Mongolia

Steppe by Steppe

with BJ & Lauren 

July 16–28, 2020

Mongolia

Steppe by Steppe

with BJ & Lauren

July 16–28, 2020

Flash sale! Save $300 when you register before November 30!

Trip at a Glance

  • July 16–28, 2020
  • Escorted by BJ & Lauren, owners of RetreaTours
  • Enjoy a quintessential local naadam festival
  • Explore the vast grasslands of the Mongolian Steppe
  • Discover the beauty of Khogno Khan National Park & the Mongol Els Sand Dunes
  • Relax in remote Jalman Meadows in the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area
  • Limited to 14 guests
  • Early bird price of $4299 (USD) per person (based on double occupancy; please see Pricing & Inclusions tab below for details)
  • SAVE $300 when you register before November 30! Just $3999!

How to Register

  • Review this entire webpage for details
  • Complete Registration Questions and Contract
  • Submit deposit by check or credit card (via PayPal)

Itinerary at a Glance

 

July 16   Arrival into Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; visit to a local museum to lay some cultural groundwork, for those that wish. Otherwise, the day is yours to rest!

July 17   Visit Gandan Monastery, the center of Mongolian Buddhism, as well as the impressive Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue on the way to our first home base: Jalman Meadows, in the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park

July 18–19   Our peaceful ger camp at Jalman Meadows offers opportunities for rafting, hiking, horseback riding, sauna-building, birdwatching, or just relaxing in the beautiful scenery!

July 20  Let’s head back to Ulaanbaatar for a half-day city tour and an overnight in the city.

July 21–22   We’ll continue west to Khögno Khan National Park and our hidden ecocamp; this is a perfect area for hiking, exploring, and riding Bactrian camels in the Elsen Tasarkhai, part of the Mongol Els Sand Dunes.

July 23   Today we’ll visit Kharkhorin, what was once the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire and home to Erdene Zuu Tibetan Buddhist monastery.

July 24   Onward to the gorgeous Orkhon Valley and our fantastic ger ecocamp on the steppe.

July 25   Today we head back to Ulaanbaatar, and on the way we’ll visit a nomadic family to get an insider look at this traditional style of Mongolian life.

July 26   We’ll have the day to explore Ulaanbaatar’s rich heritage sites, and we’ll enjoy a traditional music and dance performance this evening.

July 27   Experience quintessential Mongolian culture at a traditional Naadam festival which includes horse racing, Bökh Mongolia wrestling, and archery.

July 28   Today we’ll bid farewell to Mongolia & head home–or on to other adventures!

How is this trip different from other journeys to Mongolia?

Transportation

We use smaller vehicles, with only four to five guests per vehicle. Our vehicles have air-conditioning and are actually comfortable!  Many companies use old Russian vans that seat up to ten people and have no A/C (which also means a heck of a lot of dust coming through open windows!)

Accommodation

We use a mix of comfortable hotels and eco ger camps. We only allow 2 people per ger (you and a roommate), while some companies put 6 to 8 people in one ger! Plus, if you choose to have a private ger, that is an option.

Drive times

We’ve selected varied and interesting landscapes without making you spend most of your day in a vehicle. A lot of tour companies have many 9-10 hours days in a Russian van on their itineraries. Our longest drive is about 5 hours in our private, A/C vehicle.

Ulaanbaatar

Khogno Khan National Park

Jalman Meadows

Kharkhorin

Orkhon Valley

A Bit About Mongolia…

 

The Mongolian Empire was arguably one of the most influential, unifying forces that the world has ever seen. Born a child from hardscrabble nomadic beginnings, the great leader Genghis Khan set historic wheels in motion in 1206 CE when he unified all of the warring tribes of the Mongolian Steppe. The fruits of his future conquests resulted in the largest contiguous land empire in history (second only to the British Empire for total land mass), an empire about the size of the African continent and spread widely across Eurasia. By 1279, this 13,000,000 square-mile empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean all the way to the Mediterranean Sea and into Europe. Within this Empire, Genghis Khan spread his astonishingly anachronistic progressive views, including laws establishing religious freedom and diplomatic immunity. He created the first international postal system and history’s largest free trade zone, he lowered taxes (even abolished them for certain professions), and he created a system for dividing the spoils of war fairly among the citizenry.

