Inside the Kazakh: The Golden Eagle Festival & Himalayas

11 Days, 10 Nights

Welcome to Mongolia’s wild west, where the snow-capped peaks are higher, the landscapes more rugged, and the cultural experiences are steeped in the Muslim traditions of neighboring Kazakhstan. Trek through the glacial Altai Tavan Bogd National Park and summit Malchin Peak before joining the annual Golden Eagle Festival, set against the backdrop of the Altai Mountain Range—Mongolia’s highest peaks.

Trip Highlights

  • Witness the skill of falconers at the annual Golden Eagle Festival in Mongolia’s far western reaches
  • Trek and camp among the rugged peaks, valleys and glaciers of Altai Tavan Bogd National Park
  • Summit one of the highest peaks in Mongolia
Price
$3425 USD per person
Trip Activities
Trekking
Trip Length
11 Days, 10 Nights
Physical Level
Avid
Start/End
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Accommodation
Hotel (5 nights)
Camping (5 nights)
Age
Minimum 16 years of age
Meals not included
Lunch, Breakfast Day 1
Lunch, Dinner Day 11
Flights Included
Ulaanbaatar to Olgii
Olgii to Ulaanbaatar

Day-by-day Itinerary

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Day 1
September 30: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar
Activities
None
Transfers
None
Description

We’ll meet you at Chinggis Khaan International Airport and drive you to your 4-star hotel in the center of Ulaanbaatar (which the locals call “UB”), the capital of Mongolia. Take your time to settle in and relax.

Then join us in the evening for dinner where you’ll meet your fellow travelers and get a trip orientation.

Meals
  • Dinner
Accommodation
Day 2
October 1: Fly to Bayan-Olgii, drive to the Petroglyphs of Baga Oigor
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 6
Description

Today we’ll take a three-hour flight to Olgii, the capital of Bayan-Olgii Province, where 90 percent of the population is Muslim Kazakh. On arrival, we’ll load up into our four-wheel-drive Russian vans and travel to Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, a 6,300-square-kilometer mountainous landscape that houses numerous glaciers, freshwater lakes and artifacts from prehistoric civilisations.

We’ll drive across desert plains alongside rugged mountains, then through deep mountain valleys before arriving at Baga Oigor Valley to view one of the largest rock art galleries in Asia. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the petroglyphs span an area of 15 kilometers by 500 meters. Although these carvings date back to the Stone and Bronze ages, you’ll recognize something that translates through the ages: the humanity captured in these images. Depicted are wild and domestic animals and scenes of human life, including hunting, animal husbandry and religious rituals.

We’ll set up camp here and spend the rest of the day exploring the rock carvings. In the evening we’ll return to our camp to enjoy dinner in the wild. Tonight will be your first night spent in the great outdoors of western Mongolia.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Camping
Day 3
October 2: Travel through Altai Tavan Bogd National Park
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 4.5
Description

Today we’ll continue traveling through the national park for another half day. The large white domes of nomadic Kazakh yurts, called ger in Mongolian, dot the landscape, but the population we’ll see most along the way will be herds of sheep and goats. Sometimes we’ll come across clusters of horses, cattle and camels as well.

The road ends at a scenic valley that lies between two dramatic mountain ridges. We’ll make camp here and be joined in the evening by local camel herders of the Tuvan ethnic group. For the next few days, their camels will transport our luggage as we trek through the Tavan Bogd Mountains.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Camping
Day 4
October 3: Trek to Altai Tavan Bogd Base Camp
Activities
  • Trekking: 5 hours
Transfers
None
Description

Today after breakfast we’ll begin our trek through the Tavan Bogd Mountain Range. Its name means “five saints,” referring to the five tallest peaks of the range. With its many snow-covered slopes—some of which are still unclimbed today—the range offers great opportunities for alpine climbing.

With a short approach time and moderate altitudes, this trek makes for a great training ground for our treks to follow. Today we’ll hike to base camp at 3,100 meters. The route is a gradual ascent with just a couple of steep sections. We’ll cross a few mountain streams and mostly trek on soft soil that at times turns into a wetland. Our camp equipment and luggage will be transported by our pack camels, leaving us free to carry just our daypacks and lunch boxes. Our local guides and cook will carry on to the base camp to prepare tonight’s camp and dinner. This evening, an impressive view of Mongolia’s highest peaks and largest glaciers will be our campsite’s backdrop.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Camping
Day 5
October 4: Climb Malchin Peak
Activities
  • Trekking: 8 hours
Transfers
None
Description

Today we’ll set out to summit Malchin Peak (4,051 meters), one of the five peaks of the Tavan Bogd Mountain Range. Known as one of the easier peaks to summit, Malchin is only partially covered in snow and climbing its slopes won’t require using ice axes, wearing crampons or roping up. Trekking poles will be sufficient as the trail is well established, although it’s entirely on scree.

