Kharkhorin - The Ancient Capital Rediscovered

Kharkhorin – The Ancient Capital Rediscovered (5D4N)

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Kharkhorin – The Ancient Capital Rediscovered (5D4N)


Day 01: Arrival in Ulaanbaatar

Day 02: Ulaanbaatar – Khustai NP & Elsen Tasarkhai

Day 03: Kharkhorin Village Day Trip

Day 04: Ulaanbaatar City Tour

Day 05: Departure from Ulaanbaatar


Tour Overview:

Day 1. Arrival in Ulaanbaatar

Welcome to Mongolia! 

Mongolia’s capital city of Ulaanbaatar is a contrast of nomadic felt gers, modern coffee chains, Soviet-era apartments and thousands of ruggedized Toyota Priuses. It’s a testament to the pace of modernization and abilities of urbanization. On a stroll through, the city seems at paradox with itself, both old and young simultaneously: resident English-speaking entrepreneurs mingle in trendy cafes and cosmopolitan jazz bars, sharing the same street beside Buddhist temples and history museums.

Upon landing at Ulaanbaatar International Airport, your guide will meet you in the arrival hall with your private vehicle on standby, ready to take you to your hotel for check in. The drive from the airport to central Ulaanbaatar takes around 1.5 hours.

Remaining time of the day at leisure.

Overnight in Ulaanbaatar (Shangri-La, Ulaanbaatar)


Day 2. Ulaanbaatar – Khustai National Park & Elsen Tasarkhai

Your guide will meet you in the lobby of your hotel to start the day.

The drive from Ulaanbaatar to Khustai National Park will take around 1.5 hours.

Khustai National Park Nomadic Immersion

Among the many lifeforms who call the Steppe of Khustai National Park homes, humans are also one. Join a nomadic herder family for the day to immerse in a lifestyle 10,000-years-old and counting. Experience what life is like on the Steppe with daily tasks like milking the cows, processing the dairy, collecting argali (dry droppings of cows used for fuel and as mosquito-repellent) and herding the cattle and sheep.

Ger Art Gallery

From the outside, this ger looks like any of its neighbors, but inside, a trove of intrigue awaits. Step into a world of color inside the ger where the art of modern Mongolians are hung on the wall, providing a small window into the hearts, minds and motivations of this country’s artistically inclined.

Takhi Wild Horse Conservation – guided by Ph.D. Mr.Usukhjargal

The central Asian wild horse locally known as Takhi, but also known as Przewalski’s horse, were thought to be completely extinct in the wild in the 1960’s. Luckily, a chance meeting between a Mongolian conservationist and a German researcher started the initiative to reintroduce these wild cousins of the domestic horse, and in the early 1990’s, Khustai National Park became one of the main reintroduction sites. See these magnificent beasts for yourself as they make their daily trip to the watering hole where they can be viewed respectively from a short distance. 

Drive from Khustai NP to Elsen Tasarkhai. The ride from Khustai National Park to Elsen Tasarkhai will take around 2.5 hours.

Elsen Tasarkhai is known as the mini-Gobi, located smack-dab in the heart of Mongolia. Expect sparking dunes of golden sand rippling out into the distance for as far as the eye can see. 

Check in to your home for the next two nights, the Sweet Gobi Geolodge. As dining options here are limited, the lodge’s on-site restaurant, open from 6am to midnight, will providing all the meals during the stay.

The cuisine here is all inspired by local traditions with highlights featuring lamb and mutton and locally-foraged aromatic herbs. Think lamb skewers with chive cream. 

Khorkhog (wild lamb cooked on stones seasoned with spices). Huushur, a snack of mutton meat fried in grease, excellent for health, and served with carrots, potatoes, garlic and onion. Lamb cassolette, vegetables and pine kernel, a recipe offered in a variety of salty and sweet versions. And for breakfast? Served as a buffet, French or English style breakfast with a Mongolian touch of savory goat or sheep milk yogurt, or boorstog, a substantial cake, ideal in anticipation of an action-filled day. And the absolute specialty that will make you come back to Mongolia: The sharvin, the best pancake in the world!


Elsen Tasarkhai Stargazing

Once the sun is fully set and night has come to blanket the world in a velvety darkness, bundle up and head outside for a spectacle of dazzling proportions: the ultra-dark desert night sky. Borrow the lodge’s telescope and point it skyward to see which of the flickering stars and planets you can identify.

Your guide will return you to your ger at the end of the day (around 5:00 pm).

Overnight in Elsen Tasarkhai (Sweet Gobi Geolodge) / Kharkhorin (Secret of the Silk Road)

Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner


Day 3. Kharkhorin Village Day Trip

Your guide will meet you outside your ger at 9:00 am to start the day.

Next Stop: Kharkhorin Village

Where the Mongolian steppe meets the easternmost foothills of the Khangai Mountains rests the quaint village of Kharkhorin. Originally founded by Genghis Khan in 1220, the village has had a tumultuous past to get to its current present state of peace, now featuring light tourism and agriculture as the main industries in this sleepy, remote village.

The ride from Elsen Tasarkhai to Kharkhorin will take around 2 hours.

Erdene Zuu Monastery

The Erdene Zuu Monastery is built adjacent to where the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire once stood and is one of Mongolia’s oldest still-standing Buddhist monasteries. Founded in 1586, the monastery is as old as the Tibetan Buddhist practice in Mongolia, its construction ordered by the same king that declared it the state religion. Notable for the 108 stupas marking the perimeter and the several temples inside it, it is one of the key religious and cultural centers of Mongolia. Here, meet the Hon. Baasansuren Khandsuren, the abbot of the Erdene Zuu monastery and a progressive reformist who looks to make faith and religion relevant and relatable to the layman. Bask in his tales and listen to his melodious singing of mantras in Mongolian.

