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With guest expert Dr. Christopher Atwood

Trip Dates: June 10 – 25, 2017

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We invite you to join us on this exclusive departure to discover Mongolia with Dr. Christopher Atwood of the University of Pennsylvania, USA, one of the leading international experts in the study of Mongolia. With a focus on history, nomadic heritage, flora and fauna and geography, this is one of our most comprehensive quests for discovering Mongolia.  Our trip begins with a flight north to Lake Hovsgol, Mongolia’s “mother ocean” which contains 1% of the world’s fresh water. Hovsgol lake is considered the headwaters of Lake Baikal which is located not far away in southern Siberia and is one of the oldest lakes in the world. The journey then continues overland to the 13th century Mongolian capital site of Kharakhorum in the Orhon Valley, then down south to the Gobi desert where our trip concludes. This ambitious off-the-beaten-path quest will take us through some of the most diverse ecosystems of Mongolia. We will examine ancient burial sites, historical landmarks, Buddhist monasteries, nomadic families and paleontological localities with a series of interesting lectures provided by Dr. Atwood along the way. We will also have the opportunity to fish, trek and ride horses and camels while enjoying meeting local nomads along the way.

About Dr. Christopher Atwood

Dr. Atwood is interested in almost anything Mongolian, but currently is focused on the intersection of lineage-building, state-building, and history-writing in the Mongol empire. He also has a strong interest, currently undeveloped, in seeing demographic, economic, and climate-historical methodologies applied to Mongolian history. He is the author of “Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire” (2004) and numerous articles and book contributions on Mongolia related subjects. Since his first visit in 1989, he has been a frequent visitor to Mongolia participating in international workshops and seminars and in his free time, enjoys traveling through Mongolia. He is an avid bird watcher and enjoys all sorts of field activities from camping to horse and camelback riding and hiking. Fluent in Mongolian, Chinese and several other languages, Dr. Atwood is a true marvel to travel with for anyone interested in learning about Mongolia’s past, present and its nomadic and Buddhist heritages among other subjects.

Research

Dr. Atwood’s research has centered on the relation of culture (especially history writing and religion) and the formation of political power in the Mongolia-Chinese border area. His first major research project was on 20th century Mongolian nationalism in Inner Mongolia and its interaction with Chinese state-building in the late Qing and Republican period. Current major projects include: 1) the multi-ethnic and multi-lingual historiography of the Mongol Yuan dynasty; 2) the Mongol empire, its religious and personnel policy, and the “early modern.”

Other topics he has written about and continues to work on include the social history of mobile pastoralism with a focus on Mongolia in the Qing period, and using philological methods to read “against the grain” of Chinese sources and shed light on the institutional history of pre-Mongol and pre-Turkic Inner Asia.

Another major area of interest is developing materials for academic and popular teaching about Inner Asia and Mongolia. Publications in this area include the Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire, and the translation of Chinese and Mongolian source for class use. He also hopes to complete a Source of Mongolian Tradition reader (with Johan Elverskog) and a new translation of the Secret History of the Mongols.

Background

After getting his A.B. from Harvard University (1986), where he was introduced to Mongolian and Chinese studies, he spent two years in Inner Mongolia, traveling and taking classes in the Mongolian language and literature department at Höhhot’s Inner Mongolia Normal University.

He received his Ph.D. from Indiana University’s Central Eurasian Studies Department, where he taught for two decades, serving as department chair and interim director of the Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region. Dr. Atwood has been a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), Peking University, Minpaku, Inner Mongolia University, and Inner Mongolia Normal University, and served as academic consultant for the History Department of Mongolia National University.

He is currently Professor of Mongolian and Late Imperial/Early Modern Chinese History at the East Asian Languages and Civilization department at the University of Pennsylvania.

 Itinerary

Day 1 Arrival

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Upon arrival at Chinggis Khan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, you will meet your guide and be transferred to your hotel.

