"Experience Mongolia's national celebrations as wrestlers, archers and horse racers strut their stuff during the Naadam Festival before heading off for a thrilling off-road mountain biking and camping journey across pristine Central Mongolia. "
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Day 1: Arrive Ulaan Baatar, MongoliaDinner
Welcome to Ulaan Baatar! On arrival in UB, as it colloquially called among the foreign and expat crowd (the city, to the locals as there’s only one!), you’ll be met by our driver and whisked away to our centrally located hotel. We’ll get together for a group meeting in the early evening and head out for a Modern Mongol fusion dinner and a stroll around the centre.
If you are arrive early there’s plenty of options to explore downtown Ulaan Baatar. The city has modernised rapidly over the last 10 years with western style, Dubai-inspired shopping malls and brand name glitz, but there’s more than a few hints and nods to it’s soviet past. Around Suhkbataar Square, the huge cosmopolitan public square, and adjoining Parliament House with it’s monuments to Chinggis Khan and family, you’ll find wide, somber, low slung and squat Russian built buildings. Off the square is the National Museum, where you’ll get a pretty good look at Mongol history and national dress – not far away along Peace Avenue is the State Department Store where you can dress yourself and buy the same get up. Venture further and flavours of Johannesburg emerge, with ghetto-like housing towers and hip hop inspired fashion, graffiti and attitudes prevail. Further still, the city is surrounded by the ger districts, an ever growing sprawl of traditional housing of nomads that have moved off the land and into the city in search of work and an easier life. It’s a heady mix of east, west, modern, traditional, communist and cowboy!
Please note: Tours commencing on the 10th of July will run as itinerised here. Tours commencing on the 28th June will finish with the Naadam Festival. The cycling segment begins by departing Ulaan Baatar on day 2.
Day 2: Naadam FestivalBreakfast
This is the start of Mongolia’s National Games, the Nadaam Festival, where the three manly sports - wrestling, archery and horse racing - are on full display as competitors vie for huge prestige and national fame. Mid-morning the ceremonies begin in the square with a full regalia of military, police and a you-name-it of uniforms on parade in front of the parliament house. The Mongolian military band grinds out a Lord of the Rings Mordor battle dirge as traditional Mongol horsemen, a special guard, receive a horsetail totem, symbolic of the nine Mongol tribes, and trot it all the way to the stadium about 3 km away. It’s very cool to see and not hard to imagine how these people once dominated Eurasia!
We’ll do our best to be in the stadium as the ceremonies begin, but it’s mayhem and madness as the whole population of the country tries to do the same. Every opening ceremony is different, and it’s as much about watching the locals as it is about the events. After the opening ceremony and the first rounds of wrestling, we’ll head over for the finals of the men’s and women’s archery. We’ll also take in a bit of the knucklebone action too - more skilful than it sounds! The stadium is the place to be as Mongolians from all over the country cheer on their local heroes and favourite wrestlers. The area around the stadium is crammed with food stalls and souvenir vendors adding to the carnival atmosphere. The rest of the day and evening is free to wander around the the events, head into the city or take it easy with a beer on the square and people watch.
Day 3: Naadam Festival - Horse racing & WrestlingBreakfast
The final day of the Naadam is an early start to head out to the horse racing. The race actually starts as soon as we are on the road, as every vehicle in the country, it seems, jostles for position and rally-races out to the event. Horses are revered and the horse racing is very prestigious to Mongols. Wildly chaotic, it’s not the Melbourne Cup or Kentucky Deby, as spectators on foot stand side by side with spectators on horseback watching ten year old kids race highly trained horses over a 40km distance. It’s a carnival atmosphere that will keep us busy into the early afternoon. Back to UB, there’ll be time to relax and wash of the dust before heading back for the last rounds of the wrestling and/ or meeting up for a meal in preparation for our journey ahead
Day 4: Drive to Arvaikheer via Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dunes - optional camel rideBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner
The start of our epic adventure begins by loading up the Russian luz 4WD vans and meeting your local crew. Along with your cycling leader, you'll be accompanied by a team of locals including a cycling guide/ mechanic, cooks and drivers: all there to make sure you get the best out of your time in Mongolia and they always leave a long lasting impression on our guests for their warmth, humour and smiles. It's a long day's drive but we'll stop for lunch, and the chance to ride a camel, at Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes: a vast 80km stretch of dunes surrounded by semi-desert steppe and thickets of elm, willow and dogwood. After lunch, we'll continue on toward the small town of Arvaikheer, the capital of Ovorkhangai Province, named after a famed racehorse produced in the area. Just beyond Arvaikheer we'll set up camp for our first night under the stars.
