Mongolia & Russia: Naadam, Buryatia and Lake Baikal Combo Tour
Join YPT for a summer full of nomadic thrill as we follow the influence of the Khans in both Mongolia and one of the prettiest part of Russia, Buryatia all the way to Irkutsk and Lake Baikal on this combo tour!
The tour starts in Beijing for a 26-hour train ride to the capital of Mongolia, Ulan Bator, or you can start the tour on day 2 in Ulan Bator. The moment we arrive we’ll jump right into the national parks nearby the capital! we will leave the city to visit both the Mount Khogno natural reserve and Terelj National Park, both famed for their wildlife and unforgettable trekking opportunities. We’ll ride camels in the dunes and horses on the steppes before heading back to Ulan Bator just in time for the festivities of Naadam. Naadam is centered around 3 main sports – horse riding, wrestling and archery. After taking in the festival, we will spend a day checking out all the highlights of the capital. It wouldn’t be a YPT tour without checking out massive Soviet monuments and political museums. From there, we will ride the train to Ulan-Ude, crossing all of Mongolia. We stop for a day in the capital of Buryatia to meet the Buryats an ethnicity of Russia which shares common ancestors with the Mongols.
We’ll then make our way out of Ulan-Ude, capital of Buryatia by train to Irkutsk and the stunning Lake Baikal. This section of the transsiberian railway is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful so we’ll take the day train to see it properly. Train enthusiasts will rejoice! We’ll be exploring the city of Irkutsk, Siberia’s second city after Vladivostok, and one with an amazing history and culture of St Petersburg exiles and local ethnic groups.
We’ll be spending 3 nights in and around Lake Baikal on Olkhon Island, the biggest lake island in the world, its various villages and islands, including a visit to Stalin’s ‘fish gulag’ at Peshchanaya village, and a bonfire meal and drinks with the local Shamanistic Buryat people! We’ll ride around untouched sceneries of extreme beauty on the world’s biggest lake island. Hiking on scenic coasts and climbing up the dramatic Burkhan Cape.
Naadam is the biggest event in Mongolia, attracting massive crowds. We can expect accommodations and tickets for the festival to be sold out months in advance. Don’t be left out, book now!
Arrive in Beijing. Meet up for dinner with your traveling companions and guides and head out for a few beers.
Overnight at Beijing City Central Hostel.
Saturday 6th July – Train
Departure by train K23 at 7:23 as we embark on our journey to the land of the Khans.
We’ll spend a relaxing day looking at the different vistas of northern China and bonding over drinks and instant noodles.
20.18 arrival at the border town of Erlian, for a stop of “technically” around 4 hours, for border formalities, customs and immigration. Previously, it was possible to leave the train at this point, but most likely we will be kept on board for immigration formalities. Departure at around 1am.
Sunday 7th July – Ulan Bator
Arrival in the middle of the night at the Mongolian border town of Dzamyn Ude, for second set of immigration and customs formalities usually lasting about two hours. Again, we may remain on the train or will possibly be allowed to get off.
After a bit of sleep we’ll get lunch on the train, we’ll need a full belly to start our exciting time in Mongolia.
14:35 arrival into Ulan Bator, capital city of Mongolia and our base for this trip.
For those starting the tour in Ulan Bator meet no later than 3pm at our hotel lobby.
Dinner where we will get to know our new members of the group and have our first look at the nightlife of Ulan Bator
Overnight in Ulan Bator
Monday 8th July – Mount Khogno Khan Natural Reserve
Up early as we have to drive to Mount Khogno Khan Natural Reserve, 250km away from the capital. This park contains a bit of all landscapes iconic of Mongolia, with sand dunes, the steppes and the taiga. Its ecosystem is extremely varied, with birds, gazelles and deer.
Our cook will prepare us a delicious lunch in the park.
In the afternoon, we’ll get the opportunity to do some more hiking or go camel riding in the nearby dunes.
Dinner and overnight in a traditional Mongolian family Ger, where we will sample Mongolia`s legendary nomadic hospitality.
Tuesday 9th July – Terelj National Park
Up early again. Today, our day is dedicated to driving to the Terelj National park. On the way, we’ll stop by Turtle Rock or Melkhii Khad, a rock formation that bears a striking resemblance to its namesake animal.
