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Photographic Journey Through Mongolia

Mongolia Tour

Summary : Join National Geography Photographer Wolfgang Kaehler on an unforgettable photographic journey through Mongolia. Your extensive route is one of the most ambitious off-road adventures, revealing undiscovered regions where the rest of the world seems a million miles and a few hundred years away. Travel across the rolling steppe and mountains to Kharakhorum, site of the 13th-century capital of the Mongol Empire, followed by a cross-country drive through the legendary Gobi Desert, located near Mongoliaís southern border with China. All along the way, benefit from Kaelherís expert photographic coaching and guidance, personalized for all skill levels.

Click here to view Wolfgang Kaelher's trip slideshow.

Activities : Culture, Hiking, Photography


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Day 1 – 2
Depart Home

Cross the International Dateline and lose a day.

Day 3
Arrive Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

The contrast between ancient traditions and the dawning of a 21st century democracy is most visible in Ulaanbaatar, where traditional gers (yurts) and Buddhist monasteries coexist with modern high-rises. Upon arrival at the airport, you will be welcomed by your Nomadic Expeditions' guide and transferred to a centrally located, comfortable hotel within walking distance to various museums and shops.
Overnight at Hotel Ulaanbaatar or similar (B,L,D)

Day 4
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Begin the day to Gandan Monastery, the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia. Mongolia's largest standing, 60-foot-tall Buddha is found in one of its tallest temples. Woven through Mongolia's nomadic culture is a rich Tibetan Buddhist tradition in which ancient Shamanist practices are still evident. Although Buddhist monasteries were either destroyed or converted into museums during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s, Gandan Monastery continued to operate as a showpiece for government officials.

In the afternoon, visit the National and Natural History museums. In the evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Overnight at Hotel Ulaanbaatar or similar (B,L,D)

Day 5
Hustain Nuruu National Park

After breakfast, drive to the Hustain Nuruu National Reserve (2 hours), home to the last remaining species of wild horse, the Takhi (commonly known as Przewalski's Horse). In 1994, twenty-five years after becoming extinct in the wild, the Takhi, was reintroduced into the wild from zoo populations by the Foundation for the Preservation and Protection of the Przewalski's Horse, a Dutch organization which flew 16 horses from the Netherlands to Mongolia. Since then, more than twelve healthy foals have been born in Mongolia. Learn about current conservation efforts and the status of the herds found within Hustain Nuruu and try to spot these beautiful horses in their natural habitat.
Overnight at Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 6
Hustain Nuruu National Park

Spend the early morning and late evenings at the park, further exploring the surrounding area. Visit ancient Turkik monuments dating from 7th century and enjoy walking in the empty valleys exploring the wildlife.
Overnight at Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 7

In the morning, continue driving west to Kharakhorum, approximately 6 hours away. It is impossible to mention Mongolia without conjuring up images of the great warrior, Chingis Khan. The empire created by Chingis and his descendants was the largest contiguous land empire in recorded history, and its scope has never been matched. The great Khan and his son created the beautiful and legendary Kharakhorum to serve as the heart of this monolithic empire. At the time, Kharakhorum was one of the largest junctions of the Silk Route, connecting the Oriental world with the West. Unfortunately, this bustling capital was abandoned by Kublai Khan and later fell into ruin. There are only a few traces left of this once great city, but Mongolia's largest monastery, neighboring Erdene Zuu, was reputedly constructed from the ruins of Kharakhorum in the 16th century.
Overnight at Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 8
Kultegin Monument / Erdene Zuu Monastery

After an early morning breakfast, visit Kultegin Monument, two hours away, one of the most significant archeological sites associated with the Turkic states of the 8th century. Built in honor of the prince at the time, this large and magnificent statue is now under close study by archeologists from various countries, most recently from Turkey. Many roof tiles can be found at this site. After lunch, visit the Erdeneuu Monastery in the town of Kharakhorum. Surrounded by 108 stupas, Erdene Zuu has been a place of Buddhist activity for more than 500 years. Explore the monastery grounds and observe the monks as they perform their prayers and rituals. The temples are richly decorated with spectacular Buddhas as well as Buddhist art and architecture. Just behind the monastery compound, visit the site of archeological works being conducted by German archeologists. An entire foundation of a house with brick stove was found about 3 meters deep under the ground. Among the most significant findings was a beautifully forged gold bracelet.
Overnight at Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 9
Kharakhorum / Orkhon Waterfall / Orkhon Valley

This morning, you drive southwest to Orkhon waterfall, one of Mongolia's largest cascades, located at the scenic Orkhon river. The Orkhon Valley has long been considered the cradle of Mongolia's civilization, and during the trip, you will encounter several unexplored burial sites marked by large pile of rocks. In the afternoon, arrive at your ger camp and explore the surrounding area.
Overnight at Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 10
Ongiyn Hiid

