Canoeing the Orkhon River
(6 days)

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Canoeing the Orkhon River

Orkhon is the longest river starts from the loop of Khangai Mountains passing through Orkhon Valley and Karakorum, even much further. Discover these unique and historically rich places at your own pace on this kayaking trip.

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day 1
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day 2
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day 3
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day 4
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day 5
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day 6

Detailed description



Today we will set off for a driving day to Karakorum also called Kharkhorin. Kharkhorin is the site of the 13th century capital of the Mongolian Empire created by Genghis Khan. The founding of Karakorum started on the ruins of Gokturk and Uigur cities in the Orkhon valley at the eastern end of the Khangai Mountains in 1220 by the Genghis Khan’s order. It completed 15 years later during the Ugedei Khan’s reign. The town was a very cosmopolitan and religiously tolerant place. The silver tree, part of Mungke Khan’s palace has become the symbol of Kharkhorin. The highest peak of its prosperity was from 1220 to 1260. The specific feature of this stage is that Kharkhorin existed as the great capital of the Euro-Asian Empire with Mongolia as its core and as the centre of politics, economy, culture, religion, intellect, and diplomacy and the prominent tie of international relations.

At the arrival, we will visit one of the biggest Buddhist monastery Erdene Zuu.  Now Erdene Zuu Monastery is all that remains of what once was a huge monastery of 100 temples and about 1.000 lamas residing there. We will explore the grounds of Erdene Zuu Monastery surrounded by its massive 400 m X 400 m walls. We will be guided around the 3 remaining temples: Dalai Lama, Zuu of Buddha and Lavrin Temple.

Another place we will visit will be Karakorum Archaeological Museum. It is a small museum but housed in a modern well-run building with good lighting and display cases with clear English labels. The exhibits include dozens of artefacts dating from the 13th and 14th centuries which were recovered from the immediate area, plus others that were found from archaeological sites in other parts of the provinces, including prehistoric stone tools. You’ll see pottery, bronzes, coins, religious statues and stone inscriptions. There’s also a half-excavated kiln sunk into the museum floor. Perhaps most interesting is the scale model of ancient Kharkhorin, which aims to represent the city as it may have looked in the 1250s, and is based on descriptions written by the French missionary William of Rubruck. Another chamber exhibits a Turkic noble tomb with wall paintings and artefacts, including gold items and jewellery. There is a short video of actual burial site.

We will also see the Turtle Rock and the Phallic Rock, visit little market behind walls exposing local arts by locals.

(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. The landscape we will traverse by canoe is among the best grazing ground in Mongolia and the steppe teems with horses, sheep and goats. Eagles, hawks and vultures circle above and there’s a wealth of all kind of water fowl in the river.

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. Often, children bathing in the river will great us. 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’ll stop by families living along the river and we’ll taste the airag, fermented horse milk. 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. You do as much or as little canoeing as you like.

(Tented camp B, L, D)

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Khogno Khan Mountains and Elsen Tasarhai

Today after breakfast we will put our canoes back on roof of our vehicles and start driving to do some sightseeing before returning to capital. Khogno Khan Mountains is an impressive massif in the open steppes. Not far from here runs the Tasarkhai Els, a 100 km long sand dune. These sand dunes are a geological anomaly whose appearance and plant life resembles the great Gobi Desert much further south.

End the afternoon we will hike in the region of Khogno Khan Mountains, walk up the mountain and enjoy the incredible view over the plains, the sand dune and grasslands. We will also visit the nice little Ovgon Monastery.

(Ger camp B, L, D)

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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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