Join us on a multi-sport trip through the vast cultural and historic landscape of the Orkhon Valley in Mongolia, a world heritage site under continual use by nomadic cultures for over two millennia. The legacy of the past is still evident in the use of horses for herding and family prestige, golden eagles trained to hunt wolves and deer, and the practice of ancient skills such as wrestling, archery, and horse racing.
Our adventure begins with six days of cycling on remote dirt roads around the headwaters of the Orkhon river. We begin in the town of Kharakhorum, the ancient capital of Genghis Kahn’s vast empire. We cycle across valleys and over mountain tops, beside unique volcanic outcroppings and nomadic herding cultures, and through ancient cultural centers. Support vehicles will set up camps on grassland steppes with panoramic vistas and brilliant views of a night sky unpolluted by city lights.
Lower down in the valley, we will switch our mode of transportation to canoes. The next six days, we paddle down the meandering Orkhon river as it passes alongside steep canyon walls and cuts through vast valleys. While the river has a few sections of moderate difficulty, no prior river experience is required. For those who enjoying fishing, you will have the opportunity to catch large and sporting taimen or Siberian salmon. Evenings will be spent wilderness camping along the river.
- Travel through the largest nomadic country in the world.
- View ways of human existence unchanged for centuries.
- Canoe through the ancient empire of Genghis Khan.
- Stay in traditional ger tents (yurts) and visit local populations.
- Cycle across mountain tops with vast panoramic views.
- Visit the Ganden monastery, Mongolia’s most important Buddhist shrines.
- Camp on the sandy banks of the Orkhon river and hike to ridges with spectacular vistas.
- On the river, enjoy home-baked desserts by Jock and gourmet meals prepared by his wife Annie. (Evening entertainment included.)
We will make every effort to keep our plans, but we will also remain flexible so we can adjust to unexpected problems and take full advantage of opportunities as they arise.
Day 1: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar
Settle into your hotel. In the evening we will view a local dance and music show featuring Mongolian throat singing, traditional Mongolian instruments, and acrobatics. We will enjoy a traditional dinner at a restaurant near our hotel.
Day 2: Drive to Karakorum
We drive through a valley of ancient Buddhist temples, expansive steppe grassland with views of distant snow-capped peaks, and up-close views of nomadic people living in traditional gers (yurt). In Karakorum, once the seat of Genghis Khan’s empire, we will spend the night in a ger camp and enjoy a traditional evening meal.
Day 3: Begin our Bike Journey
In the morning, we visit the very expansive monastery of Erdene Zuu, a primary source for the development of a Mongolian form of Buddhism. We then head up-valley toward the headwaters of the Orkhon river and across land covered with unique basalt outcroppings. Eventually, we veer north and begin a gradual ascent through the remnants of extinct volcanoes. We will camp in tents beside our support vehicles and bikes, surrounded by a vast panoramic landscape.
Day 4: Cycling Five Mountain Passes
We continue north on smooth, hard-packed surfaces. We will mostly be cycling along the open expanse of windswept mountains–exceptional views of land and sky abound. We will stay at a ger camp near a hot spring where we can enjoy a bath or shower. For a small fee, we can also indulge in a relaxing body massage.
Day 5: Cycling to Tsetserleg
We pass through the provincial capital of Tsetserleg where we visit the ornate Buyandelgeruulekh Monastery. We traverse over another mountain pass and then descend into the town of Tsenkher where we follow the river to our tent-based campsite.
Day 6: More Mountain Top Cycling
For the most of the day, we cycle along more bare mountain tops before descending to our evening campsite near an upper section of the Orkhon river.
Day 7: Local Herding Life near Mogod
We cycle through more mountains and valleys where we should see nomadic herders on horseback tending to their animals. For the past two millennia, nomadic pastoralism created the core features of Mongolian society, a lifestyle still highly respected as a noble way to live in harmony with the landscape.
We pass through the town of Mogod, a small town set amidst a vast grassland and then spend the night just outside in another vista infused campsite.
Day 8: Bike to Town of Orkhon
After three more mountain passes, we complete the cycling portion of our journey at the river-side town of Orkhon.
Days 9 – 14: Canoeing the Orkhon River
We pack our gear into plastic barrels and waterproof bags and head downriver in two-person, open canoes. We will pass by stunning rock formations, through wide valleys where we are likely to see everything from Bactrian camels to herding on horseback.
The Orkhon is a swift flowing river with several moderate challenges. A typical day will include four to six hours on the river with stops along the way to explore and relax. We will have morning or afternoon hikes along the river. In the evening, we will camp alongside the river in our cozy tents. We will enjoy a campfire while eating delicious meals will be prepared by Jock and Annie.
Day 14: Night Train to Ulaanbaatar
Our last day of canoeing and we finish around 4pm. We take a vehicle from the river to a nearby train station for an overnight ride in a 1st class, Soviet-era train.
Day 15: City tour and final dinner
We arrive Ulaanbaatar at around 6am and leave our luggage at our hotel.
In the city, we will visit the Ganden monastery, Mongolia’s most important Buddhist shrine and one of the few that was spared Soviet-era purges. The museum of natural history has an impressive collection of dinosaur skeletons. At Sukbaatar Square, we walk through the vast open space where the modern parliament building sits behind a large bronze statue of Genghis Khan. The rest of the day will be free time.
In the evening, we enjoy and cultural show and our final dinner.
Day 16: Departure
Transfer to the airport and head home.
In 1983, Jock moved to Nepal to train raft guides and lead river expeditions and treks across much of the Himalayas. He was based in Kathmandu for twelve years and now makes his home in Bangkok, Thailand.
He has been leading trips in the United States since he was a teenager. He now leads river running, sea kayaking, trekking and mountain biking trips; as well as expeditions across the Himalayas and throughout Southeast Asia, North America, Greenland, Patagonia, Ecuador, and the Galapagos islands.
He is in demand as a commercial and editorial assignment photographer. He teaches and leads private photography workshops throughout Asia.
July 23 – August 7, 2016
Prices (in US$)
- $3890/person with 7-11 participants
- $150/single supplement
- High quality, hard-tail mountain bikes, and Mad River, open canoes are included
- Deposit due by April 1st: $500 (non-refundable)
- Balance due 60 days prior to departure
- Minimum Fee $500.00
- 120-61 days prior to departure 50% of land cost
- 60 days or less prior to departure 100% of land cost
- Travel insurance is required for emergency medical needs. Trip cancellation insurance is strongly recommended.
- Expert leadership, instruction and support staff
- Airport and other transfers
- Ground transportation, for passengers and bicycles
- Transportation fees and taxes
- All meals breakfast lunch, dinner
- Drinking water. Tea and coffee with meals
- Group first aid kit
- International air-fare and accommodation on route
- Customary but optional tips for local guides
- Visa and Immunization
- Personal expenses including laundry, snacks, drinks, alcohol, etc
- Overweight luggage charges
1) Send Deposit[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]
2) Complete Trip Application Form
Download and complete the form below. Send it using the email on the form.
3) Purchase Travel Health Insurance
Traveler’s health insurance is required for all Compass Rose Expedition trips.
We strongly recommend trip cancellation insurance.
4) Send Copy of Passport
We need a copy of your passport to make reservations. Send a copy of the main page (the one with your photo) to the same email as listed on the Trip Application Form.