Mongolia Altai Golden Eagle Festival

Group Tour

Overview

Blessed with a gentle nomadic hospitality and vast, open vistas, Mongolia remains one of the most fascinating destinations in Asia. And each year, beneath its expansive skies and before the towering peaks of the majestic Altai Mountains, it plays host to the spectacular Sagsai Golden Eagle Hunters Festival. This stunning 13-day journey takes us from its bustling capital and deep into the heart of the breath-taking western wilderness.

Here, amongst the traditional tribal lands of the Kazakhs, ...
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At a glance

MEALS

12 x Breakfasts
12 x Lunches
12 x Dinners

TRANSPORT

On this tour we will use domestic flights and sturdy UAZ 4WD minibuses for the whole of the journey.

GROUP SIZE

Maximum: 12

EXPERT TEAM

The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate

ACCOMMODATION

All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary

ENTRANCE FEES

All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

FITNESS RATING

Low / Moderate

BOOK WITH CONFIDENCE

Flexible booking conditions regarding transfers and cancellations

ACCOMMODATION

Wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience. This can obviously vary greatly across both countries and tours. On this particular trip we will be in hotels, ger camps and ger homestays. In the ger camps and homestays you will sleep in native Mongolian dwellings which Russians call “yurts”. Although not luxurious, they are clean, comfortable and cosy with a stove in each ger. Bedding is provided in the shape of a foldable bed and linen. In terms of facilities these will be shared facilities provided as a long drop toilet tent and a hand pump shower tent, bowls of hot water can also be provided for washing. Whilst staying in the ger homestays the facilities will be more basic, a bowl of hot water to wash or washing in the river. For toilet facilities these will be in a long-drop compost loo. In the hotels twin-share and single supplements can be offered, but in the ger camps and ger homestay it may be necessary for up to 4 people to share a ger. Please note that the accommodation mentioned in the itinerary is intended as a guide only and is always subject to availability.

FITNESS RATING

LOW: You should be comfortable walking around towns and cultural sites. May include some optional walks (typically 1-2hrs).

LOW/MODERATE: May be of a long duration and/or involve numerous border-crossings. May include easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-3hrs/day). You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle.

MODERATE: May include several easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-5hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle. Previous experience of similar trips helpful.

MODERATE/HIGH: May involve several days of moderate hiking (up to 3-6 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

HIGH: May involve several days of moderate/strenuous trekking (up to 4-7 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a very fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

Book With Confidence

We understand that flexibility is now a key factor when booking a holiday, and we believe our Covid Promise and Covid Viable Test provide that.

We believe these terms and conditions for making a booking are amongst the most generous in the travel industry right now, and we hope they will give you the confidence, when you feel ready, to go ahead and book your next adventure.

Positive Impact of this Trip

Tree
Ten trees are planted per passenger on this trip
Community
Supports Wild Frontiers Foundation community projects
Wind Turbine
A contribution to renewable energy projects

Map & Itinerary

Individual departures may vary so please refer to the information in the tour specific links in the Dates and Prices section below

Mongolia Altai Golden Eagle Festival
EXPAND ALL ITINERARY DAYS
COLLAPSE ALL ITINERARY DAYS

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN ULAANBAATAR

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN ULAANBAATAR

Starting this morning, we’ll have an introductory meeting at the hotel before paying a visit to Gandan Monastery, the largest and most important in Mongolia. Wander around this fascinating site as you explore the different temples, including that of the Mijig Janraisig with its huge golden buddha statue. In the old temple complex we can listen to the chanting ceremonies which happen mid-morning. This afternoon we then take a walk across the expansive Sukhbaatar Square to the National History Museum which is a great introduction to the country's past. In the early evening, we enjoy a music and dance performance by the Tumen Ekh Ensemble. The hour-long performance shows us traditional Mongolian dance, singing and music with various instruments including the horse fiddle and singers along with traditional throat singers.

