Border Information: if joining in Tashkent, you will most likely enter Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport (IATA code: TAS).There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10:00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting.The rest of the day is free to explore the Uzbek capital.Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Tashkent before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Tashkent.*Important note - do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.**Another important note - please be aware that all itineraries in Kyrgyzstan are highly weather-dependent. The itinerary described in these notes are a statement of best intention, but we must approach each trip in Kyrgyzstan with a large degree of flexibility, as our leaders and local guides will have to 'play things by ear' according to the local conditions and weather. In low season certain routes become impossible and it may become far too cold to camp - in all cases there are fantastic and well-tried alternatives in place which means we can always run an excellent and comprehensive trip here, but please do not treat the exact details of the itinerary listed here as gospel - thanks for your understanding!*
This morning we travel in local transport over the Kamchik Pass to Kokand, where we will have the opportunity to visit the Khudayar Khan's Palace and the nearby Margilan Silk Factory before completing the journey to Fergana. The truck must pass over the Kamchik Pass without passengers and will rejoin us this evening in Fergana City.
Border information: Exit Uzbekistan at Andijon, enter Kyrgyzstan at Dustlik.This morning we leave Uzbekistan behind and make our way into the magical mountain kingdom of Kyrgyzstan! Once we have crossed the border we continue our journey to Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan's Fergana Valley - if we are delayed at the border we may choose to stay in the closer town of Jalalabad instead.
Today we have a free day to explore the local area. There will be options to do an all day hike to a big waterfall or alternatively do an optional horseride through the Walnut Forest
We will spend the next 2 days overlanding through the stunning and remote Kyrgyz Fergana Valley, stopping often to admire the views and perhaps take some impromptu hikes in the hills and countryside. Tonight we will find a wild camp close to Toktugal Lake.
Please note that trips running in low season (May to mid-June and October to November), we may not be able to camp if temperatures are too low, in which case we will stay in local guesthouses along the route instead.
We will have another day of scenic driving as we make our way to our second wild camp at Karakuchi Gorge
Today we complete the drive to the incredible Song Köl Lake, where we will spend the next two nights.We will have free time here to explore the area, and to enjoy some optional activities including hiking and horse-riding.Please note that trips during the low season will not be able to visit Song Köl Lake, as temperatures will be below freezing, the road will be snowed over, and there will be no yurts to stay in! Instead we will likely stay in yurts on the southern shore of Lake Issyk Köl.
We will have free time in Song Kul Lake today to explore the area, and to enjoy some optional activities including hiking and horse-riding.
Today we drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local family-run guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality!Whilst here we will visit a small museum and women's felt making cooperative that produces 'shyrdaks', the felt carpets for which Kyrgyzstan is renowned. We may also have the opportunity here to see some excellent local musicians playing traditional Kyrgyz folk music and to see how a yurt is put up!
Today we drive along the southern shore of Lake Issyk Köl and up into the mountains to the alpine trekking region of Jeti Oguz. En route we will have an included demonstation from a local 'eagle hunter'.The next day we will have a free day to hike in the incredible scenery here, or take an optional horse ride with some of the local nomads!Please note that on trips in the low season we may not be able to camp in Jeti Oguz due to low temperatures. If this is the case, we will stay for 1 night in a local hotel at the base of Jeti Oguz Valley (allowing time for some day walks) and then move via a stunning and incredible drive up a mountain in a Russian 4x4 truck to Altyn Arashan, a hot spring development in a stunning alpine setting, staying in dormitory accommodation.
Today is a free day where we will have the chance to hike in the incredible scenery around Jeti Oguz, or take an optional horse ride with some of the local nomads!
Today we will move on from Jeti Oguz or Altyn Arashan to the Russian-style town of Karakol, where we will have a free afternoon to explore and relax!
Today we will drive to the northern shore of Lake Issyk Köl and visit the ancient petroglyphs at Cholpon Ata. We will then continue to the beautiful area of Chong Kemin where we will spend 2 nights.In Chong Kemin we will wild camp. If it is too cold or simply preferred by the group, we may choose to camp in the grounds of a guesthouse in Ashu, a village in the Chong Kemin valley, where there could be the possibility to upgrade to rooms.
We will spend another night in Chong Kemin today and will have free time to explore and hike in this stunning area, or to get involved in an optional white water rafting excursion!
