Trip Summary

Every year, over 100 hunter Kazakhs, who train Golden Eagles for hunting, gather around in a valley of the Altai Mountains and celebrate the Golden Eagle Festival. There’s no age and gender restriction and both men and women compete. Passed down to generations, the skill of hunting with eagles was only preserved among the Mongolian Kazakh community in Mongolia. Thanks to the festival in the past 15 years, this unique tradition is coming back. This trip is one of the best examples of sustainable tourism supporting the local community.

Our journey begins in the Gobi Desert, a diverse ecosystem of Mongolia where high mountains, dry basins, and grasslands all co-exist together. Spend two full days at the Gobi’s tallest dunes, the magnificent Khongoryn Els for various photo opportunities. Next, fly over the high mountains to the western-most part of Mongolia, to participate in the annual Golden Eagle Festival . For two days, experienced hunters will compete with their eagles to test the eagles’ agility and hunting skills. Enjoy spending a private time with hunters for a close up interaction with the hunters and their raptor birds.

About The Festival

The Golden Eagle Festival is arranged during the first week of October every year in the most western – and most remote – province of Mongolia, Bayan-Ulgii. This province is home to ethnic Kazakh nomads who train Golden Eagles for hunting. For two days, Kazakhs compete to show off whose eagle is the most skilled at catching prey, following the command of their owners. Other authentic games are enjoyed by the Kazakhs such as kukbar (tug of war on horseback), archery and horse racing. Hunters put on their best costumes while decorating their eagles with the traditional “eagle costumes”. The Eagle Festival is one of the best opportunities to catch a glimpse into the area’s unique culture, which is different to other parts of Mongolia. The CEO of Mongolia Quest, Badral Yondon was one of the founding members when the Golden Eagle Festival was established over 17 years ago.

Trip Highlights

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT…

  • Experience the annual Golden Eagle Festival, where Kazakh hunters showcase their skills with majestic eagles;
  • Explore the Gobi Desert’s towering dunes at Khongoryn Els, offering exceptional photo opportunities and unique desert ecosystems.
  • Engage closely with Kazakh hunters during private interactions, learning about their traditional way of life and ancient hunting techniques.

THIS TOUR IS PERFECT FOR…

  • Travelers passionate about cultural immersion and experiencing unique traditions firsthand.
  • Those interested in wildlife, especially birds of prey, and exploring diverse natural landscapes like the Gobi Desert and Altai Mountains.
  • Adventurers looking to engage in authentic experiences, interact with local communities, and participate in cultural festivals off the beaten path.

Trip Map & Itinerary

Day 1, Sep 27- Arrival in Ulaanbaatar city

Upon arrival in Ulaanbaatar, transfer to your hotel and settle in. Later, take a brief tour of the city, featuring a visit to Zaisan Hill for a panoramic city view. In the evening, enjoy a traditional Mongolian performance of khoomii (throat singing) and dances, followed by a welcome dinner at a renowned local restaurant. Overnight at the hotel.(Hotel Ulaanbaatar or similar; B, L, D)

Day 2, Sep 28- Drive to Gobi Desert

In the morning, depart with your guide towards the Gobi desert. Witness the transition from Mongolia’s northern grasslands to the unique Gobi ecosystem. Stop in Mandalgovi town for lunch. Continue to your ger camp in the Gobi, arriving by evening. Check-in and unwind with dinner. Overnight stay in gers (Approx. 8 hours driving; B, L, D)

Day 3-4, Sep 29-30- Explore Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes

After breakfast, drive to the Khongoryn Els dunes, Gobi’s largest. Climb the tallest dune and visit a camel herder family for a camel ride. Overnight at a tourist ger camp. (Approx. 3 hours driving; Ger Camp; B, L, D) Spend the next day capturing photos of the Saxual tree forest, stunning landscapes, Mongolia’s two-humped camels, and friendly herders. Overnight in gers. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 5, Oct 1- Visit Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park

In the morning, drive to Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. Visit Havtsgait Petroglyphs site, featuring pre-historic rock drawings. Then, head to the ger camp for lunch. In the late afternoon, visit the Flaming Cliffs, a red cliff with dinosaur fossils. Participate in a paleontological activity, looking for rare fossils hidden in the cliffs. Enjoy a sunset dinner at this majestic place before returning to the ger camp. (Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 6, Oct 2- Return to Ulaanbaatar