Lunch prepared by our cook
We start exploring the National Park trekking around accompanied by our expert guide. The park is famous for Khagiin Khar lake and the Tuul River which flows through it. We will also get the opportunity to visit a traditional Mongolian Buddhist temple.
Dinner and overnight once more in a traditional Mongolian family Ger,
Wednesday 10th July – Terelj National Park
It wouldn’t be a Mongolian adventure without a horse ride so we’ll ride around Terelj National Park like the Khan meant it to be.
Lunch with our personal cook
We start making our way back to Ulan Bator. On the way back, we’ll stop by the enormous statue of Genghis Khan, which we’ll be able to climb to appreciate the view.
Arrival in Ulan Bator for dinner and overnight before the big day!
Thursday 11th July – Ulan Bator
TRIP HIGHLIGHT We partake in the first day of the Naadam Festival. Spirits will be high all across town as Mongolians reunite for the event of the year, showcasing their culture through a competition involving the three main sports: wrestling, archery and horse racing.
We attend the opening festival ceremony. The nine tribes of Mongolia are escorting a horse tail of Genghis Khan to the stadium, accompanied by horsemen, monks and dancers.
We will attend the first rounds of the horse racing competition. Races can include thousands of horses with child riders and span over more than 10 kilometres.
Head back to our hostel to try a traditional meal of Khuushuur, a deep fried meat pie which we will rinse down with fermented mare’s milk, like the true Mongolian warriors we’ll be by then.
Friday 12th July – Ulan Bator
Wake up nice and early for breakfast
We go and spectate the second day, this time watching wrestling in the stadium. Mongolian wrestling is unique in that the wrestlers are not divided by weight and compete all together. We will get the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the special costumes the wrestlers wear.
Lunch on site
We head outside the stadium to see the archery competition. Here, we’ll witness archers shooting arrows over a distance of 75m using the infamous Mongolian Compound Bow which was instrumental in Genghis Khan’s conquest of the world.
For dinner, we’ll head to a Mongolian hotpot restaurant to gorge on delicious lamb meat and then head out to check out Ulan Bator’s night life.
Overnight in Ulan Bator
Saturday 13th of July – Ulan Bator
Up early for our city tour of Ulan Bator
After breakfast, we’ll head slightly out of town to visit the enormous Zaisan Memorial which will not only offer the best view of the city but also an enormous fresco commemorating the sacrifices of the Red Army which came to liberate the Mongolians from the Japanese. On our way down, we will see a tank memorial.
We head back into town to visit the Memorial Museum of Victims of Political Persecution. Here, we will learn more about the dark side of the Soviet rule of Mongolia and the impact its omnipresent secret police had on the locals.
Lunch at the nearby Chojin Temple Restaurant.
We head to the Gandantegchinlen Monastery, one of the most important site of Mongolian buddhism. During the communist reign, it was the only monastery allowed to function even though it only did so as a token homage to Mongolian culture while most others religious sites were destroyed and their lamas executed.
We head slightly north to the Sukhbaatar Square, place where the very iconic statue of Genghis Khan, most famous Mongol of all history and terror of the western world, is located.
We go to the outskirts of town to visit the Military Museum of Mongolia. Warning: Soviet tanks galore!
Dinner in a restaurant nearby our hostel.
Overnight in Ulan Bator
Sunday 14th July – Ulan Bator
Free time to check out the last things we wanted to see around the city and buy groceries for our train ride.
We board the overnight train 305И to Ulan-Ude at 15:22 and arriving the next day in the early morning.
Monday 15th July – Ulan Ude
We check in and rest in our hotel for a while.
Meeting our new group member joining for this part of the tour at Hotel Shumak at 10am. Your tour guide will go through our itinerary before we head off in the city of Ulan-Ude
We go check out Ulan Ude’s world famous Lenin Head Statue. It is three-story high!
We then head to Victory Park, the biggest park of Ulan-Ude, filled with soviet statues and the best place to people-watch in Ulan-Ude
Lunch at restaurant Tengis, specialised in Buryat fare.
We take a taxi and head north to Ulan Ude Ethnographic Museum. This open-air museum is one of the biggest in Russia, with over 11,000 exhibits. It will help us get an idea of the history of the land and the Buryat people.
We head back to town for dinner, this time at restaurant Buryatia. Every night, they put on a special buryat performance.
Walk around town to check out the cathedrals, statues and the Selenge statues
Stop by a classic soviet era bar to quench our thirst reasonably. We’re taking an early train tomorrow!
