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Palaeontology in the Gobi Desert with New Scientist

Start date End date Days
Prices from
Single Supplement Tour Expert Group Size Status
27/08/22 10/09/22 15 days £6,495 ex. flights £625 John Pickrell 12 Max AVAILABLE Reserve place

Key Highlights of this Itinerary

Dunes, Gobi Desert, Mongolia 1

Epic Landscapes

Experience the starkly beautiful and incredibly peaceful desert landscapes of the Gobi

Close up of ammonite fossils. 2

Fossil Prospecting

Join expert palaeontologists prospecting and researching dinosaur remains dating back millions of years

Ger tent at night with the Milky Way above 3

Ger Accommodation

Overnight stay in a traditional ger and marvel at the incredible night skies

Stormy skies over Flaming Cliffs, Gobi Desert, Mongolia 4

Flaming Cliffs

Explore the Flaming Cliffs, site of the first dinosaur eggs to be discovered

Why we like it

By inviting professionals and experts from the Mongolian Institute on this expedition, we are helping them to access these remote sites and supporting their work. Whilst they will ensure you have a wonderful and enlightening experience hunting for remains, they will also be undertaking fieldwork themselves. With no more than 12 guests on this tour, you will have privileged access to the knowledge and expertise of your leader, guides and experts. Approximately eight weeks after your adventure you will be issued with a final trip report from the institute.

Explore our suggested itinerary

  • Day 1


  • Day 2


  • Day 3

    Ulaanbaatar - Gobi Desert

  • Days 4-5

    Gobi Desert (Nemegt Mountains)

  • Days 6-7

    Gobi Desert (Altan Ula)

  • Days 8-9

    Gobi Desert (Bugin Tsav)

  • Days 10-11

    Gobi Desert (Horgoryn Sand Dunes)

  • Day 12

    Gobi Desert (Flaming Cliffs)

  • Day 13

    Gobi Desert - Ulaanbaatar

  • Day 14


  • Day 15


Day 1


Gers in Ulaanbaatar

On arrival transfer to your hotel. This evening meet the rest of the group and tour leader John Pickrell for a welcome dinner.

Day 2


Row of buddhist prayer wheels in Gandan Monastery, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

See monks in service at Gandan Monastery, considered the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia, explore the National History Museum for an excellent overview of Mongolia’s history and culture, plus the Bogd Khan Winter Palace Museum, home of Mongolia’s last Buddhist leader. View a temporary field museum of Palaeontology before a visit to the Paleontological Laboratory of Mongolia for a hands on experience about how the institution runs and carries out its research.

Day 3

Ulaanbaatar - Gobi Desert

Desert view, Bactrian camel in foreground with rolling dunes behind, Mongolia

Fly over a vast steppe to Dalanzadagad, gateway to the Gobi Desert and comprised of mountains, sand dunes and fossil beds.
On arrival, transfer to a ger camp at the Hongoryn Els sand dunes, the largest dunes in the Gobi Desert and meet accompanying palaeontologists from the Mongolian Institute with whom you will spend the next eight days.

Days 4-5

Gobi Desert (Nemegt Mountains)

Full frame of pale rolling sand dunes with distant horses crossing in Mongolia

Drive west through the Gobi’s vast basins and plains to the Nemegt Basins to spend two days prospecting for trails of newly exposed fossils among the red cliffs.

Days 6-7

Gobi Desert (Altan Ula)

Landscape, Mongolia

Drive a short distance to set up camp for the next few days at another of Gobi’s vast and rich fossil beds, where some of the best large carnivorous dinosaur discoveries have recently been made. Take daily prospecting walks and participate in the removal of any promising looking finds – this can sometimes take hours, depending on the size of the unearthing. Spend evenings around the campfire or reviewing the days treasures.

Days 8-9

Gobi Desert (Bugin Tsav)

4x4 on road in the desert mountain of the Mongolia

Today, move to a more remote area of the Gobi, known as Bugiin Tsav to spend the next two days prospecting for fossils, under the guidance of your  palaeontologist. Recent Japanese and Russian joint expeditions have been working here.

Days 10-11

Gobi Desert (Horgoryn Sand Dunes)

Sand dune, Gobi Desert, Khongol Sands

Return to the central part of the Gobi, reaching Hongoryn Els sand dunes later in the afternoon. Dinner and overnight in gers or log cabins.

Day 12

Gobi Desert (Flaming Cliffs)

A close up of fossilised dinosaur eggs

Travel overland to a ger camp close to the Flaming Cliffs stopping to visit a petroglyph site enroute. Arrive late afternoon and explore the cliffs, site of the first dinosaur eggs that the world had ever seen nearly a 100 years ago. Enjoy a sunset dinner before returning to the ger camp.

