Heart of the Altai

This two-week trekking adventure will take you into the heart of the Mongolian Altai mountain range.  The Altais feature high snow-capped mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes, and ancient archaeological sites, and they are home to some truly unique nomadic peoples: Mongolia’s Kazakhs and Tuvans.

The Altai Mountains are famed for their “eternal snow” and ancient ice covers, well preserved because of the constantly cold climate and strong winds.  Potanin, Mongolia’s largest glacier, can also be found in the area along with several endangered species of animals (Argali sheep, ibex, snow leopards, rock ptarmigans, and Altai snowcocks) and plants (dwarf Siberian pine and white gentiana).

Over the course of two weeks, travelers will get to explore such places as the city of Ulgii, Altai Tavanbogd National Park, Hoton Lake, and the Khara Airikh Valley.  Please read on for a complete tour itinerary.  Also, keep in mind that this tour is completely flexible – we are more than willing to make changes to suit your schedule, your budget, and your desires.

DAY 1:  Ulgii

  • Arrive in Ulgii city via plane, car, or bus
  • Visit local bazaar and museum
  • With advance notice it is possible to visit a local Tuvan shaman
  • Sample local restaurants for lunch and dinner
  • Spend the night in a nearby ger camp

DAY 2:  Altai Tavanbogd National Park

  • Drive 180 km via the village of Ulaanhus over desert mountain landscapes
  • Explore numerous petroglyphs and Turkic stones along the Sogoog River basin
  • Visit Shiveet Hairhan Mountain, a sacred site and home to numerous Tuvan nomads and mountain ibex
  • Interact with the local Tuvans who will supply horses and camels for our trek
  • Spend the night in tents

DAY 3: Tavanbogd Massif

  • Trek 16km to the base camp of the snow-capped Tavanbogd Massif
  • Make camp next to the Potanin glacier, the biggest of the twenty glaciers in the Mongolian Altais
  • Tavanbogd means “the Holy Five,” referring to the five highest peaks
  • At 4,374 meters above sea level, Huiten Uul is the highest mountain in Mongolia
  • The other four are named Nairamdal, Ulgii, Burged, and Malchin
  • The whole area is absolutely stunning and offers gorgeous views of the snow-topped mountains, especially during sunrise and sunset

DAY 4: Climb Malchin Ull

  • We will spend the whole day hiking Malchin Uul, the smallest of the five peaks at 4,050 meters (It is a non-technical climb)
  • Offers wonderful views of all the peaks, the Potanin glacier, and sights into Russia and Kazakhstan
  • The peak lies on the Mongolian and Russian border

DAY 5: Tsagaan Gol Valley

  • Trek to the Tsagaan Gol Valley, the summer home of local Tuvans who practice shamanism
  • Spend the evening interacting with Tuvans and learning about their culture
  • Sample dairy products including milk vodka, which is distilled from yak milk
  • Camp nearby

DAY 6: Khara Airikh Valley

  • Hike to the Khara Airikh Valley via Shiveet Hairhan Uul
  • Stop to view petroglyphs from the iron and bronze ages
  • It is possible to catch a view of Siberian ibex

DAYS 7-8: Altai Mountains Crossing

  • Cross the Altais at an elevation of 3600 meters
  • Enjoy broad views across the mountain range as well as the 3,662 meter Tsaagan Hairhan Uul (“Sared White Mountain”)
  • Arrive at the scenic Bear Valley, home to glacier-fed streams and rivers, forested hills, and wooded meadows
  • Stay for two nights

DAY 9: To Green Lake

  • Trek down a valley with patches of larch forests and reach Green Lake
  • Pitch camp

DAY 10:  To Hoton Lake

  • Full-day trek through the dramatic steep valley along the river that drains from the Altai Tavanbogd Massif creating a series of beautiful lakes
  • Camp on the shores of Hoton Lake
  • The area is below the snow-capped Ikh Turgen Uul
  • Campsite is a mere 3km from the Chinese border
  • Area is the summer pasture of Kazakh nomads, very friendly and hospitable people
  • Visit Kazakh family and learn about Kazakh culture
  • Great fishing spots

DAY 11: Jagashtai River and Hoton Lake

  • Hike through the larch forest
  • Camp on the shore of Hoton Lake where the Jagashtai River (“fish river”) flows into it
  • Excellent location for bird-watching

DAY 12: Ikh Turgen Uul And Hurgan Lake

  • Cross the wildest territory of the region through green pastures
  • Trek reaches the extreme western edge of the country along the Russian border
  • Explore the area around Khurgan Lake – an alpine lake dotted with islands
  • Six rivers feed the lake and the Khovd River flows from its eastern end
  • Spend the night in tents

DAY 13:  Baga Thurgen Valley and Waterfalls

  • Hike to the Baga Turgen Valley, where there are three waterfalls
  • The area is full of wild fruits, including gooseberries, red currants, and black currants
  • Visit a Kazakh eagle hunter, learn about eagle-hunting, and see the magnificent Altai golden eagle

DAY 14: Ulgii

  • Drive back to Ulgii through the Khovd River Valley
  • Stop to look at deer stones and Turkic stone men (balbals)
  • Stay overnight in ger camp near Ulgii
  • Enjoy traditional Kazakh concert and meal of beshbarmak

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If you are interested, Kobesh Travel can arrange to have an Ulaanbaatar-based guide meet you at the airport/train station upon your arrival in Mongolia. The guide can help you navigate Ulaanbaatar, can travel with you to your accommodation, and can show you some of the city’s sights. Furthermore, Kobesh Travel can also help you explore more of Mongolia than just the West. We are more than happy to help extend your sightseeing of our beautiful country with additional journeys before or after your trip out West.

  • Includes: English-speaking guide, cook, land transportation, accommodations, camping equipment, three meals a day with snacks in between, pack animals, camel guides, and national park tickets
  • Excludes: Domestic flights, alcohol, discretionary horse/camel rides, and laundry