Gobi Desert & Naadam Festival The Greatest Local Event of the Year

Mongolia

Traditional and exotic Mongolia

Naadam Festival is Mongolian major holiday and a wonderful time to experience the culture and people of this amazing land. The festival has its roots in the nomad wedding assemblies and hunting extravaganzas of the Mongol Army. The opening ceremony features marches and music from soldiers, monks, and athletes before the real fun begins! Also, there’s plenty to see and do outside – food, music, crafts or just watching people and culture. This is the best time to discover Mongolia!

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival at Ulaanbaatar

Arrival at Ulaanbaatar. Your driver will meet you at the airport and transfer to the cosy hotel in the downtown. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

Day 2: Karakorum

After breakfast at the hotel, meet the guide and drive towards to Kharkhorin, formerly known as Karakorum. Embrace the wilderness of Mongolia when visiting Khogno Khan Nature Reserve with mountains, steppes, Gobi-type desert and mineral water sources all in one location, Uvgun monastery or Erdene Khamba khiid. After lunch, continue to travel to Kharkhorin, the legendary city founded by Genghis Khan in 1220 in Orkhon Valley, on the Silk Road. Those days it was a political, economic, administrative and religious centre. But after Khublai Khaan moved the Mongolian capital to Beijing, Karakorum was abandoned and then completely destroyed by Chinese soldiers in 1388. There we shall visit Kharkhorin museum, and the Mongolian oldest and largest monastery Erdene Zuu. Overnight at the Ger camp.

Day 3: Ongi Monastery ruins

After breakfast at the camp, you will continue your journey to discover Ongi Monastery ruins through the great Ongi steppe. Ongi monastery was one of the 7 biggest Mongolian monasteries. There are 2 temple ruins which were built up in 1780s. During repression in 1930s’, these two temples were destroyed and over 200 monks were killed, and many surviving monks were imprisoned. In the 1990s, it was decided to rebuild the monastery. The first temple was inaugurated in 2004. There is a small museum in a ger in front of it. One of the stupas has just been reconstructed as well. We travel like real nomads from one Ger to another just like Mongolians do for a thousand years. Overnight at the Ger camp.

Day 4: Bayanzag

After breakfast at the camp, you will go further to Bayanzag, known as Flaming Cliffs. We shall hike through the cliffs (east trail, suitable for any fitness level) to see the Gobi tree grove named “Bayanzag”.The American paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews arrived here in 1922, on an expedition for the American Museum of Natural History. His team found hundreds of fossilised remains, and Bayanzag became known as a dinosaur graveyard. After lunch, we will watch a short documentary about these excavations. After dinner, return to the Bayanzag to see the sunset, find out why the area is called Flaming Cliffs. Overnight at the Ger camp.

Day 5: Gobi Desert

After breakfast at the camp, we travel through the stunning Gobi Desert to see amazing Khongor sand dune at sunset. There is no landscape equal to it in Mongolia, Khongor sand Dunes lasts for impressive 180 km and the largest dunes are up to 800 metres high. The Gobi desert is one of the world's greatest, it is a no-sand desert of gravel plains and rocky outcrops. Great Gobi National Park is one of the largest World Biospheres, with an area larger than Switzerland. It contains the last remaining wild Bactrian (two-humped) camels and a small population of Gobi bears, the only desert-inhabiting bear. The Khongor Sand Dunes are some of the largest and most impressive white sand dunes in Mongolia with the largest dunes up to 800 metres high. The dunes make a sound like a plane engine on a windy day so it has been named as "Singing Dunes". Visit the local camel herding nomad family and experience the nomadic life in the Gobi, have a camel ride through the sand dunes of Khongori. Overnight at the Ger camp.

Day 6: Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park

After breakfast at the camp, continue the journey to Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park. Stop en route to see the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains with its three Rocky Mountains, the highest of which is 2815 meters above the sea level. After lunch, drive to Yolyn Am to see its ice fields even in the summer. Visit local Gobi museum and hike small springs which run through the valley to reach the ice fields. Late afternoon, we return to the camp for dinner and time for leisure. Overnight at the Ger camp.

Day 7: Terelj National Park

After breakfast, transfer to the airport and flight to Ulaanbaatar (1h 30 m). Transfer to Terelj National Park, one of the most scenic areas in Mongolia. We shall see Turtle Rock, have lunch with a nomadic family, visit Temple of Aryavalokiteshvara and Aryabal Monastery. Dinner and overnight at the Ger camp at Terelj National Park.

