Beautiful and exotic, Siberia and Mongolia are worlds away from the traditional beaten path. Start in Mongolia with the country’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, a rich repository of Buddhist art and culture. Roam the legendary Gobi Desert, the natural habitat of gazelles, snow leopards, Bactrian camels and eagles. In the desert, witness a celebration of Mongolia’s independence and a demonstration of its strong cultural heritage at a local Naadam celebration.
Then cross into the Russian taiga’s unbroken forest to visit Siberia’s deep UNESCO-listed Lake Baikal, teeming with unusual marine life. Start at the western shore of Lake Baikal and explore charming Listvyanka Village and Irkutsk, home to early political exiles. Journey along a scenic leg of the world-famous Trans-Siberian Railway on a day’s trip to Ulan Ude, capital of the Buryat Republic and centre of Buddhism in Russia. Stay at local homes in the timber town of Ust-Barguzin, and explore the beautiful islands and hidden coves of Chivirkuy Bay. Head to Olkhon Island by boat, searching for elusive freshwater seals; and from there back to Irkutsk to celebrate the journey.
– All airfares & taxes (Flying Korean Air)
– Stopover in Seoul on the way to Mongolia
– Accommodation in 3-star, 4-star & 5-star hotels; Gers at Terelj Lodge and at Three Camel Lodge & Ger Camp; and homestays.
– 17 breakfasts, 15 lunches and 14 dinners
– Bottled water with meals
– Visas for Mongolia & Russia
– Economy class train ticket from Irkutsk to Ulan Ude
– Transportation by private motorcoach
– Group tipping
– Services of a Tour Manager for Mongolia & Siberia and local guides
– Assistance of your Tour Leader, Mandy Page
– Land Only price on application
– Extending your stay – before or after Tour Dates
– Deposit: $750 per person
– Group Size: 20 travellers (max)
We start our amazing adventure with a flight to Seoul on Korean Air. On arrival this evening, we transfer to our hotel.
This morning is an opportunity to explore some of Seoul before returning to the airport for our flight to Ulaanbaatar. On arrival we are met and travel to our hotel.
Located on a high plateau, surrounded by towering mountains Ulaanbaatar is home to the country’s most extensive cultural, historical and archeological collections and we get to explore it. We visit the fascinating National History Museum which provides a comprehensive look into the steppe nomad’s history and culture ranging from the dawn of humanity through the incredible empire of Genghis Khan and on to the present day.
Then we round out the day with the award-winning Tumen Ekh ensemble, Mongolia’s premier traditional music and dance troupe. The ensemble showcases the best in Mongolian throat-singing, folk songs and music, played on traditional stringed and wind instruments, and graceful Mongolian dances performed by vividly costumed dancers.
Today we fly to the South Gobi’s semi-arid desert which is home to golden eagles, saker falcons, jerboas (similar to kangaroo rats), many endemic reptiles and some of the Northern Hemisphere’s rarest mammals, such as the dhole, snow leopard, and Gobi bear.
We drive to Togrogiin Shiree, a white escarpment where the famous “Fighting Dinosaurs” (a fossil of a Protoceratops and a Velociraptor locked in combat) were discovered. In the late afternoon, we visit the town of Bulgan, a local settlement established near a natural spring.
All going well we will capture the sunset on the Flaming Cliffs.
Today we will attend a “country” Naadam Festival. This rural festival usually attracts from 200 to 300 locals, with 10-15 archers, 40 wrestlers and 40-60 horses and riders. A unique experience not to be missed.
We start the day with a visit to Yolyn Am Canyon (Vulture’s Mouth) – a canyon which cuts a narrow path into the rocky slopes of the Gurvansaikhan Mountains. Never feeling the warmth of the sun, the cool canyon sometimes shelters snowbanks that remain frozen long into the summer.
Then it’s on to Moltsog Els, a place where the wind piles the shifting sands in dunes, an unusual feature in the Gobi.
We fly back to Ulaanbaatar this morning. Upon arrival, we head overland to Terelj National Park, a Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area, where very few humans live. At over 1,800 m, Terelj is a sweeping alpine landscape of temperate grassland and small pines dotted with rustic gers and grazing livestock. Horses are available for hire, and huge rock formations crop up at intervals through the rocky soil.
Heading back to Ulaanbaatar this morning we will stop for lunch before going to the Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs. This would be the place to play ‘count the bones’.
We then enjoy some personal time in the city centre. Later we transfer to the airport and fly to Irkutsk, Russia.
Irkutsk is a pleasant, tree-lined city of near 600,000 on the banks of the Angara River. With some lovely pre-revolutionary churches, universities, a fine botanical garden and a number of appealing museums, the city is a noted cultural centre.
We begin our discovery of Irkutsk with the Decembrist House Museum. These reformers were sentenced to forced labour in Siberia, Many of them, with their wives, settled in Irkutsk after their terms were over, and brought with them education and culture.
