfers for Land Only passengers
  • Visas or Vaccinations
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3936
Call for tailormade 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.

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

    Depart London.

    Depart London.

  • Day 2

    Arrive Ulaan Baatar.

    Start in Ulaan Baatar. Those not travelling with the group from London will join us at the hotel. The scheduled flights normally arrive early evening. People who arrive early in Ulaan Baatar can explore some of the city’s sites including UB’s main square: Sukhbaatar Square, the National Museum and the landmark State Department Store.

    Bayangol Hotel or similar

  • Day 3

    Visit Terelj National Park, including Aryabala Temple; first night in a ger camp.

    We leave Ulaan Baatar and head for Terelj National Park.
    Terelj National Park is a large protected area of green mountain meadows filled with edelweiss and other wild flowers.
    We visit the Tibetan-style Aryabala temple, a meditation centre located on a mountain side with sweeping views over the national park. As we follow the walk up to the temple there are inspirational sayings on placards every few steps. The climb to the temple is not difficult but does involve many steps and can be tiring.
    Tonight we have our first night sleeping in a ger.

    Ger Camp or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 4

    Return to Ulaan Baatar visiting the giant Genghis Khan statue on the way.

    As we make our way back to the city we visit the giant Genghis Khan statue at Tsonjin Bolog. Standing 40m tall, the statue depicts the Mongolian ruler astride his horse and sits atop the visitor’s centre (itself 10m tall). It is possible to climb up onto the horse’s head to get a closer look of Genghis Khan’s face.

    Bayangol Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Days 5-6

    Naadam Festival

    The Naadam Festival celebrates the ‘three games of men’ (or Erin Gurvan Naadam) which are wrestling, horse-racing and archery. More recently a fourth game, knuckle-bone flicking was added to the competitions. The festival is celebrated throughout the country but the biggest festival is in Ulaan Baatar.
    Over the next two days we attend the grand opening ceremony before we watch Mongolians compete in all four sports. We also get to mingle with hordes of Mongolian spectators as the grounds around the stadium (where wrestling, archery and bone-flicking takes place) and the horse races are filled with stands selling food, games, flags and various other things.
    The atmosphere is a big part of the experience and many Mongolians dress in their best traditional clothes for the occasion.
    In 2010 the festival was entered into the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list and is great celebration of the Central Asian nation’s culture.

    Bayangol Hotel or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 7

    To Khustain Nuruu N.P.; trek to see Przewalski's horses; overnight in ger camp.

    Before leaving UB we visit the Gandan Monastery, the largest functioning lamasery in Mongolia and the seat of Buddhist studies in the country. Here we may see monks praying and the 20m gold and bronze statue of Migjid Janraisig.

    We then drive on the main road westwards towards Karakorum, making a detour to the Khustain Nuruu National Park, 2 hours west of Ulaan Baatar. Khustain Nuruu is famous for the re-introduction of Mongolia's wild horse. The Takhi Horse (also known as the Przewalski's horse) was once native to Mongolia and almost became extinct earlier in the 20th century. Through the efforts of several Mongolian and international organizations, these magnificent wild horses now roam in the steppes of the national park once again. We will visit the Project Information Centre and take a guided hike to see the wild horses. Tonight will be our first night staying in gers, traditional Mongolian felt tents.
    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 8

    To Karakorum; visit Erdene Zuu Monastery.

    Today we continue on our drive to the 13th century capital of the Mongol Empire - Karakorum - making a brief stop to see the dunes of the Little Gobi along the way. . Karakorum was established by Ogedei Khan and remained the Mongols power base until Khublai Khan established Beijing as the capital. Erdene Zuu (Hundred Treasures) monastery was 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 visit the monastery, the modern Karakorum Museum and the surrounding area
    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 9

    Along northern edge of Gobi Desert to Arvaikheer via Shankh Monastery.

    We continue along the paved road to Arvaikheer, the capital of Ovorkhangai Aimag on the northern edge of the Gobi Desert. On the way we will visit the Shankh Monastery, once the home of the great Mongolian theologist Zanabazar. We should arrive at Arvaikheer during the middle of the afternoon and check in to our hotel. In the afternoon there will be time to visit the local museum, which contains nature collections, stone figures and Turkic scripts and possibly go to a local market.
    Arvaikheer Palace Hotel or similar, Standard Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 10

    To Bayan Gobi via Mt Ikh Bogd.