Although the Empire grew for a short time after Genghis Khan’s death in 1227, by the end of the century the amassed landholdings were split between disputing family members and became their own factions. What is now geographically considered ‘Mongolia’ was ruled by China’s Qing Dynasty from 1691 until 1911, when Mongolia declared its independence. China, however, did not accept this declaration of independence and invaded Mongolia in 1921. 

With the help of the Russian Red Army, Mongolia won its independence from China. However, Mongolia was dominated by the Soviet Communist regime from 1921 until 1990.  The late 1930’s saw a horrific purge of Mongolian society by the Communists, a purge that saw Tibetan Buddhism all but obliterated and over 18,000 monks summarily executed. Government and military leaders, academics, and anyone thought a threat to Communism in Mongolia was murdered. 

The Mongolian Revolution of 1990, inspired by similar revolutions happening in Eastern Europe, led to the peaceful renunciation of Communism, and Mongolia’s first free, multi-party elections were held in July 1990. Today, Tibetan Buddhism is again flourishing and monasteries are being rebuilt. There is also a resurgence of interest in the father of Mongolia, Genghis Khan–an interest that was actively quashed and persecuted for most of the 20th century. 

Mongolia’s modern population of 3.1 million is spread over 604,000 square miles; in other words, Mongolia is twice as big as Texas but with 1/8 the population. About a third of the population is still nomadic, tending to the the country’s some 66.5 million heads of livestock (sheep, goat, cattle, horses, and camels). Traditional sports, played during the time of Genghis Khan, still factor heavily into the culture; the annual Naadam games played every summer include horse racing, archery, and wrestling. Come with us and explore the country’s wide open spaces and find out why Mongolia is truly the “Land of the Eternal Blue Sky.”

 

Recommended Reading

Recommended reading for Mongolia: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

This is a phenomenal book about the Mongolian Empire and its lasting impact on the modern world! Click the image to go to Amazon.

 

Detailed Daily Itinerary

Sain baina uu and welcome to Mongolia, the Land of the Eternal Blue Sky! You’ll be picked up at the airport and driven to our centrally located hotel in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. Most flights arrive in the morning, so after a late morning/early afternoon rest, we can start our adventure slowly with a visit to a local cultural museum. These visuals will help lay the groundwork and build an understanding for the sites you will encounter during this journey! 

On the morning of July 17th we’ll say goodbye to the city and head out to the countryside! Before we leave the city, we’ll pay our respects at Gandan Monastery, the center of Tibetan Buddhism in all of Mongolia. Mongolia has a rich and complicated history with Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhism had first been introduced to the Mongolian steppe in the first millennium CE; in the 13th century, Tibetan Buddhism became the state religion of the Yuan Empire (which was established by Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan). After the collapse of the Mongolian Empire, though, shamanism once again ruled the steppe. However, in the late 1500’s, Mongolian military leader Altan Khan brought Tibetan Buddhism back to Mongolia in a big way. It was Altan Khan, in fact, that created the title of “Dalai Lama” (“Dalai” being Mongolian for “Ocean”). It was the patronage of Mongolia which propelled the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism into political power in Tibet.

Gandan Monastery was one of the few monasteries to escape destruction by the Communists, and it was kept open as a ‘showpiece’ to visiting foreign dignitaries. With the fall of Communism in 1990, Gandan became a fully functional monastery once again. One of the highlights of Gandan is the 87′ (26.5m) statue of Avalokitesvara; this statue of the Buddha of Compassion is said to be the tallest indoor statue in the whole world. 

On our way to Jalman Meadows, we’ll stop at another breathtaking statue–the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue. This 131’ (40m) statue, a silver giant rising out of the steppe, was erected in 2008 to honor the founding father of Mongolia, and there is a small but interesting museum in the statue’s base. 

Finally, we’ll make our way to our hidden gem of an ecocamp: Jalman Meadows. This will be your first experience in a traditional Mongolian ger! Ger is the Mongolian equivalent of the Russian word “yurt.” Gers are portable felt tents, round in shape, and perfectly suited to nomadic life on the steppe and Mongolian climatic conditions. Mongolians have been living in gers for thousands of years, long before the Mongolian Empire was even formed. In fact, early on in Genghis Khan’s military career, he named his first large group of followers “People of the Felt Walls.”

