Mongolia Photo Tour
From The Gobi Desert to the Golden Eagle Festival September 23 - October 6, 2020
Sign up by August 31, 2019 and save $300.00
(we need a minimum of 7 participants to run this trip)
Every year, over 90 hunter Kazakhs, who train Golden Eagles for hunting, gather around in a valley of the Altai Mountains and celebrate the Golden Eagle Festival. Passed down through generations, the skill of hunting with eagles was only preserved among the Mongolian Kazakh community in Mongolia. Thanks to the festival in the past years, this unique tradition is coming back. This trip is one of the best examples of sustainable tourism supporting the local community.
Our journey begins in the Gobi Desert, a diverse ecosystem of Mongolia where high mountains, dry basins and grasslands all co-exist together. We’ll spend two full days at Gobi’s tallest sand dunes, the magnificent Hongoryn Els for various photo opportunities. Next, we’ll fly over the high mountains to the western most part of Mongolia, to participate in the annual Golden Eagle Festival. For two days, experienced hunters will compete with their eagles to test the eagles’ agility and hunting skills. Enjoy spending private time with hunters for close up interaction with the hunters and their raptor birds.
Wednesday, Sept. 23 Arrival
Upon arrival at the airport, meet your guide and transfer to a centrally located hotel in downtown Ulaanbaatar. Enjoy a welcome dinner in the evening at a fine local restaurant. A trip briefing will be provided (Blue Sky Hotel or similar; D)
Thursday, Sept. 24 Ulaanbaatar/Monastery
In the morning, we will begin the day with a visit to Gandan, Mongolia’s largest Buddhist Monastery. Visit the temple of Megjid Janraisag, where a 60 feet tall Buddha stands. Reconstructed in early 90s, the statue stands as the symbol of Mongolia’s revival of religious freedom after the communist regime that fell over. The temple itself used to be the largest building in Ulaanbaatar early 1900s. Also, visit the main temples where monks chant Buddha’s sutra a daily basis. Next, visit the Winter Palace Museum of 8th Bogd Khan Jabzundamba, consisting of 19th century temples and pagodas with colourful paintings and decorations.
After lunch, drive south to the Manjushri Monastery, originally built in 1733 in dedication of a bodhisattva of wisdom. The temple was one of the largest in the region before its destruction in 1937. Although not much remains today, the main temple is reconstructed and offers interesting Buddhist artcrafts and tools. Nestled in a picturesque mountain valley, it is a testament to the outstanding Buddhist architecture and traditional landscape designing by earlier Mongolian craftsmen. Return back to Ulaanbaatar for dinner and overnight at hotel. (Blue Sky Hotel or similar; B, L, D)
Friday, Sept. 25 Gorkhi Terelj National Park
In the morning, we will drive a short distance to the Gorkhi Terelj National park, located in the Khentii Mountains range. Consisting of granite outcrops and larch forest, Terelj is one of the most beautiful parks located within the vicinity of Ulaanbaatar. Here, we will visit the Ariyabal Meditation temple and have an opportunity to hike in the surrounding area.
En route, we will stop at the large Chinggis Khan Equestrian statue. Drive back to Ulaanbaatar. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at hotel.
(Blue Sky Hotel or similar; B, L, D)
Saturday, Sept. 26 Ulaanbaatar/Gobi Desert
In the morning, begin driving south to the Gobi desert. On this journey, we will witness the northern Mongolian grassland ecosystem gradually transforming to that of the Gobi ecosystem. En route, stop at Mandalgobi town for lunch. We will continue driving and will arrive at our ger camp located at the heart of the Gobi in the evening. Check-in to your ger and enjoy dinner. Overnight in gers. (Approx. 8 hours driving; B, L, D)
Sunday, Sept. 27 Gobi/Hongoryn Els Sand Dunes
After breakfast, we’ll journey to the Hongoryn Els sand dunes, Gobi’s largest dunes. Here, we will enjoy climbing the tallest dune and visit a camel herder family and have the opportunity to ride Bactrian camels. Overnight at a tourist class ger camp. (Approx. 3 hours driving; Ger Camp; B, L, D)
Monday, Sept. 28 Hongoryn Els Sand Dunes
Spend one full day for various photography sessions including for the endemic Saxual tree forest, the incredible landscape and Mongolia’s two humped camels and friendly Mongolian herders. Overnight in gers. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)
Tuesday, Sept. 29 Havtsgait Petroglyphs/Flaming Cliffs
In the morning, we will drive to the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park and visit Havtsgait Petroglyphs site, where hundreds of pre-historic rock drawings are found on a mountain top. Then back to the ger camp for lunch.
In the late afternoon, drive to the Flaming Cliffs, a red cliff stretching about 3 km wide, where hundreds of dinosaur fossils have been found. Paleontological expeditions from many countries, including the U.S, Poland, Japan and Russia have worked here in the last 80 years. Each year rain and wind reveals more fossils and every summer new discoveries are made. We will equip ourselves with brushes and small cleaning materials and look for rare fossils hidden in the cliffs.