Overnight at our hotel
Tuesday 16th July – Train/Irkutsk
Early morning check-out as we board train 069Я to Irkutsk. Along the way, we will pass some of Russia’s most magnificent sceneries. If you wanted to see the best of the transsiberian railway without actually doing the whole ride, this is it!
Arrival in Irkutsk at 16:20 local time.
Walking Tour of the 130th Quarter, we go to churches and monasteries, the planetarium and public observatory, the Eksperimentary Museum of Science, the ‘Window to Asia’ exhibition and the House of Folk Arts, all built to celebrate Irkutsk’s 350th anniversary
Head out for dinner at Rassolnik, a restaurant serving local recipes in a nostalgic soviet décor and drinks to find out what goes for a night out in Russia’s Far East!
Overnight in Irkutsk
Wednesday 17th July – Listvyanka
Breakfast at the Hotel
We drive to the nearby village of Listvyanka to have our first look at Baikal Lake.
Drive out to Listvyanka village at Lake Baikal and check out the fish market and then scour the souvenirs market for Soviet kitsch. We get the opportunity to swim in the lake.
Picnic using local produces and Baikal, a local vodka famed all around Russia.
Visit Baikal Museum where huge aquariums are refilled with water from the lake and head on to the Under the Open Sky Museum
Drive back to Irkutsk
Dinner at a Nomad Restaurant. Those of us who were in Mongolia previously will reminisce on the taste of that wild land.
Evening walk around town, as this is a YPT tour, we’ll make our compulsory visit to a statue of Lenin
Overnight in Irkutsk
Thursday 18th July – Olkhon Island
Early breakfast in the hotel
Depart for Olkhon Island, one of the largest lake islands in the world. It’s a 5-6 hour journey by bus and ferry but the scenery we pass through means it feels like a short trip!
Check in to our accommodation on the island
Lunch at the hotel Baikalov Ostrog styled after building built during the conquest of Siberia.
Visit Khuzhir village, the main settlement on the island and home to mostly Buryats, the native ethnic group
We’ll head on a trek to Burkhan Cape.
Dinner and overnight in Khuzhir
Friday 19th July – Olkhon Island
Head out after breakfast up to the northernmost point of the island – Khoboy using 4X4 to get there off-road!
We enjoy a traditional Buryat lunch cooked on an open fire of barbecued slated fish and ukha – traditional fisherman’s soup
We stop by Uzury a quaint and pleasant hamlet isolated from the rest of the world to understand how people live around here.
Head back to Khuzir and relax in a banya bath house (optional extra)
Dinner and overnight in Khuzir, we’ll keep warm with the help of an old friend – vodka!
Saturday 20th July – Olkhon Island
Today, we’ll head to the southern part of Olkhon for most of the day. We will first take a boat to island Ogoy.
We will be Island Hopping around the Islet of the Small Sea.
We finally reach Ogoy Island where the stupa of enlightenment, a holy site for the Buddhist Buryat, can be found.
It is hard to believe that we are still in the middle of a lake, as we will pass through steppes, sandy beaches and taiga.
We make our way to Khuzhir, stopping on the way in many of the abandoned villages, including Peschanaya, that used to form Stalin’s Fish gulags. While its history has been darkened, it remains a place of serene beauty.
Sunday 21st July -Olkhon/Irkutsk
Breakfast at the hotel
Today, we have to cross all the way back to Irkutsk by bus, but the road ahead of us is certainly one of the most beautiful in the world.
Arrival in Irkutsk in the evening.
Dinner in the 130th Quarter followed by a pub crawl of the many bars in the surroundings. After all, we have to celebrate our last day!
Monday 22nd July
Breakfast in the hotel and end of tour
End of tour for those of us who don’t continue on the Moscow to Pyongyang Tour! Connections by train and plane can be arranged by YPT.
– Accommodation on twin share basis (single supplement available)
– Entrance Fees
– Naadam Stadium Tickets
– All transportation to complete tour
– Local Guide throughout and cook for the last two days in Mongolia
– Horse and Camel rides
– Train tickets to complete the itinerary
– Visa fees if applicable (YPT can provide visa support for China, Mongolia and Russia)
– Banya bath house
– Transportation to Beijing
– Transportation out of Irkutsk
– Lunch/Dinner in Russia unless specified
We have expert guides ready to help answer any questions you may have.