Today we have a short drive to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, with the opportunity to visit the Burana Tower en route. We will have free time to relax and explore the city upon arrival.
Border Information: If joining in Bishkek, you will most likely enter Kyrgyzstan at Bishkek Manas International Airport ( IATA code: FRU ).There will be a pre-departure meeting at 10.00am - please look out for a note from your leader at the reception of the joining hotel upon arrival with more details about this important meeting. Your leader will need to carefully check your visas at this initial meeting as well. The remainder of the day is free to explore the relaxed and atmospheric city of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. Please note many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Bishkek before the start of your trip with us - please contact your sales agent if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Bishkek. *Important note - do not bring any medicines containing tramadol, codeine, temazepam, morphine or opiates to Central Asia. These are illegal in all circumstances in most of Central Asia and you will risk arrest. If in doubt about a particular medicine, please do not bring it. See the notes at the bottom for more details.*
Today we will have a full day's journey south to Tash Rabat, once a key staging post on the Silk Road close to the Kyrgyzstan-China border. During our time here we will visit an ancient caravanserai and have some time to explore the surrounding area. In Tash Rabat we will wild camp. In cold weather ( or if simply the group prefers or there is no availability ), we may choose to stay in local nomadic yurts that are set up for guests near the caravanserai, sleeping 8 - 10 people per yurt.
Border Information: Exit Kyrgyzstan at Torugart, enter China at Torugart. Today we will drive over the 3752m Torugart Pass, crossing into China and heading down to the Uighur city of Kashgar.
This morning we will have an included visit to Shiptons Arch - the largest natural arch in the world! In the afternoon we will have free time to explore the town, the central Id Kah Mosque and its surrounding square, while your crew finalise the customs procedures for our truck to continue further into China.
We will have another free day in Kashgar today as we wait for the paperwork to be finalised for the truck.
Our journey through China begins as we leave Kashgar and head east through the Taklamkan Desert! Our crossing of the desert usually takes 3 days/2nights and we will plan to stay in local hotels along the way. Our first night we will plan to spend in Aksu
Another full drive day through the desert and onto the small town of Bayanbulak
Today we will travel to the oasis town of Turpan, where we will have time to explore the surrounding sites including the famous Jiaohe ruins.
Today is mostly a travel day as we make our way closer to the Chinese/ Mongolian Border.We will either wild camp tonight if possible or stay in a local hotel.
Border Information: Exit China at Takeshiken, enter Mongolia at Hovdiin Bulgan.This morning we will complete the drive to the border and cross into Mongolia. We will stop in the small town of Bulgan to stock up on supplies for the next few days before we find a place to camp for the night in this remote area of Western Mongolia.
Over the next 3 days we will be driving mostly offroad making our way further west towards Altai Tavn National Park wild camping along the way. Today we will drive through Bodnach Canyon and then onto Tal Lake. On the way we will visit one of the biggest deer stone sites in Western Mongolia.
We will have an early start today as we continue our journey on to Khoton and Khurgan Lakes where we will have 2 nights camping next to the beautiful lake in the National Park.
Today we will have the day to spend relaxing by the lake or stretch your legs and opt to do a full day hike to Turken Waterfalls.
This morning we will leave the national park and continue on to the town of Ulgii.In the afternoon we will have an included visit to the local museum to understand more about Ulgii and the surrounding areas. We will also head to the local markets to explore and stock up on supplies again.
Today we drive out of the town of Ulgii and do a full day's drive off road onto Tsambagarav National Park.We hope to arrive early afternoon where there will be free time to explore this beautiful national park and admire the view of Tsambagarav which is one of the highest mountains in Mongolia sitting at 4195 metres.Tonight we will wild camp in the National Park
We have an early start this morning to begin our drive to Tsenhker Caves. Once we arrive and have set up camp we will have a chance to stretch our legs and walk to the caves to see the rock paintings which have been there for thousands of years. Tonight we will wild camp near the caves
Over the next 2 days we will continue our journey east, edging closer to the famous Gobi Desert.
We will bush camp tonight near the Antaishir Mountain range
Another full drive today ahead of us in the afternoon we hope to reach Taats Lake which has a beautiful sandy beach giving us the opportunity to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings in this area.
