At Ölgii’s annual Golden Eagle Festival, more than 100 skilled hunters will compete in tournaments that test the bond between hunter and bird. © Nomadic Journeys
The critically endangered Przewalski Horse, or Mongolian wild horse, is the last surviving subspecies of wild horse. © Nomadic Journeys
Along the way, travelers will experience staying at a luxury Ger, the traditional Mongolian nomadic housing. © Nomadic Journeys
Argali are the largest of the wild sheep. The impressive horns and skull of a ram can be up to 13% of their total body weight. © Richard Reading
Bactrian Camels have two humps for storing fat and can drink up to a quarter of their body weight at one time. © Nomadic Journeys
Mongolia Tour with Golden Eagle Festival
Wedged between Russia, Kazakhstan, China and the rest of Mongolia, Western Mongolia has always been a patchwork of ethnicities and traditions. Wild, rugged and remote as it is, these traditions have endured longer than in most places on Earth. Here, customs such as eagle hunting and khöömii (throat singing) still thrive. Here, the great Snow Leopard still prowls and the world’s last great wild horse, the Takhi, still frolics on the plains. Join Apex on this special 15-day Mongolia tour, the only such tour that incorporates both Snow Leopard tracking and the magnificent Golden Eagle Festival near Ölgii. Experience timelessness and vast wilderness in the true Wild West of Mongolia.
- Travel by Air
- Travel by Road
- Travel by Boat
- Travel by Bullet Train
- Travel by Rail
- Travel by Dog Sled
Saturday, September 28: Arrive Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia / Hui Doloon Hudag
Arrive this evening in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, then transfer to the town of Hui Doloon Hudag. Upon arrival at the resort, settle into your private luxury Ger, the traditional Mongolian nomadic housing. Enjoy dinner at your leisure, and overnight at HS Khaan Resort.
Sunday, September 29: Hustai National Park
Enjoy breakfast overlooking the vast plains before driving to Hustai National Park, established to protect Mongolia’s wild horse, Przewalski or Takhi as it is called by Mongolians. Stop in Bayansonginot to meet with community members and enjoy a traditional lunch of buuz and hushuur—steamed dumplings and fried meat pies.Continue into Hustai, looking for Maral, or Asiatic Red Deer, and the wild horses. Visit the remarkable neolithic gravesite of Öngöt before heading for the southwestern portion of the park for a magnificent valley hike. En route, look for Maral, Steppe Gazelle, boar, wolf and lynx. Enjoy dinner in the park, before an evening game drive in search of the nocturnal Manul, or Pallas’s Cat, leads you back to the resort. Overnight at HS Khaan Resort.
Monday, September 30: Hui Doloon Hudag / Delüün
Rise early for a return to the airport for your flight to either Ölgii or Hovd (depending on flight schedules), in the Bayan-Ölgii province, forming Mongolia’s far western border with China and Russia. Upon arrival, travel overland in a convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles to Delüün, a traditional Kazakh village perched on the western edge of Hökh Serkhiin Nuruu (“Blue Goat”) National Park in the rugged and perpetually snow-capped Altai Mountains. This afternoon, enjoy a briefing from the director of the reserve about its recent efforts at conservation. Dinner and overnight at your private ger camp.
Tuesday–Thursday, October 1–3: Altai Range
Take three full days to explore the area and search for wildlife in Hökh Serkhiin Nuruu, Ikh and Baga Yamaat Valleys and the newly-established Chigertei National Park on the Chinese border. The remoteness of the Altai mountains makes this one of the last strongholds for many species of rare and endangered ungulates and carnivores, including Siberian Ibex, Argali Sheep—the biggest wild sheep on Earth, Altai Deer, Manuls, Wolverines and, most particularly, Snow Leopards. There are said to be roughly 1,200 Snow Leopards left in Mongolia and recent collaring and the installation of camera traps has increased chances to find their “nests.” With luck, catch a rare glimpse of this legendary, almost mythical creature. A mixture of game drives and moderate (though often steep) hikes will give you the best chance to find wildlife. Many activities will take place between 7,000 and 8,000 feet, making this one of the lower-altitude locations for spotting Snow Leopards. You will also visit Kazakh nomads and learn of their longstanding tradition of hunting with Golden Eagles. Dinners and overnights at your private ger camp.
Friday, October 4: Delüün / Ölgii
This morning, enjoy a dramatically scenic drive to Ölgii, the capital of Bayan-Ölgii province, stopping at Tolbo Lake along the way. Enjoy lunch in this windswept, frontier-feeling town of 30,000. A walk through its streets will give you the sense that it has more in common with Muslim–influenced Central Asia than Buddhist Mongolia: there are signs in Arabic and Kazakh Cyrillic and multiple mosques, and its local market is called a ‘bazaar’ rather than the Mongolian zakh. Dinner and overnight at Hotel Eagle Dreams.
