Expert-Led Group Tour

Mongolia Group Tour - Mongolian Altai Adventure

Departing 13th - 25th June 2020

13 days

from £5,995pp
  • Camp in luxury ger tents amidst breath-taking panoramic landscapes
  • Search for snow leopard, wolverine, argali sheep, ibex and a wealth of raptors
  • Explore lush pastures, vast plains, snow-capped peaks, colossal lakes and sprawling sand dunes
  • Spend time with local nomadic families learning about their way of life and culture

There has been little change on the Mongolian steppe since the time of Genghis Khan. Life is as tough and uncompromising today as it was a thousand years ago, and the landscape is still untamed and beautifully austere. Even by Mongolian standards, the Altai region is remote and wild. Located in the far west of Mongolia, the area borders China and Russia and is less than 50 kilometres from the border of Kazakhstan.

This trip gives a fascinating insight into both Kazakh and Mongolian culture, spending time in the Kazakh enclaves of Hokh Serkhiin Nuruu, Chigertei and Khovd combined with a spectacular journey into and across the Great Lakes Basin to Dorgon Nuur. The western frontier of Mongolia has little infrastructure which is what makes it such a rewarding place to visit.


This trip is for anybody with a love of wild, uncomplicated, big-sky places where people and wildlife live side by side. It is also for anybody with a yearning to understand the nomadic lifestyle and gain insight into a way of life that is, sadly, under threat.


Leaving the buzz of the city behind, fly west towards the endless vistas of the Altai. On arrival travel overland to Hokh Serkhiin Nuruu National Park. To gain access into this area you will enter deep into the mountains through the Ikh Yamat and Bag Yamat Valleys, great glacial troughs carved by now-vanished ice.  Here you will be in the heart of snow leopard territory and home also to Siberian ibex, golden eagles, lammergeiers and saker falcons. Meet with key conservationists to learn about the conservation work being done in this area. Under the auspices of the Altai Research and Conservation Institute, snow leopards and argali sheep have been collared in Hokh Serkhiin Nuruu and the neighbouring protected area of Chigertei. You will have the opportunity to check the camera traps that have been set around this area.

Explore the Chigertei Valley, that runs towards the main Altai ridge and the Chinese border. We have found a tranquil and bucolic setting for your camp, overlooking summer pastures used by the local Kazakh nomads to graze their livestock, under the shadows of the imperious Altai mountain ranges. The Kazakh people are a Sunni Muslim culture, retaining traditional ways here that reflect their long alliance with the Altai mountain environment. In Chigertei, you will visit a Kazakh family in their yurt and meet with a Kazakh eagle hunter who maintains a hunting partnership with a magnificent golden eagle to hunt corsac fox and other prey. To explore further, there may be the opportunity to ride horses around Chigertei. Look out for ancient deer-stones – Bronze Age megaliths carved with auspicious symbols - dotted around the plains.

While Chigertei is pastures, narrow valleys and snow-capped peaks, the area around Dorgon is vast open plains, colossal lakes and sand dunes. There will, of course, be time spent meeting with the local Khalkh Mongol people in this area whose livestock of Bactrian camels are dotted around this extraordinary landscape. Our camp will be set up close to Mongolia’s most extensive dune system that runs all the way up to the shore of Dorgon Lake. To stand on top of the dunes, looking across the vast blue lake with the mighty snow-capped Jargalant Khaikhan mountains on the far shore is one of the most remarkable and iconic views in the whole of Mongolia.


You will explore a diverse range of regions by 4x4 and on foot, looking for argali sheep, ibex, snow leopards, wolverines and birds of prey. Steppes has recently donated $1,800 to the Altai Institute to fund the collaring of a snow leopard in the Chigertei Valley in October 2018. The Executive Director of the institute, Dr Barry Rosenbaum is responsible for the collaring exercise and will be available to meet with the Steppes group in the field.

The arid Dorgon plains are seemingly endless and home to the endangered saiga antelope and the Mongolian gazelle. The enormous Dorgon Lake and Khar Us Nuur (lake) offers sanctuary to a myriad wading birds, waterfowl, terns and gulls (including the rare relict gull).


