Naadam, a celebration of nomadic culture and Mongolian might, dates back to th 13th century when Ghenghis was terrorising Europe.
Genghis Khan’s nine horse tails, representing the nine tribes of the Mongols, are transported from Sukhbaatar Square to the Naadam, kicking off a parade of horsemen, archers, wrestlers monks, and twenty cyclists with bulging calves who will have just crossed the grasslands with all the other nomads headed to Ulaanbaatar’s famed games. .
In between the knock out rounds of the the three manly sports is much singing, dancing, feasting and flirting, the perfect culmination to a six day bike ride that takes us into the heart of traditional nomadic and shamanic life – with the bonus of everyones excitement about the upcoming Naadam.
This is Mongolia – Yangshuo Bike Festival style!!
Book now as spaces will be limited by available accommodation during Naadam. Early bookings will help us alot and be rewarded with big discounts!!.
Dates: July 4-13 2017
Cost USD 2700
(Hotels and Naadam tickets are going up in price with every day that draws closer)
- Biking along jeep tracks and horse trails through wildflower-strewn valleys, forested hills and across grassland streams.
- Glamping under the stars on the Mongolian steppe.
- Drinking mares milk (airag) with nomads of the steppe, enjoying their famed hospitality (usually) with steaming plates of dumplings (buuz) and the Russian inspired khushuur meat pastries.
- Feasting on a traditional Mongol lamb barbecue – Mongolian grass-fed meats are out of this world.
- Feeling the resurgent spirit of Mongolia’s epic history and ancient customs and the peoples love for the land and its extreme environment.
- Meeting with a shaman and witnessing a traditional Shamanic ritual ( this is an unusual and special privilege that we are setting up through our long-time friends in Mongolia).
- Watching Ullaan Baatar come alive for the Naadam Festival, Mongolia’s unique national games that celebrates wrestling, archery and horse racing – the three manly sports!
- watching big men in small undies go toe to toe
- Experiencing one of Asia’s last wild frontiers and it’s huge range of birdlife, mammals and semi-wild livestock, pristine rivers, forests and grasslands.
- Listening toan expert horse-head fiddler performing traditional songs of the steppe – on the steppe!
- Dining like Ghengis in a big tent with fabulous food prepared by our Mongolian chef.
Itinerary in Brief
Day 1 – July 4 – Arrive Ulaan Baatar. D Hotel
Day 2 – July 5 – Transfer/ cycle to Nagalkhan Mt. Cycling 37km. BLD Camp
Day 3 – July 6 – Cycle to Terelj National Park. Cycling 40km. BLD Camp
Day 4 – July 7 – Cycle to Tuul River Bridge. Cycling 50km. BLD Camp
Day 5 – July 8 – Cycle to Princess Temple. Cycling 25km. BLD Camp
Day 6 – July 9 – Cycle to Terelj/ family stay. Cycle 20km. BLD Camp
Day 7 – July 10 – Cycle to Galchuurt. Transfer to Ulaan Baatar. Cycling 50km. BLD Hotel
Day 8 – July 11 – Naadam Festival Opening Ceremony, Wrestling, Archery and Knucklebone comps. Hotel
Day 9 – July 12 – Horse Racing and Wrestling Finals
Day 10 – July 13 – Depart
- airport transfers on arrival and departure days
- accommodation (4 nt’s Hotel/ 5 nt’s tented camping)
- meals as listed
- snacks, water and beverages whilst cycling
- transport as per itinerary
- camping equipment (tents, basic shower tent, toilet tent, dining tents, mobile kitchen, etc)
- high quality mountain bikes
- local cycling guides, mechanics
- medical kit
- sleeping bag
- sleeping mat
- bicycle helmet
- tips, personal expenses
Itinerary In Detail
Day 1: Arrive at 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.
Ganden Monastery is the country’s most important monastery and where you can see the revival of buddhism, although there are several other practised religions. The Bogd Khan Museum, the residence of Mongolia’s last theocratic ruler, rounds out the main historical sights, and houses one of the worlds more important collection of buddhist artworks.
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.
Day 2: Drive Ulaan Baatar to the steppe. Cycle to Nagalkhan Mountain
We depart early after breakfast to drive for an hour or so into the countryside to our start point. Here we’ll pull on our cycling gear, size up the bikes and set off across the Mongolian steppe which begins as soon as the city ends. Horsemen and their herds dot the countryside as do the white dots of gers in the distance, signalling each family’s location. We’ll climb a couple of hills to get our first views of the clear Mongolian light from Nagalkhan Mountain that seems to stretch the landscape far into the distance. We’ll roll into lunch on the open steppe, prepared by our chef, and dine al fresco with revolving courses of soups salads and mains. An afternoon ride takes us through more valleys and and typical steppeland with plenty of time to stop and wander off the bikes to soak up the countryside. At our first camp we set up our tents for the evening and have time to explore the area. Dinner will be a hearty meal in our communal dining tent with a horse head fiddle player conjuring the sounds of Mongolian life as we toast the start of our ride with a semi-traditional shot of vodka.