Saturday & Sunday, October 5 & 6: Golden Eagle Festival, Ölgii
This weekend, find yourself front and center at Ölgii’s Golden Eagle Festival, the largest gathering of eagle hunters in Mongolia, held every year to kick off the winter hunting season. Here, more than 100 skilled hunters, dressed in full traditional regalia and mounted on decorated horses, will compete in tournaments that test, not only the bird’s mettle or the hunter’s acuity, but the bond between hunter and bird. You can also enjoy horse and camel racing, archery, traditional Kazakh music, and special equestrian events like Tenge Ilu, wherein the rider has to snatch a single coin from the ground in full gallop, and Kiz Kuar, or “girl chase,” where a man and woman race on horseback while the woman whips the man. Dinners and overnights at Hotel Eagle Dreams.
Monday, October 7: Ölgii / Hovd
After breakfast, settle in for a drive southeast to Hovd, with many stops at points of interest along the way. Explore the town, which has been a bustling center of trade since the Manchus built a military garrison here. For this reason, Hovd has some of the greatest ethnic diversity in Mongolia, with a Halkh majority and a dozen other Kazakh and Mongol ethnic groups represented. Dinner and overnight at Steppe Hotel.
Tuesday, October 8: Hovd / Dörgön Lake
After breakfast, depart for Khar Us Nuur National Park, a vast two-million-acre wilderness in the Great Lakes Basin of Western Mongolia. The park harbors more extensive sand dunes than the Gobi Desert, and they border directly on salt and freshwater lakes teeming with birds and fish. Today, head to the easternmost part, to Mongol Sands at Dörgön Lake. Hike around the Dörgön plains and look for critically endangered Saiga Antelopes, with their bizarre, characteristic bulbous noses. Saiga once roamed Pleistocene prairies with mammoths, but now hang precariously on the edge of extinction but for a few herds in Russia, Kazakhstan and Khar Us Nuur. At Dörgön Lake, see the spectacular Janjin Ovoo, a ritual stone shrine venerated by the locals. Dinner and overnight at your private ger camp.
Wednesday, October 9: Mongol Sands
Soak up the staggering scenery today, with snow-capped Jargalant Hairkhan Mountain standing as an exquisite backdrop to Mongolia’s longest sand dune. Domestic Bactrian Camels dot the landscape, as do a breathtaking number of birds, many of which are endemic. Look for Pallas’s Fish Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Asian Dowitcher, White Spoonbill, Ruddy Shelduck and Lesser Kestrel, and keep watch for the exceedingly rare Relict Gull. Large congregations of Pallas’s Sandgrouse sometimes descend at the lakes to drink. See Altai Osman and Mongolian Graylings swimming in Dörgön, where two-thirds of the fish are endemic. This afternoon, meet with local members of the Halkh Mongol ethnic group, whose customs are quite different from the Kazakhs. Dinner and overnight at a private ger camp.
Thursday, October 10: Dörgön Lake / Hovd
Today, return to Hovd, looking for Saiga Antelope and Goitered Gazelles along the way. Dinner and overnight at Steppe Hotel.
Friday, October 11: Hovd / Ulaanbaatar
Bid farewell to the Wild West and transfer to the airport for a flight back to Ulaanbaatar. You have the afternoon at leisure to explore the city and do some shopping for local crafts. Dinner and overnight at Shangri La Hotel
Saturday, October 12: Ulaanbaatar
Today, enjoy a guided tour of the city. Head to Gandan Khiid, one of Mongolia’s most important monasteries, which nearly didn’t survive the religious purges of 1937. Next, visit the Central Dinosaur Museum, housed in the former Lenin Museum, which contains an impressive collection of fossils found in the Gobi Desert. Explore the centrally located Sukhbaatar Square with lunch in a local restaurant, followed by a visit to the National History Museum of Mongolia, which offers a sweeping overview of Mongolian culture, from stone-age petroglyphs to a wide array of traditional ceremonial costume. This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner and overnight at Shangri La Hotel.
Sunday, October 13: Depart Ulaanbaatar
Transfer to the airport early this morning for your international flights home.
Have a question? Call us at 206.669.9272 / 800.861.6425. Prefer online?Get in Touch
The Silent and Shy Snow Leopards of Mongolia
Known for its beautiful fur and elusive behavior, the endangered Snow Leopard is found in the rugged mountains of Central Asia. Very rare in most of its range, scientists estimate that just 3,500 to 7,000 individuals remain in the wild. Snow Leopards prefer to inhabit steep cliff areas, rocky outcrops and ravines that provide the camouflage they need to ambush unsuspecting prey. Unlike other big cats, Snow Leopards are unable to roar. They silently stalk their favorite prey, primarily wild sheep and goats. Their long and powerful hind limbs help Snow Leopards leap up to 30 feet, which is six times their body length. A long tail provides balance and agility and also wraps around the resting Snow Leopard as protection from the cold.