Jalman Meadows is nestled within the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area, one of Mongolia’s true wilderness area that extends all the way up to the Russian-Siberian frontier. This area constitutes the transition zone of steppe and the southernmost reaches of the forests of Siberia. Hence, there are steppe valleys, lush meadows along the Tuul River and extensive larch forests with patches of birch. This will be our home for the next 3 nights and a perfect place to unplug and settle into the rhythms of nomadic life. In fact, there is a nomadic family nearby who can show you how they milk their cows (and horses!) and show you the delicious art of crafting Mongolian dairy products. Did you know that you can distill vodka from yogurt?!

You’ll have plenty of opportunity for rest, exploration, and adventure in Jalman Meadows. Optional activities include hiking, horseback riding, and rafting along the river (half-day or full-day trips, wherein a yak pulls the raft upstream on a cart!) You can even build your own sauna ger at the river’s edge. We’ll come together for homemade meals, and our amazing guide Agiimaa will share stories of Mongolian history and culture. 

On the morning of July 20th, we’ll retrace our steps back to the capital (3-hour drive) and we’ll spend the night in Ulaanbaatar before heading out west tomorrow. We’ll enjoy the afternoon in the city, taking advantage of the wonderful museums downtown. Depending on the interests of the group, we can visit the Mongolian history museum, the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, or even the Dinosaur Museum and its near-complete fossil of a Tarbosaurus bataar, a Mongolian cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

On the 21st, we’ll drive west from Ulaanbaatar toward Khogno Tarna National Park (better known as Khogno Khan, a total of ~4.5 hour drive).  Our ecocamp for the next 2 nights is at the base of Khogno Khan mountain, providing wonderful hiking opportunities to nearby 17th-century monastic ruins. This area is on the border of three provinces and contains the beauty of the steppe, the forest, and the desert.

We can ride the majestic Bactrian camels that are native to Mongolia here in the Mongol Els sand dunes of Elsen Tasarkhai; this area is also called the “Mini-Gobi”  or Bayan Gobi (“Rich Desert”). The Mongol Els Sand Dunes are a perfect place to get a taste of the Gobi desert without spending an extra 25 hours (!) in a vehicle to get to the South Gobi. These two-humped camels are the largest camels on the planet, and in our opinion, they’re also the most beautiful!

On July 23rd we’ll head 2 hours to the city of Kharkhorin. In the 13th century, this site was the home of Karakorum, the first capital of the Mongol Empire, built strategically at an intersection of the Silk Road routes in the area. We’ll visit a fascinating museum here to learn more about this progressive city built by Genghis Khan’s son Ogodei. Home to Christian churches, Muslim mosques, pagan temples, and Buddhist temples, Karakorum was most likely the most religiously open and tolerant city in the world at the time. 

We’ll also visit the nearby monastery complex of Erdene Zuu. The Tibetan Buddhist monastery Erdene Zuu was originally established in 1585, but rebuilt multiple times through the following centuries. The few temples here that survived the Communist purges of the 1930s were converted to a museum; today, it is both a functional monastery and a truly beautiful museum. The grounds, surrounded by 108 stupas along a wall, are home to a Chinese-style temple, a Tibetan-style temple, and a traditional Mongolian ger temple. 

We’ll depart from our hotel on the 24th and head to the breathtaking Orkhon Valley. UNESCO recognizes this valley as being inhabited continuously for the past 62,000 years; borrowing from UNESCO, “The Orkhon Valley clearly demonstrates how a strong and persistent nomadic culture led to the development of extensive trade networks and the creation of large administrative, commercial, military and religious centers. The empires that these urban centers supported undoubtedly influenced societies across Asia and into Europe and in turn absorbed influence from both east and west in a true interchange of human values.” Perched on a picturesque hill, our ecocamp is the perfect place to relax and watch the sun set over the steppe, over the nomads gers and their grazing livestock. 

The next morning we’ll start back to Ulaanbaatar, visiting a nomadic family along the way. We’ll learn more about this traditional Mongolian lifestyle, still followed by more than a third of the population. We’ll learn about the rhythms of nomadic life, following grass and shelter along the steppe year round, and the endless preparations that must be made in the summer to survive the long, cold Mongolian winters. You’ll enjoy the overwhelming kindness of true nomad hospitality, and this may be a perfect opportunity to try some authentic Mongolian dairy products. Perhaps you’ll try the quintessential Mongolian drink, airag–fermented horse milk.

