Altai Tavan Bogd

Best reasons to travel in western Mongolia

  1. To capture great images

Western Mongolia is the ideal destination for photographers. Mystical images of Kazakh people and hunters with golden eagles will make you want to start your journey to the most remote places in the majestic Mountains of Altai. Aside from portraits or lifestyle photos, photographers may shoot images of stunning landscapes and natural settings of the region. To capture the most fascinating images that could elevate your photography career, just pack your gear and head west to the Altai of Mongolia.

  1. To meet hunters with golden eagles

Kazakhs living in Western Mongolia continue to hunt using eagles today. They use eagles to hunt foxes, wolves, and hares during the cold winter months when it is easier to see the gold-furred foxes against the snow.

Hunting with golden eagles is one of the most ancient traditions passed down from generation to generation by Kazakh people. Today, hunting with golden eagles is a sport and a special aspect of Kazakh culture. Every year many Kazakh hunters gather with their specially-trained eagles and challenge them in different ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. To trek among the mountains

One of the most attractive and unusual types of the tour here in western Mongolia is trekking. In the remote but beautiful swath of untouched wilderness, travelers can feel an authentic nomadic life & tradition during this epic journey. With Bactrian camels and powerful horses to carry our luggage and team staff, we camp by alpine lakes, hike to glaciers, explore ancient burial mounds and petroglyphs that are haunting testaments to Mongolia’s shamanic traditions, and experience a pristine mountain world where nomads still hunt with golden eagles.

  1. To conquer the summits of the Great Altai Mountains

The highest peak in Mongolia – Mt. Tavan Bogd (Huiten Uul Mountain) – towers 4,374 meters above sea level, overlooking the borders of Mongolia, China, and Russia. Year-round snow and glaciers on the peaks of Mt. Tavan Bogd make the mountain magnificent and require endurance and a high level of physical capability from mountaineers. The Altai Mountain range comprises dozens of snow-capped peaks of above 4,000 meters, including Mt. Nairamdal at 4082m and Mt. Malchin at 4050m, Tsambagarav at 4195m, Deglii Tsagaan at 3978m, and Mt. Munkhkhairkhan at 4204m. There are summits for both professional and amateur climbers.

  1. Horse trekking in Altai Tavan Bogd

Western Mongolia is one of the wondrous places yet to be polluted and trapped in modern technology. Nature and culture coexist in the valleys of the majestic Altai Mountains, so it’s only fitting that the best way to truly encounter western Mongolia is on the back of a hearty Mongolian horse – completely natural and native.

  1. Off-road driving among rocky canyons

When traveling between wonderful sites scattered across the vast territory of Mongolia, especially rugged terrain routes in the Altai Mountains, SUVs, and 4x4s are definitely the best available transportation means. I suggest you try self-driving off-road tours among gorges between the spire and lofty mountain of Altai.  Mild breezes and sounds of fresh spring will add comfort and pleasantness to your adventure.

  1. Archeological or petroglyph expeditions

Many archeological findings, including rock paintings, deer stones, ancient graves, and rock cemeteries, make western Mongolia an exotic destination for archeologists and those interested in ancient monuments. The largest collection of petroglyphs at a place called Tsagaan Salaa and features more than 100,000 images dating back 10,000 years. An open-air rock art gallery extending more than 20 kilometers along the rocky slopes of the White Water River was registered as a piece of World Heritage by UNESCO and shows a wide range of wild and domesticated animals and human activities.  Beside large sites, burial graves along the route and stone men monuments from the Bronze Age near your camping sites will connect you with ancient history.

  1. To meet throat singers in Chandmani Soum

To understand the secret of Mongolian throat singing (over tune signing) follow the route to Chandmani soum of Khovd province where everyone from 8-year-old kids to 80-year-old seniors performs this amazing art.

A method of singing multiple notes simultaneously, hoomei produces sounds that defy description; whether spirits of nature, the songs evoke something otherworldly and powerful.  Mesmerizingly beautiful, these harmonious tunes help you understand the connection between humans and nature.

