Mongolia - Naadam Festival - Off the Tourist Trail

Mongolia - Naadam Festival - Off the Tourist Trail

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 14 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


Mongolia – its very name is synonymous with remote, with the outer edge of the world. Sitting between two vast neighbours, Russia and China, Mongolia is characterised by unthinkably vast swathes of wilderness populated by thinly scattered groups of nomads following time-honoured traditions, eking out an existence in the never-ending steppe. Once at the very forefront of world civilisations, when the armies of Genghis Khan swept across the Eurasian landmass in search of conquest and glory, Mongolia is now one of the least known and least visited countries in the world. The extraordinary festival of Naadam is the highlight of the Mongolian summer, with celebrations taking place across the country. On this tour we will enjoy the festival with local families in a relaxed and friendly setting for a truly authentic experience.

Tour Rating

Fitness ●●●○○ | Adventure ●●●○○ | Culture ●●●●○ | History ●●●●○ | Wildlife●●●○○

Tour Highlights

  • Witness the incredible Naadam Festival in off the beaten track surrounds
  • See the enormous statue of Genghis Khan
  • Interesting rock formations of Terelj National Park
  • Clamber amongst Mongolia’s huge sand dunes
  • See the wild horses of Hustai National Park
  • Explore historic monasteries such as Tovkhon and Amarbayasgalant
  • Beautiful natural scenery

Tour Pace


Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Mostly traditional ‘ger’ (yurt) tented camps and 2 nights comfortable hotel
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus most lunches (L) and dinners (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum of 12
Start Point: Ulaan Baatar – you can arrive any time before 17:00 on the first day
End Point: Ulaan Baatar – you can depart any time on the last day
Transport: Mini-vans and/or private buses
Countries: Mongolia

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

Our guides are a key strength, chosen for their knowledge of and passion for the areas in which they work. All of our guides are carefully hand-picked, and are not just passing through these countries, but are usually locally born. Unlike some companies it should be noted we do not send a guide or tour leader from Undiscovered Destinations in the UK as we have every confidence in our locally appointed representative who is responsible for operating the tour on our behalf. Where possible you will have the same guide throughout your trip but on occasions it may be necessary to change the guide at one or more points during the tour.

Day 1 – Ulaan Baatar

We arrive in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia’s capital where we are transferred from the airport to our hotel. Depending on the time of your arrival this evening you will be invited by your guide to a traditional folk concert. Overnight Bayangol Hotel or similar. (D)

Day 2 - Terelj National Park 

After breakfast, we drive to the giant stainless steel statue of Genghis Khan, located 50km east of the capital. From there we continue driving to Terelj National Park, a granite rocky area. We transfer to our ‘ger’ tented camp. Later we will explore the park - an outstanding region of alpine scenery and unique granite rock formations. Overnight in Ger Camp (BLD)

Total driving: 50km to Genghis Khan statue, approx. 1hr and 30km to Terelj National Park, approx. 40mins.

Day 3 - Baganuur District

This morning we drive to the Baganuur district located 140km east of Ulaan Baatar city. Staying in a traditional ger camp, this will be our home for the next two nights and is where we will enjoy Naadam, away from the crowds. Overnight in Ger Camp (BLD)

Total driving: 110km on tarmac road, approx. 2-3hrs.

Day 4 - Naadam Festival – First day

This morning we visit the opening ceremony of the Naadam Festival and enjoy a full day watching various activities including archery, wrestling and horse racing. The colourful festival of Naadam is the highlight of the Mongolian summer, with celebrations taking place across the country. We are lucky to be out of the rush and heat of Ulaan Baatar, and able to enjoy the festival with local families in a relaxed and friendly place for a truly authentic experience. Everyone in town, as well as people from other provinces, arrive at Naadam in their best traditional suits, called  Deels.They are very colourful and are worn everywhere, even on horseback. Competition is fierce as men compete against one another to win titles for horse racing, archery and wrestling – ‘war games’ based on ancient Mongolian soldiers’ everyday exercises. Overnight Ger Camp. (BLD)

Total driving: 36km on dirt road and 10km on tarmac road, approx. 30-40mins each way.

Day 5 – Naadam Festival and Hustai National Park

This morning is for enjoying the second day of the festival watching the horse racing. Horses have long played an important role in Mongolian history and this sport is greatly prized. The build-up and training for this event is vigorous and the crowd of onlookers are known to get quite vocal! Later we drive to the Hustai National Park which is home to the only truly wild horses on earth; the Takhi horse. Several decades ago wild horses had disappeared from Mongolia, victims of habitat loss and poaching. However small numbers survived in European zoos and from these scattered remnants, through a program of careful breeding and international cooperation, the wild population was rebuilt. Now Hustai is home to some 250 wild horses, of which 130 were born in the wild. Overnight Ger Camp. (BLD)

Total driving: 180km on tarmac road, approx. 3-4hrs.