    Today is a long day as we head properly off the tourist route into some of the wilder parts of the Gobi Desert. After an early breakfast we start our journey and rapidly leave the tarmac behind. The landscape changes as we head deeper into the Gobi and the majestic Ikh Bogd Mountain should be visible in the distance, the highest mountain in the Gobi Altai Mountain Range. Eventually, after about 9 hours travelling (with stops) we will arrive at our Ger Camp in the wilderness. This is the longest day’s driving but is also a definite highlight of the trip as we pass through some of Mongolia’s most spectacular scenery.
    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 11

    Cross the Gobi via White Cave.

    After going over a desert pass and visiting the quartz rich ‘White Cave’ our journey continues through classic Gobi desert scenery of flat stony plains mixed with small rocky outcrops and patches of sand across the Khatan Suudal Steppe. We stop for a picnic lunch on the way, with views of Arts Bogd mountain to the north. We head off to the Kongoriin Els sand dunes and arrive there in the late afternoon.
    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 12

    Visit 'singing' sand dunes, the largest dunes in Mongolia.

    We have a full day to explore the sand dunes and surrounding area. The Khongoriin Els stretch for 200km and are as high as 300m 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 for transportation of their gers. We will have 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 13

    Travel through rocky plains of Gobi Gurvansaikhan N.P.

    This morning we will drive through 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 and ravines, salt pans and oases. We visit a spectacular natural sight of this region - Yolyn Am. 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 elusive Snow leopards. We visit a local museum and explore the canyon before transferring to a nearby ger camp for dinner and overnight.
    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 14

    Hiking around the 'Flaming Cliffs' of Bayanzag.

    Today we have time to relax in our luxury ger camp. Either in the morning or afternoon we take a short drive to Bayanzag (70 km). Known as the Flaming cliffs, the red/ochre colour can be striking and we have the opportunity for a short 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. We later return to our ger camp.
    Ger Camp

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 15

    Fly to Ulaan Baatar.

    We leave the Gobi Desert behind and fly back to Ulaan Baatar. Depending on what time our flight is will determine what time we get back to Ulaan Baatar.
    Bayangol Hotel or similar, Comfortable Hotel

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 16

    Fly to London.

    Fly to London

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

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 Ulaan Baatar and on a couple other occasions along the way when we drive through towns or villages.

Weather

July and August are summer months and daytime temperatures should be a pleasant 20’C in Ulaan Baatar and central regions. Temperatures can reach a maximum of 33’C in the capital and high 30s in the Gobi desert in July and although the average is lower, clients should expect some very warm weather. Evening temperatures are uniformly 15 to 20’C. Humidity is very low. These months are also the wet season and over a trip of this duration you should expect some rain but showers are not normally long lasting and the total rainfall during this period is very low. (June - 28mm, July - 76mm & August - 51mm).

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. These drives are balanced out with some downtime to relax and just take in the incredible surroundings or often, 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 Taki 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 tailormade 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

Hotels & Ger Camps

We use hotels in Ulaan Baatar and Arvaikheer and ger camps elsewhere. Gers are similar to yurts, generally airy and comfortable with beds and, normally, a stove (though in the summer the stoves are not normally needed). The bathrooms are normally 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). There will normally be no more than two people per ger, however in some cases, due to availability issues we may need to have triples in the ger. 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 tailormade 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

Embracing a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge, but if you’re going to keep it up there’s got to be more to it than

  • Reviewed July 2019
    Linda Howard

    Mongolias great.

    Mongolia has been recommended to me by various travelers over the years, also to include the Nadaam Festival....they were right. If you are looking for something different....this is it. The vastness and the ever changing terrain in the Gobi is fascinating.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Climbing sand dunes in the Gobi desert in the rain! The desert was fascinating, different to others I have seen. The opening ceremony of the Nadaam festival was superb, it was so well done, it was worthy of an Olympic opening ceremony. The kids racing the horses..wow.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader was very good, he took his job seriously, occasional language misunderstandings.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Just enjoy it.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Apart from not getting our suitcases twice, maybe flights with a longer transit time between them, if possible, it was a mad panic for us to make it so was not surprising the luggage didn’t.
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Lucinda Francis