  1. Witness a rich habitant full of wildlife

The unique nature contrast of the great lakes and mountainous areas creates spectacular scenery and a habitat for a wide range of animals and plants. Wolves, foxes, snow leopards, lynxes, mountain weasels, steppe polecats, wild boars, musk deer, elk, roe deer, ibex, argali mountain sheep, Mongolian and black-tailed gazelle from the rich wildlife of the Uvs Lake area. Many rare and endangered species of birds including the Eurasian spoonbill, black stork, swan goose, and white-tailed eagle are found here.

  1. Botanical expedition

The Great Lakes Basin bordering the high Altai Mountains represents a unique ecosystem, containing some of the last remaining vast reed beds in central Asia. The sharp contrast of high mountains, the steppe, and the semi-arid desert-steppe bordering the diverse wetlands creates a highly distinct landscape.

The vegetation of the basin is sparse and mainly characterized by semi-shrubs and shrubs. So far, 554 species of 62 families have been recorded from the Great Lakes Basin. 18 plant species that occur within Mongolia are recorded only in the basin, 13 that are endemic to the basin, and 22 that are listed in the Mongolian Red Data Book (an endangered species list) including Saussurea dorogostaiskii palib, Cynomorium soongaricum and Allium Altaicum pall.  

Traveling by horse in Mongolia

Mongolian horse: A unique creature for nomads

 Mounted on their remarkable horses, Chinggis Khaan and his army of skilled cavalry were able to conquer much of Asia and Eastern Europe, establishing the largest empire in the world.

For many centuries horse has been the main part of the nomad’s life but still maintain their wild nature.

The horses In Mongolia live in herds, led by a stallion who guides the horses to water, shelter, and safety.  The horses are hardy and adapted to living out in temperatures that can reach -45c, and are able to forage for food in any conditions. Mongolian horses are small – growing to between 13hh and 14hh – but stocky and strong and great for endurance riding.  Although n Mongolian horse is smaller than western and Arabian breeds it has strong muscles naturally intelligent and loyal to the owner.

The Mongolian horse is one of the most ancient horse breeds in the world. According to the archeological funding, Mongolians had domesticated and used horses for their lives since 2000 B.C.

Mongolian horse breeds have descended from the Takhi, well known as the Przewalski horse. They have similar body

 TRAVELING BY HORSE AMONG ENDLESS STEPPE

Horse Breed: Native Mongolian horses.
Height of horses: Approx. 12 – 14hh
Weight limit:  90kg / 198lbs
Required level of ride: Beginner-Advanced
Highly recommended destinations for horseback riding in Mongolia:

  • Orkhon river valley, central Mongolia
  • Northern Mongolia, route to Taiga reindeer people
  • Khan Khentii Mountains in Eastern Mongolia
  • Gorkhi-Terelj national park, nearby Ulaanbaatar
  • Western Mongolia, Altai Mountains

Best time to ride: June – October

Traveling by horse in Mongolia is not just an adventure or holiday, but it is the opportunity to explore the wilderness, great steppes and immerse yourself with a culture of nomads that you wanted to learn about. During horseback riding expeditions – learning new skills, pursuing your interests, and of course, just relaxing and enjoying the ride and company.

Click here to see horse riding tour

Benefits of horseback riding: Doctors approve horseback riding offers the following health benefits.

Core Strength: Horseback riding is an isometric exercise, which means it uses specific muscles to stay in certain positions, in this case, keeping balanced on the horse. As a result, postural strength becomes very important in horseback riding.

Balance and Coordination: Staying balanced becomes more challenging the faster and more quickly the horse moves. Cantering or galloping and jumping, for example, are much more difficult than a simple jog or trot. The rider must develop coordination skills to move the body with the horse in order to help the horse stay balanced.

Muscle Tone and Flexibility: Along with the core muscles, the inner thighs and pelvic muscles get the biggest workout as a rider positions himself or herself. This exercise helps with good overall muscle tone and flexibility.

Cardiovascular Exercise: Depending on the type of riding and the speed and agility of the horse, horseback riding can require more effort, energy, and cardiovascular capacity.

Mental exercise: There are many mental benefits to horseback riding. There’s a confidence that comes from learning how to handle and interact with this huge animal. You really learn about yourself as you experience time on a horse.

Additionally, horseback riding to be a very relaxing and calming experience. Horseback riding grounds me. It takes me away from any other worries or issues because, for the time being, the only focus is on riding and staying on the horse. While horseback riding In Mongolia is a great exercise, same time true benefit you may get now is the connection with the wild nature, horses, and contributing lives of local nomads.

