Naadam Festival - Dunes, Dinosaurs and Flaming Cliffs: Mt. Biking the Gobi Desert

10 Days, 9 Nights

Explore the Gobi Desert with unfettered views, expansive skies, and a kaleidoscope of colour only found here. The Gobi Desert’s awe-inspiring immensity is felt even more vividly while traveling by bike. With 27.5 front-suspension Giant bikes as your main mode of transport, you’ll visit a world-renowned dinosaur fossil site and Mongolia’s largest sand dunes. Finish the trip off with a two day visit to the traditional Naadam festival, where you'll witness ancient ceremonies and Mongolian wrestling, horse racing, and archery tournaments.

Trip Highlights

  • Trek to Eagle Canyon, a desert gorge that creates its own microclimate
  • Explore the Flaming Red Cliffs, a world-renowned dinosaur fossil site
  • Visit the traditional Naadam Festival and witness the symbolic transfer of Genghis Khan's "nine horse tails"
Price
$2850 USD per person
Trip Activities
Cycling
Trip Length
10 Days, 9 Nights
Physical Level
Enthusiast
Start/End
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nights)
Yurt (5 nights)
Age
Minimum 16 years of age
Meals not included
Lunch, Breakfast Day 1
Lunch, Dinner Day 10
Flights Included
Ulaanbaatar to Gobi
Gobi to Ulaanbaatar

Day-by-day Itinerary

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Day 1
Arrival in Ulaanbaatar (UB), Guided City Tour
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 0.5
Description

Arrive in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. We’ll meet you at the airport and drive you to your 4-star hotel. After you’ve settled in, you can choose to join us for a guided city tour of Ulaanbaatar, called “UB” by locals. If not, feel free to relax or go on your own exploration of the capital city. We will come together for dinner, where you'll meet your fellow travelers and be briefed on the upcom-ing adventures.

Meals
  • Dinner
Accommodation
Day 2
Fly to the Gobi Desert, Visit Eagle Canyon
Activities
  • Cycling: 50 km
Transfers
  • Van: 1.5
Description

This morning after breakfast, we’ll catch a short flight to the Gobi Desert. Upon arrival, we’ll meet the support team and drive to Eagle Canyon, also known as “the Vulture’s Mouth,” a gorge that creates its own microclimate. Here, snow and ice remain frozen until late July. At the entrance of the canyon is a natural history museum with taxidermy displays of the local wildlife, as well as pe-trified wood and dinosaur eggs.

Next, we’ll hike 1.5 hours into the heart of the canyon. With a bit of luck, we'll spot wild mountain goats scaling the steep cliffs and bearded vultures soaring above. After a picnic lunch, we’ll drive out of the mountains and begin our first ride. Today’s route will be a good warm-up before the more serious days of biking ahead. A 20-kilometer gentle descent into the vast plains of the Gobi will be followed by a 30-kilometer steady rise that brings us to our camp for the night.

Tonight, take a hot shower and relax under the stars before dinner. Our accommodations will be traditional felt-covered yurts, known as ger in Mongolian.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Ger Camp
Day 3
Daytrip to the Flaming Cliffs
Activities
  • Cycling: 45 km
Transfers
None
Description

After breakfast, we’ll bike to the Flaming Cliffs, one of the world’s greatest dinosaur fossil sites. In the 1920s, a series of expeditions here unearthed the first unhatched dinosaur eggs the world had ever seen, along with several new species of dinosaurs and the fossils of early mammals.

Our biking route takes us over hard but smooth desert soil with just a few short loose sections. Al-though the route has no real ascents, a possible headwind can be a challenge, while a tailwind will send you flying. When we reach the cliffs (you can’t miss them—they’re called “Flaming Cliffs” for their vivid red coloring), we’ll explore them on foot. After a torrential rain, the eroded sandstone can still yield dinosaur fossils, so you can still hope for a discovery.

Next we’ll take a short ride to see a small but interesting display of fossils that were unearthed at the Flaming Cliffs. After a picnic lunch by the cliffs, we’ll mount up again and bike back to the ger camp. Spend the evening relaxing with a book or talking over the day’s adventures with your fellow cyclists.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Ger Camp
Day 4
Bike to Dundus Valley
Activities
  • Cycling: 69 km
Transfers
None
Description

Today at breakfast, we’ll fuel up for a challenging ride across a midsection of the GurvanSaikhan Mountain Range, which rises up out of the Gobi. Our route runs on an elevated plateau between two parallel ridges with short, and sometimes steep, ascents that are followed by exciting descents. Our riding surface will be mostly smooth, but some brief sections of sand will need some negotiating.