Next, continue your overland drive to Ongiyn Hiid (5-6 hours). Upon arrival, explore the ruins of this ancient temple. Built in the 17th century, Ongiyn Hiid was one of the largest monasteries in Mongolia and is still known as the "Pearl of the Great Desert." Destroyed during the Communist Purges in 1939, the ruins of this monastery are situated in a beautiful mountainous region.
Overnight at Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 11
Hongoryn Els Sand Dunes

This morning, drive overland to the towering sand dunes of Hongoryn Els (6-7 hours), which run 60 miles alongside the Gobi Altai Mountain range. These "Singing Sands" reaching upwards of 2,500 feet, are the Gobi's most magnificent sand dunes, and due to its isolation, the secret of this area's beauty has been kept safe for thousands of years.
Overnight at Ger Camp (B,L,D)

Day 12
Three Camel Lodge, Bulagtai Mountain

After an early morning breakfast before sunset, travel to the sand dunes for photo opportunities. You will then drive east to the Bulagtai Mountain (4 hours) near the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park where Nomadic Expeditions' Three Camel Lodge is located. Spend the rest of the afternoon resting in your ger. Dinner and overnight at the lodge.
Overnight at Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 13
Yol Valley National Park / Flaming Cliffs

In the morning, drive to Yol Valley National Park (1.5 hours). Cradled between the foothills of the Altai Mountains, an ancient river carved this surprisingly green valley. Now, its remnant streams create ice formations at the base of the valley that can persist as late as July. A hike through the valley allows you to discover the habitat for indigenous vulture-like lamer geiers, Altai snow cocks, ibex, yaks, and Argali mountain sheep. Visit the local natural history museum for an overview of the flora and fauna of the area. Return to the lodge for lunch. In the evening, drive to Bayan Zag (1 hour), commonly known as "The Flaming Cliffs," to view its glowing orange rock. It was here, in 1922, that Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews and his exploration team from the American Museum of Natural History found the first nest of dinosaur eggs. To the trained eye, the red sandstone cliffs of the Flaming Cliffs are rich with dinosaur fossils, and paleontological expeditions continue to make significant discoveries at this site.
Overnight at Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 14

After breakfast, fly back to Ulaanbaatar. Enjoy the afternoon at your leisure for any last-minute sightseeing or shopping. In the evening, attend a farewell dinner at a fine local restaurant.
Overnight at Hotel Ulaanbaatar or similar (B,L,D)

Day 15
Depart Ulaanbaatar

Transfer to the airport for departure from Ulaanbaatar.

Day 16 – 17
International Dateline / Arrive Home

Cross the International Dateline, gaining a day, and arrive home.


About the Photographer, Wolfgang Kaehler:
Internationally recognized for his travel and wildlife photography, National Geographic Photographer Wolfgang has spent the last 35 years capturing stunning images from around the globe. Since 1989, he has led photo and nature tours throughout the world including India, Antarctica, Mali, Indonesia, the Galapagos Islands, Botswana, Namibia, among many other destinations. With a passion for teaching, Kaehler designs his trips for photographers of all skill levels, from amateur to professional, and his personalized service and attention to detail ensures memorable experiences for each of his travelers.

A Word From Wolfgang Kaehler: Why visit Mongolia?
Mongolia's impressive past includes the establishment and rule of the largest land empire in the history of the mankind, having conquered Europe and reached as far north as Germany. Coming to Mongolia is like traveling back in time and experiencing the last remaining frontier in the world after the great explorers. Centered on the nomadic way of life which is still alive today, Mongolia maintains a fascinating horse-borne culture, said to be the oldest on the planet. Mongolia is home to diverse eco-systems, from the mountains to the steppe to the Gobi desert, and its 280 days of sunshine each year lend to excellent photography conditions. Lastly, Mongolians are one of the most hospitable nations in the world!

What to Expect:
Wolfgangís Photo Expeditions are ideal for nature lovers with a passion for travel. On this adventure, you will have an opportunity to improve your camera techniques, composition, digital workflow, and manipulation. Kaehler has visited Mongolia many times and brings a passion for and familiarization of the country. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. This itinerary includes some longer drives between the different camps, with several stops along the way to explore get camps and photograph various sights such as herders, wildflowers, landscapes, or colorful decorated Ovoos (stone mounds with prayer flags).

Ground transportation in Mongolia as described in the itinerary; transfers on arrival and departure; all accommodations based on twin occupancy in hotel and get camps; all meals as indicated as B, L or D in the itinerary; all excursions, entrance fees, and visits as described in itinerary; 2 L bottled water per person per day; camel and horse riding fees; a choice of a soda per person per meal; English speaking guide service.

Not Included:
International and domestic airfare; passport and visa fees; medical and trip insurance; evacuation costs; airport taxes; excess baggage charges; food and beverages not included in the group meals; tips to drivers or guides; items of a personal nature, including alcoholic beverages, laundry and telephone calls; other items not specifically mentioned as included.

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