Arrive in Ulaanbaatar and meet your driver for a private transfer to your hotel. Time permitting, you'll have an evening tour of Ulaanbaatar, including the World War II Memorial at Zaisan. Enjoy dinner at your hotel* this evening.
*3 nights deluxe room accommodation at Tuushin or similar hotel in Ulaanbaatar.
(Dinner & Accommodations, Ulaanbaatar)
Meet your guide for a city tour of Ulaanbaatar, including a visit to Gandantegchinlen Monastery. Gandan is the largest and most significant monastery in Mongolia and one of Ulaanbaatar's most interesting sights. Built in the mid 19th century, it is the only monastery where Buddhist services continued during the communist years.
Visitors flock temples during religious services. Tour the Megjid Janraisig Temple, the most important part of the monastery. The Megjid Janraisig Temple was built in 1911-1912 to celebrate the end of Manchu domination in Mongolia and, it is said, to heal the Bogd Gegeen (Khaan) from blindness. The Janraisig statue of 85 foot in height and 20 ton in weight is inside of Temple. The deity was consecrated in 1996, is hollow and contains a storehouse of precious items including sutras, medical herbs, bundles of Buddhist mantras. This statue built with donations of Mongolian people as a symbol of Buddhist revival in the mid-1990s.
Tour the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts displaying unique collections of Buddhist art, sculptures including many of Zanabazar, 17th-century Buddhist leader, sculptor of Mongolia.
(All Meals & Accommodations, Ulaanbaatar)
After an early breakfast, you'll head to the Hustain Nuruu (Pike Hustai) National Park (70 miles) early in the morning. This 50,000 hectares park lies in the foothills of the southern Khentii mountain range. This is the home of Takhi horses commonly known as Przewalski wild horses. These wild horses have been successfully reintroduced to their homeland after 40 years of near extinction. Currently, the number of Takhi has reached more than 170. Within the reserve, there are a number of Turkish graves and stone men statues. The Ongot archaeological complex is nearby and you can stop at the visitor center to learn about this conservation project. There will be a short hike in the mountains to view the wild horses and for photo opportunities.
In the afternoon, drive to the Bayangobi, 115 miles. It is a unique place with many different forms of natural landscapes; Gobi sand dunes, forests, and rocky mountains. It's a unique combination of steppe, forested mountains and desert-type landscape in one place. The base camp is located along the sand dunes, and it's the starting point for travel to the beautiful Hogno Khaan Mountains.
After settling in, you can explore the local area on foot or try riding a horse on traditional Mongolian wooden saddles. This evening, enjoy dinner at the Ger* camp.
*A "ger" is the traditional type of housing used by Mongolian nomads. Structurally similar to a yurt, a ger is a circular tent outfitted with all the necessities of a home.
(All Meals & Accommodations, Bayangobi Ger Camp)
Drive to Karakorum (50 miles). Situated on the banks of river Orkhon, the site of the imperial capital the Karakorum was chosen by Ghenghis Khan in 1220. The city, capital of the largest land empire the world has ever known, served as a supply point for the Mongol armies and was a cosmopolitan and multi-cultural place in its time. Today almost nothing remains of the once-great city, but the sense of its grandeur and importance can still be felt by the visitor. The Karakorum was located on trade routes and was surrounded by walls with four gates, each with its own market.
The nearby Erdene Zuu Monastery was the first Buddhist monastery built in Mongolia, constructed using stones and bricks from the ruins of the ancient city in 1586. During the communist purges of the 1930s, many of the temples in the monastery complex were destroyed, but the remaining temples and stupas are some of the best examples of Mongolian Buddhist architecture. Erdene Zuu is now both a museum and a functioning monastery.
Tour the Erdene Zuu monastery grounds and several chapels with excellent examples of Buddhist iconography dating from the 16th century. Visit the symbolic ruins of the Karakorum, the 13th century capital of the Mongol Empire. Tour the local museum in the Karakorum with excellent historical and archaeological displays. Afterwards, you'll return to Bayangobi for dinner at your Ger camp.
(All Meals, Bayangobi Ger Camp)
This morning, you'll return to Ulaanbaatar to see how Mongolian capitals gears up for the Naadam celebration. Naadam originated many centuries ago as a test of courage, strength, daring, and horsemanship, all necessary for a nomadic people and warriors. This tradition is carried on and held annually in the summer. The largest celebration takes place in Ulaanbaatar beginning on July 11. Herdsmen from all over the country travel to Ulaanbaatar to view and take part in the "eriin gurvan naadam" or "the three games of men". They consist of horse races, wrestling and archery competition.
Mongolian wrestling competition, sometimes involving over 1,000 contestants, are an exciting spectacle. As there are no weight classes and 16 contests are held simultaneously, and the competition progresses quickly. Mongols honor their wrestling champions and are awarded prestigious titles. Before the content wrestlers perform eagle dances to limber up and display their fine physiques. Each wrestler has a second who acts as a coach and herald to announce his charge's heroic deeds.
Horseracing is the favorite sport of the Mongols. Hundreds of herdsmen bring their best horses from great distances to participate in the Naadam festival. The races, which take place on the steppe over the distance from 9 to 20 miles, are the test of endurance for both the horses and riders. Additionally, boys and girls, some as young as six years old, also compete, and the races are organized according to the age of the horses.
Archery competition continue a tradition dating back to Khunnu states (3rd century B.C.) when they were intended to sharpen military skills. Contestants use compound bows fashioned from sinew, wood, wild animal horns, and bamboo, and strung with deer tendon. Following an ancient custom, several men stand on either side of the target singing a folk song (uukhai) to clear the contestants and then show the results using specific hand signals.
You'll tour the horse racing grounds, visit camps of the horse racers and meet the jockeys. Then enjoy the opening ceremony of the festival, which includes thematic performances by leading traditional song singers, dancers, as well as modern art representatives. In the evening, attend the Naadam Gala Folklore Performance and Fashion Show with participants wearing their colorful traditional deel (silk gowns), providing limitless photo opportunities.
(Breakfast, Ger Camp; All Meals & Deluxe Ger Accommodations, HS Khan Resort)
Later in the morning, make the short drive to Nalaikh town in outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. You'll meet a Kazakh family to learn about the culture of a Muslim minority of Mongolia. Then witness the magnificent Golden Eagles that are trained for hunting, and marvel at their speed and agility. Hunting with eagles ('berkutchi') is a form of falconry, traditionally found throughout the Eurasian Steppe, and it is still practiced today.
Later, you'll have an excursion to the Monument to Ghenghis Khan at Tsonjin Boldog, the world's tallest equestrian monument. To Mongolians, Ghengis Khan is a national hero, a larger-than-life figure, and the symbol of Mongolian culture. His face can be found on everyday commodities, from liquor bottles to candy products, and on bank notes. This evening, enjoy your farewell dinner.
(All Meals & Deluxe Ger Accommodations, HS Khan Resort)
After breakfast, meet your driver for a private transfer to Ulaanbaatar airport for your return home, or onto your next Avanti destination!