To reach the mountain, we’ll first hike along Potanin Glacier, Mongolia’s largest glacier moraine. We’ll walk along this vast frozen valley for an hour before finally stepping onto the mountain. Then it’s another six-hour hike to the summit, including breaks. Once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular bird’s-eye views of the glaciers beneath and the Russian territory across the border. If you’d like, you can opt to climb a less demanding ridge that neighbors Malchin and also offers a glimpse into Russia.

Tonight we’ll return to base camp for dinner and a good, long rest after today’s summit.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Camping
Day 6
October 5: Trek out of Altai Tavan Bogd National Park
Activities
  • Trekking: 5 hours
Transfers
None
Description

Today we say goodbye to Tavan Bogd and hike out of the national park. Our route is an easy downhill stroll, although we’ll come across some boggy sections and we’ll cover more distance than on our way up to base camp. Our destination today is the valley of the White River, where a dozen Tuvan families—a nomadic ethnic group—graze their animals on lush alpine pastures during summer. But by late September, most families will have moved further downstream to their autumn quarters.

After setting up camp along the Tuvan gers, we’ll take some time to relax. If you’d like, we can visit the home of one of our local guides and experience the hospitality of these nomadic people. No doubt you’ll be offered a tasty meal, various types of milk tea and, of course, local spirits distilled from milk.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Camping
Day 7
October 6: Drive to Olgii
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 5
Description

From today on, we’ll trade our hiking boots and camping gear for a private vehicle and cozy hotels in the province of Bayan-Olgii, Mongolia’s western-most province where the annual Eagle Festival takes place. After breakfast, we’ll make our way back to Olgii, the provincial capital of Bayan-Olgii. It’s a scenic 5- or 6-hour drive downstream along the White River, following its winding path in a gradually widening valley before it meets the crystalline waters of the Khovd River.

Upon arrival in Olgii, we’ll settle into a cozy local hotel before gathering for a traditional Kazakh dinner.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Day 8
October 7: Eagle Festival
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 0.5
Description

Today is the first day of the Eagle Festival, and we’ll see the Kazakh hunters in all their glory, along with all the locals who come to celebrate their cultural heritage. We’ll watch a parade of falconers on horseback with their eagles perched on their arms. After the parade, each hunter will demonstrate how well his bird obeys his commands by placing his eagle on a nearby cliff edge and calling it from below. It’s a spectacular sight to see these birds of prey soar down to their owners and alight on their arms.

In the afternoon, we’ll watch an exciting race of amblers, a highly valued type of Mongolian horse known for its quick cantor. In the evening, join us at a local concert to watch performances of traditional Kazakh songs and dances.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Day 9
October 8: Eagle Festival
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 0.5
Description

The Eagle Festival continues today! We’ll head out after breakfast to watch trained golden eagles display their speed and agility. To test their eagles’ skills, hunters drag a fox skin behind a horse, and the fastest eagle to land on the skin is considered the best hunter.

We’ll also participate in some traditional Kazakh games, such as aitis, a poetry duel; kyzkuar, a dating game played on horseback; and kokpar, a team sport played on horseback with a goatskin—some of you may know it as “goat polo,” the national sport of Afghanistan!

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
  • Hotel
Day 10
October 9: Return flight to Ulaanbaatar
Activities
None
Transfers
  • Van: 3
Description

Today we’ll say goodbye to our Kazakh hosts and fly back to Ulaanbaatar. Upon arrival, we’ll drive you to your hotel, where you can take the day to relax or do a little exploring and shopping in the capital.

Whatever you choose to do, join us for a farewell dinner in the evening, where we can recount our adventures in the Mongolian wilderness with our fellow travellers.

Meals
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation
Day 11
October 10: Departure
Activities
None
Transfers
None
Description

Today, we’ll drive you to the airport and wish you a safe return flight or onward journey.

Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
None

Trip Information

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Inclusions

Rove certified Guide

Plenty of water, snacks, and local fruits

Additional local guide for 11-15 pax, 2 assistant guides for 16+ pax

Vehicles: (varies based on local conditions and vehicle sizes available)

A first aid kit per guide

Entrance Fees

Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)

Accommodation as listed above

Exclusions

Visa arrangement

International and domestic flights

Alcoholic drinks

Tips

Energy drinks or powders, performance bars, or performance gels (Gatorade, Powerbars, Gu, Isostar, etc)

Personal Travel Insurance

Personal expenditure (laundry, telephone etc.)