The first section of the tour is 1,194 kilometres over 12 stages starting in Ulaanbaatar and finishing in Kharkhorin. There are nine nights’ wild camping, four nights’ in a ger camp, one on the night train to Erdenet and three nights’ at The Bayangol Hotel,
Ulaanbaatar. In total, the 12 riding stages have a cumulative elevation gain of 10,269m which is equivalent to riding from sea level to
the top of Mount Everest 1.16 times.
Note: On any day, you will have the option to ride the full stage, or the morning
only, or the afternoon only, or take an additional rest day and travel in the support vehicles with the crew.
Day 1 - Sunday July 19th:
The tour starts mid-afternoon at The Bayangol Hotel in Ulaanbaatar on Sunday July 19th
When we will meet Ganaa Tsedev of Mongolia Dream Vacations for a briefing. Ganaa is the owner of Mongolia Dream Vacations and will be the tour leader, host and translator
throughout the tour. Mongolia Dream Vacations – unforgettable wilderness adventures Page 13Mongolia Dream Vacations is an Ulaanbaatar tour operator that specialises in unforgettable wilderness adventures. This is the fourth wilderness adventure Ganaa has organised on my
After the briefing, we will go and see we will see a concert
performed by the Tumen-Ekh Ensemble, Mongolia’s premier traditional performance group. The concert features folk and traditional music,
song, Mongolian throat singing, dance and contortion. It is truly excellent.
We will then go for dinner.
Note: The reason the tour starts on Sunday July 19th and not Monday July 20th is because
Luggage and bikes have a tendency to get lost by airports and airlines. By starting the tour on the Sunday, this gives time to recover
from any jet lag, explore Ulaanbaatar and provide two mornings for any lost luggage or lost bikes to arrive in Ulaanbaatar. In the event that your bike fails to arrive prior to leaving Ulaanbaatar, a bike can be hired in Ulaanbaatar and claimed for on your insurance.
Day 2 – Monday July 20th: Ulaanbaatar City Tour (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we will head out to the Gandantegchinlen
Monastery (Gandan) which is about 1km from The Bayangol Hotel. Gandan is a Buddhist monastery whose name means ‘Great Place of Complete
Joy.’ It has been restored since 1990 and currently has over 150 monks in residence.From Gandan, we will visit Sukhbaatar, Ulaanbaatar’s
impressive Central Square. Nearby is the National Museum of Mongolia which spans the Neolithic era right through to the present day. It
offers an unparalleled overview of Mongolian culture, ranging from stoneage petroglyphs and exquisite gold ornamentation to, arguably the highlight, the full gamut of traditional ceremonial costume. Many consider these costumes to have been the inspiration for the wardrobe of the characters in the Star Wars prequels.
After lunch, we will head south by minibus to the Golden Buddha and Zaisan Memorial. The Golden Buddha is 27m tall and weighs 20 tonnes. It is made of copper and covered in gold.The Zaisan Memorial is dedicated to the alliance of Mongolia with the Soviet
Union during World War II. It is situated on top of a hill and provides sweeping panoramic views of Ulaanbaatar including the ger districts
on its outskirts.
We will then return to The Bayangol to freshen up. Dinner will be a Mongolian barbeque.
Day 3 – Tuesday July 21st: Ulaanbaatar and night train to Erdenet (B/L/D)
an early breakfast, we will head to the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park which is 30 kilometres north east of Ulaanbaatar. The Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is considered to be one of the most scenic and impressive areas in the whole of Mongolia.
The National Park has a number of massive rock formations set among scenic valleys and hills with a winding
river and groves of trees. The most famous rock formation is Turtle Rock. (‘Melkhii Khad’), a spectacular 24m high granite rock in the shape of a turtle. Mongolia Dream Vacations – unforgettable wilderness adventures Page 18 We will then visit the Aryabal Meditation Temple which is built in the shape of an elephant’s head and located on the top of a steep hill. To reach the temple, we have to pass a small wooden bridge with a sign that reads ‘The
bridge that leads beyond wisdom.’
Aryabal is a Buddhist god who listens to all the prayers of human kind and releases human kind from its suffering. The number 108 is an auspicious number in Buddhism and there are
108 steps along the elongated trunk path that leads up to temple. Along the sides of the path, there are 144 signs with teachings written
in both English and Mongolian. The temple style is Tibetan with white square shaped and white coloured main buildings with porcelain roofs
decorated with Buddhist and religious signs. The decoration of the temple depicts what is the paradise and what is the hell. After lunch
in a ger camp in the National Park, we will return to The Bayangol where we will meet the support crew and hand over our bikes. Our bikes will be transferred overnight by minibus to Erdenet and be at the station to greet us when we arrive the following morning. After an early dinner, we will head for the station and take the night
train from Ulaanbaatar to Erdenet, the third largest city in Mongolia.