Accommodation: tented camp
Cycle approx: 37 km
Day 3: Cycle to Erdenne and Terelj National Park border
We start the day by knocking off a small climb and descent into a wide valley and the village of Erdenne, a sleepy local village. Here you’ll have a chance to visit the local store to stock up on any supplies you might need (although you’ll probably find our cooks are keeping your stomachs very happy!). We’ll have another climb that takes us into a long picturesque valley and down into lunch. We make our way up the valley to the base of a pass that we’ll tackle tomorrow. The surrounding hillsides begin to grow bigger as we head toward the border of Terelj National Park. Another night under the stars to share the events of the day and get to know your local crew and some Mongolian history and culture with a hot cup of tea or a nice cold beer. Horse head fiddle playing will feature tonight and you are welcome to bring your musical skills (and instruments) as we settle in for a camp-fire like evening of song (no actual fires though as trees are protected).
Accommodation: tented camp
Cycle approx: 40 km
Day 4: Cycle to Tuul River Bridge
Today’s ride takes us up over a wooded pass at around 1800m. From the top, the views are expansive and we’ll stop to take in amazing vistas of wooded mountains and fast flowing cobble bottomed rivers winding into the distance. The ride takes us over to the Tuul River bridge and through dense scrubland into a narrow valley that features granite outcrops protruding from steep mountains. The valley floors are a rush of colours as dozens of species of wildflowers cover the valley floors and mountainsides. We finish the day at a stunning camp by the Tuul River and a dip in it’s crystal clear water. Tonight we welcome a new guest, a practicing shaman, and we’ll spend a bit of time together learning about this ancient practice in a relaxed casual conversation. Spending a bit of time together will allow us to become familiar and make his interaction with us more genuine. We’ll travel the next day with the shaman to a sacred valley where he’ll perform a ritual inspired by our time together.
Accommodation: tented camp
Cycle approx: 50 km
Day 5: Cycle to Princess Temple Valley
Wending our way through forest, marsh and up and down some steep slopes brings us near the base of Altan mountain, over which lies the Khaan Khentii National Park. Just north of here, human influence wanes, and the world’s largest biome begins, the Siberian taiga forest, home to an incredible array of wildlife including reindeer, moose, bears, wolves, Siberian tiger, lynx and sable. It’s also where the birthplace, and rumoured burial site, of Chinggoss Khan lies. We head back down toward the Tuul river again on a nice long descent before turning into a valley that houses a temple to a revered Mongol Princess. Walks in the area are highly recommended – it may be possible to take a horse ride up to the hidden temple – or just to simply explore the surrounding forest and rock features. This is a perfectly suited sacred place for our shaman to unleash his magic and we’ll see what transpires for us in the spirit world!
Accommodation: tented camp
Hiking: approx 25km
Day 6: Cycle to Terelj/ family stay
A shorter day on the bikes is an enjoyable one as we we rejoin the Tuul River and meet a local family who we’ll spend the afternoon and evening with. We’ll be welcomed into their homes and get a chance to see the layout and lifestyle of these traditional ger dwellings that both house and produce the high dairy diet of the nomads. A Mongol BBQ will end our day, a traditional lamb feast prepared with fire heated river stones and pressure cooked with vegetables. Our last night in the countryside means there will be quite a few toasts to get through!
Accommodation: tented camp
Hiking: approx: 25 km
Day 7: Cycle to Gachuurt- Transfer to Ulaan Baatar
We begin the day cycling through Terelj village and a crossing of the river Terelj. This is where modern Mongol city slickers come to escape modern life, sleep in tents and ride horses – a real sign of how fast things can change. We have a pretty big hill to climb before we have a endless downhillll into forest, open valley and sand dunes. We’ll ride to the edge of the city that appears like a line drawn in the sand and pack up our bikes for the drive into town. Bright lights will appear that much brighter as the city will have geared up fully for the coming Naadam. Fireworks and pop performances will be happening in Suhkbaatar Square and we’ll hit the town to take in the festivities.
Hiking: approx: 50 km
Day 8: Naadam Festival – Opening Ceremony/ Wrestling/ Archery/ Knucklebones
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 the Stadium about 3 km away. It’s pretty 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 of the present 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 we’ll watch the opening rounds of wrestling before heading 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 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 9: Naadam Festival – Horse Racing
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 Happy Valley, as spectators on foot stand side by side with spectators on horseback watching ten year old kids race highly trained horses over a 30km 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 final meal and celebration of the end of the Naadam Festival.
Day 10: Departure
Today is departure day and we’ll get you to the airport for your flight back home.
Book now by contact firstname.lastname@example.org