Full Itinerary for Mongolia Naadam Festival Adventure
Day 1: Arrive Ulaanbaatar, city tour
After transferring to our hotel we will take a city tour of the capital Ulaanbaatar (Red Warrior) including the incredible Gandantegchinlen Monastery that houses a 26.5-meter-high golden statue of Avalokiteśvara, a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas, before our first group dinner in the city.
Day 2: Drive to Kharkhorin, visit Erden Zuu Monastery
In the 13th Century Genghis Khan began the largest empire the world has ever seen; stretching from the Sea of Japan to the Danube in Hungary. He founded the cosmopolitan city of Kharkhorin (also known as Karakorum) as his capital although it was later moved to Peking by his grandson Kubilai Khan. Built on these ruins, we will visit the stunning temples of the16th Century Erdene Zuu Buddhist Monastery, surrounded by monumental walls and 108 white stupas, before staying with local families in gers.
Day 3: Hike/horse ride to Tovkhom Monastery
After a short drive out into the wild, forested steppe we will hike/horse ride up to Tovkhom Monastery, situated atop a small mountain with breath-taking panoramic views of the surrounding area. This is where
Zanabazar, the head and founder of Mongolian Buddhism, created his famous art works and also the national script
’soyombo’ in 16th Century. It’s also a great opportunity to meet more local people and observe the family routines of pastoral life. We then return to our family homestays close to Kharkhorin.
Day 4: Local Naadam Festival outside Kharkhorin
Today we will join a locally celebrated Naadam Festival outside of Kharkhorin in the countryside where there is plenty of room for the horse races, watching the events and joining in with the general festivities. It is like stepping back in time to a medieval village fair – both completely novel yet strangely familiar!
Day 5: Drive to Bayan Gobi, ride a Bactrian camel in the desert
We drive to the desert ger camp of Bayan Gobi where we will spend the night, situated on the edge of the Gobi Desert. We will ride enormous woolly Bactrian camels (two humps) across the sand dunes in this windswept, remote and beautiful spot, surrounded by mountains receding into the distance and the fearsome Gobi Desert stretching for waterless miles to the south.
Day 6: Drive to Ulaanbaatar for traditional clothing parade
We drive back to the capital in the morning to be in time for afternoon parades through the city of locals in traditional, incredibly ornate costumes of all varieties. There will also be exhibitions from artists and many performances of traditional music. We will spend the rest of the adventure based from our hotel in the capital.
Day 7: Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar
Mongolians enjoy horse racing throughout the year but the most extended and exciting races occur during Naadam. Participating horses are divided into six categories based on their ages with the distance of the race varying in each category: Two-year-old horses race for 12 km; stallions for 23 km; seven-year-old horses for 26 km for example, although the distances can vary from race to race depending on the surface of the ground and their locations.
Day 8: Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar
In ancient Mongolia leaders chose their warriors based on their strength, movement and flexibility revealed in their wrestling skills, their eye-sight and hand-orientation shown in their spear-throw and archery skills, their patience and bravery exposed in their horse training and horse racing skills during public competitions. This tradition has carried through to today where we can also decide who will be the best warriors! We end our adventure with a celebratory group dinner and exploring UB’s nightlife.
Day 9: Fly out of Ulaanbaatar