Erdenet is around 370 kilometres north west
of Ulaanbaatar. Erdenet is one of the youngest settlements in Mongolia having only been founded in 1974. It is an important copper mining area and has a population of around 85,000. By the mid- 1980s, more than 50% of the inhabitants were Russians who worked mainly as engineers or miners. However, after the fall of Soviet Communism in 1990, most of the Russians left and today, only about 10% of the population is Russian.
Erdenet is also the city where Ganaa was brought up in having moved there with his parents from Khovd in western Mongolia when he was three.
Day 4 – Wednesday July 22nd: Erdenet to Bulgan Spring (B/L/D) - 100km (Stage 1)
Upon arriving at Erdenet around 0800, we will ride a short distance to the western outskirts of the city where we will meet the cooks and have breakfast. After breakfast, we will continue in a westerly direction out onto the steppe where we will soon begin to see local nomadic herdsmen, their families, gers and animals including
cattle, yaks, goats and horses. We can also expect to get our first sight of the numerous eagles and vultures which scavenge on the steppe.
Each day, you can ride at your own pace to the lunch spot where we will meet up with the support crew and regroup. There will always be
one vehicle at the front and one member of the crew and or one vehicle at the rear. This is to ensure no-one gets lost. Prior to the tour, you
will be sent the gpx tracks for each stage which you can load onto your GPS. Then, all you need do is follow the blue line on your GPS. As an alternative to a GPS, you can download either the Strava or Mapmyride app to your phone and upload the gpx tracks.
However, you do not need a GPS or an app to ride this tour.
After lunch, we will continue at our own pace to our first camp site at Bulgan
Spring where we can set up our tents and wash prior to dinner. Our camp sites will consist of a cooks’ tent, large dining tent, sleeping
tents, a his and hers toilet tent and a hand wash post.
Whilst the availability of foods
in Mongolia is more limited than in western countries – the consequence of a small population in a large remote landlocked country – we will be well fed both in terms of the range and quality of the cuisine which will be a mix of traditional Mongolian and western style foods. Here’s what Carlos Sanchez, one of the members of
my Love To Hike group wrote last year about the food we ate when hiking in western Mongolia, the remotest most sparsely populated region
of Mongolia. "I did enjoy very much the trip. The organisation far exceeded my expectations, especially the food. I knew with you organising
things, very little detail would be overlooked, but on the food front, I did not expect that level."
At the end of each day, it will be possible for us to recharge our GPS batteries along with any other electrical devices. The mechanic will also
be available to remedy any mechanical issues that have arisen during the day with our bikes.
Note: On some days when we have to cross wider rivers or streams, we may need to regroup more frequently.
This is because water levels in Mongolia can suddenly change and it is always safest to cross as a group at a common safe point. On some days, it may also be necessary to modify the route due to changes in the levels of the rivers and streams.
Mongolians are extremely adaptable and Ganaa and his crew have lots of experience of managing such situations.
Day 5 – Thursday July 23rd: Bulgan Spring to Khanui Hot Spring (B/L/D) - 90km (Stage2)
The typical morning will start with getting up at 0700, breakfast at 0800 and leaving at 0900. After breakfast, Ganaa will lead an optional stretch
and yoga class for anyone who wants to limber up before we begin riding. Today’s ride will take us over Tuluugiin Davaa. It is a long
steady climb to the Tuluugiin pass from where the scenery suddenly and dramatically changes as forest gives way to open steppe. Rock formations
in the area hint towards a volcanic past. The River Khanui Valley is 1-3km wide until it meets the River Khunui, where the valley becomes
a much narrower 20-30m deep basalt canyon. This area was covered by basalt when the Khuis-Mandal volcanoes to the south and north erupted
in times long gone by. Over the millennia, the Khanui River carved a deep canyon on the basalt surface. A forest grows along the canyon and there are also several small caves. We will camp beside the Khanui River and Hot Spring.
Day 6 – Friday
July 24th: Khanui Hot Spring to Selenge River (B/L/D) - 108km (Stage 3)
Today’s route follows well marked 4WD trails and takes us to the Selenge River which
is the source of Lake Baikal in Russia. The Selenga River flows for 600km across northern Mongolia. After winding its way through the vast
plains and wooded steppe, it reaches the Russian border. Its source is 50km south of Murun and its river basin is essential to prosperity
of local agricultural. The river has an impressive flow rate and accounts for 30% of Mongolia's waterways. It is also a fishing paradise and home to salmon, sturgeon, carp, pike and taimen.
