Lake Hovsgol & Gobi Desert

Kayak, hike, and visit historic sites in the country of nomads and the sweeping steppes.

Country Information


Lake Hovsgol & Gobi Desert New Reality

(Countries Visited)


(Interest Type(s))

Sustainable Travel


Safari Tours


Adventure Travel

(Tour Length)

10 Days

Tour Highlights

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  • Discover Mongolia’s 17th-century capital city, Ulaanbaatar and its Gandan Monastery, seat of Buddhism in Mongolia
  • Explore Lake Hovsgol and enjoy opportunities to go horseback riding – Mongolian style, hike or kayaking in the pristine lake
  • See the fascinating, 1,000-year-old Uushgiin Deer Stones, one of the best-preserved monuments of its kind in Mongolia
  • Encounter the vast, dramatic Gobi Desert with its famous Flaming Cliffs
  • Make the most of your time by flying via private plane or helicopter to Lake Hovsgol, the Gobi Desert and Ulaanbaatar

Day 1:  Arrive Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Welcome to Mongolia’s capital city!  You are met and escorted to your centrally located hotel, which is within walking distance of museums and shops.  The city was founded in 1639 as a nomadic Buddhist monastic center.  In 1778, it became a permanent settlement at the junction of the Tuul and Selbe rivers.  In the evening, enjoy a private reception at the hotel with traditional Mongolian music featuring hoomi (throat) singing.  Hotel Blue Sky Tower (D)

Day 2:  Ulaanbaatar
Begin the day in Sukhbaatar Square in the heart of the city.  Visit the government house and the Chinggis (Genghis Khan) Statue.  The City Administration building was formerly a hotel built in 1936.  Other buildings surrounding the square include the Lenin Club building (1929), Printing Press (1929), State Ballet and Opera House (1946–1949) and the Stock Exchange building, formerly the Eldev-Ochir Cinema (1946–1948).  Constructed in 1712, Gandan Monastery was the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia.  Woven through Mongolia’s nomadic culture is a rich Tibetan Buddhist tradition in which ancient shamanistic practices are still evident.  Although Buddhist monasteries were either destroyed or converted into museums during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s, Gandan Monastery continued to operate as a showpiece for government officials.  It was closed in 1938 at the height of the purges but escaped destruction and reopened in 1944.  It was the only monastery in the country to remain functioning during the Communist era, and one of the very few that escaped destruction.  A significant resurgence of Buddhism began in 1990 when Mongolia became a democracy.  Monasteries across the country are again opening their doors to worshippers, and the few lamas who survived the purges began training a new generation.  At Gandan Monastery, you have a private audience with one of the high-ranking lamas and receive a Buddhist blessing.  After lunch at a fine local restaurant, visit the Natural History Museum for an overview of Mongolian geography and natural history and to see some of the spectacular fossils unearthed in the Gobi.  On display are a towering Tarbosaurous skeleton (closely related to Tyrannosaurus rex), dinosaur eggs, and the famous “fighting dinosaurs.”  The newly remodeled museum also displays traditional implements of daily nomadic life.  It features Stone and Bronze Age artifacts, historical costumes of Mongolia’s minority tribes and sacred religious relics as well as agricultural, fishing, and hunting equipment.  Savor a private visit to the Paleontological Laboratory to see the work of Mongolian scientists.  Later, take in the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum, named in honor of the renowned 17th century artist and politician, who was also the first Buddhist leader of Mongolia.  The museum contains one of the finest collections of Buddhist art and artifacts in the world.  Hotel Blue Sky Tower (B,L,D) 