Day 13

Gobi Desert - Ulaanbaatar

Evening view from Chinggis Square towards government palace which is lit in the early evening light

Drive to Dalanzadagad for the return flight to Ulaanbaatar. Following lunch, visit the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum, home to one of the best collections of Buddhist art and artefacts in the world. This evening, dine at a local restaurant.

Day 14


Zaisan Memorial, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Spend today at the Institute of Paleontology and Geology with the chance to provide a report on your field works. Later, visit the Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs which contains a stunning cache of recently confiscated fossils, previously smuggled out of the country. This evening, attend a performance featuring traditional Mongolian dancers and hoomi (throat) singers.

Day 15


British Airways plane wing

Traansfer to the airport for your departure flight.

John Pickrell searching for fossils, Gobi Desert, Mongolia
John Pickrell on a fossil dig in the Gobi Desert

Life as an Expedition Member

During your time in the Gobi you will live the life of an expedition member, prospecting for fossils by day and sleeping in well-appointed gers or tents each night. Each day the group will be divided into two and you will spend the day prospecting under the guidance of the guest palaeontologists. Should a specific site yield a lot of interesting finds, the itinerary may be rescheduled to investigate further. Hearty meals will be served each day in a group expedition tent by an expert field-chef.

John Pickrell, Flaming Cliff, Gobi Desert, Mongolia
John Pickrell at the Flaming Cliffs

The Flaming Cliffs

The red stone formations of the Flaming Cliffs are legendary among palaeontologists. They are perhaps best known as the site where American explorer Roy Chapmen Andrews discovered the first nest of dinosaur eggs nearly 100 years ago. Stretching over three kilometres in width, hundreds of dinosaur fossils have been discovered here over the course of the last century. Expeditions from the U.S, Poland, Japan and Russia have worked here during the last 90 years. Each year, rain and wind reveal yet more fossils and every summer, exceptional new discoveries are made.

Group Tour FAQs

Why travel with Steppes Travel and New Scientist to prospect for fossils in Mongolia?

As part of our partnership with New Scientist, we have some amazing special access opportunities on this tour. You will be accompanied throughout by professionals and experts from the Mongolian Institute whose knowledge and experience of these remote excavation sites are second to none. Our tour leader John Pickrell is an award-winning science journalist and one of the world’s top fossil and palaeontology writers – he has accompanied previous tours to these areas. All of these experts will ensure the group has the best chance of some fabulous discoveries and we have kept the group size small to allow all guests the best opportunity to interact with the experts. Your journey of discovery does not end when you return from Mongolia, as the Mongolian Institute will also send you a final trip report a few months later, showing all findings from your trip.

What happens on a typical day?

Each morning after breakfast the group will be divided into two groups and begin prospecting the surrounding valleys under the guidance of the guest palaeontologist. As well as searching for fossils, daily prospecting walks will also allow time to discover local flora and fauna. Snacks will be provided.

Return to the camp for lunch and on some days it might be necessary to wait out the afternoon sun, and return to the hunt once it is cooler.

On at least one of the days, your palaeontologist will ask you to participate in the removal of promising looking finds which can take hours, depending on the size of the find.

Evenings will be spent around the campfire or in the mess tent, discussing and reviewing the days discoveries.

The itinerary may be flexible to fit around conditions, recent finds and anything unearthed during the expedition.

What will the weather be like in September?

Although, we have chosen the most clement time of year to visit, the weather can still fluctuate drastically during any given day. For the most part the climate should be warm and dry, possibly with some thunderstorms. A full suggested packing list will be sent to you prior to departure.

What is the standard of accommodation on this tour?

In Ulaanbaatar you will stay in one of the best 5* hotels in the city.

Once in the desert you will be staying in a mixture of camps. The majority of the Mongolian population live in gers (also known as yurts in other countries). A few steps up from a normal tent, gers have wooden floors, robust wooden supports and thicker walls providing insulation. You can stand up in them and Mongolian gers are well furnished with beds, seats, tables and wood burning stoves. The camp will also have larger communal gers for socialising and eating. Plus of course separate toilets and running hot water.

Other tented camps on the trip are not quite “wilderness camping” but rather more of an expedition style bell tent, supplied with cot beds, sleeping bags, tables and chairs to make a comfortable resting place during the field trips. Multiple toilet tents are provided for male and female guests of the group as well as shower tents. Hot water can be provided upon request for showering each day, although, depending on certain locations, shower water may be rationed to preserve the desert’s precious water supply. Meals are provided in a centrally located ger mess tent, which is turned into a social area by evening, where the day’s findings are discussed.

Is this tour suitable for solo travellers?

Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places does provide security and peace of mind. We handle all of the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of our tour experts.

