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A Spiritual and Cultural Awakening

Explore the rich culture and heritage of MONGOLIA, a place where time stood still for many centuries, a place of wild beauty defined by its free spirit, a place where Buddhism was once silenced but has returned with vigor.  Journey across the country with Robert Thurman, one of the world’s preeminent Buddhist scholars, who will provide insight into the history and renewal of Buddhism in this fascinating land. This special trip culminates at the Gobi's Naadam Festival.  Jalsa Urubshurow, Founder and CEO of Nomadic Expeditions, will join Robert Thurman on this special journey.

Robert A.F. Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, President of Tibet House U.S. - a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Tibetan civilization - and President of the American Institute of Buddhist Studies, a non-profit affiliated with the Center for Buddhist Studies at Columbia University and dedicated to the publication of translations of important artistic and scientific treatises from the Tibetan Tengyur. Time chose Professor Thurman as one of its 25 most influential Americans in 1997, describing him as a “larger than life scholar-activist". The New York Times recently said Thurman “is considered the leading American expert on Tibetan Buddhism". Inspired by his friend the Dalai Lama, Thurman stands on Buddhism’s open reality, and thence takes us along with him into an expanded vision of the world, whether the sweep of history, the subtleties of the inner science of the psyche, or the wonders of the life of the heart.


Day 1,  June 25 - Arrival. The contrast between ancient traditions and the dawning of a 21st Century democracy is most visible in Ulaanbaatar, where traditional gers and Buddhist monasteries coexist with modern high-rises. Upon arrival at the airport, you will be welcomed by your guide and transferred to a centrally located, luxury hotel within walking distance of various museums and shops.
Shangri-La Hotel

Day 2,  June 26 - Ulaanbaatar. Begin the day with a visit to Gandan Monastery, the seat of Buddhism in Mongolia. Woven through Mongolia’s nomadic culture is a rich Tibetan Buddhist tradition in which ancient shamanist practices are still evident. Although Buddhist monasteries were either destroyed or converted into museums during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s, Gandan Monastery continued to operate as a showpiece for government officials. However, in spite of the government’s efforts to suppress Buddhism and other religious beliefs, Mongolia’s spirituality persisted and a significant resurgence of Buddhism began in 1990 when Mongolia became a democracy. Monasteries across the country are again opening their doors to worshippers, and the few lamas who survived the purges are training.

Strolling through the monastery grounds, hear the low tones of the horns used to call the lamas to the temple and observe their daily rituals, including the reading of sutras, the teachings of the Buddha. Also visit the magnificent statue of Migjid Janraisig - “the lord who looks in every direction.” This 82-foot high statue, gilded in pure gold and clothed in silk and precious stones, completely fills one of Gandan’s temples. Spend a full day sightseeing in the capital. Drive through downtown Ulaanbaatar to the National Museum for an excellent overview of Mongolia’s history and culture. The newly remodeled museum displays traditional implements of daily nomadic life including Stone and Bronze Age artifacts, historical costumes of Mongolia’s minority tribes, sacred religious relics, and agricultural, fishing and hunting equipment.

Enjoy a welcome reception and dinner at the Fine Arts Museum. Named in honor of Zanabazar, the renowned 17th-century artist and politician who was also the first Buddhist leader of Mongolia, the museum contains one of the best collections of Buddhist art and artifacts in the world, including many of Zanabazar’s original works.
Shangri-La Hotel - B, L, D

Day 3,  June 27 - Hogno Han Mountains. After breakfast, drive to Hogno Han (4-5 hours), a ger camp located in the foothills of the Hogno Han Mountains and at the stunning confluence of three geographical zones - steppe, desert and forest. In the afternoon, explore the sand dunes and surrounding area. There will also be an opportunity to visit a nomadic horse-breeder family and experience the warm hospitality offered to passing travelers in the form of food, shelter, and friendship. Relatively unchanged for centuries, Mongolia has one of the last remaining horse-based cultures in the world.
Ger Camp - B, L, D 

Day 4,  June 28 - Ovgon Khiid. Spend all morning hiking up to Ovgon Hiid Monastery,
one of the oldest temples of Mongolia. Total amount of hiking is 5-6 hours with some altitude gains, gradual uphill, and some loose gravel.
Ger Camp - B, L, D

Day 5,  June 29 - Kharakhorum / Erdene Zuu Monastery. After breakfast, drive to the legendary Kharakhorum (2 hours) and visit the Erdenezuu Monastery in the town of Kharakhorum. An Abbot of Erdene Zuu Monastery will join us for these 2 days, take us to his meditation site, and explore the beautiful mountains and rivers in this area.

