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Tsaatan Reindeer Herders Tour

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Key Information:
Tour Duration: 12 day(s)
Group Size: 2 - 6 people
Destination(s): Mongolia  
Specialty Categories: Cultural Journey  
Season: May - September
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: Yes
Minimum Per Person Price: 1745 US Dollar (USD)
Maximum Per Person Price: 2245 US Dollar (USD)

2017 Tour Departures:

Available: June 18-29


In the far north of Mongolia bordering with Russia lie taiga ecosystems dominated by woods primarily composed of larch trees and open valleys that resemble polar tundra. It is part of the Siberian permafrost ecosystem highly distinct from the steppe grasslands found in much of Mongolia. Due to isolated and inaccessible location the most pristine and unpopulated lands in whole Mongolia lie here. Equally authentic is the culture of the reindeer herders of whom there is just a couple of hundreds living in teepees and grazing their reindeer in taiga forest and on alpine meadows. This is your chance to meet a real shaman, taste reindeer milk and have a reindeer ride.

Day 1: Arrival to Ulaanbaatar, guided city tour. Arrival in Ulaanbaatar (UB), the capital of Mongolia and transfer to a centrally located 4 star hotel. Afternoon guided city tour will introduce you to the highlights of the city: the Gandan Temple - city's main Buddhist center, the central city square with a grand statue of Genghis Khan and the Zaisan Memorial, an elevated hill on the city's edge providing a panoramic view of UB. Then choose to visit one or two museums from the following: National Museum introducing Mongolia's history from early humans to modern era, Dinosaur Museum with a unique collection of dinosaur fossils, Choijin Lama or State Oracle Residence-museum displaying best samples of Buddhist artwork and religious masks. Winter palace of Bogd Khan showcasing rare statues of Buddhist deities and items of personal use of this last theocratic ruler of Mongolia is also worth considering. An evening folk show of music, throat singing and contortion will be followed by a welcome dinner. (dinner, hotel)

Day 2: Flight to North Mongolia, travel to Darkhad depression. Morning transfer to UB airport for one and a half hour flight to Murun town, the access point to Khuvsgul, the country’s deepest lake that holds 1% of the world’s fresh water reserves. Upon arrival we drive to Darkhad depression, a land of prairie, forest and a couple of hundreds of lakes. We make our way across lush valleys and wetlands on rough dirt roads. White felt covered tents (also known as ger or yurts) of local herders and their large herds of horses, sheep and yaks is a common scene. It is a chance to have a glance of the way of life which seemingly has not changed since hundreds of years. In the evening we establish a tented camp alongside the road and spend our first night in the wilderness. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner / tent)

Day 3: Travel to edge of taiga. We travel for another half a day before arriving at Tsagaan Nuur town located in the depression’s northern corner. This is the gateway to taiga (boreal forest) where the Tsaatan community lives and herds reindeer. Here we finalize our appointment with local guides to accompany us during the next few days providing horses for riding and packing. If necessary we stock up on some addition food and drink before moving out to camp at the edge of taiga. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner / tent)

Day 4: Horse Trek to taiga. This morning after breakfast we load food and camp on horses, saddle those for riding and the journey will start. Local guides will accompany us throughout the way. We will ride through woods and across marshes, almost entirely at a walking pace. While riding you can easily notice the shift from grasslands to taiga, delineated by a distinct change in vegetation and topography. With a few breaks in between we stoically endure this long riding day before arriving to summer camp grounds, home to about 20 Tsaatan households. Tonight you will be allocated a bed in a teepee. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner / teepee)

Days 5-6: In taiga observing Tsaatans’ life. We spend 2 days at the summer camp. You can visit teepees and get first-hand knowledge of the Tsaatan mores. Traditionally, domesticated reindeer have been the mainstay of Tsaatan economy. They are ridden, milked, eaten and their hides are used for covering teepees, making clothing and footwear. During winters reindeer roam at large in rugged mountains and dense forests that straddle the borderline between Russia and Mongolia. Just a few are kept through the winter for riding. The main herd is then brought back in spring. You may take a reindeer ride or help in the daily chores of life in taiga but overall you should be prepared to observe from a side. Tsaatans practice shamanism where ancestors and natural features are held sacred, and serve as a source of strength or insight for individuals identified as shamans in the community. The Tsaatan rely on shamans for advice and healing, and for communicating with spirits, ancestors, or nature, which occurs through ritual and the calling of spirits, or ongots. With some luck you may witness such ritual. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner / teepee)

Day 7: Horse Trek back to taiga edge. We today say good bye to Tsaatans and return to taiga edge. We will follow the same route through woods and across marshes. Tented camp at the edge of taiga. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner / tent)

Days 8-9: Return travel to Khuvsgul lake. We cross the Darkhad depression again and head to the southern end of the lake Khuvsgul. It is the second-most voluminous freshwater lake in Asia, and holds almost 70% of Mongolia's fresh water and 1% of all the world’s fresh water reserves. Mongolians revere it as "The Mother Sea". We will arrive to the lake in the afternoon of the second day. Here we settle in a cozy holiday resort comprised of traditional felt covered gers also known as yurts. Dinner and overnight. (Breakfast, lunch, dinner / tent and ger camp)

Day 10: Leisure day, optional activities. A leisure day. You can hike the woods or along the lake shore or just relax enjoying the stunning view of the vast water expanse. An optional boat trip or horseback riding can also be done. Overnight in gers.

Day 11: Return flight to Ulaanbaatar. After breakfast transfer to Murun airport for flight to Ulaanbaatar. On arrival transfer to your hotel. The rest of the day is at your own disposal. In the evening we gather for a farewell dinner. (Breakfast, dinner, hotel)

Day 12: Departure transfer. Transfer to airport for your return flight home. (Breakfast).

Airfare is not included in the tour price.

Price Includes:
- All accommodation: hotel (2 nights), ger (2 nights), tent (4 nights), teepee (3 nights)
- Indicated meals & drinking water
- All visits, sightseeing, national park and permit fees
- Overland transport (Japanese 4WD)
- Domestic airfare and airport transfers
- Airport transfers
- English speaking guide
- Expedition cook(s) from 4 participants
- Local guides/pack animal drivers
- Horse hire

Price Excludes:
- Travel insurance
- Excess baggage fee on domestic air travel
- Personal riding clothes
- Sleeping bags
- Optional activity fees
- Meals not indicated
- Drinks & Alcohol
- Gratuities.