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South Gobi

Introduction

This journey will take us to the desert steppe and mountain areas of the Southern Gobi, the least populated province of Mongolia. We explore the “Flaming Cliffs” of Bayanzag, equally renowned as an important paleontological site and as place of great natural beauty. Close-by the Gurvansaikhan Mountains, the “Three Beauties of the Gobi” are an extension of the Altai Mountains deep into the Gobi Desert. Here we will visit the Yol Valley, a dramatic ravine, which is covered by ice, in most years until midsummer. The Gobi is for the most part arid desert steppe, with only few sand dunes far between. On this trip, we will visit the Hongor Sands, the most famous dunes of Mongolia. In the Dundgobi region we explore the granite rock maze of Baga Gazriin Chuluu and the sacred Zorgol Hairkhan Mountain. On this trip, we fly one way on a domestic flight, offering a stunning bird’s eye view of the rugged, empty Mongolian landscapes down below. In the South Gobi Desert we have a jeep or 4wd minivan at our disposal. Accommodation throughout the trip will be in Ger camps in traditional Mongolian yurts. The camps with the base price have basic facilities, but excellent locations. Upgrade options are available on this trip.

Trip Details

Itinerary
Tour Dates
Prices
Practicalities

DAY 1: TO BAYANZAG
We pick you up at your hotel in Ulaanbaatar and fly 1½ hours to Dalanzadgad airport in the South Gobi Desert. Here we meet our driver and will drive 90 km to the northwest to Bayanzag. The name translates to ‘Rich in Saxaul’, indicating the ‘forests’ of salt-resistent Saxaul trees (Haloxylon) growing here. The main attraction, though, are the “Flaming Cliffs”, made famous by American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews, who discovered the first fossilized dinosaur eggs here in the early 1920s. The name alludes to the red and orange hues, that come together to create an awe-inspiring sight, especially at sunset. On the way, we will probably see wildlife, such as gazelle and fox. We spend the night in a comfortable ger (yurt) camp.

DAY 2: HONGOR SANDS
After breakfast, we drive west for about 150 km, partly through the Gurvansaikhan Mountains. We reach the massive Hongor Sands. These giant sand dunes stretch for some 150 km from northwest to southeast. Up to 80 m high, they are just a couple of hundred meters wide in some places, and as wide as 20 km in others. We will check in at a nearby ger camp and visit the dunes in the evening light when their beautiful shapes come out best. There is also a possibility to meet local families with their livestock.

DAY 3: YOL VALLEY
We drive half day (220 km) to the core of the Gurvansaikhan Mountains and up to the Yol Valley. We will explore this dramatic ravine on foot. In most years ice covers the narrower parts of the ravine until mid summer. Bird watching is rewarding here as you are sure to see the Bearded Vulture, also known as Lammergeier (Gypaetus Barbatus), soaring high above the ravine. Yol is actually the Mongolian name for this large raptor. There are also several species of Rose Finch (Carpodacus spp.), and usually also the Wallcreeper (Tichodroma Muraria). The ravine is usually teeming with pika (Ochotona spp). We stay in a ger camp not far off.

DAY 4: TO BAGA GAZRIIN CHULUU
Today we head out on the new tarmac road going north from Dalanzadgad into the Dundgobi province for the full day. We reach Baga Gazriin Chuluu, literally “Rocks of the small lands” before dinner. It is a large, maze like area of granite rock formations, harboring many secrets. Hidden among the large rocks the ruins of a small 17th century monastery and a small cave, where local people make offerings, are waiting to be explored. This picturesque area is also habitat to various wildlife. With some luck we might see the rare Siberian Ibex and various raptors.

DAY 5: TO ULAANBAATAR
Today we continue northwest to Zorgol Hairkhan Mountain, emerging almost vertically from the middle of the desert steppe. This sacred mountain is already mentioned in the Secret History of the Mongols, the oldest surviving literary work in Mongolian language. There are many traces of holy sites here and we will find a beautiful spot to enjoy our picnic lunch. We continue to Ulaanbaatar and see one of Mongolia’s northernmost sand dunes at Arburd on the way. Transfer to your hotel.

ITINERARY MAP

DATES EX. ULAANBAATAR:

Daily mid May to end of September.

PRICE EX DALANZADGAD:
2 – 12 members: USD 1200 per person
Single supplement (3n): USD 160

ADDITIONAL NIGHT AT THE GER CAMP:
USD 100 per person

UPGRADE SUPPLEMENT :
Deluxe Gers 3n: USD 240 per person

THREE CAMEL LODGE 2N:
USD 1000 per person

TRANSPORT:
This tour is supported by a jeep or minibus depending on the number of travellers. Dependent on flight times and days, the trip may be done in reverse direction. If short on time, you can also skip the day at Baga Gazriin Chuluu and fly back to Ulaanbaatar out of Dalanzadgad a day earlier. This option is mostly available in July and August, when flights operate daily.

ACCOMMODATION:
We stay in Ger (your) Camps for the duration of this trip. These permanent camps are equipped with a restaurant and shared bathroom and shower blocks. Along the way there are a few camps which offer attached facilities, for which you may pay an upgrade supplement. Moreover, you may upgrade further to the luxurious Three Camel Lodge, located near Bayanzag, for two of the overnights.

STAFF:
An English-speaking Mongolian guide will accompany you at all times. Other language guides such as Russian, French, German, Italian, Korean etc. available at additional cost, upon request.

MEALS:
The meals will be provided in the ger camps, or as picnic lunches.

ADDITIONALS:
We can organize hotel accommodation, city tours and transfers in Ulaanbaatar.

INCLUDES:
Guide, all meals outside Ulaanbaatar. All overnights in ger camps. All local transport and entrance fees. Domestic flight tickets.

EXCLUDES:
Beverages. Transfers and accommodation in Ulaanbaatar. Air or train tickets in and out Mongolia.