Leaving Taats lake we will drive to Khongor Sand Dunes.
Late this afternoon we will hike to Duut Mankhan which is the highest point of the dunes to see the stunning sunset over the dunes.
With another full day in Khongor we have a chance to enjoy and take in the incredible landscapes with an opportunity for Camel Riding as well.
This morning we will leave the sand dunes behind and drive to Bayanzag known as the site of the Flaming Cliffs. Late in the afternoon we will see them change colours with the sun direction and enjoy another stunning sunset. We continue on through the Gobi Desert taking in the vast open lands in all directions taking in another beautiful sunset as we reach our camp for the night.
Today we will continue through the Gobi and Yol Valley, we will eventually start to head north to Tsagaan Suvraga which is translated to White Stupa. This sediment structure is over 60 metres high with steep slopes which appear to be the ruins of an ancient city. Tonight we will wild camp
Today we will drive to Baga Gazrynn Chuluu. When we arrive we will get a chance to explore the impressive rock formations rising from the desert steppe. Tonight we will spend our last night wild camping before we reach Ulaanbaatar.
This morning we will leave the desert behind and make our way to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. In the afternoon we will have free time to explore the city.Tonight we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.
Border information: If you are joining in Ulaanbaatar, you will most likely enter Mongolia at Ulaanbaatar Chinggis Khaan International Airport (IATA code: ULN).There will be a group meeting today at 6:00pm - please look out for a note from your tour leader at the hotel reception with more information about this important meeting, but please do not be alarmed if the note is not there as this is often a travel day for the tour leader and they may arrive in the afternoon. If you arrive early, the rest of the day will be free to explore the Mongolian capital!Please note that many of the options listed below will only be possible for those with extra time in Ulaanbaatar before the start of your trip with us - please contact the Sales team if you would like to book pre-tour accommodation with us to have extra time exploring Ulaanbaatar.
This morning we head out on a guided tour to see some of Ulaanbaatar's best and most treasured sights, including the Gandan Monastery and the National Museum.This afternoon we will spend a few hours exploring the Black Market. This huge market contains every single item a Mongolian may need, so a trip here will certainly give visitors a fascinating insight into people's lives, whether they are nomads or urban apartment dwellers.
Today we drive out of the city and into the vast plains of Mongolia. We hope to arrive at Khar Bukh Balgas ruins in the early afternoon.Khar Bukh Balgas was built during the Kitan period in about 1000CE, and was part of a chain of fortresses that were used to govern and control the northern region and borders of the Kitan state. Upon arrival at the site, we will explore the ruins and learn about the various kingdoms that dominated Mongolia during that era.After our visit to the ruins we will drive to Ögii Lake where many nomadic families spend their summer. The lake is famed for it's great bird watching opportunities where it is not uncommon to spot at Swan Goose, White Spoonbill and Dalmatian Pelicans.Please note that we cannot give any accurate drive time estimations for our Mongolia trip as the journey times are heavily dependent on the state of roads, which is in turn heavily dependent on the weather. The roads in Mongolia are mostly dirt tracks in very poor condition, which means that an even greater degree of flexibility is needed for this trip in all regards.
Today we have an early start as we head to Mongolia's earliest capital, Kharkhorin (otherwise known as Karakoram).Our first stop on the way to Kharkhorin will be at the Kultigen Monument. This massive stone tomb was built in honour of a Turkic prince and warrior killed in a nearby battle. We then continue on a fairly short drive to Kharkhorin.Kharkhorin was famed throughout Asia at the capital of the Mongol Empire. We will visit the ruins of the old city, the Erdene Zuu monastery, and other historical monuments in the area.
Today we will continue our journey through the Orkhon Valley to the Tuvkhon Monastery, which we can embark on a two and a half hour trek to visit (the first hour will be uphill!). This monastery was established during the 1650s by Zanbazar, one of Mongolia's most respected religious leaders. The monastery's wooden buildings are integrated with a natural system of caves perched near a hilltop, from which you have beautiful views of the Orkhon Valley and the surrounding pine forests.
Today our trip heads north, crossing the Khangai Nuruu Mountains through a series of passes until we reach an area that Mongolians call 'The Paradise of the Horse Herders' due to its lush grasses and open valleys.We drive to the Tsenkher hot springs, where water flows out of the ground at 82°C, and where we can enjoy a relaxing soak.