After resting in your hotel room, enjoy a brief city tour including a visit to the Zaisan Hill where you can get a bird’s eye view of the city. This old Soviet period relic is a popular place for the locals to hang out and offers a great panoramic view of the entire city. In the evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at one of the fine local restaurants. Overnight at hotel. (Hotel Ulaanbaatar or similar; D)

 

Day 2 Ulaanbaatar sightseeing

Explore some of the city’s best-known museums and historical sites. Begin with a visit to Gandan, Mongolia’s largest Buddhist Monastery. Visit the temple of Megjid Janraisag, where a 60 feet tall Buddha stands. Reconstructed in early 90’s, the statue stands as the symbol of Mongolia’s revival of religious freedom after the communist regime that fell. The temple itself used to be the largest building in Ulaanbaatar in the early 1900’s. Also, visit the main temples where monks chant Buddhist sutras on a daily basis.

Then, visit the National History museum which showcases Mongolia’s best collection of traditional tools, artifacts and other exhibits presenting different periods of Mongolia’s history. Among the museum highlights is the collection of traditional costumes of different tribes, the hall of 13th century Mongolia and a section which showcases a typical Mongolian ger and various nomadic tools. Also, visit the Zanabazar’s Fine Arts museum which houses an excellent collection of Mongolian art including the golden Buddha statues of the 17th century and some of the best preserved tankas in the world. In the evening, enjoy a dinner at another fine restaurant in Ulaanbaatar. Overnight at hotel. (Hotel Ulaanbaatar or similar; B, L, D)

Day 3   Ulaanbaatar / Lake Hovsgol

After breakfast, fly north to Lake Hovsgol, also known as the “dark blue pearl” of Mongolia. The magnificent lake Hovsgol, one of the most scenic regions in the country, is located at the foothills of the breath taking Horidal Saridag Mountains to the west, and a Siberian larch forest to the east.

After our arrival in Muron (1.5 hour flight), the capital of Hovsgol province, we will drive north to our ger camp located on the shore of the lake. (About 3 hours of driving; Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 4 Horseback riding

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After breakfast, enjoy a full day of horseback riding along the lake-shore, departing from camp and making a large loop. There will be plenty of opportunities to stop and explore the local flora and fauna along the route. Overnight in gers. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)

 

  Day 5 Lake Hovsgol

Enjoy a full day at the lake, relaxing or trekking in the hills. The forested mountains along the lake shore team with wild flowers and birds. Or enjoy taking a kayak and paddle around to explore the lake shore. Overnight in gers. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 6 Muron / Ulaanbaatar

In the morning, we will drive back to Muron, stopping at lake Erhel for a quick birding stop. Fly back to Ulaanbaatar and check into your hotel. We will enjoy dinner at a fine local restaurant in the evening. (Hotel Ulaanbaatar or similar; B, L, D)

Day 7 Hustain Nuruu National Park

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In the morning, we will head west to Hustai Nuruu National Park, one of three sites where the wild horses, known as the Takhi or Przewalski’s Horse, have been reintroduced during the last two decades. After the last individuals disappeared from the wild in Mongolia in late 1960s, genetically pure animals were bred in captivity in European zoos and have been reintroduced into three distinctive habitats in Mongolia. We will be able to observe these handsome, completely wild horses in their natural steppe habitat. Together with the Tarpan of the European steppe – which no longer exists in a pure state – the Takhi was a dominant grazer of the arid grasslands of the Eurasian continent. This is one of the few instances in which a large mammal, extirpated in the wild, has been successfully reintroduced within its former range. After lunch we will do a short horse trek in the hills of Hustai Nuruu,.  After dinner at the local restaurant, overnight in gers. (Ger camp; B, L, D)

Day 8 Kharakhorum

After an early breakfast, begin your overland journey towards Kharakhorum (6 hours driving), stopping for a picnic lunch along the way.  The construction of Kharakhorum city was completed during Ogedei Khan, Chinggis Khan’s third son who inherited the empire his father created after his death in 1228. It’s located within the beautiful valley of the Orkhon river, which bears hundreds of historically and archeologically significant sites, including 2000 year old burials, deer stones (believed to a form of burial) and ruins of cities pre-dating the time of Chinggis Khan (contrary to the popular spelling of “Genghis Khan” in the west, the correct pronunciation of his name among Mongolians is Chinggis Khan ). Unfortunately, the city of Kharakhorum did not survive the battles of the time and it was destroyed by the Ming dynasty’s army in the 14th century after the collapse of Mongolia’s Yuan dynasty in China. Its remains were used in the construction of Mongolia’s largest Buddhist Monastery, Erdenezuu, which was erected in its’ place and can still be seen there today.  Reach your ger camp in time for dinner and overnight. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 9 Erdenezuu and Tovkhon Monasteries

