After staying with the friendly Tsaatan Reindeer Herders during our first TTI Experiences trip last year, we were intrigued by stories of another elusive, centuries-old nomad group. Our guides told us about the badass Eagle Hunters of Western Mongolia, and we knew we’d find a way to visit them.
Venturing across Northern Mongolia, we braved the sub-zero temperatures and experienced the nomad life with the Tsaatan reindeer herders.
West Mongolia is even lesser-explored and offers an entirely different experience. The culture in the West is so vastly different, even Mongolians feel like they’re travelling to another country when they visit.
West Mongolia is home to mainly Kazakhs, the second largest ethnic group in the country. Their culture is a fascinating Kazakh-Mongol mix, unlike anything you’ll find in other regions of Mongolia. On this trip, we’ll get to try Mongol-Kazakh dishes including beshbarmak (a popular Kazakh dish made from horse, mutton and beef), shashlik (mutton kebabs), manti (traditional dumplings) and baursaki (fried bread). Not your usual lunch food!
Here you’ll also find the world’s remaining eagle hunters, an honoured tradition that’s been passed down for 6,000 years. Eagle hunting is an integral part of the Kazakh’s cultural identity and also a pretty damn cool way-of-life.
Besides getting to stay with these badass nomads, we’ll also get to take in Mongolia’s stunning landscapes. As one of the world’s least densely populated countries (just 1.92 people per square km!), Mongolia is amongst the last few places in the world with undisturbed natural beauty.
Check out this 12D West Mongolia Itinerary below for the eagle-hunting adventure of a lifetime!
P.S. After our first adventure in North Mongolia, we ‘re leading two more expeditions to Northern Mongolia and a brand-new expedition to the unexplored West! We’ll also have access to local experiences that most tourists don’t — nomadic life with the West Mongolia’s Eagle Hunters, which live free and wild, far from the city. Join us on our 12-day adventure — read more or sign up now!
Day 1 – 2: Explore Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar, and Khovd Province
Begin your Mongolian adventure in Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital in the world with average temperatures of -1.3°C.
The chilly weather is perfect for strolling around and admiring the city’s curious mix of modernity and Mongolian traditions. High-rise buildings sit alongside gers (traditional Mongolian tents) while modern vehicles grace the same roads as horses and cattle.
Here you’ll get to enjoy vibrant local performances like traditional dancing and throat-singing. For our first meal here, we’ll feast on authentic Mongolian dishes such as a BBQ meat platter, dumplings, milk vodka, and salty milk tea!
The next day we’ll rise early to catch a domestic flight to Khovd, one of the most ethnically diverse aimags (Mongolian provinces) in the country.
In preparation for getting up close with nomad culture, we’ll visit the Khovd Aimag Museum, which houses an impressive collection of stuffed wildlife and traditional costumes. After that, we’ll head to some of the local bazaars to browse homemade trinkets and souvenirs.
Day 3: Journey to the Tsambagarav Mountains
The adventure begins! Today we’ll hop on our trusty mode of transport — a sturdy Russian 4×4 van ideal for the rough Mongolian terrain.
Without paved roads or signage, the terrain is difficult — if not impossible — for the typical tourist to navigate. But we don’t have to worry when we’ve got skilled local drivers who know the area like the back of their hand.
We’ll enjoy a scenic drive to the permanently snowcapped Tsambagarav Mountains standing at 4208 metres tall. Located between Hovd and Olgii provinces, it’s the third-highest mountain of Mongolia! Fingers crossed that we’ll get to spot some of the diverse wildlife this region is known for — snow leopards, Siberian ibex and argali sheep.
Our accommodation for these few nights will be traditional Mongolian gers — round tents insulated by animal skin. They’re ridiculously cosy and quite spacious as well — definitely a more interesting experience than typical hotels! We’ll also get to stargaze under an endless sky of stars, before calling it a night.
Day 4 – 5: Experience life with the world’s last few Eagle Hunters
Now onto an experience that few tourists get to do. Start the day early with a drive to Sagsai Village, home to a large number of Eagle Hunters and Giant Golden Eagles. There are only a few hundred eagle hunters left in the world and the majority of them reside here in West Mongolia.
Like the North’s Reindeer Herders, the Eagle Hunters’ way of life is disappearing due to modernisation and overgrazing. By visiting their nomad camps, we can experience their centuries-old traditions and in a small way, help sustain their unique way of life.
We’ll experience living with the eagle hunters and their families, and enjoy the warm Kazakh hospitality of homecooked meals and shared stories. And of course, we’ll get to watch the skilful eagle hunters work with their dangerous pets, and may even get to try holding the birds ourselves. Talk about a photo opportunity of a lifetime!
Fun fact: only female eagles are used for hunting as they’re larger and more aggressive than the males (what’s new, right?). These magnificent birds spend ~10 years hunting with their masters before being released to live in the wild.
Day 6 – 8: Get inspired by Mongolia’s untouched natural wonders
We’ll be driving to Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, a remote nature reserve located at the highest and westernmost part of Mongolia. This national park is home to the Five Holy Peaks of the Altai Mountains, vast lakes and magnificent glaciers. It’s also one of the most untouched areas in the world!
Next, we’ll journey to Potanin Glacier, Mongolia’s longest glacier at over 20km, and do some light trekking on the beautiful landscapes. On our trek, we’ll get to see Khuiten Mountain (Cold Mountain), the highest peak in all of Mongolia at a whopping 4,374m.