We’ll have this afternoon and tomorrow in Ulaanbaatar to continue our explorations and hit whatever remaining museums tickle our fancy. Don’t forget about shopping, too: Mongolia is absolutely famous for its cashmere. This evening we’ll attend a cultural performance of traditional music and dance at the Mongolian State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet. Get a good night’s sleep tonight because tomorrow is Naadam!

Naadam celebrates the traditional Mongolian games of wrestling, horse racing, and archery. The games of Naadam are listed by UNESCO as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,”  and they were described in 13th-century book The Secret History of the Mongols. The National Naadam is held on July 11, but the smaller, local naadams are typically much more enjoyable since you can comfortably get closer to the action. Naadam must be seen–and the energy must be felt–to be believed! 

The horses races are a cross-country event, with 6-year-old to 13-year-old jockeys (yes, you read that right!) racing horses for 15–30 km (10–18 miles).  Mongolian wrestling is mesmerizing to witness; the first wrestler to touch the ground with any body part other than his hands or feet loses. While the skills are remarkable, the pageantry around the wrestling matches is even more captivating. Mongolia takes its wrestling very seriously–the current Mongolian president was a wrestler! 

On the evening of the 27th, we’ll enjoy our final dinner together in Mongolia, reflecting on all we’ve experienced together in this fascinating country. The tour ends after breakfast tomorrow, but if you’d like to extend your time in Mongolia, we can help!

Sain baina uu and welcome to Mongolia, the Land of the Eternal Blue Sky! You’ll be picked up at the airport and driven to our centrally located hotel in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. Most flights arrive in the morning, so after a late morning/early afternoon rest, we can start our adventure slowly with a visit to a local cultural museum. These visuals will help lay the groundwork and build an understanding for the sites you will encounter during this journey! 

On the morning of July 17th we’ll say goodbye to the city and head out to the countryside! Before we leave the city, we’ll pay our respects at Gandan Monastery, the center of Tibetan Buddhism in all of Mongolia. Mongolia has a rich and complicated history with Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhism had first been introduced to the Mongolian steppe in the first millennium CE; in the 13th century, Tibetan Buddhism became the state religion of the Yuan Empire (which was established by Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan). After the collapse of the Mongolian Empire, though, shamanism once again ruled the steppe. However, in the late 1500’s, Mongolian military leader Altan Khan brought Tibetan Buddhism back to Mongolia in a big way. It was Altan Khan, in fact, that created the office and title of “Dalai Lama” (“Dalai” being Mongolian for “Ocean”). It was the patronage of Mongolia which propelled the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism into political power in Tibet.

Gandan Monastery was one of the few monasteries to escape destruction by the Communists, and it was kept open as a ‘showpiece’ to visiting foreign dignitaries. With the fall of Communism in 1990, Gandan became a fully functional monastery once again. One of the highlights of Gandan is the 87′ (26.5m) statue of Avalokitesvara; this statue of the Buddha of Compassion is said to be the tallest indoor statue in the whole world. 

On our way to Jalman Meadows, we’ll stop at another breathtaking statue–the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue. This 131’ (40m) statue, a silver giant rising out of the steppe, was erected in 2008 to honor the founding father of Mongolia, and there is a small but interesting museum in the statue’s base. 

Finally, we’ll make our way to our hidden gem of an ecocamp: Jalman Meadows. This will be your first experience in a traditional Mongolian ger! Ger is the Mongolian equivalent of the Russian word “yurt.” Gers are portable felt tents, round in shape, and perfectly suited to nomadic life on the steppe and Mongolian climatic conditions. Mongolians have been living in gers for thousands of years, long before the Mongolian Empire was even formed. In fact, early on in Genghis Khan’s military career, he named his first large group of followers “People of the Felt Walls.”

Jalman Meadows is nestled within the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area, one of Mongolia’s true wilderness area that extends all the way up to the Russian-Siberian frontier. This area constitutes the transition zone of steppe and the southernmost reaches of the forests of Siberia. Hence, there are steppe valleys, lush meadows along the Tuul River and extensive larch forests with patches of birch. This will be our home for the next 3 nights and a perfect place to unplug and settle into the rhythms of nomadic life. In fact, there is a nomadic family nearby who can show you how they milk their cows (and horses!) and show you the delicious art of crafting Mongolian dairy products. Did you know that you can distill vodka from yogurt?!