Day 8: Ulaanbaatar

After breakfast, we will take a transfer to Ulaanbaatar. En route, we shall visit Turtle Rock, stop at Genghis Khan’s Statue Complex in Tsonjin boldog, visit some souvenir shops, small museum. After we will drive to the city and visit Zaisan Memorial and Buddha Garden. In the evening, enjoy 6 pm-Tumen Ekh-traditional folklore concert. Dinner at the hotel restaurant. Overnight at the hotel.

Day 9: Naadam Festival

Full-day guided touring the festival, watching competitions, performances, the national culture of wonderful Mongolia: archery, horse riding, nomad culture at its best! We book special seats to allow maximum comfort today, however, please mind we will need to walk to and from the stadium. Please note that while we’re doing everything possible, the schedule of the day might change at late notice due to logistics complications and restrictions implied by the local authorities.

Day 10: Departure

After breakfast, an optional half-day Naadam festival visit. Transfer to the airport/railway station.

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National Naadam

The biggest festival (National Naadam) is held in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, during the National Holiday, in the National Sports Stadium. It begins with an elaborate introduction ceremony featuring dancers, athletes, horse riders, and musicians. After the ceremony, the competitions begin. The competitions are mainly horseback riding. Naadam is also celebrated in different regions of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia in July and August. In the Tuva Republic, Naadam is on 15 August.

Three games

Naadam is a traditional festival in Mongolia. The games are Mongolian wrestling, horse racing, and archery, and are held throughout the country during midsummer. Women have started participating in the archery and girls in the horse-racing games, but not in Mongolian wrestling.

Wrestling

Mongolian traditional wrestling is an untimed competition in which wrestlers lose if they touch the ground with any part of their body other than their feet or hands. When picking pairs, the wrestler with the greatest fame has the privilege to choose his opponent. Wrestlers wear two-piece costumes consisting of a tight shoulder vest (zodog) and shorts (shuudag). Only men are allowed to participate.

Horse racing

Unlike Western horse racing, which consists of short sprints generally not much longer than 2 km, Mongolian horse racing as featured in Naadam is a cross-country event, with races 15–30 km long. The length of each race is determined by age class. For example, two-year-old horses race for ten miles and seven-year-olds for seventeen miles. Up to 1000 horses from any part of Mongolia can be chosen to participate. Racehorses are fed a special diet. Children from 5 to 13 are chosen as jockeys and train in the months preceding the races. While jockeys are an important component, the main purpose of the races is to test the skill of the horses.

Archery

In archery competition, both men and women may participate. It is played by teams of ten. Each archer is given four arrows; the team must hit 33 "surs".Men shoot their arrows from 75 meters away while women shoot theirs from 65 meters away. Traditionally the archers wear their national clothing (Deel) during the competition. All the archers wear leather bracers up to the elbow on their outstretched arm, so that the deel’s cuff does not interfere with shooting.

Cultural Heritage

In 2010, Naadam was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO.

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Mongolia

To apply for a visa, citizens of the UK should apply personally through an authorized company (40 GBP for a standard visa, issued in 5 days). Сitizens of New Zealand can apply for a visa only by mail (160 $ NZ for a standard visa, issued in 2-5 days). Citizens of Australia can apply for a visa by mail (230 AUD, issued in 4-5 days). Citizens of the USA and Canada can travel to Mongolia without a visa in case a travel period is less than 90 days.

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Accommodations

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What's included

Accommodation

Ulaanbaatar (3 nights)

5 Nights at deluxe Ger camps (twin-share) with en-suite facilities

1 night at the comfort Ger camp on a twin basis with shared facilities

Meals

Full breakfast in the hotels and Ger camps

Lunches and dinners

A bottle of water on each day

Guided tours

Khogno Khan Nature Reserve guided tour

Uvgun monastery guided tour

Kharkhorin guided tour

Ongi Monastery guided tour

Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park guided tour

Transport

Services of comfortable a/c transportation, including airport - hotel - airport transfers

4 WD vehicles in the countryside of Mongolia (3 persons per car)

Local flight (economy class) from South Gobi to Ulaanbaatar

Support

24/7 phone/WhatsApp support line

English-speaking tour guide

The tour is fully escorted by English-speaking Tour Director

Travel tips brochure

Entrance tickets

Uvgun monastery

Ongi monastery

Great Gobi National Park

Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park

Terelj National Park

Genghis Khan’s Statue Complex

Buddha Garden

Tickets to Naadam Festival

Not Included

Visa fees

International flights

Meals not mentioned

Optional tours and activities

Personal expenditures

Highlights

Boundless Gobi Desert

Bayanzag, known as Flaming Cliffs

Amazing Mongolian National Parks

Real Gear Camp Experience

Naadam festival - nomadic culture at its best

Famous Khogno Khan Nature Reserve

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