Western Mongolia and Altai Eagle Festival
September 6 – 18, 2019
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 Tavan Bogd National Park, horse riding and hiking, archeological sites, private ger stays with eagle hunting families and culminates with the two-day Altai Eagle Festival. If you want more than just a taste of Western Mongolia, this is the trip.
Day 1 Sept. 6 Arrive in Ulaanbaatar (UB)
Shuttle to hotel, welcome dinner
Day 2 Sept. 7 Full day in UB
Sightseeing, hotel and meals
Day 3 Sept. 8 Tavan Bogd Nagional Park
Morning flight to Olgii. 5 hour drive (150 km) to Tavan Bogd National Park. Meet racehorse trainer/breeder, Auez and his family and stay in nearby private gers.
Day 4–5 Sept. 9–10 Horse riding and hiking, Hoton and Hurgan Lakes
We will spend two days with Auez’s family. Day hiking in the surrounding mountains will give us great views of Hoton and Hurgan Lakes. A horse riding option will be available for those who want to ride.
Day 6 Sept 11 Dayan Lake and archeological sites
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, ranging in size from 2 feet to over 6 feet in height and weighing several hundred pounds. In the evening we will arrive at eagle hunter, Shohan’s, family place. We will meet Tabai, Shohan’s father. Tabai is in his mid-seventies and he will tell us about his life experiences during the soviet time. We will stay in private gers next to the family.
Day 7–8 Sept 12 Shohan—Eagle Hunter
At Shohan’s we will get an introduction to eagle hunting, enjoy the routine of daily life and watch Shohan’s last day of training before the Eagle Festival. We will stay in private gers.
Day 9 Sept 13 Arrive at Eagle Festival site
We will drive with Shohan to Altantsogst and stay in a private ger camp next to the Hovd River.
Day 10–11 Sept 14–15 Altai Eagle Festival
We will spend two days enjoying the Altai Eagle Festival, with private traditional music and concerts during lunch. We will stay in our private ger camp along the Hovd River.
Day 12 Sept 16 Return to UB
We will travel an hour to the Olgii airport and fly back to UB, have our final group dinner and hotel stay.
Day 13 Sept 17 Depart UB
Kobesh Travel Co Ltd, established in 2008, 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 FIRE since 2004. For several years he volunteered his time to help coordinate FIRE’s distribution trips in Bayan-Ulgii. Kobest specializes in working with groups of various sizes and make-ups, including teams of clients from National Geographic, BBC (including work on the new television series “Human Planet”), and ITV.
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. Mongolia is a perfect fit for her love of wild places, new cultures, and equines.
David Edwards first traveled to Mongolia in 1992 and founded FIRE in 1999. His extensive travels and photography expeditions in Bayan-Olgii have given him an in-depth knowledge of the history and geography of the area. His photography essay about the Kazakh eagle hunters of western Mongolia was featured in the September 1999 issue of National Geographic. One image from this essay was featured in National Geographic’s collection of “100 Best Images.”