The Trails of Lake Hovsgol and Gobi Desert

Dates: Jun 10 – 24 & Aug 24 – Sep 7, 2024


Mongolia is a national park itself with a commitment to protect up to 30% of its territory. The country is an ideal destination for mountain trekking, horseback and camelback riding. “National Parks of Mongolia” is one of our series of “Active Quests,” which include trekking and riding in some of the most beautiful national parks in the country. Traveling in Mongolia on a trip that combines two or more of the currently existing 99 national parks will be an unforgettable travel experience.

Our trip begins with a flight north to Lake Hovsgol, Mongolia’s “Mother Sea,” which contains 1% of the world’s fresh water. The lake is the headwaters to famous Lake Baikal, which is located not far in Siberia and is one of the oldest lakes in the world. Here, we will enjoy a two-day horseback riding tour, trekking through some of the most scenic places along the lakeshore. Later, we will drive south to the Gobi Desert, exploring the habitat areas of Argali wild sheep, gazelles, grey wolves, and snow leopards. We will also enjoy camel trekking at Khongoryn Els sand dunes in Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park, the largest in the park system.



  • Travel to Darhad Valley, one of Mongolia’s most beautiful areas.
  • Enjoy hiking in some of the most scenic trails in Mongolia along the breathtaking Lake Hovsgol.
  • Drive across the vast Gobi desert and explore the country as one ecosystem changes to another.
  • Enjoy riding camels along the largest sand dunes in the Gobi.
  • Enjoy meeting local Mongolian and join them over dinners at their homes.
  • Meet Mongolian individuals of various background and professions and hear their prespectives on Mongolia’s challenges and the future it holds.


  • Enjoy small group settings, as the minimum number of participants is just 2.
  • Have some horse riding experience.
  • Prepared for extensive overland driving on unpaved, dirt roads in the Gobi section.
  • Appreciate the convenience of having all camping equipment provided during the trip.
  • Love hiking, as there are plenty of hiking opportunities available each day.
  • Passionate about photography, particularly wildlife photography.


Day 1. Arrival in Ulaanbaatar city.

Upon arrival at Chinggis Khan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar, meet your guide and transfer to your hotel. After resting in your hotel room, enjoy a brief city tour including a visit to Zaisan Hill where you can get a magnificent bird’s eye view of the city. This old Soviet period relic is a popular place for locals to hang out and offers great panoramic views of the entire city. In the evening, enjoy a welcome dinner at one of the city’s fine local restaurants.

Overnight at hotel. (Hotel Bayangol or similar; D)

Day 2. Fly North to Lake Hovsgol.

After breakfast, fly north to Lake Hovsgol, known also as the “Dark Blue Pearl.’” This magnificent lake is one of the most scenic regions in the country, and is located at the foothills of the breathtaking Horidal Saridag Mountains to the west and Siberian larch forests to the east. Upon arrival, we will begin driving to Ulaan Uul county, located at Ulaan Uul Strictly Protected Area. This area is locally known as Darkhad valley, located in the very north of Mongolia almost 1000 km away from Ulaanbaatar. Historically hard to access, this land is rich with coniferous taiga forests of Ulaan Taiga, high mountains of Horidal Saridag, and crisscrossed with hundreds of small streams, dozens of rivers and lakes.

Overnight in tents. (Tent Camp; B, L, D)

Day 3. Hiking and horseback riding in Darhad Valley.

Spend this day hiking and horseback riding at Horidal Mountain. Enjoy a picnic lunch followed by an authentic traditional Mongolian dinner hosted by a local nomadic family.

Overnight in tents. (Tent Camp; B, L, D)

Day 4. Drive through Lake Hovsgol.

Today, we will drive through beautiful Hovsgol scenery to reach the Blue Pearl of Mongolia, Lake Hosvgol, an alpine lake containing 70% of Mongolia’s freshwater resources. In the aftermath of the post 1990s democratic revolution in Mongolia, tourism has been developing here only along the southwestern shoreline.

Overnight in a local ger camp. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 5. Visiting herder family and exploring Lake Hovsgol.

Enjoy a full day at the lake, visiting local herder families and hiking along the lakeshore. In the afternoon, enjoy kayaking in its crystal-clear water in one- and two-person kayaks.

Overnight in gers. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 6. Drive to Murun and fly back to Ulaanbaatar.

In the morning, we will drive to Murun and fly back to Ulaanbaatar for our next adventure. Lunch is independent. In the evening, enjoy dinner at a fine local restaurant.

Overnight at hotel. (Hotel Bayangol or similar; B, D)

Day 7. Drive East to Ikh Nart National Park.

After breakfast, we will continue our journey to Ikh Nart Nature Reserve which was established in 1996, covering an area of about 66,000 hectares of grassland and steppe. It is home to a significant population of Mongolia Argali wild sheep. Since 2003, EarthWatch volunteers have helped Dr. Richard Reading and Ganchimeg Wingard in the study of ecology and biology of the park. These researchers are working to develop long-term conservation management plans for individual species as well as for Ikh Nart Park itself. Enjoy dinner and overnight at a local ger camp.

(Approx. 6 hours driving; Local Ger Camp, B, L, D)

Day 8. Full day of exploration of Ikh Nart National Park.

Enjoy a full day of exploration of the park and its surrounding areas. Projects taking place in the park are administered by a number of organizations including the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, the Denver Zoological Foundation, and the University of Vermont. This park has become an incubator for young researchers not only from Mongolia but from all over the world.

Overnight in local ger camp. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 9. Drive to Ikh Gazriin Chuluu.

Today we continue our journey deeper into the Gobi desert and head towards Ikh Gazriin Chuluu nature preserve. Despite the fact that it received its status only a few years ago, it is known as one of the most beautiful natural settings in Mongolia with granite rock formations which are unmatched.