    This trip had everything

    We loved Mongolia! This was our first holiday as part of a guided group trip, and it really worked for us. We found the itinerary to be just right, long days with lots to see and do, interspersed with just enough downtime to recharge our batteries. The accommodation in hotels and gers was of a high standard. We were very well fed with meals ranging from traditional Mongolian to modern European and Asian cuisine at the accommodations and local restaurants in UB. Box lunches were provided for the long days crossing the Gobi and for the Naadam Festival. All the Mongolian people we met made us feel very welcome to their country.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It is so hard to pick a single most inspirational moment. Every day was full of things to see and do, from vast desert landscapes, mountains, cliffs and valleys, to monasteries, temples, monuments and statues. Highlights for us were the visits to nomadic families, the amazing Nadaam Festival Horse Racing, the Morin Tolgoi Horse Memorial and the Chinngis Khaan Statue.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Odka really made the trip. Her English was very good enabling her to pass on her immense knowledge of and passion for Mongolia, and answer all our questions. She was very good at managing the group’s expectations, keeping everyone happy and taking a democratic approach to decisions. Nothing was too much trouble for her, and she went the extra mile to ensure that everyone in the group had a great holiday, including juggling the itinerary when rain was forecast. She was also brilliant company. Our four drivers were also amazing, working through the night to repair one of the cars. They were all number one drivers to us!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Very few ger camps have wifi, so maybe consider buying a local sim card if you need to keep in touch. Hot water availability was an issue at some ger camps, the trick is to avoid showering at busy times. Take a seat belt pad to protect your neck and ladies consider wearing a sports bra forthose long bumpy car rides across the Gobi!
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Rose Langley

    Amazing Mongolia

    We saw only a small portion of such a huge country , within days we’d seen Steppe, desert ,mountains and cliffs , perfect sunrises and sunsets and the never ending stars in the sky.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The vast nothingness , looking for miles ahead and seeing nothing but scenery with the odd Ger. 2 whole days driving the Gobi and seeing only the odd goat farmer, no other tourists or cars. Visiting the camel and horse breeders and seeing the nomad way of life and of course the Genghis Khan statue .

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Odka was great , she kept us informed of all the plans for the day ahead and has so much knowledge about the amazing history of Mongolia. Her English was very good and nothing was too much trouble for her.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The Ger camps were very comfortable but be prepared for no phone signal or WiFi for most of them perfect for switching off completely (bliss) There is a lot of travelling on a few days but stops were around every 1.5 to 2 hrs ,on our trip the cars were comfortable with air-conditioning and 4 people to a 6 seater so roomy enough too. I went for vegetarian meals as I’m not a big meat eater and it’s a very meat heavy country mostly mutton and chicken , my meals were lovely ,rice,pasta,vegetables and fruit so a perfect choice for me.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This trip is perfect for a taste of Mongolia it has a good itinerary and with Naadam included it was a real insight into the Country and the Mongolian way of life, Bayarlalaa Mongolia
  • Reviewed July 2018
    Richard Hazlehurst

    Not for the faint-hearted

    A fabulous trip to a very interesting country. Thoroughly recommended, but please note the reservations about travelling discomforts, below.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Probably climbing the singing sand dunes. The views were astonishing.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Odka was wonderful. She never stopped smiling and she was always looking after us and ensuring we were comfortable, well-informed, well-fed and well-watered.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The website explains that there is a lot of travelling involved with this trip. That is inevitable, given the size of the country and the distances between the various places to be visited. What is perhaps not made clear enough is the fact that the journeys in the desert are almost entirely off-road and the distances make in necessary to travel at quite high speeds. You can be hurtling along at 50, even nearly 60, m.p.h. for many hours on packed sand, gravel or stone with bumps, jumps, swerves and sudden braking. After 10 or 11 hours of this, we felt shaken, not stirred, and had aches and pains to remind us of it. If you go on this trip, you will see some remarkable places and have some wonderful experiences. But do be warned about the discomforts of the travelling. Everything else was good, great, often excellent.
  • Reviewed July 2018
    Christine Holyhead

