Western Mongolia and Altai Eagle Festival

September 9 – 22, 2020*

$5,900 per person / 6 – 10 people

Western  Mongolia has for much of its history been on the boundary between civilizations—between Chinese-dominated Asian culture to the east and European cultures to the west divided by the Altai mountains and the Tibetan plateau to the south. Large and endangered animals call the region home including snow leopards, the Govi Bear, Argali sheep, ibex, antelope, gazelle, falcons, golden eagles, wolves, foxes, and many more. It is also the most ethnically diverse, mountainous, and scenic region of Mongolia, with thousands of years of history.

Western Mongolia is a land of nomadic tribes, horses, snow-covered peaks, endless grasslands, rivers, and Kazakh hospitality. This FIRE-led tour trip covers many of the highlights of Western Mongolia including the Aaltai Mountains,  Tavan Bogd National Park, horse riding and hiking, archeological sites, private ger stays with eagle hunting and nomadic herder families and culminates with the awe-inspiring two-day Altai Eagle Festival. If you want more than just a taste of Western Mongolia, this is the trip.

*Exact trip dates will be confirmed in early 2020

Please email us or call 928-779-2288 for more information or to sign up for the trip!

Day 1         Sept. 9            Arrive in Ulaanbaatar (UB)

Arrive in Ulaanbaatar. You will be met at the Chinggis Khan International Airport by our staff and transferred to our hotel, the Blue Sky Hotel and Tower, located in the center of UB, directly across from Sukhbaatar Square and within walking distance to most sites in UB. Depending on what time you arrive, you may be able to spend some time on a walking tour of central Ulaanbaater, Sukhbaatar Square, the iconic State Department Store, and checking out some shopping, sightseeing and museums along the way. We will have dinner at a restaurant near the hotel.
Overnight in hotel, Dinner

Day 2         Sept. 10           Full day in UB
After breakfast, we will spend the morning on a walking tour of central Ulaanbaatar, making our way through Sukhbaatar Square to the Museum of Natural History, touring central city area, checking out the iconic State Department Store. We will grab some lunch mid-day at one of the many dining options available. The afternoon has a few options including additional museums, shopping – especially the exquisite cashmere and wool, touring around central UB, or free time.  In the early evening we will take a short walk to the performance theatre of the Tumen Ekh ensemble. The ensemble performs the ancient arts of Mongolia including long song, Khoomi (throat singing), contortionist, morin khuur (the horse head fiddle), Tsam dances and more. Following the performance we will dine at a nearby restaurant.
Overnight in hotel, B,L,D

Day 3         Sept. 11          Visit with Mongolian nomadic family, outside UB
After breakfast, we will drive outside of UB into the surrounding countryside, getting an idea of the vast and open country we will be in for the next 2 weeks. We will visit a nomadic family in their traditional Mongolian ger, enjoy some local delicacies including fresh and homemade yogurt, airag (mare’s milk), ride a horse or camel, and enjoy the traditions and pace of the ancient traditional Mongolian life. Upon returning to the city, we will have dinner at one of the restaurants in our hotel.
Overnight in hotel, B,L,D

Day 4     Sept. 12       Full day in UB

After breakfast we will take a van to Gandan Monastery where we will tour the grounds and temples which provide insight into Buddhist life and practices in Mongolia. From here we will travel by van to the museum at the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, a complex built between 1893 and 1903, where Mongolia’s eight Living Buddah, and last king, lived. We will then have an exquisite lunch followed by a hike up to the Zaisen Memorial which overlooks the city, and whose large tiled mural honors allied Mongolian and Soviet soldiers killed in World War II. Next we’ll drive to Narantuul Black Market, an open air market full of traditional Mongolian clothing, horse-riding gear, souvenirs, and just about anything you can imagine. We will have dinner near the hotel.
Overnight in hotel, B,L,D

Day 5         Sept 13          Fly to Olgii, drive to Tavan Bogd National Park
We will take a very early morning 2-hour flight to Olgii. After a quick breakfast upon arrival, we will meet our guide/translator, and then we will make a 5-hour van drive (150 km) to Tavan Bogd National Park where we will meet a local herder family and stay in nearby private gers. Our cook(s) will prepare dinner and we will dine in our kitchen ger.
Overnight in ger, B,L,D

Day 6–7     Sept 14–15            Horse riding and hiking
In the surrounding mountains, we will be riding trusty Mongolian horses, allowing us great views of Hoton and Hurgan Lakes and the surrounding Altai mountain range. Our van will follow us and carry extra gear, water, and lunch. There will be hiking options for people who might not want to ride both days. At our camp we will have an opportunity to experience the rural and nomadic life of the herding family.
Overnight in ger, B,L,D

Day 8         Sept 16              Hoton and Hurgan Lakes and archeological sites
This day provides a full day drive (110 km) to Dayan Lake through Hoton and Hurgan Lakes and the dramatic landscape of snow-capped peaks. We will visit petroglyph complexes and several Turkic Stone Men, Babals, ranging in size from 2 feet to over 6 feet in height and weighing several hundred pounds. In the evening we will arrive at our eagle hunter family’s place. We will stay in private gers next to the family.
Overnight in ger, B,L,D