Enjoy a sunset dinner at this majestic place before returning back to our ger camp. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)
Wednesday, Sept. 30 Gobi Desert/Ulaanbaatar
In the morning, we will begin driving back to Ulaanbaatar, enjoying a picnic lunch along the way. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. Remainder of the day is independent. Overnight in gers. (Blue Sky Hotel or similar; B, L, D)
Thursday, Oct. 1 Ulaanbaatar/Bayan-Ulgii
In the morning, we will transfer to the airport for our flight to Ulgii, the capital city of Bayan-Ulgii Aimag, home to Kazakhs and many other minority groups (Flight#MO97A UB-Ulgi departing at 1130, arriving in Ulgii at 1330). Though Kazakhs’ pastoral-nomadic lifestyle is similar to that of the Mongolians, these nomads are predominantly Muslim.
In the afternoon, we will transfer to our temporary rustic get camp set up near the festival site. There is an excellent chance to do evening fishing for trout.
In the evening, there will be a chance to do a private photo session with a eagle hunter at our camp site. Overnight in gers. (Rustic Camp; B, L, D)
Friday, Oct. 2 Tolbo Lake/Sagsai River
Early in the morning, we will drive to Tolbo Lake, a crystal clear lake mirroring the peaks of the Altai Mountains. Return back for lunch to the ger camp. In the afternoon, we will drive to Sagsai River, a scenic area where many Kazakhs gers and livestock can be seen. Dinner and overnight in gers. (Rustic Camp; B, L, D)
Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 3-4 The Golden Eagle Festival
For two days, attend the magnificent Golden Eagle Festival. The festival begins with a march of eagle hunters coming into the central field and showcasing their hunter eagles to the public. Eagle skills are then tested by releasing them from a cliff top to time how fast they can land on their owners’ arms when called. Attend also a traditional tug of war game called kukbar, which is competed on horse back. One of the highlights of the festival will be the archery contest by ethnic Uriankhai people, who will compete by traditional Mongolian arrow and bow which have retained the same design and force since the 13th century. In the evenings, enjoy traditional Kazakh meals followed by beautiful Kazakh singers performing for us on the last evening. Overnight in gers. (Rustic ger camp; B, L, D)
Monday, Oct. 5 Ulgii/Ulaanbaatar
In the morning, transfer to the airport for our return flight to Ulaanbaatar. The remainder of the day is at leisure In the evening, enjoy our farewell dinner at a fine local restaurant. (Blue Sky Hotel or similar; B, L, D)
Tuesday, Oct. 6 Departure
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for departure.
B = Breakfast L = Lunch D = Dinner
Optional single supplement: $800 per person
Accommodation in a deluxe room at Blue Sky Hotel or Ramada; deluxe gers and log cabins with en-suite bathroom in the Gobi desert; a rustic style gers in Altai mountains during the Eagle Festival, based on twin/double occupancies;
Round-trip UB-Ulgii flight, based on a economy class;
Land transportation as indicated in the itinerary based on using cruiser jeeps and 4x4 vans in the countryside;
Airport arrival & departure transfers;
All meals indicated as B, L or D;
All entrance fees as indicated in the itinerary;
Eagle Hunter and camel herder model shooting fees provided;
Mongolia Quest’s English speaking guide throughout your stay;
Gratuities for the local staff including drivers and the guide;
One Bottle of water per person per day and unlimited supply of boiled waters.
Prices do not include:
International airfare; personal laundry and drinks not mentioned in the itinerary; travel insurance; medical evacuation costs; excess baggage charges; visa fees; photography and video fees for indoor shooting and any other item not mentioned as included.
Deposit: $1,000 deposit due by August 31, 2019 in order to receive the early deposit discount. We reserve the right to cancel the trip if we don't meet the minimum number of 7 participants, in which case your deposit would be refunded.
Final payment: Final payment due on June 16, 2020
Refund Policy:. We understand that work schedules and plans may change, or unforeseen emergencies do occur. We have established this refund policy to try and fairly accommodate such eventualities. Please realize that once you have registered for the trip, we immediately incur expenses on your behalf. Once you have paid in full for the trip, any cancellation and subsequent refund would come from the travel insurance you purchased. Therefore, travel insurance is mandatory.
Important Date: -Balance due June 16, 2020. We need a minimum of 7 participants to move forward with this trip. If this minimum is not reached by, June 15, 2020 we reserve the right to cancel the workshop and refund any funds paid to date
Travel Insurance is compulsory for this trip. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency evacuation. We strongly recommend that the policy also cover personal liability, trip cancellation, delays, loss of luggage and personal effects. Your policy number, along with an emergency contact number will be required with final payment.
Links to travel insurance companies:
Here is a link to AIG Travel Guard
Itinerary Changes We reserve the right to change the itinerary based upon ideal photo opportunities.