    A world apart

    The nothingness of the desert was full of life. We just needed to be shown it. Talking with three ladies in their own gir was such a good explanation of a lifestyle we couldn’t fathom before this. The gir camp sites were well run and 12/14 days we had excellent meals tho I would take some bottle of my choice of sauce next time. The driving distances were very long on 2 days. In 11 hours you can’t have a bad back or any hint of travel sickness. I am on my 19 th exodus trip and at 70 found these really hard work even tho it was unimaginably interesting. My respect for the huge Mongolian empire grew and all I wanted to see was a dinosaur...we saw bones and eggs! The guide was of vital importance at the Naadam festival He showed how centuries of skills were being displayed to a slowly modernising country. A real time-warp holiday!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Naadam festival , seeing a well in the Gobi desert supplying water from nowhere for 300 goats. The hugeness of the country.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    As a young man he is learning very fast to become a caring and knowledgable guide

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a rain mac and factor 50! Warm pyjamas and fleece you can sleep with and nudity. Don’t always expect electricity ty or any internet/ phone contact. Revel in nothingness.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Don’t do this as your first wilder exodus trip.
  • Reviewed July 2018
    Debra Dance

    Mongolia: Steppes, Deserts and Nomads - Nadaam Festival

    An amazing trip to an amazing country.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The tour programme was well-planned and interesting and I enjoyed the variety and contrast of the experiences from the busy Nadaam to the sparsely-populated wide open spaces of the steppe and desert; the sense of having travelled long distances during the day, followed by a reminder of how small we are under the billions of stars in the clear night sky; and the opportunity to enjoy the sophisticated accomplishments of the singers, musicians and contortionists, as well as the raw beauty of the sand dunes.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Namjaa was an excellent tour leader, who was knowledgeable, calm, friendly, good-humoured and responsive to the group's requests. For example, at our request he organised for us to visit a nomadic family that was less used to receiving tour groups, as well as a cashmere factory shop.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    * Be prepared for some very long drives (11 hours) across bumpy tracks. * You will not go hungry on this trip. On the contrary, the food was plentiful (often four courses at lunch and the same again for the evening meal) and the lunchtime and evening meals started with a delicious salad. * Mongolia is the world's second largest producer of cashmere, so take some extra money and treat yourself (and/or someone else) to a gorgeous, easy to carry gift.
  • Unique Mongolia

    Fascinating and unique country. The Nadaam Festival was amazing, especially the opening ceremony. Lots of long road journeys.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The Nadaam opening ceremony, seeing the Mongolian competitors and the crowd response during the rest of the games; seeing the wild takhi horses' seeing dinosaur bones in various musuems.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He got us from place to place efficiently, and was always really pleasant. But he rarely gave us much information about plans for the day or the next few days, or about what we were seeing, or so we were often a bit confused about what was happening, and didn't get the most out of our time or our visits to particular places and sometimes missed things. At the Naadam festival he didn't tell us where we were heading, or where and when we should meet if we got separated in the huge crowds, and on one occasion he simply went off with part of the group without telling the rest of us - so we got really lost more than once, which was a bit unnerving and wasted precious time. On the road, he didn't ensure that the vehicles kept together - so when ours broke down we were with a driver who didn't speak English, totally alone in the Gobi. He also swapped activities around which made sense from a driving point of view, but meant that our hike around the Flaming Cliffs took place in a torrential downpour which made walking pretty treacherous - and as he simply left us there we weren't clear on where we were supposed to hike (by the time we worked it out it was too late to do it). The following day, when it wasn't raining, we went to the local town museum (which was good - but a better rainy day activity) and the market (which wasn't - tiny and nothing of interest). The 2 hikes (cliffs and canyon) need to be prioritised around the weather, as they are potential highlights, and could have been done on the same day if necessary, and the town omitted entirely (it's not in the itinerary anyway)