After an early morning breakfast, we will begin the day’s activities with a visit to the magnificent Erdenezuu Monastery, one of Mongolia’s most beautiful temple grounds. Strolling through its 108 stupas, you will find plenty of opportunities to photograph the temple grounds. Next, we will drive to the amazing Tovkhon Monastery, located on the top of one of the nearby Khangai Mountains. It was originally built by Mongolia’s first religious leaders and a renowned sculptur, Zanabazar as his retreat for meditation. It partially survived the destruction of the communist purges of the 1930’s and is now under reconstruction. Return to the ger camp at Kharakhorum in the afternoon, (Approx. 5-6 hours driving in the afternoon between the various sites) Overnight in gers. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 10 Ongiin Hiid Monastery

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Today, begin your overland journey south to the Gobi desert via Ongiin Hiid Monastery (5-6 hours driving). We will also have our first opportunity to stop along the way and visit a nomadic horse herding family. Mongolians are known for their hospitality offered in the form of food and shelter. Nomadic children, who often spend their summer school breaks with their parents, are found helping with the daily chores. Continue driving until you reach Ongiin Hiid Monastery, the ruins of a monastery located on the northern tip of the Gobi desert. The Ongiin Monastery was once called the “Pearl of the Gobi” and was on the cross roads of the Central Asian Silk road frequented by camel caravan merchants. We will explore the monastery ruins and surrounding hills on foot and stay at a ger camp located on the Ongi river bank. (Approx. 6 hours driving; Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 11 Hongoryn Els Sand dunes

After breakfast, we will continue driving south until we arrive at the Hongoryn Els, the Gobi’s largest set of of sand dunes. In the late afternoon, we will enjoy climbing the tallest of the dunes followed by an opportunity to ride Bactrian camels at a camel herding family. Overnight in gers. (Approx. 6 hours driving; Ger Camp; L, D)

Day 12 Havtsgait Petroglyphs

After another of the Gobi’s magnificent sunrises, we will head east to our next exploration. En route, we will stop and explore the Havtsgait Petroglyphs, an amazing collection of early bronze age rock paintings located on the top of a mountain. Next, we will be transferred to our ger camp near the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park. Overnight in gers. (Approx. 4 hours driving; Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 13 Yol Valley / Flaming Cliffs

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In the morning, we will drive to the Yol Valley located in the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park, named after a raptor bird – the bearded vulture or lammergeier. The Yol Valley is one of the most beautiful valleys in the park and strolling through the gorge could allow a rare spotting of wild mountain sheep and the elusive wall creeper. Also visit the local Natural History Museum located at the entrance.

In the late afternoon, drive to the Flaming Cliffs , a red geological formation about 3 km long where hundreds of dinosaur fossils have been found. Paleontological expeditions from many countries, including the U.S, Poland, Japan and Russia have worked here over the last 80 years.  Each year rain and wind reveal yet more fossils and every summer new discoveries are made.  Return to the ger camp in the evening. Overnight in gers. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)

 Day 14 Ulaanbaatar

In the morning, we will transfer to the airport for our return flight back to Ulaanbaatar for our last day of exploration. Spend the remainder of the day doing last minute shopping and sightseeing.

In the evening, enjoy a cultural performance featuring khoomii or “throat” singing followed by a hearty farewell dinner at a fine local restaurant. (Hotel Ulaanbaatar or similar; B, L, D)

Day 15 Departure

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for departure. (B)

 

B = Breakfast              L = Lunch                   D = Dinner

 

Mongolia Quest reserves the right to alter the above itinerary if deemed necessary by travel complications, weather, health issues or other unforeseen events

Land price:                                    $6,650 per person, based on a twin occupancy;

Single supplement:                          $780 per person.

