Khuisiin Naiman Nuur Natural Reserve & Gobi Desert

Discover Mongolia, a mix of modern and ancient traditions.

Country Information


Khuisiin Naiman Nuur Natural Reserve & Gobi Desert New Reality

(Countries Visited)


(Interest Type(s))

Sustainable Travel


Safari Tours


Adventure Travel

(Tour Length)

9 Days

Tour Highlights

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  • Discover Mongolia’s fascinating 17th-century capital city, Ulaanbaatar
  • Travel into the mythic Gobi Desert, the third largest desert in the world and home to the famous Flaming Cliffs and the Singing Sands
  • Explore the volcanic “Eight Lakes” in the Khuisiin Naiman Nuur Natural Reserve
  • Visit the 17th century monasteries of Gandan, Amarbayasgalant and Erdene Zuu
  • Investigate Havtsgait Valley’s ancient rock drawings left by early Gobi settlers

Day 1:  Arrive Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
The contrast between ancient traditions and the dawning of a 21st -century democracy is most visible in Ulaanbaatar, where traditional gers and Buddhist monasteries coexist with modern high-rises.  Upon arrival at the airport, you are welcomed by your bilingual guide and transferred to your comfortable, centrally located hotel, which is within walking distance of museums and shops.  Hotel Blue Sky Tower (D)

Day 2:  Ulaanbaatar
Begin the day with a visit to Gandan Monastery, the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia.  Woven through Mongolia’s nomadic culture is a rich Tibetan-Buddhist tradition in which ancient shamanist 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.  In spite of the government’s efforts to suppress Buddhism and other religious beliefs, Mongolia’s spirituality persisted and 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 are training a new generation.  Massive reconstruction and renovation projects are underway and priceless artifacts that were hidden for safekeeping are now being returned to monasteries by nomadic families.  For photographers, we can arrange a private photo shoot in one of the temples.  A visit with one of the high ranking lamas in a private audience can also be arranged in advance.  Travel back in time with a visit to the dinosaur halls of the Natural History Museum, showcasing spectacular fossils found in the Gobi desert.  On display are fierce Tarbosaurous fossils (closely related to Tyrannosaurus Rex), dinosaur eggs, large Hadrosaur fossils (duck-billed dinosaurs), and many others, all of which illustrate the richness and importance of the paleontological sites in the Gobi desert.  Also, you enjoy behind-the-scene access to the paleontological lab, where local scientists prepare recently discovered fossils.  After lunch, drive through downtown Ulaanbaatar to the National History Museum for an excellent overview of Mongolia’s history and culture.  The newly remodeled museum displays traditional implements of daily nomadic life including Stone and Bronze Age artifacts, historic costumes of Mongolia’s minority tribes, sacred religious relics, and agricultural, fishing and hunting equipment.  This evening, savor a performance featuring traditional Mongolian dancers and hoomi (throat) singers followed by a welcome dinner.  Blue Sky Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 3:  Ulaanbaatar / Amarbayasgalant Monastery / Kharakhorum
After breakfast, fly by private helicopter or plane to Amarbayasgalant Monastery, established in the 17th century by a Manchurian emperor.  The monastery is noted as one of the few surviving examples of traditional Mongolian architecture and construction.  All of the construction materials used to build the monastery are local.  Set in an idyllic valley, this beautiful monastery was partially destroyed in the Communist purges of the 1930s.  The renovation of the main temples was completed three years ago.  Next, fly to Kharakhorum, site of the 13th-century capital of the Mongol Empire.  It is impossible to mention Mongolia without conjuring up images of the great warrior Genghis Khan.  The empire created by Chinggis (Genghis) Khan and his descendants was the largest contiguous land empire in recorded history, and its scope has never been matched.  The great Khan and his son created the beautiful and legendary Kharakhorum to serve as the heart of this monolithic empire.  There are only a few traces left of this once-great city, but Mongolia’s largest monastery, neighboring Erdene Zuu, was reputedly constructed from the ruins of Kharakhorum in the 16th century.  Surrounded by 108 stupas, Erdene Zuu has been a place of Buddhist activity for more than 500 years.  Explore the monastery grounds and observe the monks as they perform their prayers and rituals.  Next, visit Shankh Hiid, a monastery within short driving distance from Erdene Zuu and Kharakhorum.  Also under renovation, Shankh Hiid was once frequented by the renowned Buddhist artist and sculptor Zanabazar.  Tonight, you spend the night in a ger, the traditional felt tent of nomadic herders.  Made of a latticed wood structure, it is covered with layers of felt and canvas.  Each ger is heated by a wood stove and furnished with beautifully painted wood-framed beds.  The camp restaurant and western-style toilet and shower facilities are located in a central building a few hundred feet from the gers.  The gers provide an authentic and memorable taste of Mongolian culture, and allow you to visit areas which otherwise lack traveler accommodations.  Most visitors find their stays at ger camps to be among their most enjoyable experiences in Mongolia.  Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 4:  Kharakhorum / Khuisiin Naiman Nuur Natural Reserve 
After breakfast, discover Erdenezuu Monastery and the newly built local history museum.  Then, fly on to Khuisiin Naiman Nuur Natural Reserve, the 11,500-hectare region that encompasses a series of interconnected lakes known as “Eight Lakes” in the Central Mongolian Khangai mountain range.  Volcanic in origin, this wildly scenic area is the result of massive volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago.  Explore this wilderness on guided nature walks.  Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 5:  Khuisiin Naiman Nuur Natural Reserve / Gobi Desert 
Spend the morning exploring the stunning lakeshore and surrounding mountains on nature hikes or enjoy the opportunity to kayak in this dramatic setting.  Next, fly by private helicopter or plane to the legendary Gobi Desert.  Enjoy a welcome dinner at your award-winning lodge.  Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 6:  Gobi Desert - Yol Valley National Park
Today travel 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 at the base of the valley that persist as late as July.  Hike through the valley to the habitat of indigenous vulture-like Lammergeiers, Altai snowcocks, ibex, yaks, and Argali mountain sheep.  Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 7:  Gobi Desert - Moltsog Els - Flaming Cliffs
After a leisurely breakfast, you travel to Moltsog Els, one of the few regions of the Gobi with sand dunes.  Explore the area on foot.  Or, learn the basics of riding a camel with help of local camel wranglers, and discover the area on camelback.  Continue to the legendary Flaming Cliffs of the Gobi, named for the red-orange sandstone that glows brilliantly at sunrise and sunset.  Here in 1923, Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews and his exploration team from the American Museum of Natural History found the first nest of dinosaur eggs the world had ever seen.  To the trained eye, the ancient formations of the Flaming Cliffs are rich with fossils.  Paleontological expeditions continue to make significant discoveries at this site.  Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 8:  Gobi Desert – Havsgait Valley / Ulaanbaatar
This morning drive to Havtsgait Valley to see ancient rock drawings left by early Gobi settlers.  Explore these striking petroglyphs before returning to the lodge.  In the afternoon, fly to Ulaanbaatar and upon arrival transfer to the hotel.  This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner.  Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 9:  Ulaanbaatar / Depart
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for departure.  (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy: Call for prices.

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