DAY 1. 15 SEPTEMBER 2023. ARRIVAL IN MONGOLIA
Land in Ulaanbaatar's new airport. After immigration formalities, meet the local guide and head directly to the famous Mongolian steppes at the northern boundary of the great Gobi desert. Set in the cozy camp, and take a few hours to recuperate from the flight. In the afternoon, visit a nomadic family for the first exposure to Mongolian traditions, which are, to many extents, different than those of the Kazakhs that inhabit western Mongolia, the main focal point of this trip. Late in the evening, set in a ger camp- the cozy yet simple Mongolian version of a lodge, consisting of traditional felt-made dwellings the nomads of Central Asia often refer to as yurt.
DAY 2. 16 SEPTEMBER 2023. FLIGHT TO ULGII FOR FIRST DAY OF EAGLE FESTIVAL
After breakfast, drive back to the airport for the flight to Mongolia's western-most province of Bayan Ulgii, primarily inhabited by Kazakh people. The Kazakh have brought their rich cultural heritage, music, handicrafts, and the ancient tradition of Hunting with Golden Eagles from their homeland. Once landed in Ulgii, take the one hour's drive to the small village of Sagsai to attend the first day of the Golden Eagle Festival. About 30 eagle-trainers will gather to show their skills and their eagle's abilities. The festival begins with the hunters showing off their traditional Kazakh dress and their eagle's ornaments. Then the games begin! The competitions consist of different events highlighting the special bond between the massive bird of prey and the trainer that snatched it off its nest when it was only a few weeks old, but since was raised as it was a true part of the family. Spend the day watching the eagles as they are being sent off a sheer cliff to identify their master and land on his hand, or as they dive onto a carcass of a rabbit with stamina and precision. On day's end, drive back to Ulgii, the provincial capital, for a night in a local hotel.
DAY 3. 17 SEPTEMBER 2023. SECOND DAY OF THE GOLDEN EAGLE FESTIVAL
The Golden Eagle Festival is not just about Eagles and trainers but also celebrating the rich heritage of the Kazakhs. The Muslim Kazakhs have migrated from their motherland, Kazakhstan, at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, fleeing the purges of the Soviets. Further, away from the watching eye of Moscow, they managed to secretly preserve here their traditions which were banned during the communist era, when the central government has been trying to erase national identity and create one Soviet nation adhering only to the communist manifest while neglecting national customs and practices.
The second day of the festival would feature some more of the eagle-trainer feats and a game of Kokpa, a stunning display of power and horsemanship. Spend the day watching the shows and competitions while mingling with eagle trainers and common Kazakhs, to enjoy their warm-hearted hospitality before reverting to Ulgii for a second night in the local hotel.
DAY 4. 18 SEPTEMBER 2023. MEETING WITH KAZAKHS UP-CLOSE
Leave the provincial capital and travel towards the Khovd River by Ulaanhus village. In the early afternoon, arrive at the home of one of the province's most renowned eagle-trainers. After a traditional cup of tea, engage in a conversation with the trainer to hear from him about the hundreds of years old tradition of training and hunting with golden eagles. If time permits, take an afternoon hike along the river to watch the trees as they stand in full autumn colors. Back in the trainers' home, enjoy a traditional Kazakh dinner before settling for the night's sleep at the family's home.
(Note: accommodation for the coming two nights would be as basic as it gets. The family might, or might not, offer their beds. Sleeping might be on a mattress on the floor, very basic toilets are located outside, and a shower is not an option. However, this is a highly authentic experience, well worth the compromises and hurdles involved.)
DAY 5. 19 SEPTEMBER 2023. HUNTING WITH EAGLES
Today ride with the trainer and his eagle to a mountain nearby to join them on a hunting practice session. This is a unique opportunity for an up-close exposure to the secrets of eagle training while enjoying the majestic landscapes of this remote location. After the training session and some unique photo-ops, travel back to the host family's home for another afternoon of Kazakh culture, tasty food, and fantastic hospitality.