Best Western Premier Tuushin Hotel or similar
Lunch, Dinner

DAY 2: ULAANBAATAR - ÖLGII

DAY 2: ULAANBAATAR - ÖLGII

This morning we visit the fascinating Winter Palace of Bogd Khan, built in the late 19th century. It is the only surviving residence of the last religious and political leader of Mongolia, King Damba Hutagt 8th who was commonly referred to as the Bogd Khan (other residences were destroyed by the Russians). The palace's museum offers a wide variety of Buddhist art but its mainstay is the huge and sometimes scary natural history specimens collected by the Bogd Khan*. From here we catch our 3.5hr-flight across the vast steppe to the town of Ölgii, located near the country’s extreme western frontier. The heart of the predominantly Kazakh region of the country, Ölgii lies sandwiched between the waters of the Khovd River and the craggy peaks of the Altai Mountains, some 1,000 miles from the Mongolian capital. On arrival, time permitting, we can visit the local museum and open-air market, before checking into our hotel.
*Please note if the flight schedule changes we may not be able to visit the palace.

Hotel Makhsum or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 3: ÖLGII - LAKE DAYAN

DAY 3: ÖLGII - LAKE DAYAN

After breakfast we head south through the open countryside and wild Altai landscape to Lake Dayan where we will be staying for the next 3 nights in a ger next to a local eagle hunter, Shokan, and his family. Here we enjoy Kazakh hospitality - step inside the family's colourfully adorned ger and learn more about the tradition of this small ethnic group. Arrival day is often spent with guests being introduced to the family and their way of life, which will include sampling some milk tea, homemade curds, yoghurt, milk vodka and other delicacies. Time also for an afternoon walk in the surrounding countryside before a welcome dinner.

Eagle Hunter Ger Homestay
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4: LAKE DAYAN

DAY 4: LAKE DAYAN

Today we will learn about our host's fascinating tradition of hunting with his golden eagle as we head off either on horseback alongside Shokan or by vehicle close by. There are an estimated 250 eagle hunters living in the region that still hunt with eagles to this day. The females tend to be the birds of choice as they are bigger and more aggressive than the males. Eagles can live up to 50 years, but hunters tend to keep them for around ten years before releasing them back into the wild. This is a great opportunity to delve deeper into these traditions and also get involved with other daily activities, such as branding horses, distilling homemade vodka, herding and corralling animals, milking goats and sheep, and other daily nomadic tasks that need doing.

Eagle Hunter Ger Homestay
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 5: LAKE DAYAN

DAY 5: LAKE DAYAN

There are also other nomadic families who live in this area and there will be an opportunity to visit them and experience traditional nomadic hospitality and local community life, as well as witness some more hunting and eagle training.

Eagle Hunter Ger Homestay
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 6: LAKE DAYAN - KHUITES VALLEY

DAY 6: LAKE DAYAN - KHUITES VALLEY

Today we say goodbye to our host family and wind our way north-west, past Khoton and Khurgan Lakes, and up to a secluded forested valley where nomadic families have their autumn encampments and take their animals to shelter from the oncoming winter. We will be staying in a private wilderness camp complete with sleeping gers and dining and kitchen gers. From here we will explore this stunning area over the next 2 days. On arrival we can take an afternoon hike up to the top of a nearby viewpoint where there are stunning views south over the Altai Mountains in the distance, with Khoton and Khurgan Lakes in the foreground.


Wilderness Ger Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 7: KHUITES VALLEY - ARAL TOLGOI - BAGA TURGEN WATERFALL - KHUITES VALLEY

DAY 7: KHUITES VALLEY - ARAL TOLGOI - BAGA TURGEN WATERFALL - KHUITES VALLEY

Lying at the northern end of the Altai Mountain Range, the Lakes Region presents us with some of the most spectacular scenery of the journey. We begin the morning with a drive out to Aral Tolgoi, whose Bronze Age petroglyphs lies along the eastern shores of the lakes. We then can enjoy a 2-3 hour hike to Baga Turgen Waterfall, a 36-metre high cascade that lies at the end of a lovely walk. Please note that the waterfall walk is weather dependent.

Wilderness Ger Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 8: KHUITES VALLEY

DAY 8: KHUITES VALLEY

We’ll spend today enjoying our final day before the festivities of the next few days. Here we can enjoy the tranquillity of the open countryside and visit local nomadic families. We can be as active as we like, with options for walks, riding, or even learning to make some traditional Kazakh dishes such as Beshparmak.

