Join us for Mongolia’s Eagle festival, or Golden Eagle festival, an annual traditional festival where Kazakh eagle hunters (Burkitshi) celebrate their heritage and compete to catch small animals such as foxes and hares with specially trained golden eagles, showing off the skills both of the birds and their trainers.
Prizes are awarded for speed, agility and accuracy, as well as for the best traditional Kazakh dress, and more. We visit are smaller more local Eagle Festival, allowing our travellers a more intimate experience with the Kazakh eagle hunters.
Combine this fascinating festival with exploring the fascinating Gobi Desert. Travel through the rocky mountainous terrain as well as Mongolia’s highest peaks and largest glaciers. Mingle with nomads as you learn their way of life and the challenges of living off the land.
Welcome to Mongolia! Upon arrival, you will be met at Chinggis Khaan International Airport and transferred to your hotel in the centre of Ulaanbaatar (which the locals call “UB”), the capital of Mongolia. Visit the Gandan Monastery which is home to a huge gold plated Buddha, a symbol of Mongolian national pride and cultural revival. This evening you will enjoy a welcome dinner where you’ll meet your fellow travellers and your guide will give a briefing on the adventures to come. Enjoy witnessing an incredible folklore concert this evening – a great introduction to Mongolian culture. (D)
Overnight Bayangol Hotel or similar
This morning, transfer to the airport for your 1 hour flight to the incredible Gobi.
This valley is nestled deep within the hills and is a safe haven to get away from the desert heat. Some areas of the valley are continually sheltered from the hot sun and house huge, blocks of ice that gradually melt away during the summer. It is very wide at the entrance and narrows gradually into a remarkable gorge. You will get to see wild animals such as ibex and wild sheep, and the vulture. Enjoy a gentle walk through the gorge where you have the opportunity to observe the Lammergeier vulture. This vulture is also known as the ‘bearded vulture’. (B,D)
Overnight Gobi Oasis camp or similar
After breakfast, drive through Gobi and at the end of the Altay mountain range is West Beauty Mountain. Arrive at your ger camp in time for lunch.
After taking a rest, you will drive on to the Khongor Sand Dunes, home to the ‘Singing Sands’. These spectacular dunes obtained their name from the noise made by the shifting sand in the wind. Feel the breeze in your hair as you ride a camel across the dunes before returning to the ger camp. Isolated from the rest of the country, the Singing Sands were a best kept secret for thousands of years. Take an easy camel ride in this area for 1 hour and take a walk amongst the sand dunes. Return to your ger camp in the evening. (B,L,D)
Distance: 6 hour drive to Khongor Sand Dunes
Overnight Gobi Erdene Ger Camp or similar
This morning, drive to Khavtsgait mountain where you will see petroglyphs dating back 3000-500 years (elevation-1800m). Continue driving to Bayanzag, Flaming Cliffs. Many paleontological findings have been discovered here. The place is known as ‘Flaming Cliffs’ and was named by Roy Chapman Andrews, an American explorer who had visited Mongolia in 1922 and over the course of two years he searched throughout the Mongolian Gobi Desert and found dinosaur fossils and dinosaur eggs about 10-15 cm. It was the first discovery of its scale and kind in the world that had been made at the time. Transfer to a local ger camp here and enjoy a good walk in the Flaming Cliffs. Sunsets are great in here, in the Gobi. Dinner at your ger camp (elevation -1300m). (B,L,D)
Distance: 3-4hour drive to Petroglyphs. Then 1 hour to ger camp. From ger camp 40 min drive to Bayanzag cliffs
Overnight Gobi Oasis 2 Ger Camp or similar
After breakfast, drive to Ongi Ruined Monastery. Ongi ruined monastery used to be home to 1000 lamas and once housed four universities. Anti-religious communists destroyed them in 1937. Only a single temple was renovated in 1992 (elevation 1300m).