You’ll have plenty of opportunity for rest, exploration, and adventure in Jalman Meadows. Optional activities include hiking, horseback riding, and rafting along the river (half-day or full-day trips, wherein a yak pulls the raft upstream on a cart!) You can even build your own sauna ger at the river’s edge. We’ll come together for homemade meals, and our amazing guide Agiimaa will share stories of Mongolian history and culture. 

On the morning of July 20th, we’ll retrace our steps back to the capital (3-hour drive) and we’ll spend the night in Ulaanbaatar before heading out west tomorrow. We’ll enjoy the afternoon in the city, taking advantage of the wonderful museums downtown. Depending on the interests of the group, we can visit the Mongolian history museum, the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, or even the Dinosaur Museum and its near-complete fossil of a Tarbosaurus bataar, a Mongolian cousin of the Tyrannosaurus rex.

On the 21st, we’ll drive west from Ulaanbaatar toward Khogno Tarna National Park (better known as Khogno Khan, a total of ~4.5 hour drive).  Our ecocamp for the next 2 nights is at the base of Khogno Khan mountain, providing wonderful hiking opportunities to nearby 17th-century monastic ruins. This area is on the border of three provinces and contains the beauty of the steppe, the forest, and the desert.

We can ride the majestic Bactrian camels that are native to Mongolia here in the Mongol Els sand dunes of Elsen Tasarkhai; this area is also called the “Mini-Gobi”  or Bayan Gobi (“Rich Desert”). The Mongol Els Sand Dunes are a perfect place to get a taste of the Gobi desert without spending an extra 25 hours (!) in a vehicle to get to the South Gobi. These two-humped camels are the largest camels on the planet, and in our opinion, they’re also the most beautiful!

On July 23rd we’ll head 2 hours to the city of Kharkhorin. In the 13th century, this site was the home of Karakorum, the first capital of the Mongol Empire, built strategically at an intersection of the Silk Road routes in the area. We’ll visit a fascinating museum here to learn more about this progressive city built by Genghis Khan’s son Ogodei. Home to Christian churches, Muslim mosques, pagan temples, and Buddhist temples, Karakorum was most likely the most religiously open and tolerant city in the world at the time. 

We’ll also visit the nearby monastery complex of Erdene Zuu. The Tibetan Buddhist monastery Erdene Zuu was originally established in 1585, but rebuilt multiple times through the following centuries. The few temples here that survived the Communist purges of the 1930s were converted to a museum; today, it is both a functional monastery and a truly beautiful museum. The grounds, surrounded by 108 stupas along a wall, are home to a Chinese-style temple, a Tibetan-style temple, and a traditional Mongolian ger temple. 

We’ll depart from our hotel on the 24th and head to the breathtaking Orkhon Valley. UNESCO recognizes this valley as being inhabited continuously for the past 62,000 years; borrowing from UNESCO, “The Orkhon Valley clearly demonstrates how a strong and persistent nomadic culture led to the development of extensive trade networks and the creation of large administrative, commercial, military and religious centers. The empires that these urban centers supported undoubtedly influenced societies across Asia and into Europe and in turn absorbed influence from both east and west in a true interchange of human values.” Perched on a picturesque hill, our ecocamp is the perfect place to relax and watch the sun set over the steppe, over the nomads gers and their grazing livestock. 

The next morning we’ll start back to Ulaanbaatar, visiting a nomadic family along the way. We’ll learn more about this traditional Mongolian lifestyle, still followed by more than a third of the population. We’ll learn about the rhythms of nomadic life, following grass and shelter along the steppe year round, and the endless preparations that must be made in the summer to survive the long, cold Mongolian winters. You’ll enjoy the overwhelming kindness of true nomad hospitality, and this may be a perfect opportunity to try some authentic Mongolian dairy products. Perhaps you’ll try the quintessential Mongolian drink, airag–fermented horse milk.

We’ll have this afternoon and tomorrow in Ulaanbaatar to continue our explorations and hit whatever remaining museums tickle our fancy. Don’t forget about shopping, too: Mongolia is absolutely famous for its cashmere. This evening we’ll attend a cultural performance of traditional music and dance at the Mongolian State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet. Get a good night’s sleep tonight because tomorrow is Naadam!

