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.

Brief Daily Itinerary

Day 1. Arrival

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. Ulaanbaatar / Darkhad Valley

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. 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. 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. Dinner and overnight in a local ger camp. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 5. 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. Murun, 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. Ulaanbaatar / Ikh Nart

After breakfast, we will continue our journey to Ikh Nart National Park 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. 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. 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. Tsagaan Suvraga, 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. Yol Valley, 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; we will enjoy dinner with camel wranglers this evening. (Tent Camp; B, L, D)

Day 12. 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. Havtsgait Petroglyphs, 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. Ulaanbaatar

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 departure flight. (B)

Trip Highlights:

  • 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 challanges and the future it holds

Trip Logistics:

  • Minimum number of participants required for this trip: 2
  • Minimum horse riding experience is an advantage to enjoy the horseback riding and camel trekking portions of the trip
  • In the Gobi section, extensive overland driving over unpaved, dirt roads is involved
  • All camping equipments are provided during the trip
  • Plenty of hiking opportunities are provided each day
  • Photography lovers might appreciate bringing a light tri-pod and tele-photo lenses for wildlife viewing excursions


Trip Date:

June 10 – 24 & Aug 24 – Sep 7, 2024

2 travelers:

$3,950 per person, twin occupancy

3-5 travelers:

$3,780 per person, twin occupancy

6-9 travelers:

$3,530 per person, twin occupancy

10 and more travelers:

$3,350 per person, twin occupancy

Optional single supplement:

$510 per person

Domestic flights:

$340 per person

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.



Hotel Ulaanbaatar

Hotel Ulaanbaatar is conveniently located in downtown Ulaanbaatar and is a very well established hotel with a friendly staff. All major atractions of UB are located with a walking distance of the hotel.

camping night view mongolia

Field camps

In the Darhad Valley, we will be staying expedition style tents. It is one of the best camping grounds in the entire country and be sure to watch for the northern stars and the entire Milkyway spanning over us!


Ger camps

During the rest of the expedition in Mongolia, we will be staying at tourist class, cozy ger camps with western bathroom and restaurant facilities. Most visitors find staying in gers as one of the highlights of their trip to Mongolia.

Land Transportation:

Land transportation is provided by Toyota Land Cruiser jeeps seating  3 passangers per vehicle. Some roads can be bumby and hard but our drivers are some of the most experienced and reliable in the country.