Karakorum Museum

Located near the Erdene Zuu Monastery, the museum stands on the ancient ruins of Karakorum, the capital of the Mongol empire under Ugudei Khan, Genghis Khan’s son. The city was an opulent display of the Mongol Empire’s splendor, noteable for the Silver Tree in the center of the city, sculpted from silver and precious metals with a base that gushed out beverages including alcohol and milk. The museum has several exhibits showcasing various artifacts, including tools, weapons, coins, pottery, and household items, all of which provide insight into the daily lives of the ancient Mongol people.

Drive back to Elsen Tasarkhai. The ride from Kharkhorin back to Elsen Tasarkhai will take around 2 hours.

Visit a nomadic family

Visit to a local nomadic family and discover the richness of their traditional lifestyle amidst a captivating and untamed landscape. These families reside in wooden houses or traditional gers, upholding the cultural heritage and age-old traditions that have been passed down through generations.

Explore the unique way of living and seize the opportunity to join them in milking cows and crafting dairy products. By engaging in these time-honored practices, you will deepen your understanding and appreciation for their way of life, forging a meaningful connection with the Darkhad community’s enduring traditions that have withstood the test of time.

Camel Ride on the Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dunes

Mount a camel for a ride through the serene sand dunes of Elsen Tasarkhai as the heat of the day fades and the sun dips below the horizon casting a prism of colors across the sky. Elsen Tasarkhai is famed for its striking contrast of sandy desert dunes, surrounding grassy hills and rocky outcroppings. Ride up the dunes to a height of 80 meters for a 360-degree vista of the sweeping landscape. From here, there is the option to sandboard down or merely stroll, feet sinking in to the silky sands, to your heart’s content. Make sure to wear comfortable and lightweight shoes for the hike, as sand-hiking in heavy shoes can be extra difficult.

Your guide will return you to your ger at the end of the day (around 5:00 pm).

Overnight in Elsen Tasarkhai (Sweet Gobi Geolodge) / Kharkhorin (Silk Road)

Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner


Day 4. Ulaanbaatar City Tour

Early in the morning, your guide will meet you outside of your ger to start the day.

The drive from Elsen Tasarkhai back to Ulaanbaatar will take around 4.5 hours.

Upon arrival in Ulaanbaatar, we will provide you with a quick and efficient check-in to your hotel, allowing you to refresh and rejuvenate after your journey. Following this, you will embark on an exciting city tour, complete with a delicious lunch at one of the many downtown eateries.

Choijin Temple Restaurant is a local favorite located in the heart of Ulaanbaatar and offering a wide range of dishes, including Mongolian, Asian and European cuisine. It’s known for its cozy and elegant atmosphere and popular dishes include khorkhog (Mongolian barbecue), steak, sushi and pasta with an extensive wine list to complement each dish!

Gandantegchinlen Monastery (optional)

Locally referred to as Gandan, this is the main monastery of Ulaanbaatar, with a history dating back to early 19th century. Spared by the Communist purge that saw the mass demolition of hundreds of monasteries and temples across the country, the restored Gandantegchinlen was, for a time, the only functioning Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. From children feeding the famous Gandan pigeons to lamas scurrying back and forth to visitors kneeling in prayer, Gandan is one of the core landmarks of Ulaanbaatar’s identity. While wandering the complex, make sure not to miss the awe-inspiring Megjid Janraisag Temple. The original temple was melted down by the communists during World War II to make bullets for the war, but was rebuilt in the mid 1990s with financial and metal donations (gold and silver).

Nomin/ Galleria Department Store (optional)

Enjoy shopping experience and immerse yourself in the lifestyle of Mongolia at Nomin or Galleria Department Stores. These two renowned department stores are among the largest and most popular shopping destinations in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. Located in central areas, they offer a wide array of products and services to cater to diverse tastes and preferences.

Nomin Department Store boasts multiple floors with dedicated sections for fashion, cosmetics, home goods, electronics, souvenirs, and more. You can explore a wide selection of items, including high-quality cashmere and wool products, reflecting Mongolia’s rich textile heritage. On the other hand, Galleria Department Store also offers an extensive range of products, with a particular emphasis on exquisite cashmere items.

Tumen Ekh Ensemble 

Established in 1991, the Tumen Ekh Ensemble has since become one of the most renowned performing arts groups in the country featuring a variety of traditional Mongolian musical instruments, including the morin khuur (horse-head fiddle), the yatga (zither) and various percussion instruments. The group’s music incorporates both vocal and instrumental pieces, and is inspired by traditional Mongolian folk songs, as well as contemporary interpretations of Mongolian music. In addition to music, the Tumen Ekh Ensemble is also known for its vibrant and colorful Tsam dance performances and costumes. The group’s performances often feature intricate choreography, acrobatics and storytelling.

Il Fiore – Farewell Dinner

Indulge in a memorable farewell dinner in Mongolia, overlooking the cityscape from the top floor of Eco Tower located in the heart of the city. Delight in a culinary experience crafted by a renowned Italian chef, adding a touch of international flavor to your dining experience in Mongolia.

Your guide will return you to your hotel at the end of the day (around 5:00 pm).

Overnight in Ulaanbaatar

Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner


Day 5. Departure from Ulaanbaatar

Your guide will escort you to the airport and help you check in for your departure flight. End of services.

Meal(s): Breakfast

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