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Magnificent Mongolia with Karl Grobl – July 2020

Overview

Mongolia is truly one of the world’s last undiscovered travel destinations. It is a land where you can experience wide-open spaces, cobalt blue skies, forests, deserts, crystal clear rivers and lakes, and the traditional hospitality of the nomads. Beginning in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, which dates back to the time of Genghis Khan, we’ll experience the famed Naadam Festival. Festival goers will be dressed in traditional garments, and you will see an exciting horse race with people that come from every corner of Mongolia.

The Bayan Gobi Desert in the center of Mongolia, with its sand dunes, makes for a beautiful, surreal landscape, and the sunset would leave an unforgettable memory. Karakorum village is next, then the Erdene Zuu Monastery, with varied architecture. Both give opportunities for a great photo shoot of this ancient city. The tour continues on to the Hustai National Park, the home of the Prezewalski horse. See the forefather of Horse which has been existing on the earth for thousands of years.

The last bit of the tour starts with a flight to Western Mongolia. There are countless of opportunities to experience the unique culture and take good pictures there. We will visit and stay with an Eagle Hunter Family. We will also visit another ethnic minority of Mongolia, Uriankhai Family.  Feel the wind as we drive across the vast plains, where nothing obstructs the sights. Relax in the wild nature and explore the Mongolian culture, history, and nomadic lifestyle.

Itinerary

Day 1: (July 8) Arrive in Ulaanbaatar.
You will be met at the airport and transferred to the hotel. The first group meeting will be about 6 pm that evening, followed by dinner. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

Day 2: (July 9) Explore the Nomad’s city, Ulaanbaatar.
The day will start with a city tour. Sites will include the “Gandan” Monastery and Mongolian Buddhist University. At the Monastery, you’ll have the opportunity to photograph the interaction between monks and visitors. Later you’ll visit lively Sukhbaatar Square filled with both young and elderly playing and sitting in the sun giving us a variety of subjects to photograph. You’ll also visit the beautiful complex of the Bogd Khan Palace Museum, the residence of 8th Bogd Javzandamba in the 19th century. Next up is a visit to Zaisan Memorial Hill, affording a spectacular view of the city and surrounding hills. The day will conclude with vibrant and intriguing performances by one of the best Mongolian traditional artists at Tumen-Ekh Ensemble’s “Wonders of Mongolia” Concert. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

Day 3: (July 10) Ger district & Deeltei Mongol National Costume Festival.
Today we’ll explore the Ger district and photograph the city dwellers who live in the traditional Mongolian abode, known as a Ger. The residents of this district were once Nomads that living in the countryside. During our visit, you will be able to take photos of daily lives of the locals and also visit small business owners who operate and live in the district. You’ll also explore the bustling Naran Tuul Black Market where you’ll find an abundance of photographic subjects – everything from colorful fabrics to furniture and carpets, household items and clothes. In the evening we will attend the Deeltei Mongol National Costume Festival in Sukhbaatar’s Square. You’ll witness and photograph a competition to select the best traditionally dressed men, women, and children in their colorful, traditional garments. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

Day 4: (July 11) Full day Naadam Festival.
We’ll spend the day photographing and experiencing the Festival of Naadam in Ulaanbaatar. This festival is Mongolia’s biggest, most colorful and one of the most important annual cultural events. It focuses on three sports derived from the capabilities of Genghis Khan’s legendary military: horse racing, Mongolian-style wrestling, and archery. Highlights include the Opening Ceremony, Ankle-bone shooting competition, archers in colorful ethnic national costumes and Mongolian wrestling. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

Day 5: (July 12) Naadam horse racing at Khui Doloon Khudag.
Today you will experience the brilliant madness of the horse race field. Witness the Naadam horse races, where children ride small but sturdy horses across the steppe. While you are waiting for the next race, you will have a plenty of opportunities to take some landscape and candid photographs of local horse trainers, traditionally dressed people and more. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

Day 6: (July 13) Bayan Gobi Desert & Gobi Nomads.
This morning we’ll drive to the Bayan Gobi Desert. On the way, we will have many moments to take pictures of the changing landscapes including magnificent sand dunes surrounded by hills with willow trees, streams and bushes. In the afternoon, we will visit a camel herder family and explore their lifestyle. Later you’ll experience the Bayan Gobi from the back of a Bactrian (two-humped) camel. There will be several occasions for a photoshoot with the family and with domestic animals. We’ll catch the sunset over the sand dunes and grassland and watch as the color changes to an unforgettable beautiful orange glow. Overnight in Ger camp.