After a picnic lunch, continue driving to Arvaikheer provincial capital town of Overkhangai province (elevation1650m). (B,L)
Distance: 3.5hour drive to ger camp to Ongi and 3hour drive to Arvaikheer town
Overnight Arvaikheer hotel or similar
After breakfast, drive through the central part of Mongolia. You will notice the scenery change with more livestock and yaks in this region. Continue driving to Kharkhorin town. It is a collecting town for wheat, sea buck thorn mostly. This town used to be ancient capital of Mongols in the 13th century. Khubilai khaan moved his capital to Daidy (Beijing today) in 1270, it had lost importance and was destroyed twice. One of Mongol kings, Altan Khan decided to build a Buddhist Monastery complex on top of the ruins to stop robbing of the ancient capital ruins. This is Erdene Zuu monastery complex. Many of its parts were destroyed by anti-religious communists in the 1937. There are main temples and Tibetan temple (elevation 1500m). (B,L)
Distance: 3hour drive to Kharkhorin
Overnight Ikh Khorum hotel or similar
After breakfast, head back to Ulaanbaatar. Drive through bareback mountains and sand dunes. Lunch will be taken on the way. Arrive at Ulaanbaatar and transfer to your hotel. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. (B,L,D)
Distance: 5-6hour drive
Overnight Bayangol Hotel or similar
Today you’ll take a three-hour flight to Bayan-Olgii Province, where 90% of the population is Muslim Kazakh. This is the western most province in Mongolia and it has the feel of a wild west frontier town. Meet your support crew for the next leg of your Mongolian adventure before enjoying lunch in a Turkish restaurant.
Continue to drive out to Altai town. On arrival, you will transfer to your ger camp. Tomorrow is festival day. Dinner and overnight ger (elevation 2100m). (B,L,D)
Distance: 3.5hour flight and 3 hour drive to Altai town
3 nights Altai Ger Camp or similar
After breakfast, you will start the day by visiting a local horse race. Mingle with the locals who have come to celebrate their unique cultural heritage.
Witness Kazakh hunters in all their glory, and see a parade of falconers on horseback, their prized eagles perched on their arms. After the parade, each hunter will demonstrate how well their bird obeys his commands by placing his eagle on a nearby cliff edge and calling it from below. It’s a spectacular sight to see these birds of prey soar down to their owners and alight on their arms.
The festival provides a unique opportunity to be up-close and be part of the festivity and to capture some incredible photographic opportunities.
The competition begins with a parade by eagle hunters with their hunting outfits and accessories. The most elaborate and beautiful adornments receive the highest marks. It’s followed by thrilling competitions. The Golden Eagles are evaluated for their speed, agility and accuracy. The festival provides a unique opportunity to be up-close and be part of the festivity and to take many incredible photographs. Return to your Ger camp. (Elevation 2100m). (B,L,D)
Distance: 40 min drive to Horse racing field
This morning after breakfast you will head out for another fascinating day at the Eagle Festival. Today you will witness trained golden eagles display their speed and agility. To test their eagles’ skills, hunters drag a fox skin behind their horse, and the fastest eagle to land on the skin is considered the best hunter.
Witness traditional Kazakh games, such as aitis, a poetry duel; kyzkuar, a dating game played on horseback; and kokpar, a team sport played on horseback with a goatskin – some of you may know it as ‘goat polo’, the national sport of Afghanistan! We invite our Golden Eagle masters to join us at dinner (elevation 2100m). (B,L,D)
This morning you will take it easy before setting off to visit a local Golden Eagle Master’s family and join them in their home for lunch. Then you drive out to Ulgii town in the afternoon. Transfer to local ger camp (elevation 1650m). (B,L,D)
Distance: Less than 1hour drive to Local Eagle Master family. 3hour drive to Ulgii town.
Overnight Altay ger camp in Ulgii or similar
Following breakfast, we take a flight back to Ulaanbaatar city and transfer to our hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure until your farewell dinner this evening. (B,L,D)
Distance: 3.5hour flight and 1hour drive to hotel.
Overnight Bayangol Hotel or similar
Today is at leisure until it is time to transfer to the airport for your onward departure. (B)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 2 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.