Stay in local ger camp. (Approx. 6 hours driving; Local Ger Camp)

Day 10. Picnic lunch at Tsagaan Suvraga and continue drive to Southern Gobi Desert.

Today, we drive through some different parts of the Gobi terrain, stopping for a picnic lunch at Tsagaan Suvraga locality – white sandstone cliffs, from where a fantastic view opens over the desert floor. Colors of the rocks range from white and yellow to pink and deep red. Continue onto the South Gobi, stopping at the provincial center of Dalanzadgad for refueling.

Overnight in a ger camp. (Approx. 6 hours driving; Local Ger Camp)

Day 11. Explore Yol Valley and Ayaldai Valley.

In the morning, enter Mongolia’s largest national park Gobi Gurvan Saikhan, stretching over 2.7 million hectares. It is home to the elusive snow leopard, Ibex mountain goat, Gobi bear (Mazalai), Havtgai wild camel, goitered gazelle, Argali sheep, the Bearded Vulture, and Mongolian Jay. We will explore one of the most famous gorges in the park, Yol Valley, named after the rare Lammergeyer or Bearded Vulture, who are known for their ability to break big bones to get marrow. After a picnic lunch, we will continue onto the Khongoryn Els sand dunes, which stretch over 100 miles from east to west. We’ll stay overnight in a tent camp at the secluded Ayaldai Valley.

(Tent Camp; B, L, D)

Day 12. Camel trekking journey at Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes.

After breakfast, we will begin our camel trekking journey across the vast Khongoryn Els sand dunes. In the late afternoon, we will enjoy climbing the tallest of the dunes.

Overnight in gers. (Approx. 4 hours camel trekking; Ger Camp; L, D)

Day 13. Explore Havtsgait Petroglyphs and Flaming Cliffs.

After another magnificent sunrise, we will drive to the valley of Dalanzadgad, literally meaning “70 springs.” According to locals, at some point there were 70 springs in the valley, and this is how the city received its name. En route, we will stop and explore Havtsgait Petroglyphs, an amazing collection of early Bronze Age rock carvings located on the top of a mountain range in Baruun Saikhan. Next, we will transfer to a ger camp for lunch. In the late afternoon, we will drive to the legendary Flaming Cliffs, red sandstone bluffs stretching over 3 km in width, where hundreds of dinosaur fossils have been discovered. Paleontological expeditions from many countries, including from the U.S, Poland, Japan and Russia, have worked here for past 90 years. Each year, rain and wind reveal yet more fossils, and every summer, more specimens are collected. Return to ger camp in the evening.

Overnight in gers. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 14. Drive back to Ulaanbaatar city.

In the morning, we will transfer to the airport to fly back to Ulaanbaatar for our last day of explorations. Spend the remainder of the day for last-minute shopping and sightseeing. In the evening, we will enjoy a wonderful performance of traditional Mongolian music and dance, featuring Khoomii, or “throat-singing,” followed by farewell dinner at a fine local restaurant.

(Hotel Bayangol or similar; B, L, D)

Day 15. Departure.

After breakfast transfer to the airport for your return flight home. (B)


2 travelers; based on twin occupancy;
3,950 per person
Optional single supplement: $510 per person
Domestic flights: $340 per person
3-5 travelers; based on twin occupancy;
3,780 per person
Optional single supplement: $510 per person
Domestic flights: $340 per person
6-9 travelers; based on twin occupancy;
3,530 per person
Optional single supplement: $510 per person
Domestic flights: $340 per person
10 and more travelers; based on twin occupancy;
3,350 per person
Optional single supplement: $510 per person
Domestic flights: $340 per person
  • Land transportation as indicated in the itinerary based on using Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps seating 3 passengers each;
  • Accommodations in a standard room at hotels, gers, and expedition style camping in the countryside based on a twin occupancy;
  • Airport arrival and departure transfers;
  • Sleeping bags, and mats;
  • All meals indicated as B, L or D;
  • All entrance fees as indicated in the itinerary;
  • English speaking national guide throughout your stay;
  • Bottled water per person per day and unlimited supply of boiled waters.
  • Domestic and international airfares;
  • Personal laundry;
  • Drinks not mentioned in the itinerary;
  • Travel insurance;
  • Medical evacuation costs;
  • Excess baggage charges;
  • Visa fees;
  • Gratuities;
  • Photography and video fees;
  • Any other item not mentioned as included.
Post-Trip Altai Mountains Extension

Why not extend your journey and visit Altai Tavan Bogd National Park? On this western Mongolian journey, we will visit Mongolia’s highest peaks and trek amidst stunningly beautiful peaks. We will visit local Kazakh hunters’ camps to learn how golden eagles are trained and meet talented Kazakh women who are renowned for their skill of making colorful embroideries.


What a wonderful place to visit and what a great company to guide that visit! My wife and I have been on many wildlife tours. The team at Mongolia Quest ranked at the top of any we’ve had. We spent a little over two weeks exploring a small part of this fascinating country. The itinerary was well mapped out. Each day we awoke to marvel that we were in a new different and beautiful “middle of nowhere”. The typical day’s journey had no street lights buildings or signs in sight for many miles– just fantastic scenery and wildlife, with gers and nomad’s herds along the way. Most of the time we were off-road in Toyota Land Cruisers. The drivers were friendly and highly competent. The meals were well-planned and we stayed in a mixture of fun places – ger camps, tents, a Russian vintage hotel, and modern 5 Star hotel in UB. The MQ guide was highly knowledgeable in everything from local history to wildlife to herdsman culture. We hiked in the mountains looking for snow leopards, rode Bactrian camels, marveled at the migrating Demoiselle cranes. What fun!