Day 7 – Saturday July 25th: Selenge River to Erkhel Lake (B/L/D) - 110km (Stage
After crossing the Selenge River by an old Russian army bridge, the road takes us to Tosontsengel,
a town with a population of just over 4,000. From Tosontsengel, we ride on tarmac to centre of Murun, the capital of Murun province. Murun
has a population of around 35,000 and is in the valley of the River Delgermurun. The source of the River Delgermurun is Mount Ulaan Taiga in the far north west of the province. The valley has been protected as a natural reserve since 2003. We will camp on the shore of Ekhlel Lake.
Day 8 – Sunday July 26th: Erkhel Lake to Khovsgul Lake (B/L/D) - 90km (Stage 5)
From Erkhel Lake, we
will ride out on a paved road until we come to Khatgal, a small town located on bank of the charming Khovsgul Lake. Khovsgul Lake is located
near to the Russian border at the foot of the eastern Sayan Mountains. The lake is 1,645m above sea level, 136km long, 36km across at its widest point and has a maximum depth of 262m It is the second-most voluminous freshwater lake in Asia, and holds almost 70% of Mongolia's fresh water and 0.4% of all the fresh water in the world. The Lake area is a National Park and is bigger than Yellowstone. It is spectacularly beautiful and the perfect place to spend two nights in a ger camp.
The ger camp will be of tourist standard with western style shower and toilet facilities. Each ger accommodates four people and usually has a
stove fire in the centre with the four single beds around the perimeter. There are no toilets or running water inside a ger.
Day 9 – Monday July 27th:
Rest day or option ride along Khovsgul Lake (B/L/D) – 35 to 70km
will be a rest day with an option to explore on foot or by bike the shoreline of Khovsgul Lake and the National Park. You can also opt to go horseback riding which Ganaa can organise (not included in the price of the tour). The shore line is dotted with ger camps and can be quite touristy during the summer months. However, as the park is so large, you can hike all day in the surrounding hills and rarely see anyone.
Day 10 – Tuesday July 28th: Khovsgul Lake to Delgermurun River (B/L/D) - 120km (Stage 6)
From the ger camp, we will head back south to Murun where the cooks will go shopping. We will camp on the banks of the Delgermurun
River a few kilometres to the south of the city.
Day 11 – Wednesday July 29th: Delgermurun River to Shine Ider Road (B/L/D) - 90km (Stage 7)
Today’s up and down route takes along some herders’ trails to the Khangai
Mountains and then up onto the high pastures that are home to the Mongolian yak. Along the way, we will stop off to visit some local nomads
and their families.
Day 12 – Thursday July 30th: Shine Ider Road to Jargalant (B/L/D) - 90km (Stage 8)
The borderlands between Khovsgul Lake and Arkhangai aimag (tribe) consist mainly of a series of dry rocky valleys and raw ochre up country. Jargalant
is a pretty small town of around 5,000 people that was first established in 1931. The temple in Jargalant was one of the few monasteries
that remained in Mongolia during the Communist era.
Day 13 – Friday
July 31st: Jargalant to Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake (B/L/D) - 80km (Stage 9)
Today we will pass through rolling hills, summit a few passes and cross several rivers to
reach Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake situated in the Khorgo National Park. This National Park is the highlight of Arkhangai province and famous for
its attractive scenery. Most of the National Park is covered by poplar and peach forest, where a vast variety of wild berries, rare herbs and
flowers grow. The park has lots of animals including deer and wild goat as well as many different species of bird. The Khorgo volcano crater is at an altitude of 2,210m and is 200m wide and 100m deep. The Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake is extremely beautiful with fresh water and has an abundance of different species of fish and birds.
Day 14 – Saturday August 1st: Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake to Upper Khanui River Lake (B/L/D) - 102km (Stage
Today, we will ride on a paved road all day which will take us to the Chuluut River Canyon and another beautiful valley. The Chuluut (stony river) is a river that flows through the valleys of the Khangai Mountains. The Chuluut River is the western most river. It starts in a narrow
and steep but not that high basalt canyon that is embedded in the mountainous steppe. It will be a wondrous experience to ride between its
sheer walls, which occasionally open to a view of wooded slopes and rich grazing grounds. The Chuluut Canyon stretches for 25km.
