- 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.
Why should I join this group tour to Mongolia?
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.
Western Mongolia and The Altai Mountains
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. Camera traps have been set around this area which you will have the opportunity to check.
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.
What wildlife will I see on this group tour to 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).
What is the accommodation like in Mongolia?
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.
How fit do I need to be?
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.
What is the food like in Mongolia?
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!).
Is June the best time to travel to Mongolia?
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.
For a detailed itinerary or to book your place on this tour, please contact us.