Day 7: (July 14) Karakorum village & Erdene Zuu Buddhist Monastery.
We’ll start the day with a visit to Karakorum village. Just a small settlement now, but in the 13th century, Karakorum was not only the capital of the vast Mongolian Empire but the epic center of trade along the Silk Road. After lunch, we will visit the museum of Karakorum and learn about the old capital Karakorum. We’ll also visit one of the oldest Buddhist Monastery complexes, Erdene Zuu, built from the ruins of Karakorum in the 16th century. The monastery is active and many devotees come to pray all year around. Made up of three different types of Buddhist architectures (Tibetan, Chinese, and Mongolian), Erdene Zuu is the perfect backdrop for photographing monks in their crimson robes. Overnight in Ger camp.

Day 8: (July 15)  Hustai National Park (Wild Horse Park).
Today we’ll visit the Hustai National Park with its unique landscape that features mountain and steppe. The park is home to the Mongolian wild horse known as Przewalski. Seeing these truly wild horses which existed hundreds of thousands of years ago, feels like traveling back in time. There is great opportunity to take photos of these endangered horses. If you are lucky, you can see fox, deer, roe deer, eagle, and more. In the evening, we will take a short drive and hike to see the horses in their natural habitat. Overnight in Ger camp.

Day 9: (July 16)  Back to Ulaanbaatar.
Early in the morning, we will explore the park to do more sightseeing. After breakfast at the camp we’ll return to Ulaanbaatar where you’ll have the rest of the day free to rest or explore on your own. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

Day 10: (July 17)  Flight to Western Mongolia – Exploring the Ulgii city.
On arrival at Ulgii (Bayan Ulgii province center), we will visit the local museum and the local “Black Market” with its many photo opportunities. Later we’ll exploration of the province center, Ulgii. We’ll visit the Wedding Palace and perhaps experience a Kazakh wedding and, if we’re lucky, get invited to a wedding. Overnight in Ulgii.

Day 11: (July 18)  Altantsugts village & Visiting Eagle hunter’s family.
This morning we’ll drive to Altantsugts village to visit Eagle hunter’s family. We will visit the family and photograph their daily life and magnificent bird. We’ll learn about the unique customs of the Mongolian Kazakhs. Overnight in Kazakh Eagle hunter’s Ger.

Day 12: (July 19)  Photoshoot with Eagle Hunter & Uriankhai family.
Today we’ll join the Eagle Hunter on a hike. There will be many opportunities to photograph and admire the stunning scenery. We will also visit a Uriankhai family, an ethnic group of Mongolia. You’ll be able to photograph their home and family (if they are agreeable). We will continue to the mountain for our photo shoot with the Eagle Hunter. Overnight in Ulgii.

Day 13: (July 20)  Flight Back to Ulaanbaatar.
After arriving in Ulaanbaatar will be transferred to the Hotel. You’ll have the afternoon free and in the evening we’ll have our farewell dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

Day 14: (July 21)  Departure.
Today you’ll be transferred to the Chinggis Khan International Airport departure flights home. Your driver will assist you with flight check-in and luggage, and see you off at the point of security check.

OR….4 day/3 night Extention to Northern Mongolia

Day 1: (July 21) Flight to Northern Mongolia – Blue pearl Khuvsgul Lake.
Today we’ll fly to the city of Muran in Northern Mongolia. After lunch, we’ll be transported to Khatgal port village on the shore of Lake Khuvsgul while enjoying the view of hundreds of grazing livestock and wildlife of northern region of Mongolia. Located on the shore of the lake, Khatgal Village is home filled with stalls selling dried fish, honey, shell charms & ornaments. The market with its people and goods along with the beauty of the lake as a backdrop means there is something every photographer. Overnight Ger camp.

Day 2: (July 22) Visit to Tsaatan family (Reindeer herders) & Shaman.
This morning we’ll visit a Tsaatan family. Tsaatan are the descendants of the last reindeer herders who survived for thousands of years inhabiting the remotest subarctic taiga. You’ll have the afternoon free to explore with hiking, kayaking or just enjoying nature and taking photos. In the evening we will visit a Mongolian Shaman. The Shaman will be dressed i n a traditional deel (coat) decorated with colorful symbolic animals and have special headgear decorated with feathers. We’ll witness them using a variety of instruments during a ritual, making for great photo opportunities. Overnight Ger camp.

Day 3: (July 23) Northern Mongolia – Fly back to Ulaanbaatar.
Today we will return to the local airport for our flight back to Ulaanbaatar. On the way to the airport, we will visit the ancient Uushig Deer Stone – one of the most clearly depicted deer stones in Mongolia. A deer, an arch, a shield, a horse, a knife, the moon, the sun and a mirror figured belt were engraved on the stone. Upon arrival to Ulaanbaatar you’ll be transported to your hotel. The rest of the day is open for you to enjoy at your leisure. You’ll have the afternoon free. Overnight in Ulaanbaatar.

Day 4: (July 24) Departure
Guests will be transported to the airport to connect with their flights home.

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