With hotel options minimal, our Mongolia group tour offers accommodation in mobile gers (yurts). We have recced the area and have found three exceptional locations in which to locate our camps. Expect to be cut off from the rest of the world, surrounded only by space, blue skies and breath-taking landscapes. Being remote will not mean being without comfort, however, as our camps have modern amenities and good, wholesome food with a view each morning to rival anywhere in the world. There is no wi-fi, and thus no risk of distraction from the view and the blissful serenity.

For your three nights in Ulaanbaatar, you will stay in a centrally located local 4* hotel.


Moderate levels of fitness should be fine, with the ability to cope with long days travelling and uneven terrain. Any walking undertaken will be short walks at a slow pace with plenty of stops to rest and take in the surroundings. This trip is very much about being in the place and experiencing what is around you. Whilst none of the treks are mandatory, exploring on foot is one of the best ways to get the most out of your time in Mongolia. Travelling in Mongolia does require a robust constitution; even in June, the weather can change quickly, from glorious sunshine to snowstorm so an ability to adapt and cope with the unexpected is a must.


Mongolia is not a gastronomic destination and the staple cuisine is largely based around meat and milk with limited availability of vegetables or spices for local people. As a western traveller in Mongolia, you will be served a good range of western foods often including noodles, rice and pasta plus imported vegetables and fruit. The same chef will cook at each camp so he or she will be able to accommodate any dietary requirements you may have.

Local delicacies that are certainly worth trying include mutton dumplings, noodle soups and the local tipple known as airag which is fermented mare's milk (an acquired taste!).


The season for travel to Mongolia is very short with reliable weather from mid-June through to September. During June the climate should be warm and dry, possibly with some thunderstorms. At this time of the year, there will still be snow on the high peaks, so the landscape is very photogenic. By the end of June, the local nomadic people should have set up their summer camps making for great encounters. 

Departing on:
  • 13th June 2020

For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.

STARTFINISHPrice Excluding Flights £Flight cost fromSingle SupplementTour ExpertStatus 
13th Jun 2020 25th Jun 2020 £ 5,995 £ 725 £ 1,925 Jonathan Stacey Available
  Click here to see what is included/excluded

what is included

  • 12 nights accommodation
  • Accompanied by Jonathan Stacey throughout
  • All transfers and transportation throughout
  • Domestic flights
  • Entrance fees to all sites and National Parks
  • Lunches and dinners as per the itinerary
  • Services of a local guide throughout
  • Seven nights camping in a mobile 360 camp on a full board basis including drinks

what is excluded

  • Beverages with meals except at 360 camps
  • Gratuities for local guides, drivers and porters
  • International flights
  • Meals as detailed on day one, 11 and 12
  • Visas


Itinerary at a glance

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Day 1

Afternoon Sightseeing
After settling into your accommodation meet your guide for some gentle sightseeing of the city. Walk to the National Museum of Mongolia for a journey through Mongolian history, from the Neolithic era to the present day. Offering a wonderful overview of Mongolian culture, the museum is home to a range of exhibits from the Stone Age as well as a wonderful collection of costumes and jewellery.

Also visit the Choijin Lama Temple. Built in the early 20th century, this beautiful complex is situated in the centre of the city and is now a museum housing a fine collection of art and religious relics, including tsam masks and thangka paintings.

The capital and largest city by some distance, Ulaanbaatar has changed drastically since the turn of the millennium. Construction has boomed and as a consequence the face of the city has changed.

Despite this, more than half of residents still live in traditional gers, showing that nomadic culture remains well-entrenched within this modern city.

Founded by nomadic Buddhist monks, Ulaanbaatar didn't settle in a permanent location until the 18th century. It then took until the 20th century for the city to really develop, fuelled by its industrial growth.

No meals are included today.