Day 3:  Ulaanbaatar / Muron / Lake Hovsgol
Today, you fly to Lake Hovsgol on a private plane or helicopter.  Along the way, stop just outside of Muron to see the Uushgiin Deer Stones, one of the best-preserved monuments of its kind in Mongolia.  Dating back thousands of years, the Uushigiin Deer Stones are comprised of 14 magnificently preserved carved, stone columns, lined up from north to south and often referred to as the “graveyard of deer stones.”  This memorial contains the most clearly depicted deer stone in Mongolia.  Each stone is made of reddish, tetrahedral granite stone.  Images engraved on the stones include deer, humans, horse, shield, knife, the moon, the sun and a mirror-figured belt.  These oblong monuments vary in height up to the tallest at eight meters/26 feet.  The site also includes about 500 graves, khirgisuurs, and square burials.  Travel on to your lakeside ger camp.  Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Days 4-5:  Lake Hovsgol
These days you will explore this stunning lake and surrounding mountains.  This is one of just 17 ancient lakes worldwide more than two million years old and the most pristine apart from Lake Vostok.  Enjoy the opportunity to meet local residents in their traditional nomad dwellings.  Activities include horseback riding - Mongolian-style, hiking the area and kayaking in the lake.  A short boat ride takes you to the Shaman Rock, a place of worship for local nomads.  Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 6:  Lake Hovsgol/ Gobi Desert
This morning, board a private plane or helicopter for the flight to the Gobi Desert.  The Gobi is a fascinating region that includes sites with some of the most important paleontological discoveries of the 20th century.  For the next four days, explore the dramatic landscapes of the desert, which is habitat for Bactrian camels, Argali mountain sheep, goitered gazelle, golden eagles, falcons, jerboas and many endemic reptiles.  The Gobi is also home to some of the rarest and elusive mammals such as the snow leopard, wild camel and Gobi bear.  Upon arrival, check into your deluxe ger at the Three Camel Lodge, named as one of the “50 Best Eco-lodges in the World” by National Geographic Adventure magazine.  Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 7:  Gobi Desert - Yol Valley National Park
Wake to the sight of the sun rising over the vast Gobi landscape.  After an early breakfast, drive to Yol Valley National Park cradled in the foothills of the Altai Mountains.  An ancient river carved this surprisingly green valley, and its remnant streams create ice formations that sometimes persist as late as July.  A hike through the valley leads to the habitat of indigenous vulture-like Lammergeiers, ibex, yaks, and Argali mountain sheep.  After exploring the area, visit a local natural history museum for an overview of the flora and fauna of the region.  Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 8:  Gobi Desert - Molstog Els / Flaming Cliffs
Drive to Moltsog Els, one of the few regions of the Gobi covered by sand dunes.  Explore the area on nature walks, or learn the basics of riding a camel into the desert.  In the late afternoon, you will travel to the legendary Flaming Cliffs, named for the red-orange sandstone that glows brilliantly at sunrise and sunset.  It was here in 1923 that Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews and his team from the American Museum of Natural History found the first nest of dinosaur eggs the world had ever seen.  To the trained eye, these dramatic formations are rich with fossils.  Paleontological expeditions continue to make significant discoveries here.  Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 9:  Gobi Desert / Hustain Nuruu National Park / Ulaanbaatar
You can relax at the lodge this morning or take an optional drive to Hustain Nuruu National Park, a Specially Protected Area that is home to the last remaining species of wild horse, the takhi - commonly known as Przewalski’s horse.  The takhi were reintroduced to the Mongolian steppe 25 years after they had become extinct in the wild.  The unique horses came from zoo populations by the Foundation for the Preservation and Protection of the Przewalski’s Horse.  Sixteen horses were flown from the Netherlands to Mongolia in 1994, and nearly 400 now roam sites in Mongolia and China.  Learn about current conservation efforts and the status of the herds found within the reserve at the visitor’s center, before trying to spot these beautiful horses in their natural habitat.  This is also home to red deer, Mongolian gazelle, Roe deer, wild boar, wild sheep, Ibex, Mongolian marmots, grey wolves, lynx, Pallas cat, red fox, Corsac fox and Eurasian badger.  This evening, drive back towards Ulaanbaatar and check into your hotel.  Hotel Blue Sky Tower (B,L,D) 

Day 10:  Ulaanbaatar / Depart
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight out.  (B)

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