Naadam celebrates the traditional Mongolian games of wrestling, horse racing, and archery. The games of Naadam are listed by UNESCO as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,”  and they were described in 13th-century book The Secret History of the Mongols. The National Naadam is held on July 11, but the smaller, local naadams are typically much more enjoyable since you can comfortably get closer to the action. Naadam must be seen–and the energy must be felt–to be believed! 

The horses races are a cross-country event, with 6-year-old to 13-year-old jockeys (yes, you read that right!) racing horses for 15–30 km (10–18 miles).  Mongolian wrestling is mesmerizing to witness; the first wrestler to touch the ground with any body part other than his hands or feet loses. While the skills are remarkable, the pageantry around the wrestling matches is even more captivating. Mongolia takes its wrestling very seriously–the current Mongolian president was a wrestler! 

On the evening of the 27th, we’ll enjoy our final dinner together in Mongolia, reflecting on all we’ve experienced together in this fascinating country. The tour ends after breakfast tomorrow, but if you’d like to extend your time in Mongolia, we can help!

Please click the title of the desired tab to open it.

Price & What is Included

The early bird price for this journey is $4299 USD per person (double occupancy).   After February 1, 2020, the price increases to $4499.

A $1000 deposit holds your space.  The second installment of $1800 is due by March 1, 2020, and the balance is due by April 20, 2020.  Single supplement ($370) is due along with the last installment. We will email you an invoice (via PayPal) about a week before each due date. 

If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $370 USD and will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this single supplement is necessary). Please note that we cannot guarantee you a roommate for this trip, and if you room alone, you will be responsible for the single supplement.

Price Includes:

  • All transportation within Mongolia in an air-conditioned vehicle, including airport pickup and dropoff
  • All accommodation (a mix of hotels and ger eco-camps)
  • All meals (except 1 lunch and 1 dinner in Ulaanbaatar)
  • All site entrance fees
  • All tips at hotels and restaurants
  • Camel ride in the Mongol Els Sand Dunes
  • Mongolian cultural performance
  • A local naadam festival

Price does not include:

  • International airfare (although will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
  • Travel insurance (required)
  • Alcohol 
  • 1 lunch and 1 dinner in Ulaanbaatar
  • Additional activities at Jalman Meadows, such as rafting and horseback riding
  • Photography fees at sites
  • Tip to local guide and driver (for the driver we recommend between $40-$60 and for the guide we recommend between $50-$100). This is optional, but highly suggested and entirely based on how much you appreciated them and their service.
Payments

Please refer to the Price tab for specific information about price & what is included on your journey.

We accept payments via check and credit or debit card (via PayPal). For our guests outside the U.S., please write [email protected] for the best transfer details, to save you from PayPal’s 2.5 to 4.5% currency conversion fee.

  • Paying by Check: Checks can be made out to RetreaTours and sent to 8821 NW 14 Street, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.
  • Paying by Credit Card, Debit Card, or PayPal balance: You can pay the balance with credit card, debit card, or PayPal balance through the button below. Note that you do not have to pay with your PayPal balance; please click here if you’d like further instruction.

We will email you an invoice (via PayPal) about a week before each due date.

Click here to pay the $1000 deposit by credit card (via PayPal)

Registration Questions & Contract

Please click here to go to complete this journey’s Registration. You will be asked for your passport expiration date; if you will need to renew your passport before this trip, simply fill in your old information and update us when you receive your new passport.

At the end of the form, please press “submit” to finalize your answers. Your spot is not considered reserved until you have completed these questions.

Please click here to download to view and download PDF of the contract for your records. 

FAQ: Visas, Vaccines, Food, Money & more.

 

PASSPORT/VISA

  • What do I need to know about the visa?    

First and foremost, your passport MUST be valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip, and you’ll need two empty pages in the Visas section of your passport (make sure they are in the Visa section, not the Amendment or Endorsement section).  

You will receive a visa upon arrival; there’s nothing you need to do before you arrive to Mongolia. 

 

FOOD

  • Can my dietary needs be accommodated?

It is possible to request vegetarian food for at our ger camps and hotels; vegetarians, though, maybe wish to bring snacks to supplement their diet, in the way of nuts, protein bars, or veg “jerky.”