In the morning, start driving back to Ulaanbaatar with a picnic lunch along the way. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel. The remainder of the day is independent. Overnight in gers. (Hotel Ulaanbaatar or similar; B, L, D)

Day 7, Oct 3-Fly to Ulgii City/ Trek along Shar Lake

Fly to Ulgii, the capital of Bayan-Ulgii aimag, home to Kazakhs and other minority groups. Explore the city, visit the market, and have the opportunity to purchase renowned Kazakh handmade crafts, including rugs. Visit a local museum if time allows. In the afternoon, take a short drive to crystal-clear Shar Lake, north of Tolbo Lake, reflecting Khunguin Mountain peaks. Trek along the lake’s eastern shore, exploring the area. In the evening, retreat to the Hovd River for trout fishing. Overnight in gers. (Rustic Ger Camp; B, L, D).

Day 8, Oct 4- Private photo session with Eagle Hunters

Commence the day with a private photo session with eagle hunters at the campsite. Travel southwest to visit traditional Kazakh families and witness eagle training. Explore the diverse minority groups in Bayan-Ulgii. Learn about Kazakh women’s handcraft and tapestry, and observe the training of Golden Eagles—an ancient Mongolian tradition. Visit a Uriankhai family renowned for archery skills, vital to Chinggis Khan’s army. Experiencing Kazakh hospitality is a trip highlight. Overnight in gers. (Rustic Camp; B, L, D)

Day 9-10, Oct 5-6 Attend The Golden Eagle Festival

Enjoy two days at the Golden Eagle Festival. Witness the eagle march, where hunters showcase their eagles. Observe eagle skills tested by cliff-top releases. Experience traditional horseback tug of war (kukbar) and an archery contest with ethnic Uriankhai using traditional Mongolian arrow and bow designs. Evenings offer traditional Kazakh meals and performances by Kazakh singers. Overnight in gers. (Rustic Ger Camp; B, L, D)

Day 11, Oct 7- Fly back to Ulaanbaatar

After breakfast, return to Ulgii for your flight to Ulaanbaatar. Spend the afternoon on shopping and individual sightseeing. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. (Hotel Ulaanbaatar or similar; B, L, D)

Day 12, Oct 8- Ulaanbaatar city tour

Explore key city museums and sites: Gandan, Mongolia’s largest Buddhist Monastery with a 60-ft Buddha statue, symbolizing religious freedom; National History Museum displaying Mongolian history and tools; Zanabazar’s Fine Arts Museum featuring Mongolian arts. Enjoy a farewell dinner at a fine restaurant. Overnight at the hotel. (Hotel Ulaanbaatar or similar; B, L, D)

Day 13, Oct 9- Departure

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for departure. (B)

Pricing

2 travelers, standard. twin occupancy
$3,860 per person
Domestic flight: $480 per person
Optional single supplement: $550 per person
10+ travelers, standard. twin occupancy
$3,250 per person
Domestic flight: $480 per person
Optional single supplement: $550 per person
3-5 travelers, standard. twin occupancy
$3,640 per person
Domestic flight: $480 per person
Optional single supplement: $550 per person
6-9 travelers, standard. twin occupancy
$3,400 per person
Domestic flight: $480 per person
Optional single supplement: $550 per person
INCLUSIONS
  • 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 in the countryside based on a twin occupancy and expedition style camping in the countryside;
  • Airport arrival and departure transfers;
  • Sleeping bags; expedition style tents 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.
EXCLUSIONS
  • Domestic and international airfare;
  • 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.

Photos & Review

The highlight of the trip was the Golden Eagle Festival in Olgii in the far west of the country. The Khazaks traditionally hunt fox, rabbit and marmot with Golden Eagles. The annual two day festival features a contest to see who is the best eagle hunter. It is really impressive to see the hunters in their traditional fur coats and embroidered pants on horseback with an eagle on their arm.
This event is starting to attract tourists thanks to the documentary “The Eagle Huntress”, so hotel and ger camp space is limited in Olgii. Mongolia Quest set up a temporary ger camp just for their clients. We had opportunity to meet and photograph eagle hunters and see their eagles close up. Every night we were entertained by local Khazak musicians and singers.
I highly recommend the adventure and Mongolia Quest.

~ Dave, USA

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