More epic sightseeing awaits at the Hurgan and Hoton lakes, perfect for landscape photography. It’s especially beautiful in May (late spring), where daylight hours are longer and temperatures aren’t so harsh.
Day 9 – 10: Exploring Bayan-Olgii and Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
Photo credit: @lauxasia Via Instagram
Enjoy your last few days of nomadic freedom before heading back to the city! First, we’ll head to Bayan-Olgii’s local bazaars, for unique handicrafts that you can only find here.
After flying back to Chinggis Khaan Airport, we’ll detour to the famous Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, a gorgeous alpine reserve with lush meadows and clear, winding streams.
One of the park’s most iconic attractions is Turtle Rock, a massive rock formation that’s said to bless visitors with wealth. The park is also home to the largest equestrian statue in the world, a 40m-tall statue of Genghis Khan. This epic monument was built on the spot where he found his legendary golden whip. Climb to the top of the horse’s neck for undisrupted views of the vast Mongolian plains.
After being in the horse, we’ll get on on a living, breathing one for a horse ride through the picturesque landscapes. Mongolians have a long history with their horses, which have played a huge role in their history and way-of-life today. Don’t underestimate their size — these horses are tough and were the trusty companions of the Mongol warriors during Ghengis Khan’s bloody conquests.
We’ll spend the night in a ger at the Terelj National Park, before driving back to Ulaanbaatar the next morning.
Day 11 – 12: Celebrate your amazing West Mongolian adventure
After a week living with some of Mongolia’s toughest nomads and exploring gorgeous natural attractions, it’s time to head back to city life. We’ll have a celebratory meal at one of Ulaanbaatar’s best restaurants before checking into a hotel for a well-deserved hot shower and rest. The next morning, it’s back on a plane for an early flight back to reality.
Travel With Us To Western Mongolia
Still relatively untouched by tourism, Mongolia’s not the easiest place to visit on your own. Experiencing life with the eagle hunters is only possible if you’ve got local contacts — otherwise, you’d have no idea how to find them, and you can’t just invite yourself to stay (even if you’re thick-skinned).
While the North is known for its vast landscapes and extreme weather, Western Mongolia is hard to visit for different reasons. The region is so unexplored that it’s foreign even to most Mongolians.
On our TTI Experiences expedition to Western Mongolia, we’re bringing a group of adventure-seeking travellers to experience the rugged eagle-hunting life together!
1st May – 12th May 2020
Cost: S$4,890 per pax (incl. international flights, two-way domestic flights, meals, transport, and all activities)
Slots will be capped at 15 pax, sign up now!
We’ve got special access to all the amazing experiences in our 12D West Mongolia Itinerary:
– Jeep ride through the countryside
– Try authentic Kazakh-Mongolian food, unique to West Mongolia
– Hold and train eagles (if you’re brave)
– Nomadic home-stays in traditional gers with the eagle hunters
– Stargaze under the endless Mongolian sky
– See stunning natural wonders, including the Altai Mountains, Potanin Glacier (Mongolia’s longest glacier), and Khuiten Mountain (Mongolia’s highest mountain)
– Sleep beside a historic 300-year-old monastery in the Iven Valley
– Explore iconic sights in and around Ulaanbaatar
– Horse-ride at Terelj National Park
To make sure you always remember this trip of a lifetime, our Travel Intern Content Experts will come along as your personal photographers so you’ll have breathtaking moments captured to keep even after the trip. We’ll also put together a special trip video filled with the highlights and fun moments.
If you want to level up your own photography skills, we’ll also be holding a pre-trip photography workshop exclusively for trip participants, guidance will also be available during the trip itself!
1st May – 12th May 2020 (12 days, 11 nights)
Good news for working adults — with the Labour Day and Vesak Day public holidays, you’ll only need six days of leave (30 April, 4 – 6 May, 8 May, 11 May)!
We’ve partnered with Beyond Expeditions to bring this trip to life for S$4,890 per pax. This exclusive early bird rate (U.P. S$5,890) is applicable only until 1st March 2020! Everything you need on the trip is included — all you have to add is personal travel insurance!
– Round-trip economy flights, including check-in and carry-on baggage
– Round-trip domestic flights from Ulaanbaatar to Bayan-Olgii (check-in up to 10kg and carry-on up to 5kg; additional check-in baggage can be purchased at the airport counter for ~S$4 per kg)
– Accommodation for 11 nights: mix of three-star hotels, guesthouses, and traditional gers
– All modes of transport, including airport transfers and private all-terrain vehicle, a local driver, petrol, and Mongolian horse
– Meals throughout the trip: all breakfasts, lunches (excluding first day’s lunch in Ulaanbaatar), and dinners
– Travel photography guidance and exclusive pre-trip workshop
– English-speaking, experienced local guide with deep insight into Mongolian culture
– Access to the Eagle Hunters camp for a nomadic home-stay
– All activities, including horse-riding and camping
– Miscellaneous taxes and fees
– 1.5L bottle of water per day
– Cosy sleeping bag and blanket (suitable for all seasons)
We’re capping this trip at 15 participants, so if you’re ready to make your 2020 a little more memorable, sign up and join us now!
Or if eagles aren’t really your thing: Journey to the Tsaatan Reindeer Herders of North Mongolia
Which country would you like to visit with TTI Experiences? Let us know in the comments!
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