Dukha Tsaatan People Adventure in Taiga Mongolia

Reindeer People Adventure

Mongolian Taiga

  • Overland Tours
  • Summer Tours
13 Days
2 Flights
Not Child Friendly

A thrilling adventure to Mongolian Taiga, where the Dukha people, often dubbed as “the Reindeer People”, graze their herds. Perched above the beautiful Darkhad Valley, and bordering Russian Siberia, this rugged landscape has been the home of the Tsaatan – ‘the people of the reindeer,’ for centuries. The journey consists of overlanding through some of Mongolia’s remotest regions, and horse riding from the depth of the Darkhad Valley to the elevated Taiga to join the Dukha for an up-close encounter with their unique culture and traditions. Stay the nights in their tepees, join them as they take their herds to graze, and enjoy with them traditional meals by the hearth.

Gallery


Itinerary

Day 1. Arrival in Ulaanbaatar

  • Dinner

Land in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital. After immigration formalities, meet the local guide and head to the city center through the outskirts, reflecting the rapid development the city is going through over the last two decades, alongside the country’s transition from socialism into a free market economy. New residential complexes and shining shopping malls are being built amid rusty shanty towns inhabited by those left behind the traditional nomadic lifestyle to pursue a more convenient life as city dwellers. Arrive in the center and check-in the hotel to recuperate from the flight (note: check-in at 14:00. Early check-in is subject to room availability and supplemental fees). In the afternoon, take a first orientation tour of the city, visit the National History Museum, and the city’s main square, surrounded by prominent buildings with typical soviet architecture. End the tour attending a traditional Folk Concert. After a welcome dinner in one of the finest restaurants in town, revert to the hotel for the first night in Mongolia.

Day 2. Flight to Northern Mongolia

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

In the morning hours, drive back to Ulaanbaatar airport, this time for the flight to Murun, the provincial capital of the northern Khovsgol province. Upon arrival in Murun, and after meeting the local team at the airport, embark on the approximately eight hours’ drive from Murun to Ulaan-Uul Soum. If time permits, depending on the domestic flight schedule, stop by Erkhil Lake, where waterfowl pause on their long journey from North-Africa to the nesting grounds in Siberia. A few minutes’ drive from the lake, stop by an ancient burial site. Take a walk amid majestic tombstones, beautifully carved with reindeer motifs, marking the last resting place of bronze age noblemen and warriors. Continue driving, arrive in Ulaan-Uul late in the evening, and set in the very simple lodge at the nature reserve’s headquarters.

Day 3. On horseback to the Reindeer People

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Early in the morning, board the vehicle again, this time for the two-and-a-half hours’ drive to meet the local horsemen and the horses. Here, load the luggage onto pack horses, and embark on the approximately 8-9 hours’ horseback ride from Darkhad Valley to the ridges of Ulaan Taiga. Ride over carpets of flowers along the bank of a beautiful wide river, slowly turning into a narrow stream as the trail takes deeper and higher into the mountains. Late in the afternoon, the course takes out of the thick pine forests and into the arid, tundra-like landscapes to a mountain pass at 2424 meters (7953 ft.) above sea level. From here, it’s another one hour’s ride to the reindeer herders’ camp, where a warm cup of tea and a place to rest from the long ride awaits.

Days 4-5.  With the Reindeer People

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

The Reindeer People refer to themselves as the Dukha people. In Mongolian, they are often mistakenly referred to as the Tsaatan, which implies their occupation and not their ethnicity. Tsaa is Mongolian is a reindeer, and thus, Tsaatan means ‘the people of the reindeer’. The Dukha have been herding their reindeer in these mountains for hundreds of years before political boundaries separated the taiga from Tuva, their native land. Since after the Communist revolution, Tuva is a part of Russia, and the Dukha found themselves roaming across the border, not very welcome on either side of it. It took nearly half a century for the Dukha to become Mongolian citizens and be recognized by the Mongolian government as an ethnic minority with their own unique national heritage.

Spend the coming two days with the Dukha people, experiencing life’s hardships in this barren land. Extend help with the ongoing, seemingly endless, duties involved with the herding and milking of the large herds, and hear from the Dukha about their life at the fringes of 21st century Mongolia.

Day 6. Riding back to the Darkhad Valley

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

This morning mount the horses, say farewell to the generous Dukha hosts, and begin riding over the taiga and back to the thick pine forests. Early in the afternoon, arrive at the place where it is time to dismount the horses and say farewell to the local horsemen. Then board the vehicle for a four to five hours’ drive along beautiful vast lakes to the north of Darkhad Valley to set camp by a beautiful canyon.

Day 7. To Sharag River

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Begin the morning with an easy hike along the beautiful canyon. Then embark on a car ride across the Darkhad Valley towards Sharag River. The Darkhad Valley, with its intertwined network of lakes and rivers, making it one of Mongolia’s most scenic regions, is locked deep in the Khuvsgul Mountain Range, a tributary of the Eastern Sayan Mountains. The valley is named after the Darkhad People. An ethnic Mongol subgroup, the Darkhad, loosely translated as “the sacred ones”, have been traditionally the guards of sacred sites throughout Mongolian history. Secluded for generations deep in the mountains, the Darkhad now quickly assimilates into the general population and thus struggles to keep their ancient traditions and heritages alive. In the afternoon, arrive at Sharag River and camp here by the foot of a beautiful sand dune.