DAY 6. 20 SEPTEMBER 2023. BACK TO ULGII
After the last breakfast with the family, say farewell to the generous hosts and drive to the center of Ulaanhus to see the life in this remote administrative center. If possible, pause by the local school, and visit the mosque serving the nomads inhabiting the surrounding area. In the afternoon, drive back to the provincial capital, and climb atop the Friendship Hill for a view over town with the mighty Altai mountain range at its backdrop. In the evening, take to the central square where city dwellers gather at the end of the day for a friendly football game, share an ice cream or just enjoy some time in leisure. Then head to the hotel for the last night in western Mongolia.
DAY 7. 21 SEPTEMBER 2023. FLY BACK TO ULAANBAATAR
Take the first available flight back to Ulaanbaatar. Once in the Mongolian capital, head to the city center, where modern high-rises are quickly built amid soviet-era blocks. Check in at the hotel and take a tour of the city. Begin with the National History Museum, which holds a permanent exhibition on the different civilizations that have inhabited the territory of Mongolia from prehistoric times to the present. This exhibition includes a significant display of objects from the era of the Great Mongol Empire. Then take a walk through the central square. Right at the heart of the square, see the figure of D. Sukhbaatar, one of the heroes of the communist revolution of the 1920s, boldly raising his arm towards the statue of Chinggis Khan, the nation's forefather whose name was not allowed to be mentioned during the 70-year communist reign. In a very apt fashion, the square is surrounded by buildings of distinctively different architectural styles. Some are clear evidence of the city’s socialist past, while others serve as a striking testimony to the country’s path to development. After touring the square and its surroundings, head to the hotel for the night.
Day 8. 22 SEPTEMBER 2023. IN ULAANBAATAR
From the hotel, take to Gandan Buddhist Monastery, the center for Mongolian Buddhism, and home to the 26.5 meters (85 feet) Janraisig statue of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. If lucky, attend the morning prayers ceremony. After exploring the vast compound, drive to the Black Market, which draws its name not from the trade in stolen goods but due to the fact that in the old times, it was where anti-revolutionary goods such as jeans, chewing gums, and even bootlegs of the Beatles were illegally traded. Next, visit the newly opened museum dedicated to the life of Chinggis Khan, the vast empire he established, and the legacy he has left behind – the founding ethos of the Mongolian people. From here, it is a short walk to the drama theater to attend an impressive folk concert featuring some traditional Mongolian art forms. After a farewell dinner, head back to the hotel for the last night in Mongolia.
DAY 9. 23 SEPTEMBER 2023. DEPARTURE FROM ULAANBAATAR
After breakfast at the hotel, drive to Chinggis Khan International Airport for the departing flight out of Mongolia.
Dates & Pricing
15th September, 2023–23rd September, 2023
- $1,710 Per Person (For a group of 6 or more)
- $377 Single Room Supplement
The Golden Eagle Festival tour rates are quoted in US Dollars
Trips@Asia reserves the right to change the Golden Eagle Festival tour prices and programs due to changes in flight schedule, changes in airfares, and other local circumstances.
Prices are quoted in US dollars and based on twin share occupancy.
Rates for private groups of 2 travelers and above:
2 travelers- US$2,773/ person
4 travelers- US$2,137/ person
- 2 Domestic flights: Ulaanbaatar/Ulgii/Ulaanbaatar
- Accommodation as per program
- Meals as per program (full board basis)
- Local English speaking guide
- Private 4WD vehicle
- Golden Eagle Festival entrance fee
- Drinking water
- All transfers
- International travel to and from Mongolia
- Mongolian visa
- Travel insurance
- PCR/COVID tests, or any tests that might be required for international or domestic travel
- Expenses that might incur due to the results of COVID tests before, during or after the tour
- Excess luggage
- Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, communication etc.)
- Anything not clearly mentioned in the program
- Ulaanbaatar: Chinggis Khan Hotel 4-star
Note: Accommodation throughout this trip is as basic as it gets. The local hotel in Ulgii (the best available in town) may provide rooms and services of all degrees, and one should not expect anything other than a roof above their head, and very likely- a running toilet and shower. Whilst staying with the eagle trainer's family, no toilets and/or shower facilities will be available. Please do bear in mind this is a trip to Mongolia's most remote region, where tourism related infrastructure is literally non-existent.