If you are willing to share, we will always do our best to match you up with another solo traveller of the same sex so that you do not have to pay for a single room.

If you would prefer the privacy of your own room and would like this guaranteed, then the single room price supplement will apply.

Do I need to be physically fit to enjoy this tour?

General overall fitness is required. On many of the days there will be walking on sand and uneven surfaces. There will also be time spent close to the ground when prospecting and digging. You must be comfortable being on foot, wear appropriate clothing, have a reasonable level of fitness and the flexibility to bend close to or sit on the floor whilst digging. The field work isn’t compulsory and the tour guide and palaeontologists will be mindful of peoples ability when setting the pace.

What transport will be used in the desert?

Driving into the Gobi will be by Toyota Land Cruisers and there will be no more than three passengers per car. Outside of the main towns, road conditions can be bumpy and dusty but the experience of travelling in Mongolia will far exceed any discomfort.

Do I need a visa to travel to Mongolia?

British passport holders do need a visa for travel to Mongolia. Proof of travel insurance, as well as your accommodation or itinerary in Mongolia, is needed along with the completed visa application and your passport. Once obtained the visa is valid for up to 30 days within six months from the date of issue. For information about other nationalities please check with us for up to date requirements.

Can I extend my time in Mongolia?

Absolutely. As the window of opportunity to travel in Mongolia is short it makes sense to extend your stay if you are able to. Travel east into the rocky landscapes of Ikh Nart in search of wildlife, north to the shores of Hovsgol Lake or west to grassy plains, refuge of the Przewalski horse. Further west still lie the remote Altai Mountains, domain of the Kazakh Golden Eagle Hunters. It is also relatively easy to cross the border into China.

Speak to one of our Mongolia specialists for more details of possible extensions.

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?


Why a Steppes expert-led group tour

1.Experience Matters

We have been running insightful and groundbreaking group tours since our inception in 1989. We have worked with institutions such as the British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum and run wildlife tours in conjunction with conservation agencies such as Fauna & Flora International, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Orangutan Foundation, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and the Jane Goodall Institute.

2.Size Matters

Our average group size is typically eight to ten people, smaller than other group tours typically offered – a factor which many of our clients appreciate. Travelling as part of a smaller group provides a more intimate, personalised and relaxed atmosphere.

4.It’s about who you know

We have developed an enviable pool of expertise from which to choose our tour experts, who we carefully select based on their knowledge, companionship and personality. Often, these experts can use their influence to facilitate private access to sites not typically open to the public.

3.Like-Minded People

Steppes Travellers are like-minded people – interesting, interested and curious. Our group tours aim to create an easy and informal atmosphere – we have a lot of fun on our tours and many friendships have been formed.

5.Value for money

Our tours are well-priced to ensure you get real value for money. We include gratuities on the majority of our tours and do not pass on currency surcharges. We strive to look after single travellers as well as we can, keeping single supplements to a minimum.

6.Peace of Mind

When you travel on one of our group tours, you will be looked after by our local agents and your tour expert with the back-up of our 24-hour emergency number and duty manager. All our holidays are fully bonded and protected – our ATOL number is ATOL 6495.

Includes / Excludes

Important Information

Activity Level
Moderate Activity
Single Supplement

Travelling on your own? Our group tours are perfect for solo travellers, as travelling as part of an organised group in faraway places provides security and peace of mind. We handle all of the arrangements for you and there will be a local tour guide on hand throughout to provide advice and help if needed, as well as the expertise of a Tour expert.


To allow flexibility, our group tours do not include international flights as standard. We can arrange international flights on your behalf, please get in touch with our travel experts for a quote. All international flights from the UK are ATOL protected.

What is included

  • Accompanied by John Pickrell throughout Mongolia
  • Accommodation (as indicated)
  • Sleeping bags; expedition style tents and mats
  • All meals as per itinerary
  • Internal flights
  • Land transportation by Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps (3 people per vehicle)
  • All entrance fees
  • All guest lecturers and palaeontologists fees
  • Final trip report from the Mongolian Institute of Palaeontology
  • Donation to Steppes Fund for Change projects

What is excluded

  • International flights
  • Visa
  • Travel insurance
  • Drinks with meals
  • Items of a personal nature
  • Meals unless mentioned
  • Early check in or late check out of accommodation

Our future tour dates

For further information about any of these tours please call 01285 880 980

Start date End date Days
Prices from
Single Supplement Tour Expert Group Size Status
27/08/22 10/09/22 15 days £6,495 ex. flights £625 John Pickrell 12 Max AVAILABLE Reserve place

Reserve your place on this group tour

Our travel experts have a wealth of first-hand knowledge, so if you have any questions about this expert-led group tour, please get in touch. They would love to help. We hope you can join us on this tour.

01285 880 980

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