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 joining in Ulaanbaatar, you will most likely enter Mongolia at Ulaanbaatar Chinggis Khaan International Airport (IATA code: ULN).There will be a short 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.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.
Today we will leave the Mongolian capital behind us as we begin our overland journey south towards China. We may have the opportunity to visit the Dechinchoinkhorlin Monastery in Sainshand en route (please note this is not always open for visitors).We aim to wild camp near the town of Sainshand tonight.
Border information: Exit Mongolia at Zamyn-Uud, enter China at Erlian.Today we will drive to the border town of Zamyn-Uud and cross the border into China! Please be aware that the border procedures can take around 5 hours to complete. Once we have crossed into China we will most likely stay in a local hotel in Erlian (the town on the Chinese side of the border), or wild camp out of town.
Today we have an early start and will have a long drive to China's capital, Beijing.
Border Information: if joining in Beijing, you will most likely enter China at Beijing Capital International Airport (IATA code: PEK).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. The rest of the day will be free to explore the incredible city of Beijing!Please note that many of the optional activities will only be possible for those with extra time in Beijing 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 Beijing.
Today we will head out on the Beijing metro to the city centre's famous Tiananmen Square, which we will walk through and then take a tour of the Forbidden City. We will then have a free afternoon to further explore the many sights, sounds and flavours of Beijing.
This morning we will start our journey with a drive to the city of Chengde.
Today we will have a full day to explore the Puning Temple and the famous Imperial Summer Resort.
This morning we will have a short drive to one of the world's most incredible sights - the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall of China! We will have time this afternoon to thoroughly explore and walk along the Great Wall.
Today we will drive to the city of Datong in China's Shanxi province.
On the following day we will head out of Datong in the truck on an included visit to the awe-inspiring Yungang Buddha Caves.
This morning we continue to the stunning mountainous area known as Wutai Shan, one of the holiest sites of Chinese Buddhism and a major centre of pilgrimage in the country. We will have an included visit to the incredible Hanging Monastery en route.
Today we will have a full day to explore the area and visit its incredible array of temples and religious sites.
Today we will drive to China's best-preserved ancient walled town, Pingyao.
We will stay for 2 nights in Pingyao, giving us plenty of time to explore this ancient town and surrounding sites such as the Mian Shan Mountain Resort and the Zhangbi Underground City.
Today we will have another free day to explore Pingyao and its surroundings.
Today we continue our journey to visit the ancient village of Lijiashan, famed for settlement of cave dwellers and still home to more than 600 families. We will stop en route for an included visit to the Black Dragon Temple just outside of Lijiashan.In Lijiashan we will stay in a cave room, run by a local family and set up for guests.Please note that some caves include a traditional 'Kang Stove bed'. The Kang bed is a hollow platform made from bricks that is used both as a bed and as a work area, these are common in remote villages in Northern China. In winter a coal fire can be lit under the bed, providing a huge amount of warmth day and night and it is very common for the whole family to sleep on one large bed. This means there may be times that members of the group may have to share 1 large bed with others in the group.
Today we make our way to the city of Yan'an.Yan'an is famous for being the ending point for those on the 'Long March', and became the CCP headquarters for a brief period. During our time here we have an included visit to the Revolutionary Museum and the CCP Headquarters site.
Today we will drive to the amazing city of Xi'an, the ancient capital of Shaanxi province and the end of the 'Silk Road'! On arrival we will have a free afternoon to explore the city of Xi'an, it's famous walls, bell and drum towers, pagodas and Muslim Quarter.
This morning we head out of Xi'an on the truck to the site of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, where we have an included visit and a guided tour. We will return to Xi'an for a free afternoon to further explore this diverse city.
Border Information: if joining in Xi'an, you will most likely enter China at Xi'an Xianyang International Airport (IATA code: XIY).Welcome to the amazing city of Xi'an, the ancient capital of Shaanxi province and the end of the 'Silk Road'! We will have a free day to explore the city, it's famous walls, bell and drum towers, pagodas and Muslim Quarter.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.Please note that many of the optional activities listed will only be possible for those with extra time in Xi'an 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 Xi'an.
This morning we head out of Xi'an on the truck to the site of the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, where we have an included visit and a guided tour.We will return to Xi'an for the afternoon, where we'll have a free afternoon to further explore this incredible city.
Today we will drive to the town of Pingliang at the base of the Mount Kongtong, one of the holiest mountains in Chinese Taoism.
Today we will have an included visit to Mount Kongtong, and will have the full day to explore the temples and walk and explore the pilgrimage routes on the mountain. Please note that if the group and leader prefer to split the drive between Turpan and Dunhuang over 2 days, there will only be 1 night in Pingliang and a half-day exploration of Mount Kongtong.
Today we set off to the enchanting Tibetan town of Xiahe where we spend the next 3 nights.
The next few days are free to explore this beautiful town and surrounding grasslands. We can take a guided visit to the Labrang Monastery where Tibetan monks can be seen doing their daily rituals and chants.
On your second free day there may also be a chance to go trekking, horse riding or exploring the surrounding grasslands, visiting Tibetan families and perhaps trying the local Yak butter tea.
Today we will leave Xiahe behind us to reach the small city of Liujiaxia. We will have an included visit to the incredible Bingling Si Buddha Caves en route.
Today we will have a full day's drive towards Zhangye. This evening we will find a place to camp in the hills surrounding Zhangye.