A typical meal at the camps typically consists of a meat-based protein (mostly chicken and beef, with occasional pork or turkey), a starch (rice or pasta) and vegetables, in addition to a salad and soup starter and usually a dessert. Breakfasts are typically buffet-style and include eggs, fruit, grains, and local dairy products. 

Make no mistake, though: Mongolians loves their meat. Within Mongolia’s traditional nomadic animal husbandry culture, meat and dairy are dietary staples. The growing season is about 100 days, and because of the harsh climate much of the year, it is unsuited to most cultivation. In fact, only 1% of the arable land in Mongolia is actually cultivated with crops!

Wine and beer and, of course, vodka, is available at all of our camps and hotels.

Please include any special dietary allergies or needs on your registration, or reach out to us with any questions you may have before registration. 

  • Can I drink the water?

In a word, No. Although many cities around the world are getting more advanced public water systems, we don’t recommend it.  Not only from a pathogen standpoint, but it’s a different set of bacteria than your body is used to. Why risk an upset stomach if you don’t have to? We recommend drinking only bottled water, and you will want to rinse your toothbrush off in bottled water. If you’d like to bring a reusable bottle and a means of sterilization to save on plastic water bottle consumption, you are more than welcome. Otherwise, we will have access to bottled water at all times.

HEALTH

  • What vaccines do I need?

None are required to enter Mongolia, but we suggest you work with your physician or your area’s travel health expert to decide what options are best for you. You can read the American CDC’s recommendations here and the UK’s NHS recommendations here.

  • What about malaria? 

Malaria is not a risk in Mongolia, but again, we request that you work with your physician or travel doctor when making these choices. Please see our blog about this topic for more information.

  • What are the physical requirements for this trip?

Please see the separate section on this page titled “Suggested Fitness Requirements.”

  • Do I need travel insurance?

Travel insurance is required on this trip; please see the separate “Travel Insurance” toggle on this page.

MONEY

  • How much money should I bring?

All of your meals and transportation are covered, so you just have to gauge how much you want to spend on extras. After registration we’ll we’ll let you know how much some of the optional activities cost. You may also want to shop in Mongolia, famous for its cashmere! 

  • How do I get the local currency?

You can either exchange cash in Mongolia or use a local ATMs. Just make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in Mongolia so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world.

HOTELS

  • What kind of hotels will we be staying at?

Please see the separate “About our Accommodations” toggle on this page.

  • Will I be able to charge my electronics (phone, iPad, etc)?

Yes, just be sure to bring along a Universal Travel Adaptor that can go with you anywhere in the world! Some of ecocamps will not have electricity within the ger, and you will need to charge your devices in the restaurant or lounge ger. We highly recommend bringing a portable battery charger such as this one.

COMMUNICATION

  • How can my family get ahold of me in an emergency?

Before the trip begins we will give you the contact information for our guide and our partner travel office in Ulaanbaatar; in addition, we will give you an American number good for text messages and voicemails (when we have internet access). An international phone plan will work in the cities on major roads, but we will be out of cell signal reach at some of our remote camps.

  • About the Wifi

You will have wifi at our hotels in Ulaanbaatar and Kharkhorin. However, please understand that you will not be connected to the internet during periods of this trip, mostly during our stay at the ecocamps. 

About our Accommodations (Hotels & Ger Camps)

During our time together in Mongolia, we’ll be staying at mix of modern hotels and ger camps.

We’ll be staying in hotels in Ulaanbaatar (5 total nights) and Kharkorin (1 night), complete with ensuite bathroom (with western toilet and hot water), air conditioning, and wifi. 

We are staying at 3 camps composed of gers, which are traditional round, felt Mongolian tents.  These camps have been carefully chosen based on their location, their amenities, and their environmentally-sound practices, and BJ and Lauren have stayed at all of them before.

None of the gers have an attached bathroom, and the toilet can sometimes be 100 to 200 feet from your tent. Two of the gers camps have shower options (1 modern, 1 more traditional), and our one night in Orkhon Valley offers hot towels but no shower facilities. (This is one night between two hotel stays, though.)

It is rare that a ger has one big bed, so couple will mostly sleep in two twin beds within the gers.

