Cycle to Khangai Mountains - 9 days
DAY 1: Karakorum
DAY 2: Tsenher Hot Spring
DAY 3: Tovkhon Monastery
DAY 4: Orkhon Valley and Waterfall
DAY 5: Family at Orkhon valley
DAY 6: Cycle Khujirt village & drive to Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dune
DAY 7: Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dune and Khogno Khan National Park
DAY 8: Khustain Nuruu National Park
DAY 9: Drive to Ulaanbaatar
After an early wake up, as a long full of events day ahead of us, we will set off early to Karakorum (also called Kharkhorin). We will drive about 260 km on relatively good paved road and stop by noon at local restaurant.
After lunch driving more and about 40 km before Kharkhorin we will reach start point of cycling. We will take a little time to test the bikes, make adjustments and ready to go. The road we will take was previous main road from Ulaanbaatar to Kharkhorin before the asphalt road was put in use. Now it is healed terrain not used by traffic perfect for us, going up and down between fields. Depending on our arrival time in Kharkhorin we will visit sightseeing places of once famous medieval prosperous capital of Genghis Khan and his successors. Kharkhorin is the site of the 13th century capital of the Mongolian Empire created by Genghis Khan. The founding of Kharkhorin started on the ruins of Turug and Uigur cities in the Orkhon valley at the eastern end of the Khangai Mountains in 1220 by the Chinggis Khaan’s order. It completed 15 years later during the Ugedei Khaan’s reign. The town was a very cosmopolitan and religiously tolerant place. The silver tree, part of Möngke Khan’s palace has become the symbol of Karakorum. Now Erdene Zuu Monastery is all that remains of what once was a huge monastery of 100 temples and about 1.000 lama’s residence. We will explore the grounds of Erdene Zuu Monastery surrounded by its massive 400 m X 400 m walls. We will be guided around the 3 remaining temples: Dalai Lama, Zuu of Buddha and Lavrin Temple. We will also see the Turtle Rock and the Phallic Rock. Another place we will visit will be Karakorum Archaeological Museum. It is a small museum but housed in a modern well-run building with good lighting and display cases with clear English labels. The exhibits include dozens of artefacts dating from the 13th and 14th centuries which were recovered from the immediate area, plus others that were found from archaeological sites in other parts of the provinces, including prehistoric stone tools. You’ll see pottery, bronzes, coins, religious statues and stone inscriptions. There’s also a half-excavated kiln sunk into the museum floor. Perhaps most interesting is the scale model of ancient Kharkhorin, which aims to represent the city as it may have looked in the 1250s, and is based on descriptions written by the French missionary William of Rubruck. Another chamber exhibits a most recent addition, a Turkic noble tomb with wall paintings and artifacts, including gold items and jewelry. There is a short video of actual burial site.
(Ger camp L, D)
Tsenger Hot Spring
We will drive westward in the direction of Khangai Mountains. The Khangai Mountain separates the South-Mongolian arid Gobi Desert region from the fertile rolling hills of the north. With its numerous little rivers of which water from melting snow flows the northern side of the mountain offers a lush, fertile home to many nomads. On average, the Khanggai Mountains are 2500-3000 M above the sea level and are composed of mainly granite, intrusive chert and sandstone belonging to Paleozoic era. The Khanggai Mountains is about 800 km long, ranging from Zavkhan province territory to Tuv province. They function as the continental divide of the world water system. After about an hour driving we leave asphalt road and set off to cycling through green mountainsides and the network of smaller and larger rivers offer excellent pastureland for the herds of horses, yaks and cows. We will often be greeted and observed by herd of curious yaks. Lunch on the way. In the evening we will reach Tsenkher hot spring resort. This resort has a large open-air pool at its customer’s disposal. The hot water of the pool flows continuously in from the hot water spring. At the spring, the temperature of the water is over 80 ° C. A complex pipelines system regulates the water temperature. Some will spend hours sitting in the pool talking to their friends while staring at the stars or scanning the nightly nature around them.
(Ger camp B, L, D)
After breakfast in our Ger camp we will cross deep water river on our jeeps mostly inundated in summer and start our full cycling day. We will cycle through a combination of forested hills, granite formations and broad fertile valleys dotted with scattered Gers. Our journey will take us through deep into Khangai Mountains: lush, green abundant with wild flowers and plants. Our track will follow flowing rivers and undulating hills. To complete the perfection of nature many Gers of nomads peacefully minding their business, taking care of their livestock. The area is the home to huge number of yaks of Mongolia. Today cycling will need more physical demand as we pass mountains up and down on a terrain quite rocky. As we are followed by our jeeps those who are tired can always sit in your vehicle. Early evening, we arrive at our campsite already settled for night and arranged by our team. We will sleep in spacious tents. Spend evening around camp fire and enjoy complete wilderness and quietness.