Day 5: Drive toward Bayanhongor - Set up bikes - Cycle to Sharguljuut valleyBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 25 km
We'll pack up camp and head to our cycling start point on the southern edge of the Khangai Mountains near Bayanhongor, capital of the province of the same name. We take our time setting up the bikes and, after a hearty lunch, we set off across the steppe and into the Khangai mountains to the Sharguljuut River. The first section is takes us on a slight upward trend on hard pack, with some sandy sections, on open steppe until we reach our high point for the day with magnificent views of the Sharguljuut valley below and the Khangai mountains beyond. A nice series of downhills brings us to the river where we set up camp for the evening. Several semi-nomadic families inhabit the valley during this time of year and you'll see several gers, or yurts in russian, dotted along the valley along with their herds of sheep, goats, yak and horses. You may wish to take a walk among the surrounding rocky outcrops, where several species of ground squirrel and gerboa dart about on the lookout for the numerous species of birds of prey. A refreshhing dip in the nearby river is also an option.
Dinner as the sun sets is a daily highlight. Our cook is adept at whipping up hearty, nutricious food in several courses of soups, salads and mains that will fuel us throughout the ride. Dining, shower and lavatory tents are set up for each camp and fold-out chairs and handwashing facilities are available too.
Start Elevation: 2027m, Max Elevation: 2205m, Camp Elevation: 1956m, Climb: 250m
Day 6: Cycle to ErdensogtBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 48 km
Our first full day on the bikes! After a hot breakfast and beverages we hit the road for beautiful ride up the Sharguljuut River valley. The ride is undulating on jeep track for the first 20km or so, and you'll need to familiarise yourself with the terrain as it varies from smooth to rock strewn with several stream crossings; a challenge when the scenery is doing everything to draw your eyes. Local families will call out to you to stop and join them for some milk tea, airag (fermented mare's milk) and curd, along with several types of dairy product that sustain the nomads during the fruitful summer months. Migratory ducks and cranes can sometimes be seen so it's worth keeping your eyes peeled.
Our first break occurs at our first major river crossing. We'll cross the Sharguljuut River and rest up to re-fuel with some snacks, tea, coffee and juice. If the river is high the water can get over wheel height so you may have to carry the bike across, jump in the van or pick a good line and power through - we'll teach you the best lines and technique for crossing Mongolian streams! After break, it's a steady 10km climb into the mountains on a gradually steepening incline. Stone mounds dot the valley as we climb higher - these are cairns built by the nomads so the pergrinne falcons and other birds of prey can launch themselves on the rodents in the valley and keep their numbers in check - nomad conservation! It becomes very steep for one kilometre to the summit at 2557m where the views open up on both sides of the pass. We'll stop to rest up and take in the panorama. There's a steep one kilometre downhill before it flattens out for the downhill run all the way to camp in one of the nicest valleys of the tour.
Start Elevation: 1956m, Max Elevation: 2557m, Camp Elevation: 2264m, Climb: 932m
Day 7: Cycle Shar Hutul Pass to the Tuin River ValleyBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 47 km
Today we make our way across the Shar Hutul pass at 2540m for a spectacular downhill into the Tuin River valley. With several stream crossings as we crisscross the Tuin River to make our way upstream toward the river's headwaters. The riding is more challenging in the afternoon as we steadily gain altitude as well as traversing wide rock strewn riverbed. The high mountain terrain and impressive glacier-formed valleys are pocketed with forest and strewn with colourful wildflowers. As we are in high country, headwinds and flash hail storms can cause the temperature to drop suddenly. Then, just as suddenly, the sun appears to dry everything out as if nothing had happened! Across Mongolia the weather can change very rapidly so you need to be prepared to use all your gear - from cold weather to hot weather cycling gear - sometimes using it all across even an hour. It's reccommended you bring wet weather cycling gear as temperatures drop suddenly when it rains. It's uncommon for prolonged days of rain but it is neccesary to be prepared just in casae as we are cycling in remote regions.
Our camp tonight, far from civilisation, is the highest and most spectacular of the tour looking down the Tuin River valley over an often frozen lake from 2511m. You might even catch a glimpse of marmot, hear their barking or, if you are lucky hear the howl of a wolf. Sightings of both these animals are rare as marmot is the most favoured meat of the nomads and wolf are hunted for the prestige it confers on the hunter.