This morning we will take a short, easy walk to meet one of the many nomadic families that spend their summers in the region. The afternoon is free to explore the valley and surrounding hills either by foot or by horseback.
This morning we drive to Tsetserleg, the provincial capital, where we will make a short visit to the local market. If time permits, we will also visit the provincial museum.We will then continue our journey north past the Tamir river, and will wild camp tonight.
Today we continue noth past Taikhar Chuluu (a massive rock which is connected to local mythology) and the Chluulut Canyon to arrive at our ger camp near the Khorgo volcano.In Chuulut Canyon we will stay at a nearby ger camp.
This morning we will take a hike to the top of the Khorgo Volcano and take in the incredible views over its perfect crater. From the top of the volcano we continue our hike though fields studded with pine trees, stopping off en route at the Yellow Dog Cave, an interesting volcanic phenomenon.We will then return to the truck and continue our journey north. We will aim wild camp tonight in the remote plains north of Khorgo.
Over the next few days we continue driving north on one of Mongolia's most beautiful routes, crossing high mountain passes, vast grasslands, and small creeks! We will pass by the beautiful alpine Lake Zuun en route. We hope to arrive at Mörön, the provincial capital, the following afternoon. We will visit the local market, Danzadarjaa Monastery and the local museum. If we don't have time on this section of the trip, then we can visit the town after coming back from Khövsgöl Lake.We will aim to wild camp near Zuun Lake and near the town of Mörön.
We hope to arrive at Moeroen, the provincial capital, this afternoon. We will visit the local market, Danzadarjaa Monastery and the local museum. If we don't have time on this section of the trip, then we can visit the town after coming back from Khoevsgoel Lake.
This morning we will drive out to an ancient burial site featuring Mongolia's mysterious deer stones, these are memorial stones representing important leaders and warriors, carved with deer motifs. After visiting the site, we continue our trip northward to one of the world's biggest fresh water sources, the stunning Khövsgöl Lake.Khövsgöl Lake and its amazing surroundings are home to several of Mongolia's ethnic minorities as well as a refuge for a wide variety of wildlife. One of the most interesting ethnic groups living near the lake is the Tsaatan, also known as 'The Reindeer People'. A small tribe of Tsaatan consisting of about 40 families lives with its herds of reindeer in the forests around the lake. These graceful animals provide the tribe with all its basic needs - milk, meat and transportation. As there are very few Tsaatan left and this is a mobile population, we may meet them but there are no guarantees - however, the scenery of the area is well worth the exploration.
Today we will take a hike around the forests and meadows near the lake. Lying at about 1650m above sea level, surrounded by mountains rising above 3100m, the waters of Khovsgol are deep and spectacularly clear and pure. We will hike through thick pine forests carpeted with flowers and explore the setting of Mongolia's 'Blue Pearl'.
We will spend the next 3 days crossing central-northern Mongolia on our way back towards the capital of Ulaanbaatar. We will aim to wildcamp in the plains east Moron tonight.
Today's drive offers diversified landscapes from vast, open steppes to beautiful sand dunes. At the end of a long drive day we will cam near the Selenge River
After packing up camping this morning we will continue on our journey and aim to reach the town of Bulgan where we will find a wildcamp on the outskirts of the town.
This morning we will try to visit the Amarbayasgalant Monastery. Built between 1727 and 1736 by the Manchu Emperor Enkh Amgalan, Amarbayasgalant is among the largest monasteries in Mongolia to have survived the purges of the 1930s. With about 60 monks living and studying here, the monastery functions today as one of Mongolia's central religious institutions, and consists of 29 different temples, all built in the classic Tibetan style.
Today we have a full day drive from northern Mongolia back to the city of Ulaanbaatar. This evening is free to relax and explore, and to have a well-earned final meal and drinks in one of the city's many restaurants!
Border information: If you are leaving in Ulaanbaatar, you will most likely exit Mongolia at Ulaanbaatar Chinggis Khaan International Airport (IATA code: ULN).Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Ulaanbaatar. Please note there is no accommodation included on the trip tonight - please contact your sales agent if you are interested in booking extra nights of accommodation in order to fully explore and take part in some of the optional activities listed below.