Land price include:

  • Domestic airfare as indicated;
  • Land transportation as indicated in the itinerary based on using two land cruisers;
  • Airport arrival & departure transfers;
  • All meals indicated as B, L or D;
  • All entrance fees as indicated in the itinerary;
  • Camel and horse riding fees;
  • English speaking guide throughout your stay;
  • Escort by Dr. Chris Atwood throughout the trip per the itinerary;
  • One soda per person per meal;
  • A bottled water per person per day.

Land price does not include:

International airfare; personal laundry and drinks not mentioned in the itinerary; travel insurance; medical evacuation costs; excess baggage charges; visa fees; gratuities; photography and video fees and any other item not mentioned as included.

How to book this trip

You may book any trip with us by filling out our Trip Application Form, which you can download using Adobe Acrobat Reader and can send to us as an electronic file via e-mail at Info@MongoliaQuest.com.  All reservations are subject to deposit of $400 per person.  Deposits are refundable until 90 days prior to the start of the program less a $250 administrative fee.

Please arrange a wire transfer to Mongolia Quest bank account as per following instructions:

 

BENEFICIARY NAME Mongolia Quest LLC
BENEFICIARY’S ACCOUNT NUMBER 456083040
BENEFICIARY BANK Trade and Development Bank of Mongolia
SWIFT Code TDBMMNUB
CHIPS UID number 104939
Correspondent bank in the USA STANDARD CHARTERED BANK, NEW YORK, USA
SWIFT code: SCBLUS33
CHIPS code: 0256, ABA number: 026002561

Once we receive your trip application form, we will send you information about how to wire your deposit to us, and a confirmation letter with information related with visa and international airfare reservations. You will also receive our pre-departure Travel Guide, which will include information on weather, suggested reading list, a list of items to pack, etc.

About 4 weeks prior to your arrival date, we will send you Final Departure Information which will include your final itinerary along with any other necessary updated information regarding the logistics of your trip.

Payment and Cancellation Policy

As mentioned above, a deposit of $400 per person is required to reserve space for the trip that you have chosen. Full payment is due 90 days prior to the start of the trip. In the case of a cancellation, please contact us in written form.

Notification of cancellation must be received in writing by Mongolia Quest. At the time, we receive your written cancellation, the following penalties will apply:

  • Up to 90 days prior to departure: $250 per person handling fee;
  • 89-60 days prior to departure: 20% of the trip cost per person;
  • 60-45 days prior to departure: 50% of the trip cost per person;
  • 44-30 days prior to departure: 75% of the trip cost, per person;
  • 29 days prior to departure, or after the trip starts: no-refund.

Some airfares may be nonrefundable. Once an expedition has departed, there will be no refunds from MQ for any unused portions of the trip. The above policy also applies to all extensions and independent travel arrangements made in conjunction with this program.

Travel notes

How to get to Mongolia

The official Mongolian international civil flight carrier is Mongolian Airlines or MIAT.

Currently it serves flights between Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Berlin

and Moscow. Beijing is the most common international gateway city to Ulaanbaatar. Mongolian Airlines and Air China fly daily between the two cities. Seoul, Korea is the second most popular gateway city; is served by both Mongolian Airlines and Korean Air. If you are coming from Europe, you may also consider Russian Aeroflot in addition to MIAT. Turkish Airlines has recently started offering flights between Istanbul and Ulaanbaatar. A private airline “Hunnu” offers direct flights between Bangkok- Ulaanbaatar and Paris-Ulaanbaatar. During the summer season, if no seats are available on any of these major carriers, there are ways to fly to Mongolia through local cities in China and Russia. Please contact us for more information.

Also, a major branch of the Trans-Siberian Railway goes through Mongolia from Moscow stopping in Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude, before stopping in Ulaanbaatar and continuing to Chinese Erlain and Beijing. The seats are usually in high demand and booking needs to be done well in advance.