With its good ventilation and cooler temperatures, the plateau is used as a summer grazing site by local nomadic herders. We’ll pass some large flocks of goats and sheep, and perhaps even some herds of horses and camels. On our route, we’ll also spot the characteristically white and round Mongolian ger standing out against the wide stretch of desert. It’s a great glimpse of a way of life that’s changed very little over hundreds of years.

Tonight, we’ll make camp by some spectacular rock formations and enjoy the hushed tranquility of the desert under the stars.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Yurt
Day 5
Bike to KhongorynEls (Singing Sand Dunes)
Activities
  • Cycling: 89 km
Transfers
None
Description

Today is our last cycling day, and it’ll be appropriately action-packed. It starts with a 3-kilometer trudge along a dry riverbed, then switches to a series of undulating humps with a smooth, packed surface that continues throughout the morning. Around midday we’ll exit the GurvanSaikhan Mountain Range and reach an open plain, where we’ll catch our first glimpse of the KhongorynEls Sand Dunes.

Rising up out of the flat, arid land, the tallest of these dunes reaches 200 meters from its foothill. Locals sometimes refer to them as the “singing dunes” due to an eerie humming sound they produce on windy days. The humming can be caused by the collapse of the fine ridges of sand that build up on the dunes’ crests.

We’ll stop for a picnic lunch at the edge of the plain, with the majestic dunes as our backdrop. When we’re sufficiently sated and rested, we’ll load up our bikes into our support van and drive to a cozy ger camp. Take the afternoon to relax, and later, when the heat subsides, we’ll make an excursion to the dunes. Try climbing the dunes (it’s not as easy as you’d think!) or take a short camel ride along the lower slopes.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Ger Camp
Day 6
Return to Gobi Airport
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 4
Description

Today marks the end of our cycling adventure in the desert. We’ll take the day to make our way back toward the airport, taking our time to enjoy a leisurely morning. Near the airport, we’ll settle into a cozy ger camp and you’ll have the afternoon free to spend at your leisure. In the evening, take the chance to watch the stars over the desert one last time.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Ger camp
Day 7
Return to Ulaanbaatar
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 0.66
Description

Today, after breakfast, we’ll catch our return flight to Ulaanbaatar. After you’re settled into your hotel, you’ll have the day to spend as you wish; either relaxing, exploring, checking out Gandanteg-chinlen Monastery, wandering through the National Museum, or just following your whim.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 8
Naadam Festival
Activities
None
Transfers
None
Description

Today we will head to the annual Naadam festival, a traditional celebration which originated in the distant past when Mongolia was ruled by warlords and emperors like Genghis Khan and his ances-tors. Their armies’ hunting tournaments and parades, nomadic wedding celebrations, and sporting competitions all fed into what later officially became Naadam. The holiday took on a bit more of a patriotic aura when it was chosen to celebrate the 1921 revolution that freed Mongolia from Chinese control.

Naadam is celebrated with three main sports today; Mongolian wrestling, horse racing, and archery tournaments. Enjoy watching all three and being part of this special tradition.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
None
Day 9
Naadam Festival
Activities
None
Transfers
None
Description

Today will be the second and final day at the Naadam festival. Enjoy the festivities and introductory ceremonies where you will have the chance to meet the horses, jockeys, dancers, singers and more. Look for the symbolic transfer of Genghis Khan’s “nine horse tails” to the stadium where the National Naadam is held. Get some “shagai,” which are sheep or goat ankle bones used in numerous Mongolian games played during Naadam. These bones are the original dice and are also used in fortune telling. There are tournaments where shagai games are played, and you will see them being tossed in the air, rolled on a stick and shot at with arrows.

Enjoy the bustling festival before finishing off the day with a farewell gala dinner.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
None
Day 10
Departure
Activities
None
Transfers
None
Description

Today we’ll take you to ChinggisKhaan International Airport and wish you a safe return flight or onward journey.

Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
None

Trip Information

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Inclusions

4 nights in 4* hotel (twin+breakfasts)

1 night in tents (twin)

4 nights in ger resorts (twin/triple)

Camping equipment including portable pressure shower and seat-on toilets

Cooking equipment and utensils

Sleeping bags and mats

Indicated meals & drinking water

All visits, sightseeing, national park and permit fees

Support cars

Domestic airfare and airport transfers

English speaking cycling guide(s)

Expedition cook(s)

Advanced quality, well maintained mountain bikes

Mechanical assistance and parts

Exclusions

Travel insurance

Excess baggage fee on domestic air travel

Personal cycling accessories and clothes

Meals not indicated

Drinks & alcohol

Gratuities

7% VAT not included in price