You will be staying at Bayangol Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 2

Fly Ulaanbaatar to Ulgii

Drive from Ulgii to Deluun (Road Journey)

Upon arrival into Ulgii, which is one hour ahead of Ulaanbaatar, travel overland to Deluun, a journey of approximately four to five hours with stops. Deluun is a Kazakh village surrounded by the beautiful scenery of Doroo and Tolbo Lakes and Tolbo Lakes with the magnificent Sayriin Uul Mountains as the backdrop.

Travel around 35 minutes from Deluun to your camp.

Conservation Briefing
At camp, meet with the director and head ranger of this protected area who will give a briefing on recent conservatian initiatives.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

You will be staying at 360 Wilderness Ger Camp, full board and house beverages

Day 3

Ikh Yamaat Valley
This morning venture on foot into the Ikh Yamaat (Big Goat) Valley, where with luck we will see Siberian ibex and possibly argali sheep, the largest wild sheep in the world. Both are common prey for snow leopards, known to frequently visit this valley which extends deep into the heart of the mountain range. The Altai Research Institute, under the supervision of Dr Barry Rosenbaum, have conducted holistic wildlife research here for a decade and further collaring of snow leopards as well as ibex and wolverines are planned.

Today you will meet with one of the famous Kazakh eagle hunters of the area. Hunting season is October - November, at which time there are several eagle festivals in western Mongolia. Despite being out of season, the opportunity to meet a proud, Kazakh eagle hunter with his trusted golden eagle on his arm is a memorable encounter.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

You will be staying at 360 Wilderness Ger Camp, full board and house beverages

Day 4

Bag Yamaat Valley
This morning we will embark on a walk in the Bag Yamaat Valley, an elevated glacial gorge cutting into the southern Hokh Serkhiin Nuruu mountains and known for its golden eagles, huge lammergeiers (or bearded vulture) and Altai saker falcons. Venturing into this valley also gives an opportunity to explore more core snow leopard habitat.

Travel to Chigertei Protected Area

This afternoon your camp will move location to the Chigertei Valley towards the border with China and the main ridge of the Altai Mountains. The drive will take around two hours travelling upstream, following the Buyant and Chigertei Rivers until we reach Chigertei Lake.

Chigertei Protected Area
Your new camp will be located amidst the summer pastures of local Kazakh nomads who will be busy herding their sheep and goats. The Kazakh people here are Sunni Muslims and retain their traditional culture as nomadic pastoralist's. Among them are prominent eagle hunters, who hunt corsac fox and other prey with their eagles during the winter season and participate in various eagle festivals held in spring and autumn in Bayan-Ulgii.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

You will be staying at 360 Wilderness Ger Camp, full board and house beverages

Day 5

Activities in Chigertei Protected Area
The next two days will be spent exploring this remote part of the world. Chigertei National Park borders the Keke Tuo Hai National Park on the western side of the Altai Divide in China. While in Chigertei, it is possible to check the camera traps set throughout the area for researching the range and activities of wolverine by the Wolverine Foundation, in collaboration with the Altai Institute. Such camera traps also capture images of red deer, Siberian roe-deer, livestock, ptarmigan, wolves, pine marten, snow leopard and the enigmatic pallas's cats. Horses will be available for both days for those guests wishing to ride to more remote parts of the National Park, including some amazing lakes bordering China.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

You will be staying at 360 Wilderness Ger Camp, full board and house beverages

Day 6

You will be staying at 360 Wilderness Ger Camp, full board and house beverages

Day 7

Drive from Chigertei to Khovd (Road Journey)

Today we will pack up camp and head back to the town of Khovd, a journey which will take over five hours. If river levels permit, you will drive the southern route around the Hokh Serkhiin Nuruu and through the Buyant River Canyon. Carving its way through a maze of ranges and canyons it emerges into the Great Lakes Basin, east of the Altai ranges. Some amazing archaeology from Scythian times will be seen.