Start Elevation: 2264m, Max Elevation: 2540m, Camp Elevation: 2511m, Climb: 640m
Day 8: Cycle the Khul Sayangiin Pass - Tamir River ValleyBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 53 km
We kick off the day with a nice 6 km climb to the top of Khul Sayngiin pass where we'll rest at the ovoo, a cairn of rocks and blue prayer flags that mark the pass on all mountain roads and trails in Mongolia. It's here that locals will make offerings of rocks - that help maintain the cairn - while circumnavigating the ovoo three times in a clock-wise direction. It's considered respectful to do this. You'll also see plenty of vodka bottles and crutches among other offerings at these sacred palces too; a dead giveaway to many Mongolian nomads favourite pasttimes; riding horses and drinking and they excel at both!
A tricky downhill on rocky roads leads us down to the valley floor. The rest of the day we have to navigate dozens of stream crossings and extended rocky sections - the trick is to maintain your speed and glide over them as best you can. This stunning valley will lead us to the Tamir River and we camp riverside - a perfect swimming spot in a spectacular location that boasts rocky outcrops, forested hillsides, wildflower grassland and steep mountains.
Start Elevation: 2511m, Max Elevation: 2714m, Camp Elevation: 2063m, Climb: 250m
Day 9: Cycle to Bulgan - Family VisitBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 46 km
The riding today is a breeze! Well, there is one steep hill to negotiate but it's, mostly, downward speedy cycling on super smooth tracks and trails. All the roads are jeep track but, if you like singletrack, you can hunt for it off the sides of the roads where horses and motorbikes have made some fun lines to follow. We visit a nomad family today and have a tour of their ger dwellings and sample some of the dairy that is particularly famous in the Khangai mountains. We'll stop at nearby Bulgan to pick up any supplies, our first stop in relative civilisation for days. Onward to camp overlooking the Tamir River, we'll knock off the day's ride with a relaxing afternoon ahead of us and lunch at camp.
Start Elevation: 2063m, Max Elevation: 2228m, Camp Elevation: 1821m, Climb: 472m
Day 10: Cycle to Tsetserleg & Tsenkher Hot SpringsBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 52 km
A flat mornings ride, with a small climb, takes us up to a vantage point overlooking Tsetserleg, one of Mongolia's more picturesque towns. A descent down into the town gets us on tarmac for a few kilometres and we are in civilisation. A coffee shop break and a visit to the Tsetserleg Museum are good options. There are plenty of supermarkets here so its a good chance to stock up on any goodies. We'll head back out of town to the Tamir river for lunch before tackling three hills to our destination after a final long sweeping downhill to Tsenker Hot Springs. Our stay is in a tourist ger camp with shower facilities, restaurant and outdoor hot springs to relax and soak any tired muscles.
Start Elevation: 1821m, Max Elevation: 1950m, Camp Elevation: 1783m, Climb: 611m
Day 11: Cycle to Tsaagan SumBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 53 km
Today we'll head for the hills and make our way up through pine forest and narrow valleys as we head back into the heart of the Khangai National Park. We'll cross several streams and rivers before a last climb and a 15km descent brings us to Tsaagan sum (county) where natural springs are said to have special healing qualites. Our camp is on the open steppe with views up and down the valley below.
Start Elevation: 1783m, Max Elevation: 2051m, Camp Elevation: 1736m, Climb: 723m
Day 12: Cycle to Orkhon River - Visit WaterfallsBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 30 km
A short day of 30km has us on two steep climbs with equally thrilling downhills on either side. A last run takes across the Orkhon River where we make camp and settle in for lunch. We'll take a drive up the river for a hike and, perhaps, a swim in the Orkhon waterfalls which are dramatically positioned just above where the Orkhon River passes through an impressive canyon.
Start Elevation: 1736m, Max Elevation: 1951m, Camp Elevation: 1696m, Climb: 448m
Day 13: Cycle the Orkhon ValleyBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 47 km
Our last full day on the bikes brings us along the Orkhon River valley - an amazing ride through ancient lava flow and ancient Kazakh burial mounds. This valley has witnessed massive volcanoe eruptions in it's past which has made the region particularly fertile: attractive to Chinggis Khan, who based the capital of the Mongol Empire at the end of the valley, and earlier Uighyr and Turkic peoples who also ruled vast areas of Central Asia from the same area. As such the Orkhon valley is considered one of the great archeological and historical sites for peoples across central Asia and into the Middle East.
We'll have a few climbs today but it's a relatively easy day and we camp by the Orkhon once again with the chance for a refreshing end of ride swim.