What to expect from horse riding journeys?

  1. Meet authentic nomads and visit their ger
  2. Contribute their lives (rent horses and yaks)
  3. Ride a yak or pack your luggage
  4. Capture breathtaking photos of nature or nomads
  5. Test airag (Kumis) or authentic nomadic cuisine
  6. Play Mongolian traditional games
  7. Challenge yourself and boost your confidence

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Look Mongolia’s featured events

ICE FESTIVAL

Date: early March
Location: Khuvsgul lake

photo by: O. Munkhnasan

The harshness of cold winter could not resist the beauty of the lake Khuvgul, which attracts visitors with its calmness, and shines as a clear crystal. The annual Ice Festival which takes place in March will provide a unique opportunity to experience Mongolian games in frozen lakes including traditional ice shooting competitions, horse sledding races, skating competitions, shaman`s rituals, dog sledding journeys, and displays gilding ice sculptures by local artists.

To sense the winter beauty of the lake Khuvsgul take your warm clothes and head to Khatgal village on the lakeside.

 

THOUSAND CAMEL FESTIVAL

Date: 6-8 March
Location: Bulgan soum, Umnugobi

photo by: Zaya

The Thousand Camel Festival which is held every March in Mongolia’s Gobi is one of the major springtime events that are gaining popularity with both domestic and international travelers in the country.

The Camel Festival is organized by the Amazing Gobi Association and supported by the provincial government to highlight the significance of camels for the local and national economy and to promote the camel herding traditions and showcase the skills of nomads in the Gobi. In 2016, a very special Camel Festival took place – to stage a record for the Guinness Book. In March of that year, 1115 camels came from provinces from Gobi region of  Mongolia, to compete in racing of 15km distance and showcased skills of taming wild camel, camel packing, parade their decorated camels and riders in festive costumes, display their best breeding stock of camels, and enjoy cultural performances.

 

NAADAM FESTIVAL

Date: 10-13 July
Location: Nationwide

photo by: Zaya

This annual sports festival is the most famous celebration across the country. It features the three manly sports: wrestling, archery, and horse racing. Naadam is celebrated across the country and every town and village holds its own wrestling, archery, and horse racing contests. The official Naadam opening ceremony in Ulaanbaatar is quite spectacular. Riders dress as Chinggis Khan’s entourage and lead a huge procession around the Naadam Stadium, which features hundreds of adults and children dressed in costumes, representing all Mongolia’s ethnic groups. In Ulaanbaatar, wrestling takes place in the main stadium, while archery competitions occur all around the structure; the famously perilous horse races are held at Hui Doloon Khudag located 40km west of Ulaanbaatar city.

 

OIRAD PEOPLES’ CULTURAL FESTIVAL

Date: 4-5 Aug
Location: Uvs province, Uureg lakeshore

Photo by: Aduuchii Batsukh

Many people may imagine western Mongolia as hunters in heavy fur costumes holding golden eagles, but there are many treasures to see behind this.  There are many ethnic groups living in western Mongolia, which include the Durvud, Torguud, Bayad, Uuld, Zakhchin, Myangad, Uriankhai, and Kazakhs. Therefore, culture and traditions are diverse and distinguished by their folklore art and many other features.  Surely, various native cultures and folk arts among ethnic people are attractive and charming.

Since 2006, locals and the Oirad Theater in Ulaangom town have initiated Oirod People’s Folk Festival to preserve and promote intangible cultural heritage, including Hoomei throat singing bielgee folk dance, Tuuli epic song, and musical instruments including Ikel huur, Tovshuur, and Tsuur as well as tangible heritage. Since 2013, the festival was extended to the world and Oirad people all over the world can be involved in the event.
Oirad people from villages from Khovd, Uvs, Bayan-Ulgii provinces, and tribes settled in Siberia, Kalmyk, Xingjian Uyghur, Qinghai (Deed Mongol) and Inner Mongolia gathers in the Turgen Mountains (on the coast of Uureg Lake) to greet each other and share their inherited folk arts threatened with the influence of modernization.
For travelers planning to visit western Mongolia in early August or folk art lovers, we highly recommend that you stop by the Oirad People’s Folk Festival to experience the authentic culture of the Altai Mountains and meet the most hospitable people.