It is impossible to mention Mongolia without conjuring up images of the great warrior, Chinggis Khan. The empire created by Chinggis and his descendants was the largest contiguous land empire in recorded history, and its scope has never been matched. The great Khan and his son created the beautiful and legendary Kharakhorum to serve as the heart of this monolithic empire. At the time, Kharakhorum was one of the largest junctions of the Silk Route, connecting the Oriental world with the West. Unfortunately, this bustling capital was abandoned by Khublai Khan and later fell into ruin. There are only a few traces left of this once great city, but Mongolia’s largest monastery, neighboring Erdene Zuu, was reputedly constructed from the ruins of Kharakhorum in the 16th century. Surrounded by 108 stupas, Erdene Zuu has been a place of Buddhist activity for more than 500 years. Explore the monastery grounds and observe the monks as they perform their prayers and rituals. The temples are richly decorated with spectacular Buddhas, as well as Buddhist art and architecture. Just behind the monastery compound, visit the site of archeological digs being conducted by German archeologists at the former sight of Kharakhorum. Among the findings: an entire foundation of a house with brick stove and a beautifully forged gold bracelet. Overnight at gers.
Ger Camp - B, L, D

Day 6,  June 30 - Tuvkhun Monastery. After breakfast, explore the site of Tuvkhun Monastery (4-5 hours), constructed in the 17th century in the Alpine forest. Zanabazar’s art school and workshop was based here. Explore the area by foot. Return to camp in the afternoon.
Ger Camp - B, L, D

Day 7,  July 1 - Ongyn Khiid. After breakfast, drive to Ongiin Hiid and explore the ruins of this 17th Century temple, situated in a beautiful mountainous region. Still known as the “Pearl of the Great Desert,” Ongiin Hiid was one of the largest monasteries in Mongolia until its destruction during the communist purges in 1939. On the way, visit Shankh Hiid, a monastery within a short driving distance of Erdene Zuu and Kharakhorum that was once frequented by Zanabazar, the renowned Buddhist artist and religious leader. Overnight at gers.
Ger Camp - B, L, D

Day 8,  July 2 - South Gobi / Three Camel Lodge. After breakfast drive to South Gobi, Mongolia’s southernmost province of semi-arid desert. Contrary to the sameness that the word ‘desert’ suggests, the Gobi is a fascinating and diverse region, and includes sites of some of the most important paleontological discoveries of the 20th century. For the next four days, explore the stunning landscapes of the Gobi, habitat for Bactrian camels, Argali mountain sheep, goitered gazelle, Golden Eagles, Saker Falcons, jerboas, and many endemic reptiles. The Gobi is also home to some of the Northern Hemisphere’s most rare and elusive mammals, such as the dhole, snow leopard, wild camel, and Gobi bear.

Arrive in time for lunch at Three Camel Lodge ger camp, located at Bulagtai Mountain on the edge of Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park. Spend the rest of the evening at leisure or explore the surroundings on your own. The lodge offers a wide variety of activities to travelers from reading a book on Mongolia to watching a documentary about nomadic culture, and from learning traditional Mongolian games to enjoying a relaxing massage. Overnight in gers.
Three Camel Lodge - B, L, D

Day 9,  July 3 - Bulgan Temple. Drive to Bulgan Temple, the meditation temple built at Hoorhon Devseg valley. This is the first meditation temple in this area since 1990 by local Lama Buyan and his disciples. Hike the 1800-meter mountain and visit the meditation temple on top. Enjoy spectacular views and explore the surrounding area before returning to the Three Camel Lodge. In the evening, enjoy stargazing with a leading Mongolian astrophysicist.
Three Camel Lodge - B, L, D

Day 10,  July 4 - Yol Valley National Park. In the morning drive to Yol Valley National Park, cradled in the foothills of the Altai Mountains. An ancient river carved this surprisingly green valley, and its remnant streams create ice formations that sometimes persist as late as July. A hike through the valley leads to the habitat of indigenous vulture-like Lammergeiers, Altai snowcocks, ibex, yaks, and Argali mountain sheep. After exploring the valley, visit the local natural history museum for an overview of the flora and fauna of the surrounding area. Return to the lodge.
Three Camel Lodge - B, L, D

Day 11,  July 5 - Naadam Festival - Flaming Cliffs. In the morning, enjoy the Naadam Festival, which includes wrestling, archery, and horse racing. The Naadam Festival is a classic, age-old tradition that provides a unique perspective for visitors to Mongolia.

In the late afternoon, travel to the legendary “Flaming Cliffs” (1 hour), named for the red-orange sandstone which glows brilliantly at sunrise and sunset. It was here, in 1922, that Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews and his exploration team from the American Museum of Natural History found the first nest of dinosaur eggs the world had ever seen. To the trained eye, the ancient formations of the Flaming Cliffs are rich with fossils, and paleontological expeditions continue to make significant discoveries at this site.
Three Camel Lodge - B, L, D 

Day 12,  July 6 - Ulaanbaatar. Early in the morning, transfer to Dalanzadgad, the capital of South Gobi province and fly to Ulaanbaatar (1.5 hour). Today, visit the Choijin Lama Temple Museum, one of Mongolia’s architectural gems. Set amidst high-rises, it was originally built by the order of the last king of Mongolia, the Bogd Khaan, and was dedicated to his brother and the state oracle, Luvsan Haidav Choijin Lama. Choijin is an honorary title given to the high ranking monks. Comprised of five temples, the Choijin Lama Temple Museum houses various Buddhist artifacts dating back to 1800–1900s, including the masterpieces of the famous Mongolian sculptor Zanabazar, some fine thangkas, and the best collection of the tsam masks used in the country’s religious ceremonies. In the afternoon, visit the Bogd Khan Palace, home of Mongolia’s last theocrat, Bogd Jabtzan Damba Hutagt VIII, which displays elaborate ceremonial robes and other personal effects of Mongolia’s ‘8th Living Buddha.’ In the evening, enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Shangri-la Hotel - B, L, D

Day 13,  July 7 - Departure. Transfer to the airport for departure. B

B = Breakfast L = Lunch D = Dinner
in collaboration with Nomadic Expeditions


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