14 days

Mongolian Eagle Festival - Expedition

Mongolian Eagle Festival - Expedition

Mongolian Eagle Festival

Former Soviet Union-influenced Ulaanbaatar

Trip rating
  • Spend two days at the incredible Eagle Festival in western Mongolia. Witness competitions based on the speed, accuracy and agility of these magnificent golden eagles, as well as other exciting traditional Kazakh games. We live with and get to know Kazakh families while they participate in this celebration, as well as spending time in the beautiful remoteness of the Altai Mountains. For those seeking a frontier adventure combining gentle trekking with unparalleled cultural interaction, this expedition trip offers it all!

    Why we love it

    • Spend two days at the incredible Eagle Festival in western Mongolia. Witness competitions based on the speed, accuracy and agility of these magnificent golden eagles, as well as other traditional Kazak games.
    • Live with and get to know Kazak families while they participate in this celebration, as well as spending time in the beautiful remoteness of the Altai Mountains.
    • For those seeking a frontier adventure combining gentle trekking with unparalleled cultural interaction, this expedition trip offers it all!

    Itinerary

    Day 1 - Ulaanbaatar

    • On arrival in Ulaanbaatar, you will be met by a Peregrine representative and transferred to your hotel. As the hotels we use in Ulaanbaatar are subject to change, please check the itinerary your final documents to confirm your correct hotel before making any pre-trip bookings.
    • Ulaanbaatar is Mongolia's largest city - the name means 'Red Hero' and it is indeed shaped by the influences of the former Soviet Union in that most of the city is full of Russian-style apartment buildings.
    • In the evening, you will meet your tour leader and the other group members for a pre-tour briefing. This is generally followed by an optional group dinner at a local restaurant.
    Puma Imperial Hotel or similar

    Day 2 - Ölgii

    • You will be transferred to the airport where you will board your flight to Ölgii.
    • On arrival you will settle in to Ölgii and meet your Kazak interpreter and drivers.
    • After lunch you will drive about three to four hours to the north side of Tsambagarav Uul (Tsambagarav Mountain) National Park and make your way up the mountainside until you reach a place called Tavan Belcheer (Five Pastures), where you will stay overnight in tents.
    • It is here that you will meet the camel herder who will carry your tents for the coming four to five day hike. The hike will carry you across a land that was once part of the famous Silk route - a trader’s passage 2000 years ago.
    • There are numerous petroglyphs depicting the daily lives of the early inhabitants of what is now Tsambagarav Uul National Park. The area is also blessed with various scenic wonders, such as waterfalls and the snow-capped Tsast and Tsambagarav peaks.
    • During the summer months, this is a great place to meet one of the famous Kazakh eagle-hunters, who use their trained eagles to hunt small animals.
    Ger camp
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 3-7 - Tsambagarav Uul National Park trek

    • You will start the day by meeting your local trekking crew and loading your pack camels for the five-day trek.
    • Tsambagarav Uul (4208m) is one of the most beautiful snow-capped mountains in Mongolian Altai. It is just on the border of three western provinces of Bayan-Oumllgii, Uvs and Hovd.
    • You will camp out in tents during this trek. Your itinerary over these days can vary from trek to trek and though the Kazakhs are nomadic people, you may meet some eagle-hunters and hopefully you’ll be able to camp next to them and their families. There is a strong chance, however, that you won’t see another soul.
    • You will awake this morning to load up your pack camels for the first day of hiking through this amazing landscape that time seems to have forgotten. The pace is steady as you hike through the open steppes. It will be a full day with about five hours of actual hiking, as you make your way to a waterfall.
    • The next day you will continue the trek east towards Tsambagarav Mountain. Over two days you will make your way down to Lake Bayan Nuur (Rich Lake). Here you will find the summer pastures of the Kazakh nomads, who move from over 3000 metres above sea level to 1600 metres.
    • Bayan Nuur is a salt lake surrounded by the Bor Khyarin Els sand dunes - the combination of which makes for a striking scene. The locals claim that the lake is good for fishing.
    • Coming down to the lake you will see a landscape of red rock mountains, granite, and sandy beaches surrounding the water. There are many water birds here and it is also a good place for swimming.
    • Staying overnight around lake, you will get to see both stunning sunsets and sunrises.
    • The following day you will climb over another pass, which is a little deceptive. The journey is over five hours across undulating steppes. You will make camp in green pastures upon arrival.
    • Nomadic families will set up amongst these pastures for the summer. You can choose to stay here for two nights and relax and enjoy a day soaking in this landscape where you really are miles from nowhere.
    • This trek is how merchants, traders and nomadic families travelled through this desolate yet inspiring terrain for over 2000 years. To experience this on the way to the medieval Eagle Hunters Festival is a memory that will last a lifetime.
    Camping
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 8 - Ölgii

    • Today is relatively short, as you will be driving to Ölgii.
    • After lunch you will visit the local sights of this somewhat unattractive frontier town.
    • Instead of a market it has a bazaar with a distinct Kazakh ambiance. Instead of a Buddhist monastery it has a mosque, which has been renovated in recent times.
    • There are some very interesting backstreet handicraft shops and a well-stocked local museum with taxidermy gone mad to explore as well.
    • You will have the opportunity to stay overnight in a permanent ger camp with hot water tonight.
    Ger camp
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 9-10 - Sagsai Eagle Festival