Start Elevation: 1696m, Max Elevation: 1701m, Camp Elevation: 1533m, Climb: 318m
Day 14: Cycle to Kharkhorin - Vist Erdenne Zhu MonasteryBreakfast, Lunch & Dinner 30 km
With our destination not far away, we'll complete our ride by summiting our last hill for expansive views back up the Orkhon valley. A great downhill and flat run brings us to the Mongolian Nations monument where you can see the various groups, and the areas of their territories, depicted pictorially around a huge ovoo. A great stop for a final group shot! We head down into Kharkorin, a smallish town that bears no clues to the fact that it was once the capital of the world's largest empires, and tuck into lunch as we pack up the bikes.
We are hearding to Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes to camp tonight but on the way we'll stop at the Erdenne Zhu monastery, once Mongolia's largest, and built from the remains of Mongolia's former capital, Karakorum. Tonight we'll feast on a traditional river stone cooked lamb dish, horhog, and toast our last night on the steppe!
Start Elevation: 1533m, Max Elevation: 1705m, Finish Elevation: 1466m, Climb: 324m
Day 15: Drive to Ulaan Baatar - Final DinnerBreakfast & Lunch
We'll begin our journey early today so we can make it back to UB in good time. We'll arrive mid-afternoon to do any last minute souvenir buys and to refresh for our last night dinner. Tonight we celebrate the end of our epic ride across Central Mongolia!
Day 16: Departure DayBreakfast
Today is departure day and you are free to leave at anytime. We'll transfer you to the airport for you onward flights home.
Mongolia is just about as far from the ocean as you can travel and it's capital, Ulaan Baatar, is one the coldest cities on the planet in winter months. Being sandwiched politically and geographically between two giants in China and Russia would be challenging enough, but it also finds itself between the endless Siberian wilderness to the north and the vast Gobi desert to the south - it is an understatement to say that it is remote. Its history is famously vast and fierce, led by it's founder and talisman, Chinggis Khan, who ruthlessly brought the Eurasian continent under Mongol rule. In fact, all these things are part of the magical appeal of Mongolia, and what makes visiting there so suprising: it's nomadic people are warm-hearted and charming with old world, genuine hospitality, the landscapes are pristine and incredibly varied beyond the steppe that the country is renowned for and, in the warmer months, wildflowers and wildlife come alive.
The Naadam Festival, where all Mongolians celebrate with festivities that centre around the national wrestling, archery and horse racing tournaments, goes all the way back to the 13th century, to the time of Genghis Khan. We'll be taking in all the events of the festival before we head out to explore Central Mongolia on an epic ride across the Khangai Mountains where you'll see, not only the stunning landscapes, but also the Mongolian nomadic cultural traditions that have survived millenia. And by traveling by bike - about the pace of a trotting horse! - you'll experience the country as it should be seen.
Getting There & Away
This tour starts and finishes in Ulaan Baatar, the capital of Mongolia – airport code ULN. There are several airlines that operate flights into Ulaan Baatar. For reference see below:
From Australia, NZ & U.S. – Air China, Korean Air or combine with MIAT (Mongolian national carrier) through Hong Kong, Seoul, Beijing or Tokyo.
From UK & Europe – Turkish Airlines, Air China, Korean Air, Aeroflot or combine with MIAT (Mongolian national carrier) through Berlin, Moscow, Hong Kong, Beijing or Seoul.
There is also the trans-Mongolian train to Ulaan Baatar from St Petersburg, Moscow or from Beijing. These tickets are often a little hard to come by and visa processing for Russia, Mongolia and China can take a considerable amount of time, so we recommend getting some advice if you intend to arrive this way and to plan early!
Airport/ train station pick ups and drop offs are included in the tour price. Please make sure you give us details of your arrival and departure, including flight details, date and time, so we can arrange your transfers.
Tour Info Pack
Once we have recieved your booking and deposit we'll send you a Tour INFO PACK that will include tour notes, training tips, preparation info and joining point instructions. If you have any questions about the tour at all please don't hesitate to contact us.
The tour cost is based on twin share rooming in Ulaan Baatar. If you are a single traveller, you will be paired with someone else of the same gender. If you wish to have your own room you are welcome to book a single supplement. While camping, single travellers will receive their own tent and couples will share a tent. You must bring your own sleeping bag and sleeping mat (Thermarest, e.t.c.).
Arriving early or want to stay on after the tour ends? No problem! Just let us know if you'd like to book extra accommodation in the tour hotel at either the start or finish of the tour and we will arrange it for you. Just include your request on the booking form.
For additional information regarding guides, accommodation and sleeping arrangements, cycling grades, food, bikes, etc you can head over to our About section to see more about how we run our tours.