Visa Information

U.S, Canadian, and Japanese citizens are allowed to enter Mongolia without a visa for up to 30 days. All other nationals are required to get a visa before entering Mongolia. If your visa-application requires it, we will send you an invitation letter upon request.

For the year 2016, Mongolia has approved a special policy towards tourist visas and several other countries were added to above visa free travel country list: European Union Countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland; Europe: Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Latin America: Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Grenada, Panama, and Uruguay. For details please refer to:

http://consul.mn/02visae.php

The following link has a list of Mongolian embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions abroad:

http://consul.mn/05dtg.php

Weather

Mongolia enjoys over 280 sunny days a year. However, because Mongolia has a continental weather pattern, weather can fluctuate drastically during any given day. We recommend packing warm clothes even if you are coming during the hottest months.  Our pre-departure information will provide details regarding the weather along with a suggested packing list. Layering is the best plan to be ready for a wide array of Mongolian weather patterns.

Safety

Mongolia is devoid of any political, religious and ethnic sectarian conflicts and is considered one of the safest countries in the world for international travelers. However, like in any other country, crimes do happen, so a good sense of caution and respect shown to the locals can help to avoid unnecessary confrontations. Mongolians are generally hospitable people who love to interact with foreigners.

Food

Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, hosts an excellent collection of fine restaurants of international cuisine. In the countryside, tour establishments offer hearty meals with a balance of meat and vegetables. Meat in Mongolia is excellent in that the whole country is essentially “free-range” terrain. Even your strictest dietary restrictions can now be met with proper information in advance and preparation by us.

Accommodation

Newly renovated Soviet era hotels are located at some of the best locations in downtown

Ulaanbaatar. They offer comfortable rooms and friendly services. There are also newer hotels like Kempinsky Khan Palace, Ramada Ulaanbaatar and Best Western Inn. The countryside accommodations are arranged in “ger camps,” which provide authentic nomadic felt tents with centralized bathroom and toilet facilities located nearby. They offer clean, comfortable beds and plentiful meals.

Information about Currency and Payment Methods

Mongolia’s national currency is called tugrik and the exchange rate is about 2,000 tugrik to a US dollar. Major currencies can be exchanged at the hotels and pawnshops, and ATM machines are widely available throughout Ulaanbaatar and provincial centers. However, Australian dollars can usually only be exchanged at banks. Traveler’s checks can be cashed at banks and major credit cards are accepted at most places in the capital, but only Mongolian cash is accepted in the countryside. We recommend that you travel with Mongolian national currency equal to at least $200 when touring in the countryside.

Souvenirs

Like any other places, Mongolia offers great souvenirs ranging from camel wool sweaters to cashmere scarves and traditional wooden puzzle games. Mongolian vodkas can be an excellent gift. At several stores, you can also find a range of traditional Mongolian musical instruments such as the famed morin khuur or “horse headed fiddle.” Bargaining is not very customary; most items are sold for the price on their labels. If you plan to shop for souvenirs, we recommend purchasing locally as many items as possible since your purchases will be a direct contribution to the local community.

Travel Insurance

With Mongolia stretching over 1.5 million square kilometers and its population concentrated in the cities, we will be travelling through some remote areas away from good roads and medical facilities. We strongly recommend that you consider getting standard emergency medical evacuation insurance as a means to protect yourself from unexpected accidents that can happen during any trip. Nothing is better than traveling with peace of mind knowing that you have prepared for the trip as much as possible in advance

Traveling with Mongolia Quest

Because it is still a developing country, traveling in Mongolia requires a sense of humor and patience. New roads and bridges are being built every year but the paved road system is still limited in the countryside. You may experience flight delays and find road conditions bumpy and dusty. But the experience of traveling in Mongolia will far exceed some personal compromises in comfort. We like to say that the best part of traveling in Mongolia is spontaneous events and interactions, which lead to unexpected interactions, discoveries, and experiences that will make your trip unique and memorable. At Mongolia Quest, we ensure the integrity of your overall itinerary but at the same time, will go out of our way to make necessary changes in order to enrich your travel experience with us.

THANK YOU!