Khovd is a multi-ethnic town, with several west Mongol ethnic groups and Kazakhs living here. This diversity is seen in the range of Buddhist temples and mosques in the town. The town of Khovd existed during Manchurian times but today is renowned for its university and iconic statue of a three and a half metre riding boot in the middle of town.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

You will be staying at Steppe Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 8

Travel Overland to Dorgon Lake

After breakfast, we will depart Khovd and traverse the northern shore of the Khar Us Nuur National Park, visiting Dorgon Lake with its extensive wetlands and amazing abundance of water birds. Beyond the lake you emerge onto the vast Mongol Els (dune-sea) and the Dorgon plains, a large flat expanse of arid Gobi steppe. The plains are home to the critically endangered saiga antelope, a Pleistocene relic. Throughout western Mongolia you will see cairns dotted across the landscape. These are known locally as 'Ovoo' and are altars or shrines, each with its own spiritual significance which are venerated by the local people. On arrival at the lake you have the chance to see one of these cairns and should you wish, take a dip in the cool waters to wash away the dust.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

You will be staying at 360 Wilderness Ger Camp, full board and house beverages

Day 9

Dorgon Lake and Mongol Sands
In the distance across the calm blue surface of the lake are the snow-capped Jargalant Hairkhan Mountains and our back-drop is the longest sand dune in Mongolia, emptying itself into Dorgon Lake. Sandy beaches, and domestic Bactrian camels add to the spectacular panoramic scene.

The lake is home to fish such as Altai osman and graylings with two thirds of the fish species being endemic. A diverse range of wildfowl also frequents the lake such as the ruddy shelduck, Mongolian gulls, great pallas's gulls and perhaps the rare relict gull. There is also the possibility of rare Dalmatian pelicans, one of the largest of flying birds as well as white-tailed eagles. Large congregations of pallas's sandgrouse sometimes descend here to drink and soak their feathers so as to carry water back to their young.

We will take time to meet with local people, the majority of whom are from the Halkh Mongol ethnic group and are quite different to the Kazakhs met previously.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

You will be staying at 360 Wilderness Ger Camp, full board and house beverages

Day 10

Travel overland from Dorgon Lake to Khovd

Today we will return to Khovd via the village of Chandmani, famous for its claim of being the place of origin of throat singing (hoomii). There will also be more opportunities to spot saiga antelope as well as goitred gazelle.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

You will be staying at Steppe Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 11

Fly Khovd to Ulaanbaatar

Day in Ulaanbaatar
Mongolian domestic flights are notoriously unreliable, with only two aircrafts servicing the whole country. As such we have factored in an extra day in Ulaanbaatar, as a buffer day, to allow for any unexpected delays or changes in schedule. This extra day will also allow you time to explore the city a little more.

Breakfast and lunch included

You will be staying at Bayangol Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 12

Day at leisure.

Breakfast and farewell dinner included

You will be staying at Bayangol Hotel, bed and breakfast

Day 13

Breakfast included

Destination Experts

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Clare Higginson, Travel Expert

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Paul Craven, Travel Expert

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For a more detailed itinerary with great ideas on what to do and where to stay, please get in touch with our experts.

Tour Leader

Jonathan Stacey

Jonathan Stacey
Jonathan Stacey is an ecologist who has been working in the fields of biodiversity conservation and ecotourism for over 30 years, with wide-ranging experience in Asia, Africa, Latin and North America, Australasia and Europe. In recent years he has worked extensively across Mongolia, with local communities, in environmental conservation, ecological restoration and wildlife management. In ecotourism, he has both guided itineraries in many different countries but also helped local communities develop their ecotourism livelihoods. He is a passionate raptor biologist, studying eagles worldwide, and in particular golden eagles, for which Mongolia is renowned. He is currently a member of the Altai Research and Conservation Institute which is developing community-based sustainable livelihoods based on the outstanding biodiversity of the Altai mountains and deserts of western and southern Mongolia. His current home-base is in North Wales, but he is a true nomad, and calls many places in southern Africa, North America and Asia home!
Enquire about this Expert Led tour:

Group Size:

Min 6 / Max 10

Tour Expert:

Jonathan Stacey

Departure Date (S):

  • 13th June 2020

  • Moderate Activity - The tour may occasionally involve slightly longer walks, but nothing over 4 hours. The tour will involve visits to a variety of sites throughout the duration of the itinerary and be at a moderate pace.

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