The gers are simple but comfortable. However, as they are tents in an ecocamp, it is reasonable to expect a few insects in your ger; don’t worry, nothing dangerous, just a small beetle here or daddy long legs there. 

Please read more about the history of gers here!

Please see the shots below of the exterior and interior of a typical ger camp. 

Suggested Fitness Requirements

We will be driving for several multi-hour stretches times on this trip, so guests should be able to sit in a vehicle for up to 5 hours at a time (although we can stop for bathroom breaks and leg-stretching along the way). However, this itinerary was specifically created to reduce the amount of time spent in vehicles.

This isn’t a very rigorous journey, although there are physical activities you can add on: horseback riding, rafting, and hiking, as well as camel riding. All physical activities are optional, and we’ll let you know what to expect before each activity!

Travel Insurance

If you are traveling with RetreaTours, we require that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation. 

We suggest trip cancellation insurance, as well, as you never know what obstacles life can toss at you leading up to a trip. However, we do not require this coverage, we only suggest it highly.

Below you will find some options to look into, if this is a new world to you. However, we ask that you carefully consider your choice in travel insurance. What works for some people may not work for others, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions. Please do take the time to consider the best policy for your individual needs.

World Nomads provides medical coverage for guests under 70 that includes trip cancellation, as well. You can use the box on this page to get a quote and see coverage.

InsureMyTrip.com is a good place to see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like.

It may also be a good idea to check with your credit card companies, especially American Express, to see if they offer any medical coverage for travel.

About your International Flights

We are more than happy to recommend international flights, but ultimately you will make the purchase yourself. Here is some important information if you would like to research flights yourself:

When must I arrive in Ulaanbaatar / where will I stay?

Flights typically arrive in the morning to Ulaanbaatar, so we’ve planned the first day (July 16) accordingly. We’ll depart from Ulaanbaatar on the morning of the 17th, so anytime you wish to arrive on the 16th will be alright. 

If you wish to arrive early, we can help you with hotel reservations. 

What time should I book my departing flight from Ulaanbaatar?

The trip is technically finished after breakfast on July 28th, although most flights will leave early in the morning. You won’t want to miss the Naadam festivities on the 27th, so we don’t recommend leaving early.

If you wish to stay on and continue your independent exploration of Mongolia, we can connect you with our Mongolian travel partners! The Naadam games will continue on the 28th, if you are interested in extending your time. 

Temperature & Suggested Packing List

Coming soon!

Contact RetreaTours

Please write [email protected] for any questions you may have about this journey.  If you have not received a reply within 48 hours, please do check your spam folder.

About BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours

You’ll be joined on this journey by BJ & Lauren, owners of RetreaTours–and we are so excited to show you the wonders of Mongolia! 

BJ & Lauren created RetreaTours in 2010 with one goal in mind: to make world travel accessible, authentic, and astounding. In order to focus fully on this passion, they moved out of the U.S. in January 2013 to reside full-time overseas. Each day is spent exploring new destinations, strengthening local ties & relationships, and creating memorable, transformative, one-of-a-kind retreats and tours (aka, RetreaTours™!)

BJ & Lauren take great pride in the itineraries they plan, as they can personally vouch for every hotel, every restaurant, and every activity that you will experience. They craft each element of the trip with intention, and they understand that it is this careful attention to detail that sets them apart.  Fueled by their passion, armed with know-how, and supported by knowledgeable local professionals in all of their destinations, BJ & Lauren set the scene for the vacation of a lifetime. The dynamic duo are available to answer any and all questions before the trip begins. From giving advice on the best flights and travel insurance to providing a packing list, FAQ, and even a tiny “phrasebook,” BJ & Lauren pride themselves on these ‘nuts & bolts’ of personalized service.

In addition, as a guest, you receive free travel consulting services (normally a $300 value) should you choose to extend your travels. As one of their most ‘frequent fliers’ put it recently, BJ & Lauren make everything easy for you. Once you arrive in your destination city, your trip is all-inclusive—your meals, transportation, lodging, site fees, donations, and tips are all taken care of.  The research has been done, the itinerary carefully laid out, the reservations made, the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. All you have to do is show up and take in all your destination has to show you!  So….let’s get going!

Photo Album

Please click a photo to see an enlarged version; you can use your arrow keys or mouse to navigate within the album.


 

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