Canoeing the Orkhon Canyons
(9 days)

Guranteed Departure


Canoeing the Orkhon Canyons

Come and discover the UNESCO listed world heritage Orkhon valley by canoe and kayak on Orkhon river. The valley has numerous archaeological sites dating back to the 6th century and the site of Karakorum, capital of Genghis Khan during Mongol Empire.

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day 1
Canoe 1 1
day 2
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day 3
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day 4
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day 5
Canoe 3
day 6
Canoe 2
day 7
Canoeing Tour Mongolia
day 8
ulaanbaatar hotel
day 9

Detailed description



Today we will be driving to Karakorum (also called Kharkhorin). Karakorum was the capital of Genghis Khan’s Mongolian Empire in the thirteenth century. In 1220, Genghis Khan ordered the building of Karakorum on the ruins of Turug and Uigur cities in the Orkhon valley at the eastern end of the Khangai Mountains. During the reign of Ugedei Khan, it was completed 15 years later. The town was very multicultural and culturally accepting.

The silver tree, which was once part of Möngke Khan’s palace, has become Karakorum’s emblem. From 1220 to 1260, it was at its most prosperous. Karakorum existed as the great capital of the Euro-Asian Empire, with Mongolia at its heart, and as the epicenter of politics, trade, culture, faith, intellect, and diplomacy, as well as the most visible link in international relations.

Between 1260 and 1380, Karakorum lost its status as the capital of the Great Mongolian Empire and became Mongolia’s capital. When Kublai Khan and his younger brother, Ariq Boke, assumed the throne of the Mongol Empire in 1260, they moved their capital to what is now Beijing. Karakorum was reduced to the administrative center of a Yuan Dynasty provincial backwater.

After 110 years after Kublai Khan transferred the Empire capital to China in 1260, the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty fell in 1368, and the center of Mongolian government was shifted to its homeland. It allowed Karakorum to regain its former glory.

The town was captured and destroyed by Ming troops under General Xu Da in 1388. Nothing remains of this legendary city today.

When Abtai Sain Khan and his brother, Lord Tumenkhen, went to the 3rd Dalai Lama in 1580 to express their desire to create a temple in Mongolia, he advised them to restore an old temple in Karakorum. The Main Zuu temple of Erdene Zuu monastery is a temple in Takhai ruins that was restored in 1588 at the Dalai Lama’s suggestion.

Erdene Zuu Monastery is now all that is left of what was once a massive monastery with 100 temples and over 1.000 lamas. You’ll walk around the grounds of Erdene Zuu Monastery, which is encircled by huge 400 m X 400 m walls. You will be guided around the 3 remaining temples: The Dalai Lama, Zuu of Buddha and Lavrin Temple.

The Karakorum Archaeological Museum will be another stop on your itinerary. It’s a tiny museum, but it’s housed in a new, well-run structure with good lighting and simple English labels on display cases. The displays contain hundreds of artefacts from the 13th and 14th centuries that were discovered in the immediate region, as well as those from other provinces’ archaeological sites, including prehistoric stone tools. Pottery, bronzes, coins, religious sculptures, and stone inscriptions are among the objects on display. A half-excavated kiln is also sunk into the museum floor. The scale model of ancient Karakorum, which attempts to reflect the city as it would have existed in the 1250s and is based on descriptions written by the French missionary William of Rubruck, is perhaps the most intriguing. A Turkic noble tomb with wall paintings and artefacts, including gold objects and jewels, is on display in another chamber. A short video of the actual burial site is available.

You can also visit the Turtle Rock and the Phallic Rock, as well as a small market that showcases local artists’ work.

(Ger camp L, D)

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We’ll drive a little and reach our canoeing expedition starting point. Orkhon valley is registered as world cultural heritage by UNESCO due to its ancient findings, artefacts related to early 6th century and even before that. As well as, 12th to 13th century great Mongol empire had expanded its capital Karakorum here. Moreover, pasture nomadic lifestyle still remains here and it keeps both historic and nomadic view of life. This area due to its central location and its generous soil is a thriving grassland host significant amount of cattle among other horses.

Our first canoeing day will be quite relaxed. We will get customised to our canoes. The landscape around us is still flat.

(Tented camp B, L, D)

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In those days we’re at the very heart of the canyon. Left and right of us we’ll see steep mountain flanks.

The rapids we are navigating are of a varying degree of difficulty. The majority the rapids can be passed by canoe but for some rapids we will need to get off the canoe and shove them.

While on river canoeing we not only enjoy the diverse landscapes unfolding in every direction but interact with locals, children with their huge herd watering by the river.

We will have chance to visit during these 3 days a nomad family. We will spend an evening with nomads. Barbeque cooked over hot stones is on the menu. Engage a friendly chat & listen to their amazing life stories over one or two shots of vodka. Herders make local vodka from fermented milk.

Our support team and vehicle travelling not far from us can always be joined by radio when needed.

(Tented camp B, L, D)

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The worst of the rapids are over and now the slopes surrounding us are getting gentler. Still we’ll traverse a magnificent landscape with steep rocky mountain sides and majestic fascinating stretches where the river has created its own way.

(Tented camp B, L, D)

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We’re getting into inhabited territory and meet nomads grazing their flock by the river. Towards the very end we’ll see traces of a nearby Soviet ghost town – a military city of once 15 000 inhabitants with paved roads but now completely abandoned.

(Tented camp B, L, D)

Canoeing Tour Mongolia


After breakfast we will drive back to Ulaanbaatar. Back to Ulaanbaatar we will take you to your hotel. You may enjoy the free late afternoon to catch up all the places you haven’t visited yet. You might as well check the beautiful cultural show enjoy the colourful and rhythmic Mongolian dance, throat singing & admire the contortionists.

(B, L)

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June 2024