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do plenty of research about what you want to see in Ulaanbaatar as there quite a bit of time there and our guide didn't give us any information about what to see or where it might be located. Take a copy of the itinerary because the guide might not keep you posted on what is happening. Consider not taking the group flights - Air China seems to have delays routinely (we were delayed by about 6 hours on the way out and at no time did anyway give us a definitive answer about why we were delayed or when the flight might take off), and no guarantee you'll get your connection in Beijing - and if you miss it there is no-one to help as staff are thin on the ground, mostly don't speak English and frequently don't care and are rude and unhelpful. If you are delayed don't leave the allocated gate for more than a few minutes (unless you think it might have changed) as the flight might suddenly be called without warning and they won't wait or make an announcement. Lots of driving inc 2 full days driving (11 hours) so take lots of books or load up your mp3 player (etc). In July take a rainjacket and a brolly for rain - often too hot for the jacket, but sometimes it rained so persistently that it cooled down and a brolly wouldn't hack it. Hardly any bugs so insect repellent not necessary. In most ger camps you can wash clothes and they will be dry the next morning. There are only a few times where you need closed and grippy shoes - but then you do really need them. Food is generally quite good but often bland so consider taking some sort of hot sauce or spice. Take plenty of tissues and antibacterial gel for toilet stops. Take spare batteries for anything important as electricity can be limited in the gers so you can't rely on being able to recharge stuff overnight. Take a torch make sure it is easy to find in your packing.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Bayangol Hotel in Ulaanbaatar was well located and comfortable - but Exodus needs to ensure that in summer rooms are in Block B, which has air con rooms, and not block A which doesn't. The first ger camp we stayed in had only 6 showers for 40 gers so there were major queues - which is not what you need when you are hot and dusty and jetlagged . Not sure if there is an alternative but worth considering. All the rest were fine.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Elspeth for her insightful review, we rely on customer feedback to ensure the quality of our trips and make improvements where necessary. We are currently looking into what happened on this departure.

  • Reviewed July 2017
    Lorraine Grant

    Mongolia, Nadaam, Gobi. Great experience

    Fantastic trip. Huge statues, more goats, sheep, horses and cows than you can imagine. A vastness that boggles the mind. The Gobi desert is to be experienced just to get an idea of the size of it. Living in ger camps is worthwhile too. You get to sample what nomadic life can be like. The local people were friendly and open to us visiting their ger homes, and we were offered goats cheese, fermented milk and simple vodka. It's rude to decline the offer! It's hard to pick one particular highlight but I think the Nadaam Festival comes out top.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Witnessing the Nadaam Festival was a highlight. The two hour opening ceremony was terrific with displays depicting Mongolia's history. While we didn't understand the language, the display was clear. The men, women and children wore very ornate and colourful national dress and were happy for their photos to be taken. The newly elected President officially opened the festival. A goodly number of children released white doves at the start and balloons were realised at the end.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader was a very pleasant man but perhaps due to us being in four vehicles, it was hard for information to be given regarding the country or the people. This would normally be expected when the group travels in one vehicle. That said, he tried to accommodate the wishes of group members, which did at times prove challenging. Not his fault though! Our tour leader arranged for two facilities to open when they ought to be closed which was very appreciated. One was a monetary and the other a museum.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The weather was much warmer than I had expected given I'd been checking weather updates prior to travel. A few days while we were in the Gobi were around 40 degrees and very windy indeed. Driving in the Gobi is very rough indeed as no tarred roads and dirt tracks the only routes. The ground is very hard and rough and car passengers get a lot of jostling around. A word of warning if you have back issues! Accommodation in the capital was fine but some of the ger camps didn't have hot water for showers and/or was restricted to certain times of the day, as was electric. This isn't a problem though as you expect such restrictions in rural areas. Meals were excellent throughout. Usually three course set lunch and dinner, with small portions. Mutton dishes were offered most often. The vegetarians were catered for too. Bottled water was provided at each meal and the guide gave water to each guest to use in their own water bottles. When driving long distances in the Gobi, toilet stops are infrequent due to simply not being a toilet to go to! You have to make do with a boulder or bush.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you get the chance to visit local shops and markets take it. You see what locals buy and can pick up some items you might not see in the capital. A wonderful experience driving around the vast wilderness of Mongolia and the Gobi. If you can visit when the Nadaam Festival is on you'll be in for a real treat. It was very hot and extremely busy with thousands of people milling around but worth it. You are given tickets with your seat numbers for the stadium but they are small spaces on plastic seats. Not the most comfortable but adequate. We were lucky as under the canopy for shade but the tour guide gave us all umbrellas for shade if needed. To sum up, just go and enjoy Mongolia.

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]

The July departures are special Nadaam Festival departures and are 2 days longer than the standard itinerary.

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