GOLDEN EAGLE FESTIVAL

Date: the first weekend of October
Location: Ulgii town

photo by: Zaya

The Golden Eagle Festival or Eagle Festival is an annual traditional festival held in Bayan-Ulgii province, Mongolia. Every year, eagle hunters from every corner of the country gather to celebrate their falconry heritage and compete to show the hunting skill skills of both the birds and their trainers.

The opening ceremony of the festival starts with a parade of eagle hunters from different villages of the Bayan-ulgii province and Kazakhstan as well, followed by sporting activities and competitions of hunting skills with the golden eagle. Besides, cultural exhibitions, demonstrations, and handcrafts in the center of the town of Ulgii. Witnessing a sensational event and meeting the people dressed in full eagle hunting regalia and mounted on groomed decorated horses will be one of the life adventures.

Other sporting activities include horse racing, archery, and the highly entertaining kukbar ((tug of war on horseback).

A smaller festival, the Sagsai Golden Eagle Festival on 17-18 September each year especially for photographers, cinematographers, and photojournalists, and the Altai Kazakh Eagle Festival are also held each year in the nearby village of Sagsai in the last week of September. It follows much the same pattern as the larger Golden Eagle Festival, with about 40 eagle hunters participates

 

 

Mongolia’s Yeti – The Almas

For centuries Mongolian nomads have told countless legends about huge, wild creatures who bear a vague resemblance to man roaming the central Asian Mountain ranges.

The creature is called Almas in Mongolia and is known as snowman, Yeti, or bigfoot in other countries, and it is bear-like, with thick, coarse, dark brown hair covering his entire body. Many places in rural Mongolia have been named after this strange phenomenon. Even some researchers claim this confirms the Almas once existed in Mongolia.

Even today, as Mongolia becomes increasingly urban sophisticated, herders still tell stories of sighting the Almas or claim to have discovered huge, unidentified footprints or the outline of a large, heavy body laid to rest in deep snow or soft mud. Harsh, continuous wails have been echoing across the open steppe. The Almas is supposedly still living in some concealed corners of the Altai mountain range, and several have traditionally lived in the Gobi desert, which covers much of southern Mongolia. The Almas is solitary, always living alone, but occasionally seeking a companion of the opposite sex. There are, of course, both male and female of the species, and female Almases are said to be even more ferocious than males when roused into anger. The Almas usually live in a well-concealed cave, emerging only under cover of darkness and eating a diet of raw meat, seeds, plant and tree roots.

Romantic, religious, at times gory, and even comical, the truth of the Almas legends has become less important than their telling. They are an integral part of Mongolia’s ancient oral tradition. Usually told in the candlelight of a Mongolian nomadic tent (ger) during the long, dark winter evenings, this is the first translation of one of the Almas legends published in English. Please enjoy it.

His Second Family

89-year-old Ravjir, a resident of Gobi-Altai* province, told an Almas legend she heard from her own mother when she was a child. Ravjir always claimed the legend was based on a real-life incident.

The large Balgan family lived near Ravjir’s mother’s home with their many children. During one particularly hot summer day, Balgan’s children were playing in the shadow of a camel cart. The youngest of the children, two-year-old Khanu, was lying near his brothers and sisters, dozing in the sun. Suddenly the young children realized Khanu had vanished, they couldn’t see him anywhere. After a little while, the entire family began to search, but after scouring their local village they were still without their son.

Mother and father, brothers and sisters searched high and low for several days, finally giving up in tears, believing he must have been dragged off by a wild animal whilst they were unaware. The family was forced to forget Khanu.

Four years later the Balgan family were eating their dinner by candlelight in their ger. Balgan, who was sitting at the rear of his ger, suddenly noticed what looked like a slender lambs leg poking through a small hole in the ger wall. Intrigued, he knelt down by the canvas wall and saw that it was actually the small, dark hand of a child. When Balgan caught hold of the hand, it slid out of his grasp.

He told his wife to try and catch this disappearing child. She slipped out of their ger and caught hold of the small creature, trapping him by holding him close. Balgan’s wife tried to bring the matted-haired child into their ger, but he struggled, pushing his hands and feet against the door. Balgan helped his wife to drag the kicking child into the warmth. They shone their lamp onto him, trying to indentify him, but he passed out in the brilliant light, as through it was too powerful for his large, blinking eyes. Balgan’s wife gasped. She could see a large, brown birthmark, in exactly the same spot on the child’s face as their young son Khanu, whom they hadn’t seen for more than four years.