    • You will enjoy two days of festivities at the Sagsai community, which is a half-hour drive west of Ölgii.
    • Kazakh eagle-hunters arrive at the festival on horseback, with their trained hunting eagles. There will be various sporting contests such as 'bouzkhasi' (similar to polo, but played with a carcass of a dead goat!), horse races and more unusual events like picking up objects from the ground while riding on a galloping horse. Another common game is getting eagles to hunt for objects that are being dragged by horses.
    • The local people turn up in very colourful local costumes.
    • In the evening you will drive to stay overnight with a Kazakh eagle-hunter and his family.
    • The Mongolian Kazakhs only hunt with the larger female eagles, which can be nearly a third heavier than the male birds. These are golden eagles and they are collected as chicks from nests up in the mountains.
    • Once the hunter has obtained his eagle, he will spend several months rearing it and training it to fly for its reward of food. Eventually the eagles become a highly efficient hunting machine with acute eyesight and powerful talons, which they use to hunt rabbits, hares and foxes.
    • The eagle hunters lavish great care on their birds and eventually after 10 or 15 years will release them back into the wild in the hope that they will pair up with another eagle and breed.
    Ger camp
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 11 - Ölgii and surrounding countryside

    • After several days at the eagle festival, you will have the opportunity to experience nomadic life by venturing out into the open steppes to immerse yourselves in their daily lives.
    • You will pay visits to the nomadic Kazakh and Urianhai (one of western Mongolian ethnic groups) families, where you will get to experience their warm hospitality.
    • From herding the cattle, to enjoying the famous yoghurt and cheese, witnessing this close family group enjoy the end of summer and prepare for the bitter winter that will ensue, is a special experience.
    • If you are so inclined you will also have the chance to enjoy a hike in the area and a visit to the national park, which is full of high mountains – the habitat of the beautiful and endangered snow leopard.
    • The lake and the mountains make for a visually stunning vista, but the privilege you will feel by being somewhere so remote and beautiful, that is seen so few visitors, is the legacy that will really linger.
    Ger camp
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 12-13 - Ulaanbaatar

    • In the morning you will be transferred to the airport at Ölgii, where you will board your flight to Ulaanbaatar. This flight occasionally gets cancelled due to the weather, so you may have to stay in Olgii until its safe to fly. The final day in Ulaanbaatr may be missed as a result.
    • You will enjoy your final day of the trip with a morning city tour that takes in the magnificent Gandan Monastery. It is the largest and most important in the country (please note that no photography is permitted inside). You will also see Sukbaatar Square and the city view from Zaisan Hill.
    • Your afternoon will be free for you to go sightseeing or do some shopping for souvenirs.
    • Some interesting options are visiting Sukhbaatar Square, which is the central point in town dominated by the Parliament building, and a statue of Damdin Sukhbaatar (on horseback), the man who confirmed Mongolian independence from China.
    • Another optional site to check out is the Winter Palace of Bogd Khaan - a controversial figure and the last king of Mongolia. His death in 1924 ushered in over 65 years of communism for the country.
    • The Museum of Natural History is also fascinating, particularly the Dinosaur Hall. Not to be confused with The National Museum of Mongolian History which offers an excellent overview of the country's past. The Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts is also worth a visit.
    • The State Department Store (also known as the 'big shop') is an excellent place to look for souvenirs. Mongolia is a 'Mecca' for stamp collectors and has the best range of postcards, as well as a wide variety of colourful stamps, which can be bought at the post office.
    • In the evening there may be a chance to enjoy a performance of the Tumen Ekh folk show (optional).
    • Alternatively you can enjoy the long Mongolian summer twilight in one of the several cafes or outdoor beer-gardens, located near the centre of town.
    Puma Imperial Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 14 - Ulaanbaatar

    • The tour will come to an end after breakfast this morning.
    • A transfer to the airport is not included; however, your tour leader will be on hand to advise you as to the options available.
    Breakfast
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • An experienced, English-speaking local Peregrine leader and specialist local guides and cooks at some sites
    • Authentic Accommodation includes: 3 nights comfortable hotel, 5 nights ger tent (4-share), 5 nights camping
    • Meals: 13 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 10 dinners
    • Arrival transfer
    • Domestic flights Ulaanbaatar - Olgii/Hovd - Ulaanbaatar
    • Entrance to Tsambagarav Uul & Khustai National Parks
    • Camping equipment including sleeping mats (not sleeping bags)

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Airport departure taxes
    • Visas
    • Meals unless specified in the itinerary
    • Insurance
    • Tips - this is something to consider, and it might be worthwhile speaking to your group about making a group contribution at the end of the trip
    • Laundry - may be available at locations where we stay two or more nights
    • Optional tours or activities during free time
    • Items of a personal nature
    • Three-season sleeping bag for the trek nights

    Safety Information

    Mongolia is relatively safe, but muggings and attacks do occur. Petty crime is common in Ulaanbaatar, particularly in markets or other crowded public places. Watch out for pickpockets. Be wary of large groups of street children and teenagers, who sometimes harass pedestrians for money when entering and leaving vehicles, pubs and restaurants. Keep passports, money and other valuables in a safe place. Report any theft to the Pick-pocketing Department of the Police: telephone +976-93022480; the police can provide a letter for insurance purposes.

    Mongolia experiences extremes of weather, from +35C in summer to -40C in winter. Even in summer, evenings can be cold because of the altitude and weather conditions can change without warning. There are long distances between settlements. Take appropriate provisions, including warm clothing, food and water if you are travelling outside main urban areas.

    In recent years there have been occasional instances of civil and political unrest resulting in demonstrations and in some cases violence. On 16 September 2013 there was a political demonstration in central Ulaanbaatar during which several rifle shots were discharged. No injuries were reported. You should avoid large gatherings and demonstrations.

  • Map Itinerary

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PCEF
Group size 6 - 16
Start City: Ulaanbaatar
End City: Ulannbaatar

What to know

Venturing well away from cities and into remote areas, this trip takes you right off the beaten track. Accommodation and facilities my be basic but the rewards are immeasurable. A good level of fitness is required for the trek as you will be walking on hilly terrain and in very remote areas.

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