Today we will have a short drive to the incredible Zhangye Danxia Rainbow Mountains - we will spend some time exploring the beautiful scenery, before continuing our drive on to Jiayuguan where, tomorrow, we will have an included visit to the Jiayuguan Fort - the most western point of the Great Wall of China. Please note that the Great Wall here is adobe, unlike the more famous stone sections further easy.
Today we will continue our journey westwards to reach the city of Dunhuang.
Today we will have an included visit to the awe-inspiring Mogao Buddha Caves in the morning. We will then have a free afternoon to explore this amazing town and it's surroundings - there are possibilities for camel rides along the sand dunes and bicycle rides out to the nearby White Goose Pagoda!
Today we will have an early start and a big drive to the oasis town of Turpan.Please note that due to the political tension in Western China there are many police checkpoints that we must go through to show our passports in the Xinjiang province. Sometimes it may be preferred by the group and the leader to split this drive over 2 days, finding a local hotel in between to break up the travel day.
Today we will have a free day to explore the surrounding sites including the famous Jiaohe ruins.
Today we will continue on to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province.
On the second day we will have an included visit to Heavenly Lake to enjoy the incredible scenery in the Tian Shan Mountains and walk around the lake.
Today our journey continues westwards through the Taklamakan Desert. Our crossing of the desert usually takes 3 days/2 nights, and we plan to stay in local hotels near Korla or Bayanbulak on our first night and Aksu on our second.
On our second day travelling through the Taklamakan Desert, we plan to stay the night near Aksu.
Today we complete our journey to the far west of China, arriving in Kashgar, once one of the ancient trading posts on the Silk Route!
We will spend 3 nights in Kashgar, during which time there will be lots of opportunity to explore the city and its central Id Kah Mosque. We will also have an included visit to the animal market just outside of town, and then the famous Kashgar Sunday Bazaar.
We have a free day in Kashgar for optional activities.
For everyone that is continuing with us to Kyrgyzstan, there will be quick pre-departure meeting in the early morning in order to explain the next 6 days until Bishkek, and your leader will collect the kitty for this linking section.In the afternoon we will do an included visit to Shiptons Arch - the largest natural arch in the world!Tonight we will stay in a good quality local hotel
Border Information: Exit China at Torugart, enter Kyrgyzstan at Torugart.Today we will have a full day drive over the 3752m Torugart Pass into the magical mountain kingdom of Kyrgyzstan! We will head just over the border 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 and there is 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.We will spend 2 nights in Tash Rabat. On the second day we will have time to explore the local area. Estimated Drive Time - 5-6 hours.
We will spend 2 nights in Tash Rabat. On the second day we will have time to explore the local area.
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!In Kochkor we will stay in family-run guesthouses, accommodating up to 8 guests in each home.Estimated Drive Time - 4-5 hours.Please note that if nobody from this group is leaving in Bishkek, we may choose to stay instead in a guesthouse in the small town of Naryn (a 2-3 hour drive from Tash Rabat). This is so that we don't repeat Kochkor unnecessarily on the next section and can have more time to explore the area of Tash Rabat this morning.
Today we have a short drive to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. The remainder of the day is free to explore the relaxed and atmospheric city.In Bishkek we will stay in a comfortable hotel with good facilities.Estimated Drive Time - 3-4 hours (from Kochkor).
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.The rest of the day is free for you to explore this relaxed and atmospheric city.Please note that 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 the Sales team 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.**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!*
Today we will begin our journey to Chong Kemin National Park, where we will have free time to explore and hike in this beautiful area, or to get involved in an optional white water rafting excursion.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 have a free day to explore and hike in this stunning area today or perhaps get involved in an optional white water rafting excursion!
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 Russian-style town of Karakol, where we will have a free evening to explore and relax!
Today we drive up into the mountains to the alpine trekking region of Jeti Oguz.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 take 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. We will then stay for 1 night in a local hotel at the base of Jeti Oguz Valley (allowing time for some day walks).
We will have a 2nd night here in Jeti Oguz with a chance to hike in the incredible scenery here, or take an optional horse ride with some of the local nomads.
This morning we will drive to the small village of Kochkor, where we stay in local family-run guesthouses and enjoy traditional Kyrgyz hospitality! En route we will have an included demonstration from a local 'eagle hunter'.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 will 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 or 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.
On our 2nd day in Song Kul Lake we have free time to explore the area, and to enjoy some optional activities including hiking or horse-riding!
We will spend the next 3 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.During these days we plan to wild camp en route. 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 near Toktugal Lake
Today we will complete our drive to Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan's Fergana Valley - if we have had a slow journey in the previous days with lots of stops, 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
Border information: Exit Kyrgyzstan at Dustlik, enter Uzbekistan at Andijon.Today we will have a full day's drive across the Uzbek border to the eastern city of Fergana.
This morning we travel in local transport to Kokand, where we will have the oppurtunity to visit the Khudayar Khan's Palace and the nearby Margilan Silk Factory before completing the journey over the Kamchik Pass to Tashkent, the Uzbek capital.The truck must pass over the Kamchik Pass without passengers and will rejoin us this evening in Tashkent.
Border Information: if finishing in Tashkent, you will most likely exit Uzbekistan at Tashkent International Airport (IATA code: TAS).Today is the end day for passengers finishing their trip in Tashkent. 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.