Day 9       Sept 17       Eagle Hunter family and Dayan Lake
Here we will get an introduction to eagle hunting, enjoy the routine of daily life, and watch the last days of training before the Altai Eagle Festival. Photography opportunities abound. We will drive a short distance to Dayan Lake for lunch, with some hiking or fishing there in the afternoon.
Overnight in ger, B,L,D

Day 10       Sept 18             Arrive at Eagle Festival site
We will drive to the Altai Eagle Festival site and stay in a private ger camp nearby.
Overnight in ger, B,L,D

Day 11       Sept 19             Altai Eagle Festival

Two days will be spent enjoying the Golden Eagle Festival where local Kazakhs show their eagle hunting culture and their unique traditions. Starting with the opening parade, the first day of competition includes the eagle calling, along with some mounted horse games and other events. There is a plethora of local food and handicraft vendors to check out. You can climb up to the top of the hill where the eagle hunters are releasing the birds for the competition, or if interested, take a camel ride. Needless to say, there is a lot to see, do, and photograph here. We will return to our nearby ger camp for dinner and there may be an evening cultural event to attend. 
Overnight in ger, B,L,D

Day 12      Sept 20             Altai Eagle Festival
The second day of the festival features a competition of the eagle catching the prey, mounted horse games, and may include camel races and archery competitions too. We will be treated to some live traditional music during lunch on this second day. Following the festival on Sunday, we will drive to Olgii and dine and stay the night at the Makhsum Hotel.
Overnight in hotel, B,L,D

Day 13      Sept 21             Return to UB
With possibly an early morning wake-up, we will drive to the Ölgii airport and fly back to UB. After lunch at the Blue Sky Hotel, there will be opportunities for checking out the Black Market, perusing the cashmere shops in the city center, catching a few more museums, or just relaxing and taking in your last afternoon in Ulaanbaatar. We will have our final dinner as a group at a fabulous nearby restaurant.
Overnight in hotel, B,L,D

Day 14      Sept 22             Depart UB
Leave Ulaanbaatar for home.  B

Kobesh Travel
Kobesh Travel is an independent tour company owned and operated by local guide Akhtolkun (Agii) Makhsum.  Born and raised in Bayan-Ulgii and educated in Kazakhstan, Agii’s goal is to give each one of his travelers a unique and authentic travel experience. Agii has been working with and supporting FIRE since 2004. Kobesh Travel specializes in providing the most comfortable, personable and professional trips possible in western Mongolia. Some of their repeat  clients include National Geographic, BBC, and ITV.

Kobesh Travel guides, drivers, and cooks are highly skilled and adept at meeting the needs of Western travelers. They will become a big part of the trip.

Mary Williams

Mary Williams, FIRE’s Communications Director, is an equestrian with a history of guiding and adventure. Her guiding career, spanning several decades, has included work as a climbing guide on Mt. Rainier, and river guiding in Grand Canyon, Idaho, and Nepal. She has been a member of Grand Canyon Hounds since its began in 2004 and currently holds the position of Honorary Secretary. She has been leading FIRE’s trips in Mongolia since 2019.

  • Plan to arrive September 9 and depart September 22 to and from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (airport code ULN).
  • The trip will have a minimum of 6 people and a maximum of 10.
  • Prices include Mongolian and US guides and all in-country expenses: three meals a day, all transportation within Mongolia including airport transfers and domestic flights, all accommodations, horses and tack, entrance fees and permits.
  • These prices do not include flights to and from Mongolia, domestic overweight baggage fees, insurance, alcohol or other personal items.
  • 5 nights at Blue Sky Hotel and Tower in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, 1 night in Makshum Hotel in Oglii City, 7 nights in beautiful, hand-made Kazakh gers (yurts) in Bayan-Olgii set up just for our trip each night.
  • All hotel rooms in UB and Olgii City are double occupancy unless an upgrade is made for a single room.
  • Gers (yurt) in Bayan-Olgii will have 2 to 4 people per ger.
  • We require you to have emergency evacuation insurance for your own safety and well being.
  • Travel Insurance is strongly advised. FIRE is unable to provide refunds for canceled trip unless FIRE cancels the trip due to a lack of sign ups. FIRE can assist you in finding both kinds of insurance.
  • Additional hotel nights in UB are available. Let us know if you plan to extend your trip.
  • We plan our itineraries to the best of our knowledge, but please know that there may be unexpected changes. We will do our best to inform you and support you, but please be flexible.
  • Please read our Trip Key Information for additional details.
  • A $1,000 non-refundable deposit is due January 15, 2020;
  • Full payment is due April 1, 2020.  With your full payment, we require the following documents:
    • Copy of passport
    • Copy of flight schedule to and from Mongolia
    • Copy of emergency evacuation insurance
    • Signed liability release
  • Payments can be mailed check to: FIRE Projects, PO Box 22187, Flagstaff, AZ 86002.
  • Please contact by email or call 928-779-2288 to pay by credit card.