(Tented camp B, L, D)
Orkhon Valley and Waterfall
Leaving our campsite, we will be heading to Tovkhon Monastery on our jeeps established during the 1650’s by Zanabazar, one of Mongolia’s most respected religious leaders. The monastery’s wooden buildings are integrated with a natural system of caves perched near a hilltop, from which you have beautiful view of the Orkhon Valley and the surrounding pine forests. On the top of the cliff, a pile of stones to worship a god of this mountain forms a hill. It is called Ovoo.
After lunch we will be cycling to the direction Orkhon waterfall in Orkhon valley. The valley is registered as world cultural heritage by UNESCO due to its ancient findings, artefacts related to early 6th century and even before that. As well as, 12th to 13th century great Mongol empire had expanded its capital Karakorum here. Moreover, pasture nomadic lifestyle still remains here and it keeps both historic and nomadic view of life.
More we get close to waterfall the terrain will get quite challenging on rocky tracks. Quaternary era a volcano erupted near the beginning of the Tsagaan Azarga or White Stallion River and the lava flowed down the Orkhon valley forming the 10-meter-thick layer of basaltic rocks. The basaltic layer was crosscut by the Orkhon River continuously and the canyon was formed as a result. At the beginning of this canyon lays the 20 meters high, 10-meter-wide waterfall. The most adventures of you will climb down the canyon and swim the lake located at the foot of the waterfall. A famous Mongolian barbeque over hot stone is on menu tonight.
(Ger camp B, L, D)
Family at Orkhon valley
The area surrounding the Orkhon waterfalls is a green, with forest covered mountainous area. The valley is known as the cradle of the Mongolian civilization. Many ancient Mongolian as well as Turkish monuments lie within its borders. Immerse yourself within locals. Discover in depth their way of life. Get involved in their daily activities such as milking, process milk into butter, cream, cheese etc… Bring animals to the family camp for evening. Goats and sheep must be brought next to the Ger for every night to be in protection from wolves. Evening, barbeque cooked over hot stones is on the menu. Engage a friendly chat & stories of their life over one or two shots of vodka. Herders make local vodka from fermented milk. Tastes little bit similar to rice vodka.
(Ger camp B, L, D)
Cycle to Khujirt village & drive to Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dune
After breakfast we will leave waterfall. After about 30 km biking on rocky tracks, the terrain will become quite pleasant. Depending on weather especially during rainy summer, the tracks might be muddy.
After lunch bit before Khujirt village we will stop biking and start driving toward to Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dune, affectionately known as little Gobi. Once we reach Ger camp get settled in your Gers, take shower and enjoy evening.
(Ger camp B, L, D)
Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dune and Khogno Khan National Park
Today we will spend full day exploring this beautiful area on our bikes. Khogno Khan Mountains is an impressive massif in the open steppes. Not far from here runs the Tasarkhai Els, a 100 km long sand dune. We will bike to Khogno Khan Mountains, walk up the mountain and enjoy the incredible view over the plains, the sand dune and grasslands. We will also visit the nice little Ovgon Monastery.
(Ger camp B, L, D)
Khustain Nuruu National Park
Today we will drive to Khustain Nuruu National Park. After arrival at the camp of the Khustai Nuruu National Park we will meet the staff of the park and be introduced to the project. Once get introduced to project we will explore the park in search of wild horses on our bikes. This will be our last day of biking in Mongolian wilderness. Przewalski’s Horse (Equus ferus przewalskii, also known as the Takhi horses) is a rare and endangered subspecies of wild horse native to the steppes of central Asia. The Takhi became extinct in the middle of the 20th century. They then could only be found in the zoos. Special breeding programs increased their numbers. At one time extinct in the wild, it has been reintroduced to its native habitat in Mongolia at the Khustain Nuruu National Park, Takhiin Tal Nature Reserve and Khomiin Tal. Khustain Nuruu National Park was declared reserve status (category III) for over 50,000 hectares of the Khustain Nuruu area in 1993 but after significant scientific field researches into the area it was upgraded to a national park in 1998. Khustai Nuruu National Park is located about 100 km southwest from Ulaanbaatar. It protects today Mongolian’s Takhi wild horses. Today there are around 350 Takhi horses in Khustai.
The park is home to 459 species of vascular plants, 85 species of lichens, 90 species of moss and 33 species of mushrooms. 44 species of mammals have been recorded, including Red deer, Mongolian gazelle, Roe deer, Wild boar, Wild sheep, Ibex, Mongolian marmots, Grey wolves, Lynx, Pallas’ cat, Red fox, Corsac fox and Eurasian badger. The 217 species of birds include Golden eagle, Lammergeier, Great bustard, Whooper swan, Black stork, Daurian partridge and Little owl. There are 16 species of fish, 2 species of amphibians, and 385 species of insects (including 21 species of ants, 55 species of butterflies, 10 species of bush crickets and 29 species of grasshoppers).
(Ger camp B, L, D)
Drive to Ulaanbaatar
We will have a short drive back to Ulaanbaatar. Afternoon is free time for last minute sightseeing. You might want to go and see the beautiful cultural show enjoy the colourful and rhythmic Mongolian dance, throat singing & admire the contortionists.