Another highlight will be Znamensky Convent a delightful ensemble of buildings and gardens.
We transfer to Listvyanka this morning with touring en route. We visit the Baikal Museum with its focus on limnology, the study of the life and other phenomena in fresh water. Lake Baikal; is the oldest and deepest lake in the world; and has many unique species.
We can then hike or take the ski lift to the observation platform on top of Chersky Mount, the highest hill in the area. On the way is a barisaa, or prayer tree, where people tie a ribbon or prayer flag to represent a wish or a prayer.
A must see along our journey is the Wooden Architecture Museum. This outdoor museum is a 166-acre collection of authentic Russian and native Buryat, Evenki and Tafalar houses and community buildings from the 17th to the early 20th century.
Finally, we will visit the fish market in Listvyanka, where all manner of Baikal fish are presented for sale.
This morning we board a boat and enjoy a cruise on Lake Baikal. The visibility of the lake can be up to 80 feet due to the unique species of plankton that filters the clear water.
After lunch at a local restaurant, we will enjoy time to explore and walk in this lovely place.
Returning to Irkutsk this morning we will enjoy a short section of the Trans-Siberian Railway. The Trans-Siberian Railway is one of the longest train routes in the world, stretching more than 5,500 miles from Vladivostok to Moscow.
This evening we arrive in Ulan Ude, the capital of the Buryat Republic, with its unique cultural identity, language and religion.
Today we will discover Ulan Ude’s small city centre. Highlights are the covered market, the wooden Siberian houses, the city’s first stone Orthodox church; and the biggest Lenin head in the world.
Then we visit Ivolginsk Datsan – the centre of Russian Buddhism. The main temple is decorated with beautiful silks, precious stones, and painted woodwork and is crowded every morning with chanting monks, townspeople and pilgrims.
In contrast we will visit a community of Old Believers, people exiled to Siberia centuries ago. We are privileged to have dinner with the Old Believers before returning to Ulan Ude for overnight.
This morning we depart for the tiny town of Ust-Barguzin, a little lakeside village that is the gateway to the Zabaikalsky National Park. On the way we will enjoy lunch at Gremyachinsk, a village on the eastern shore of Lake Baikal. Arriving at Ust-Barguzin later this afternoon we will have time to explore this small town. A fishing and port town with unpaved streets, it gives a fascinating glimpse into rural Siberian life. We then enjoy dinner and overnight with families, a unique opportunity to experience Siberian hospitality at its best.
After breakfast, we set out by boat for the lovely Ushkaniye Islands to search for the elusive freshwater seal, the nerpa. Continuing on to the shores of Chivirkuy Bay accompanied by a National Park ranger, we will have a chance to enjoy one of the most beautiful bays on the lake, with the ridges of the Holy Nose rising up from the forested shore.
On then to the south end of the lake, finishing at scenic Olkhon Island. The island has been a sacred place for millennia, the place where the indigenous Buryats believed that the gods of Baikal lived.
Today will be a full day tour on Olkhon Island. The island is in a peculiar rain shadow and has more sunny days than the Black Sea coast. It is also full of contrasts. Just off the sandy west coast near the island’s largest town, Khuzhir, we will see Shaman Cape which has been used for many years by shamans, and later Buddhists, for ceremonies.
This morning, we ferry across the Olkhon Gates, the narrow strip of lake separating Olkhon from the western shore of Baikal and depart overland to Irkutsk.
On the way we will visit the Golden Horde Ethnographic Complex located in a picturesque area near the village of Ust-Orda. We will have the opportunity to participate in a traditional dance (or not) and see an example of a beautiful wood-carved yurt.
This morning, we take a pleasant stroll through the neighborhood of restored and reconstructed Siberian wooden houses and shops called the Kvartal Project.
We then climb to the belltower of the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and enjoy a concert of chimes by a master bell ringer. A musical treat.
After all this culture we will enjoy lunch and a sauna visit with a local family at their dacha. Returning to the hotel we have time to pack and rest before transferring to Irkutsk airport for our flight to Seoul.
Upon arrival at Seoul airport early this morning, we have the use of a hotel day room until our flight to Auckland late this afternoon.
Home to New Zealand with special memories of our time in captivating Mongolia and Siberia.
Mandy is one well-travelled person, having visited all 7 continents!
She is interested in the arts and has an unquenchable fascination with ancient history and cultures. You’ll benefit from Mandy’s extensive travel experience, and especially enjoy her infectious laughter.
Fantastic, Mandy went out of her way every day to check up on everyone, was very inclusive and informative. An excellent leader, strong and direct.
Mandy an exceptional tour leader. A lovely caring personality. Always fun.
Mandy did a great job of meeting the needs of a disparate group. We enjoyed her roadside walks and ability to keep us amused with stories, jokes, crosswords, etc.