Day 6 - Kharkhorin

After breakfast we drive to Mongolia’s sand dunes, an 80km long beautiful stretch that is unlike anything else in this country. We continue to Kharkhorin town, the ancient capital of Genghis Khan’s Mongolia in the13th century. We visit Erdene Zuu monastery, which was built from leftovers of Kharkhorin’s ruined city in the 16th century. Sadly a communist purge destroyed almost everything but a few main monasteries. There are numerous unusual cultural and religious exhibits here as well as a Tibetan-style monastery still active in the Erdene Zuu and important to the area. Overnight at Ikh Horum Hotel. (BLD)

Total driving: 280km on tarmac road, approx. 4-5hrs.

Day 7 – Kharkhorin – Tsagaan Sym River Valley

Today begins with the drive to Tsagaan Sym River Valley; this is Yak country and the region is a rich area for local agriculture. We will visit a local herding family and experience how they tend to the animals. We then drive to our camp for the evening in an area of wetlands notable for many bird species such as Cranes and Ruddy Shelduck. Overnight Ger Camp (BLD)

Total driving: 30km on tarmac road and 60km on dirt road, approx. 3-3.5hrs.

Day 8 - Tovkhon Monastery

After breakfast we drive to the historic Tovkhon Monastery located on top of Tovkhon Mountain itself. This historic temple complex was built in 1654 by a religious leader named Zanabazar. He was a gifted artist who had come to the area to meditate and focus on his art. Many of his famous artworks, including the White Tara, are now kept in Zanabazar’s Fine Art Museum in Ulaanbaatar and Erdene Zuu Monastery in Kharkhorin. He also designed the Soyombo Symbol for a free and independent Mongolia which has been widely used as a national symbol (namely on the National Flag). Although the temple was largely destroyed by the communists during the 1930s, it has been restored with great initiatives from the local communities and many restoration projects. Overnight Ger Camp. (BLD)

Total driving: 35km on dirt road and 4km walk on mountain road, approx. 1hr)

Day 9 - Tovkhon Monastery - Ogii Lake:

This morning we drive to the beautiful steppe at Ogii Lake. It is a wonderful place for birdlife and a multitude of cranes and ducks migrate here, attracted by the rich fish-life that populates the lake. Overnight Ger Camp (BLD)

Total driving: 75km on dirt road and 75km on tarmac road, approx. 2.5-3hrs.

Day 10 - Bulgan

We continue through the central part of Mongolia. We will keep our eyes out for Upland Buzzards and Steppe Eagles soaring in the sky overhead. We have a packed lunch on the way and later arrive in Bulgan where we will explore the town and some of the local craft shops. Later we drive to our camp for the night with beautiful views. Overnight Ger Camp. (BLD)

Total driving: 25km on tarmac road and 130km on dirt road, approx. 4-4.5hrs.

Day 11 - Amarbayasgalant Monastery

After breakfast we drive towards Amarbayasgalant Monastery; considered the second most important in Mongolia (after Erdene Zuu Khiid in Kharkhorin) and the most intact architectural complex in Mongolia. The area is famed for its stunning scenery of steppes and grasslands, its national parks and wildlife. In the afternoon we’ll have the chance walk up and visit the monastery. Overnight Ger Camp. (BLD)

Total driving: 120km on tarmac road and 35km on dirt road, approx. 3-3.5hrs.

Day 12 – Jargalant

This morning we will drive to Jargalant village. This afternoon we will have a great walk through the pine forest, picking wild berries as we go. Overnight Ger Camp. (BLD)

Total driving: 35km on dirt road and 280km on tarmac road, approx. 4-4.5hrs.

Day 13 – Ulaanbaatar

This morning we return to Ulaan Baatar and transfer to our hotel. In the afternoon there will be an opportunity for shopping or to explore the city on your own, before our farewell dinner. Overnight Bayangol Hotel or similar. (BLD)

Total driving: 100km, approx. 2hrs.

Day 14 – Ulaan Baatar

The tour finishes this morning after breakfast and a transfer to the airport will be provided to coincide with your departure (B)

As our tour celebrates Naadam in a rural setting, the festival dates will not be confirmed until nearer the time, so the order of the itinerary may change.

Arrival and departure transfers
Transport throughout
All accommodation
Services of English speaking guide Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

International flights
Any airport taxes
Travel Insurance
Items of a personal nature
Tips (discretionary)

This itinerary was last updated on 22/10/2019