Can we change the itinerary or customise the tour?
Not for publicly listed dates, but if you have your own group or date in mind, Yes. If you want to make a private booking we can help design a tour that suits you. You may have ideas based on any of our tours or something in mind that you can't find on our website. Just get in contact with us and let us know what you have in mind and we'll try our best to make it happen!
Do you cater for vegetarians?
Yes we do! If you have any dietery requirements just let us know when you book in the space provided (Additional Requests). For any severe alergies or other conditions it is best that you let us know in advance so that we can prepare and/ or advise you on what we can provide or what you might need to bring so that are well catered for.
What about Covid 19?
2020 has seen travel grind to a halt and the outlook going into 2021 looks to be more of the same. While we have suspended travel to most of our destinations we are operating tours in China for domestic travellers. We'll open up destinations as the stuation improves and only when travel is green lighted by the relevant health and government agencies.
Travelling during this time means adhering to mandated guidlines and practices which means having green codes enabled on your mobile phone apps, taking Covid tests, wearing masks where neccesary, and filling in contact and travel history forms. These rules and guidelines are constantly changing as situations regarding the virus change, so it is important to remain flexible. We'll inform you of the requirements when you book and leading into the tour departure date.
Given the situation as it is, please understand that cancellations are quite possible and are outside of our control. While we understand the frustrations this may present, we'll do our best to make things run as smooth as possible and keep you informed of any changes as they arise.
During this time we will only accept full payments for tours three weeks before departure. All payments, however, will be refunded in full if the tour is cancelled prior to departure, or your personal covid-related situation precludes you from commencing the tour. Please make sure when booking flights that they are aslo refundable in the event of a cancelation.
How to I make a booking and payment?
Simply go to the "Dates" section of the tour page and click on the "book now" button, or click on "book" on the website header and select your preferred tour and departure date. If you are booking onto an on demand tour and have your own dates in mind there will be an facility for you book here too.
Before you book, we recommend that you read through the tour details and our booking terms and conditions. You can contact us about the trip if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or set up a time to chat about the tour.
Upon completion of your booking form we’ll send you an acknowledgement email and invoice for a deposit. All long trips (7 days or more) require a deposit of 300USD to guarantee your place. Trips departing within 60 days at booking will require full payment. Once your deposit is received, we’ll also send you a pre-trip information pack that will give you added information about the tour, the region you’ll be travelling through, a checklist of things to prepare, suggestions for packing, training tips and more. For shorter trips and day tours we require full payment 30 days prior to the commencement of the tour or as soon as convenient if booking within 30 days of departure.
Payments can be made on credit card via Paypal or through a direct bank transfer in most currencies. Information on payments will be present on your initial deposit invoice. Paypal payments will incur a 4% fee.
*****COVID 19 Booking Terms Update*****
During this unique time we will only be accepting full payments for tours three weeks before departure. All payments, however, will be refunded in full if the tour is cancelled prior to departure, or your personal covid-related situation precludes you from commencing the tour. Please make sure when booking flights that they are aslo refundable in the event of a cancelation.
- 16 days
- Cycling Tour,MTB
- 431 km
- 4 - 12 People
- 3145 USD
- 480 USD (single supplement)
- Naadam Festival, Mongolia’s unique National Games, including wrestling, archery and horse racing competitions
- Mountain biking endless tracks and trails
- Challenging river crossings, climbs and descents
- Visit local ger camps and meet semi-nomadic Mongolian herders
- Camp under the stars and soak in outdoor hot springs
- Yak herds, wild horses and wild flowers
- Ancient Kharkhorin and Erdene Zuu Khiid Monastery
- Pristine rivers, mountains and grassland
- Spectaular Orkhon Waterfalls
- Great local and catered food
- Learn about ancient Mongolian culture and experience famous Mongolian hospitality
- 15 nights accommodation (4 nights hotel, 10 nights camping, 1 night tourist ger camp)
- Entry to the Naadam Festival opening ceremony, wrestling, archery and horse racing
- Tents, camping equipment and logistics including mess, shower and toilet tents
- All transport en route and support vehicles whilst cycling
- Meals as per itinerary
- High quality mountain bike
- All water and snack food whilst cycling
- Local guide, cooks and drivers
- Cycling leader, local guide/ mechanic
- Entry tickets to Bogd Khan Winter Palace and Erdenne Zhu Monastery
- Airport transfers
What's Not Included?
- International airfares
- Tips and gratuities
- Personal expenses
- Bike helmet
- Sleeping bag