Mongolia is known for vast, rugged expanses and nomadic culture. Learn about Genghis Khan and visit the National Museum in UlaanBaatar. Enjoy the other-worldly sound of Mongolian throat-singing. Hear from a local paleontologist about the discovery of the first dinosaur eggs. Stay at the award-winning Three Camel Lodge in a traditional nomadic-style ger, with the vast expanse of the Gobi at your doorstep. Witness a local country Naadam celebration, a tribute to strength, dexterity and marksmanship.
Depart the U.S. on flights bound for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Most flights reach Ulaanbaatar in the evening, so no sightseeing is scheduled for this day. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel for the night. Best Western Premier Tuushin Hotel
Today we explore Ulaanbaatar, starting with the impressive Gandan Monastery, one of the only religious institutions in Mongolia to survive the Communist purges. Its 20-ton gilded statue of “the Lord Who Looks in Every Direction” is one of many highlights of this thriving monastic community. Then we take a curator-led tour of the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Art, named in honor of the 17th century Buddhist leader, painter, sculptor, linguist, and architect. Visit the Museum of Paleontology at Hunnu Mall, and attend a lecture by a paleontologist from the Mongolian Academy of Sciences. Enjoy an evening performance of Mongolian throat-singing, an otherworldly musical form in which a single vocalist produces two or more distinct tones, or overtones, simultaneously. Best Western Premier Tuushin Hotel (B,L,D)
Drive about two hours west of Ulaanbaatar to Hustai Nuruu National Park, home of the Przewalski horse, the last remaining breed of truly wild horse in the world. 16 breeding horses from captive populations were reintroduced into the wild in 1994, 25 years after they had gone extinct in the wild, and they are once again thriving in their old stomping grounds. Learn about the current conservation efforts and status of herds. Spend the night here in a ger camp, a rustic encampment featuring a number of round yurt-like dwellings. Hustai Ger Camp (B,L,D)
Continue driving west about three hours to Kara Korum, the UNESCO-listed 13th Century capital of the Mongol Empire. The city was subsequently destroyed by invading Manchurians, and all that remains today is the enigmatic Turtle Rock, weighing several tons. Nearby Erdene Zuu (Thousand Treasures) Monastery was constructed in 1586 using stones from the ruined city. It was the first Buddhist center in Mongolia, and is surrounded by a brick wall with 108 stupas, or shrines, that stretch nearly a quarter mile in each direction. The monastery is contained within the Orkhon Valley UNESCO Site that also includes Kara Korum. Munkh Tenger "Blue Sky" Ger Camp (B,L,D)
Continue touring the Orkhon Valley today. The region features more than 300,000 acres of pastureland along both sides of the Orkhon River, and encompasses numerous cultural heritage sites that we can visit. The 8th century carved rock memorials to Turkish heroes Bilge Khan and Kul Tigin; the ruins of 8th century Khar Balgas, capital of the Uighur Empire; Tuvkhun Hermitage, spectacularly nestled in a rocky redoubt; and the remains of the 13th and 14th century Mongol palace, possibly Ögedei Khan’s residence, at Doit Hill. In the afternoon we drive back to Ulaanbaatar. Best Western Premier Tuushin Hotel (B,L,D)
Fly over vast steppe land to Mongolia’s southernmost province of semi-arid desert. The Gobi harbors sites of some of the most important paleontological discoveries of the 20th century. Explore the open landscapes dotted with hardy desert plants that serve as forage for wild Bactrian camels, Argali sheep and gazelle. This part of the Gobi is also home to golden eagles, black vultures and lammergeyers, as well as some of the Northern Hemisphere’s rarest mammals, such as the snow leopard and Gobi bear. Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)
Today we explore two of the Gobi’s greatest attractions: Yolyn Am Canyon and Moltsog Els Sand Dunes. Yolyn Am (“Vulture's Mouth”) Canyon cuts a narrow path into the rocky slopes of the Gurvansaikhan Mountains. So narrow in spots that the warmth of the sun never reaches the canyon floor, snowbanks in the canyon’s depths often remain frozen long into the summer. In the afternoon, explore Moltsog Els, an impressive region of sand dunes about an hour’s drive from the Three Camel Lodge. The vast majority of the Gobi’s terrain is covered in sparse scrub growth and the occasional stands of stunted trees that indicate where water may be found. Moltsog Els is a notable exception. Here, the constantly shifting sands are piled by the wind and reach surprising heights. Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)
Today we join with local people to celebrate a more intimate rural version of Ulaanbaatar’s annual Naadam Festival. Nomads gather from near and far to participate in the Three Sports of Men – wrestling, horse racing and archery. In the afternoon we drive to Togrogiin Shiree, a white escarpment where the famous "Fighting Dinosaurs" (a fossil of a Protoceratops and a Velociraptor locked in combat) were discovered in the 1970s. In the late afternoon, visit Bayanzag (the “Flaming Cliffs”), one of the most renowned paleontological sites in the world. Roy Chapman Andrews, leader of an American Museum of Natural History expedition and widely believed to be the inspiration for the film character Indiana Jones, found the world’s first nest of dinosaur eggs here in 1922. Three Camel Lodge (B,L,D)