The child soon awoke but had to be tied to the wall with rope as he continually tried to escape from the ger. He slowly grew taller and stronger by drinking milk broth and gradually got used to his new family, though he dived and cowered under the bed whenever visitors entered the ger. Their son, for it was Khanu they had discovered, spent two years in their ger without speaking, but, aged eight, began to utter words and understand some of what was being said to him. Khanu was finally able to explain to his real parents that he had been fed and reared by large, bear-like wild ‘parents’, covered in dark hair, who didn’t speak his language, which he then gradually forgot. His parents were convinced his second family must have been Almases. Khanu told his human mother that his other mother had died in a terrible, bloody fight with a bear and his ‘father’ had carried him back to his ger in Gobi-Altai. Khanu obviously pined for his former life on the steppe and tragically died soon after relaying his story and was buried in Gobi-Altai.

source: Mongolia’s Yeti – The Almas by T. Battulga

Who is eligible to travel Mongolia during Covid-19

The following passengers are allowed to enter from 10 May 2021.

• Nationals and permanent residents of Mongolia,

• Foreign nationals of those countries/regions stated in the Visa exemption list of Mongolia which can be officially found at https://consul.mn/eng/index.php?moduls=23

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

• All passengers must present a negative Covid-19 PCR test which is taken within 72 hours before departure of the first embarkation point.

• All persons arriving in Mongolia who have not been fully vaccinated against coronavirus infection (COVID-19) shall be quarantined at designated facilities for 7 days and PCR tests shall be taken during the quarantine period followed by 7-day self-isolation.

• In case PCR test results are positive, an individual shall be transferred to a hospital for treatment.

• Travelers arriving in Mongolia 14 days after receiving the full dose of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine or those who were diagnosed within 4 months earlier with a coronavirus infection (COVID-19) and fully recovered from it /upon proof of such document/ are subject to 14-day self-isolation regime.

• PCR tests shall be taken upon arrival from persons /excluding children of age 0-5/ at air and road border checkpoints who are and who are self-isolating at home for 14 days.

• All persons who are subject to a 14-day self-isolation regime are required to register their address and phone number in Mongolia at air and road border checkpoints.

Photographing in Mongolia

Mongolia is a vast country with sweeping landscapes. There is a variety of photographing scenes such as landscape, people, culture, religion, and wildlife as well. To capture the most stunning images need to plan well.

Gears: In remote areas, you may travel without electricity for a number of days, therefore you need a sufficient amount of extra batteries.  You may shop in Ulaanbaatar for it before start your journey to get lost in Mongolia.

Dust: Travel route to unique places are not easy, is mainly dusty and bumpy. Keep your camera and lenses sealed in safety bags while driving on earth roads.

Light: Summer days are long, so the best time to take landscape photos is dawn and dusk, before 10 am and evening 6 pm to 8 pm is the key time.

Photographing people.  Before you photography please ask. *tanii zurgiig avch boloh uu? Especially in urban areas and some particular parts of the country people do not like to be models. If they do not want to be photographed please respect them.

On the other hand, rural people are happy to be photographed if you ask. Take their social contact and send their photos after the trip. It will be a great memory for them.

When you take a portrait most of the people shows very serious face. So ask them to smile and do something to make them smile before pressing the button.

If you are going to use the photo for commercial use, please do not forget to sign for photo release permition.

Photo not allowed:  Photography is prohibited inside monasteries and temples, especially, during religious ceremonies and shamanistic rituals. However, you may photograph temple exteriors and monastery grounds. Sometimes able to obtain special permission to take photographs for an extra fee. Please ask to pre-arrange it from your guide or land service provider.

Sensitive areas such as border areas, military facilities are not allowed to photograph too. To travel places 50km distance from the border it is required to obtain border permission.  Please ask to pre-arrange it from the land service provider.

In the museum and folklore concerts photographing and video graphing are allowed with a certain amount of tax. Mainly it is 15000-25000 mnt for the photo, 30000-50000mnt for video permit.

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