Day 15 – Sunday August 2nd: Upper Khanui River to Tsenkher Hot Spring (B/L/D) - 92km (Stage 11)
Taikhar Chuluu or Taikhar Rock is a large rock in the middle of the steppe. It is situated near the Khoid Tamir River, 22km
from Tsetserleg, a city of around 16,000 people in Arkhangai province. The rock is one of most popular tourist attractions in Arkhangai province. Tsagaan Davaa will present a challenging pass with 300m of ascent, but with the reward of a beautiful descent into Tsetserleg in a magnificent mountain setting by a river. There are a few short steep passes before we arrive at our ger camp in the Tsenkher Valley which is famous for its mineral hot spring. Although somewhat crowded with
both locals and tourists in the summer, it will be the perfect way to end the day relaxing in the hot spring with beer in hand. The ger
camp has both a laundry and a massage service.
Day 16 – Monday August 3rd: Tsenkher Hot Spring to Kharkhorin
(B/L/D) - 122km (Stage 12)
Today we will follow the picturesque valleys and lose altitude throughout the day to reach our ger camp in Kharkhorin. Karakorum (today’s Kharkhorin) was founded in 1220 by Chinggis Khaan. It was the capital of the Mongol Empire between 1235 and 1260 before Kublai Khaan relocated
the capital initially to Shangdu in China and latterly to Khanbaliq (today's Beijing). Despite being on the Silk Road, this reduced Karakorum
to the administrative centre of a provincial backwater. The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that connected China and the Mediterranean.
It was central to cultural interaction between the regions for many centuries. It only became known as Silk Road in 1877 when Ferdinand von Richthofen, an eminent German geographer named it so on account of silk comprising such a large proportion of the trade. The Mongol Empire ushered
in an era of frequent and extended contacts between east and west. The Mongols neither discouraged nor impeded relations with foreigners. They were hospitable to foreign travellers, even those whose monarchs had not submitted to them. The relative stability achieved under the Mongols expedited and encouraged travel in the sizable section of Asia that was under their rule, permitting European merchants, craftsmen, and envoys to journey as far as China for the first time.
Asian goods reached Europe along the caravan trails of the Silk Road, and the ensuing European demand for these products eventually inspired
the search for a sea route to Asia. Thus, it can be said that the Mongol invasions of Chinggis Khaan and his successors indirectly led to Europe's ‘Age of Exploration’ in the 15th century.
Kharkhorin has a population of around 14,000 and its principal sources of income are tourism and agriculture. We will
spend two nights’ in a ger camp in Kharkhorin. Today will also be the day when we will welcome those joining the second section of the tour.
Day 17 – Tuesday August 4th: Rest day with option ride to explore Karakorum (B/L/D)
we will say farewell to those who are returning to Ulaanbaatar. We will then have a free day to rest or explore Karakorum. From the ger
camp, we can ride the short distance to the Erdene Zuu Monastery. The Erdene Zuu Monastery is believed to be the earliest surviving Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. The construction of the monastery was ordered by the ruler of the Khalkha Mongols in 1585 after his meeting with the third Dalai Lama and the declaration of Tibetan Buddhism as the state religion of Mongolia. Stones from the nearby ruins of the ancient capital of Karakorum were used in its construction. Planners attempted to
create a surrounding wall that resembled a Tibetan Buddhist rosary featuring 108 stupas (108 being a sacred number in Buddhism). The monastery was damaged in 1688 during one of the many wars between Dzungars and Khalkha Mongols. Locals dismantled the wooden fortifications of the abandoned monastery. It was subsequently rebuilt in the 18th century and by 1872 had 62 temples and housed around 1,000 monks. However, in 1939 the Communist leader of the time ordered the monastery to be destroyed, as part of a purge that obliterated hundreds of monasteries throughout Mongolia and killed
over 10,000 monks. Three small temples and the external wall with the stupas are all thatsurvived the initial onslaught.In 1947, the temples were converted into museums and over the following four decades, the monastery was Mongolia's only functioning monastery. After the fall of Communism in Mongolia in 1990, the monastery was turned over to the lamas and Erdene Zuu once again became a place of worship. Today, Erdene Zuu
remains an active Buddhist monastery as well as a museum that is open to tourists.
On a hill outside the monastery about three kilometres away sits a stone phallus called Kharkhorin Rock. The rock is said
to restrain the sexual impulses of the monks and ensure their good behaviour!
We will then ride
back to the ger camp in time for lunch which will be followed by a free afternoon.