Fly back to the capital today and enjoy free time for independent exploration, last-minute shopping, or packing. Gather for a festive farewell dinner. Best Western Premier Tuushin Hotel (B,L,D)
The main tour concludes with transfers to the airport for international departures. Those doing the post-tour extension to Siberia will instead board a plane for the short flight to Irkutsk, Russia. (B)
Cost and Details
Land Cost: $7,495 (per person based on double occupancy)
Single Supplement: $1,295
All accommodation, hotel taxes; Meals per itinerary (B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner); Arrival/ departure transfers for passengers arriving/departing on scheduled start/end days; Round trip airfare between Ulaanbaatar and the Gobi in economy class; All overland transportation per itinerary by private vehicles; Special cultural events and extensive sightseeing, including entrance fees; English-speaking guides and Tour Manager throughout the itinerary; Gratuities to local guides, drivers, Tour Manager and restaurant staff during included meals; Baggage handling at the hotels and airports where available; Comprehensive pre-departure packet
International airfare to/from Ulaanbaatar (our tour operator MIR Corporation can assist with reservations); Travel insurance; Meals not specified as included in the itinerary; Personal items such as telephone calls, laundry, excess baggage fees, incidentals
This trip is active due to the substantial distances covered and the extensive walking and stair climbing required. The tour is not wheelchair accessible. To reap the full rewards of this adventure, travelers must be able to walk at least two miles a day (with or without the assistance of a cane) over uneven terrain while keeping up with the group, and stand for extended periods of time during walking tours and museum visits. Availability of western toilets on the trip is unreliable, and squat toilets are prevalent at museums and many of the restaurants. With the exception of Three Camel Lodge, Mongolian ger camps are small, rustic encampments of round yurt-like dwellings heated by wood stoves. Shower and toilet facilities are found in a separate building. Flexibility and the willingness to accept local standards of amenities and services are essential to the enjoyment of this program.
Terms and Conditions
Cancellations, Refunds and Changes
All cancellations must be made in writing to MIR Corporation. If you must cancel your trip, the effective date of cancellation will be upon our receipt of your written notification. Refunds for cancellations are subject to the following per person charges:
- Cancel 61 days or more before departure: $500 charge
- Cancel 60-31 days before departure: 50% of tour price
- Cancel 30-0 days before departure: No refund
Refunds cannot be made to passengers who do not complete the full tour for any reason at all. Commonwealth Club Travel and our tour operator MIR Corporation reserve the right, without penalty, to withdraw the tour announced (i.e., cancel a tour). MIR Corporation reserves the right to decline to accept any person as a participant in a tour, or to require any participant to withdraw from a tour at any time at his/her own expense, when such action is determined by tour staff to be in the best interest of the health, safety, or general welfare of the tour group or of the individual participant, and subject only to the requirement that the recoverable cost of unused services and accommodations be refunded, if any.
We require membership to the Commonwealth Club to travel with us. People who live outside of the Bay Area may purchase a worldwide membership. To learn about membership types and to purchase a membership, visit commonwealthclub.org/membership or call (415) 597-6720.
Program rates do not include international airfare to/from Ulaanbaatar. Because of the global nature of our members and patrons, there is no group flight for this program. Information on a recommended flight itinerary will be sent by our tour operator upon confirmation. Neither Commonwealth Club Travel nor MIR Corporation accepts liability for any airline cancellation penalty incurred by the purchase of a non-refundable ticket in connection with this tour. It is recommended that you not purchase international flights until instructed by MIR Corporation.
We strongly recommend the purchase of trip cancellation insurance, which is available for coverage of expenses in conjunction with cancellation due to illness or accident. Baggage insurance is also recommended. In the event you must cancel your participation in the travel program, trip cancellation insurance may be the only source of reimbursement. Information will be sent upon registration and can be viewed Travel Insurance Services website.
A detailed statement of limitations and exclusions of liability of Commonwealth Club Travel and MIR Corporation for loss of property, injury, illness or death will be provided to passengers upon enrollment and is available to prospective travelers upon request. A signed release of liability/assumption of risk agreement is required for trip participation.
Commonwealth Club of California-CST# 2096889-40