Day 8. Magical mountain spring

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Continue driving through the scenic Darkhad Valley. Make a stop at Renchilumbe, one of the three towns where the Darkhad and some Dukha people reside. After a short pause by the town’s center, continue driving south, stopping from time to time to take in the breathtaking landscapes. If weather permits, enjoy the views of Delgerkhaan, the highest peak of the Khoridol Saridag range, separating Lake Khuvsgul and the Darkhad Valley, rising to 3093 meters (10,148 ft.) above sea level. In the afternoon, arrive at a beautiful location by a hidden mountain spring for the last night of bush camping.

Day 9. To the Blue Pearl

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Today, a long, challenging drive from the Darkhad Valley to the shores of Lake Khuvsgul awaits. Before arriving at the lake, pause by Khatgal, the small town at the southern tip of the lake. Once a bustling trading town with Russia, this sleepy town now sees some rapid development with the advent of tourism in the region. Continue driving, and arrive at the camp by the lake’s shores late in the evening.

Day 10. Hike to Khyasa Viewpoint

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Take a ride to the end of the car road, for a three to four hours’ hike up the towering ridge, to Khyasaa (Mongolian for “sheer cliff”), for a fantastic view over this 136 km (85 mi) long lake. Enjoy a picnic lunch by the lake before driving back to the camp for an afternoon of leisure by the lakeside. Spend a second night in the camp by the lake’s shores.

Day 11. Fly back to Ulaanbaatar, and on to Terelj National Park

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

After early breakfast, drive back to Murun, the provincial capital. Here board a flight to Ulaanbaatar. Upon arrival at Ulaanbaatar’s airport, meet the local driver and embark on the one-and-a-half hours’ drive to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Featuring stunning rock formations and a wide winding river, this is an excellent place for easy beautiful hikes and time in leisure to reflect on the trip’s adventures and experiences. After setting in the camp, take a walk to Ariabal Temple. This relatively new retreat is where Buddhist monks and nuns come for some time to meditate and advance on their path for the much-anticipated Nirvana. At the end of the hike, and after exploring the retreat, revert to the camp for the night.

Day 12. Back to Ulaanbaatar

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

Begin the day with a rather demanding hike to the ridge’s top for a fantastic view over the park and its unique rock formations. Arrive back in the camp around noontime, and after lunch, drive back to Ulaanbaatar. Once back in the city, stop for a walk through Narantuul “Black” Market. The market got its name not for being the setting for trading stolen goods (though this is also likely to occur here), but because it was where young rebellious communists came to secretly look for “capitalist poison”. Here one could secretly find records of the Beatles, Coca Cola, chewing gums, or a pair of jeans. Continue to the hotel for a short while before heading to one of Ulaanbaatar’s best restaurants for a farewell dinner, followed by a climb to Zaisan Hill for a view over the city at night. Then revert to the hotel for last night in Ulaanbaatar.

Day 13. Departure

  • Breakfast

After breakfast, drive back to Chinggis Khan International Airport for the international departing flight out of Mongolia.

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Dates & Pricing


26th August, 2021–7th September, 2021

  • $2,432 Per Person (For a group of 6 or more)
  • $158 Single Room Supplement

Reindeer People Adventure rates are quoted in US Dollars.

[email protected] reserves the right to change the Reindeer People Adventure rates and programs due to changes in flight schedule, changes in airfares, and other local circumstances.

Prices are based on twin share occupancy.

Rates for private groups of 2 travelers and above:
2 travelers- US$3,559/ person
4 travelers- US$2,986/ person


Additional Information


Inclusions
  • Domestic flights to Murun and back
  • 2 nights in a 4-star hotel in Ulaanbaatar
  • 3 nights in a ger camp (tourist camp)
  • 1 night in a simple lodge in Ulaan-Uul
  • 3 nights bush camping
  • 3 nights in Reindeer People's teepee
  • All camping equipment except sleeping bag and mattress
  • Meals as indicated in the program
  • 4WD vehicle
  • Drinking water
  • Local English speaking guide
  • Local support team including pack animals
  • Horse riding as per program
  • All entrance fees

Exclusions
  • International airfare to/from Ulaanbaatar
  • Travel insurance
  • Mongolian Visa
  • Excess luggage
  • Gratuities
  • Expenses of personal nature (food and drinks beyond those provided, laundry, etc.)
  • Anything not mentioned in the program

Accomodation
  • Ulaanbaatar: Chinggis Khan Hotel 4-stars

Note: The listed hotels on Tsaatan/Dukha, Mongolia Reindeer People, Tour are tentative, and shall be confirmed only upon confirmation of the trip.


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