DAY 1, 17 SEP 2020. ARRIVAL IN ULAANBAATAR
Land in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital. After immigration formalities, meet the local guide and head to the city center through the outskirts which in many ways are a reflection of the rapid transition the city is going through over the last two decades, alongside the transition of the country from socialism into a free market economy. New residential buildings and shining shopping malls are being built amid rusty shanty towns, inhabited by those that left behind the traditional nomadic lifestyle in search of more convenient life as city dwellers. Arrive in the center, and check-in the hotel to recuperate from the long journey (note: check-in at 14:00. Early check-in depends on room availability, or supplemental charge). Then take a first orientation tour of the city, visiting the National History Museum, the city’s main square surrounded by prominent buildings with typical soviet architecture to them, and end the day attending a traditional Folk Concert. After a welcome dinner in one of the finest restaurants in town revert to the hotel for first night in Mongolia.
DAY 2, 18 SEP 2020. 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, which is mostly inhabited by Kazakh people. Other ethnic groups also reside in the region, among them Tuvans and Buryats, to name only few. The Kazakh have brought with them their rich cultural heritage, music, handicrafts and the ancient tradition of Hunting with Golden Eagles. 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 displaying their traditional Kazakh dress and their eagle's equipment and 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 few days old, but since was raised it 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. At day’s end drive back to Ulgii, the provincial capital for a night in a very basic hotel.
DAY 3, 19 SEP 2020. SECOND DAY OF THE GOLDEN EAGLE FESTIVAL
The Golden Eagle Festival is not just about Eagles and trainers, but also celebrating the glorious 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 off the watching eye of Moscow, they managed to secretly preserve here their traditions which were banned during communist era, when the central government have 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, but also 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 simple hotel.
DAY 4, 20 SEP 2020. 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 secrets of the hundreds of years old tradition of training and hunting with golden eagles. If time permit, take an afternoon hike along the river to watch the beautiful trees as they stand in full autumn colors. Back in the trainers’ home, enjoy a traditional Kazakh meal before setting 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 shower is not an option. However, this is an extremely authentic experience, well worth the compromises and hurdles involved.)
DAY 5, 21 SEP 2020. HUNTING WITH EAGLES
We leave the provincial capital and travel towards the Khovd River, stopping for lunch on the shores of
DAY 6, 22 SEP 2020. BACK TO ULGII
This morning engage with the rest of the family members, see them as they take their day-to-day chores, and even be invited to extend a hand in these daily tasks. This is also a great opportunity to photograph them up-close. Around noontime 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 area nearby. At 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, visit the local hammam, or public shower, before heading to the hotel for a last night in western Mongolia.
DAY 7, 23 SEP 2020. FLY BACK TO ULAANBAATAR AND DRIVE TO TERELJ NATIONAL PARK
Take the first available flight back to Ulaanbaatar. Once landing, board the vehicle for the one-and-a-half hours’ drive to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Arrive at the park, and pause by the Turtle Rock, a symbol of longevity and wisdom to the Mongolian people. Another short drive would end at the trailhead for a beautiful hike to Ariabal Retreat. This small temple serves local monks and nuns who come here to study and pray away from the big monasteries. After visiting this charming temple, drive to the camp in the park’s vicinity.
Day 8, 24 SEP 2020. HIKE THROUGH TERELJ NATIONAL PARK
In the morning hours take a hike through the park’s beautiful landscapes of rolling hills, vast grasslands, unique rock formations and formidable mountains. Arrive to a beautiful vantage point to take in the mesmerizing view before descending off the mountain. After lunch drive back to Ulaanbaatar, and pause by the Black Market- the city’s largest market. This huge market supplies city dwellers with anything from ger parts, work tools, fresh food produce, and all sorts of clothing, from simple T-shirts to traditional del and leather boots. After a visit to the colorful market, proceed to the city center for some time in leisure to feel the city’s unique vibe before enjoying a farewell dinner. Late in the evening climb to the top of Zaisan Hill for a view over the city at night. Drive to the hotel in Ulaanbaatar for a last night in Mongolia.
DAY 9, 25 SEP 2020. DEPARTURE FROM ULAANBAATAR
After breakfast at the hotel drive to Chinggis Khan International Airport for the departing flight out of Mongolia.
Dates & Pricing
Trip rates valid for two confirmed travelers and above.
Discounted rates for groups of 4 travelers and above:
4 travelers- US$1941/ person
6 travelers- US$1652/ person
8 travelers- US$1637/ person
- Applicable only for travel groups of 4 people or more booking their trip together.
17th September, 2020–25th September, 2020
- $2,289 Per Person (From 2 people)
- $233 Single Room Supplement
- 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
- 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.