Wilderness Ger Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9: KHUITES VALLEY - SAGSAI (HOVD RIVER)

DAY 9: KHUITES VALLEY - SAGSAI (HOVD RIVER)

Departing this morning we cross the vast Mongolian steppes once more and head on towards the squat Kazakh homesteads of Sagsai Village, where the festival is being held. We continue on into nearby Turgen Valley where we will be staying in a specially erected ger camp not far from the Hovd River. The night before any festival is always one of celebration and festivity and tonight we plan for a traditional Kazakh feast of 'beshparmak' and a folk concert by local musicians.

Festival Ger Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 10: TURGEN VALLEY - SAGSAI EAGLE FESTIVAL - TURGEN VALLEY

DAY 10: TURGEN VALLEY - SAGSAI EAGLE FESTIVAL - TURGEN VALLEY

This morning provides us with the first opportunity to experience the remarkable colour and pageantry of the Golden Eagle Hunters Festival of Sagsai. Sagsai's more intimate celebrations provide a chance to enjoy the splendour and spectacle of the festival without the crowds. Today's events include the opening ceremony with a parade of the eagle hunters, competitions to test the agility and mastery of bird and hunter and equestrian games that include horse archery. We will be only a few kilometres from the festival site so those of you who would like to ride there can do so. At some point during the festival we will also arrange for a private photographic shoot with a few of the eagle hunters from the area, a unique opportunity to capture the magnificence of this event and meet with some of the hunters.

Festival Ger Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 11: TURGEN VALLEY - SAGSAI EAGLE FESTIVAL - TURGEN VALLEY

DAY 11: TURGEN VALLEY - SAGSAI EAGLE FESTIVAL - TURGEN VALLEY

A second day of festivities provides more games and ceremonies on the high desert steppes. Returning to the festival this morning we will enjoy more spectacular photo opportunities as we take in another day of competition and colour. Today’s offerings provide more chances to watch the eagles put through their paces, as they are called by the hunters to land on their arms or attack dragged bait and also include a women's equine competition.

Festival Ger Camp
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 12: SAGSAI - ULGII - ULAANBAATAR

DAY 12: SAGSAI - ULGII - ULAANBAATAR

We drive back to Ölgii town today and transfer to the airport to catch our flight back to Ulaanbaatar. Depending on time we can then enjoy some downtime or a bit of shopping before meeting for our farewell dinner together at one of our favourite local restaurants.

Best Western Premier Tuushin Hotel or similar
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 13: TOUR ENDS IN ULAANBAATAR

DAY 13: TOUR ENDS IN ULAANBAATAR

The tour officially ends after breakfast those on the suggested group flights will have an early breakfast and will then be transferred to the airport.

Breakfast

ACCOMMODATION USED ON THIS TOUR

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards offering a higher-end experience
Superior
Good quality service and overall comfort
Simple
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Hotel Rating

Ultra
The best of the best, the ultimate in luxury
Luxury
Outstanding service and facilities, giving you the 5* experience
Premium
Excellent standards offering a higher-end experience
Superior
Good quality service and overall comfort
Simple
No frills, basic accommodation, but often in the most exciting of places

Accommodation displayed here should be taken as a guide only. *Please refer to the Detailed Itinerary of your individual departure for more information.

PRIVATE HOLIDAYS: DATES DON’T FIT?

All group tours can be taken on a private basis.

Additional Details

Events

The Golden Eagle Hunters Festival of Sagsai

The Golden Eagle Hunters Festival of Sagsai

Celebrating a remarkable tradition that can trace its origins back thousands of years, the annual Golden Eagle Hunters Festival of Sagsai takes place before the winter hunting season against the dramatic backdrop of the towering Altai Mountains. It provides a chance for magnificently garbed Kazakhs, and their equally majestic hunting birds, to compete in tests of speed, agility and accuracy, keeping alive a tradition that is all but extinct in the rest of Asia.

Responsible Travel

With local people, culture and eco-systems in mind, responsible travel and sustainable tourism are at the core of Wild Frontiers. We believe that a successful trip not only delivers a unique and unsurpassable journey for our travellers but also benefits the people and places we visit.

When designing our tours, we actively seek out experiences that have a positive impact on the communities and precious environments we visit - from supporting social enterprises; resting our heads in rural homestays; and eating at locally owned restaurants; to helping fund conservation projects that protect wildlife and their habitats. 

Visit the Responsible Travel area of our website to read more, including the work of the Wild Frontiers Foundation through which we fundraise to aid community empowerment and education projects.

Getting There

If you would like us to send you a quote for the suggested tour flights or on any alternative flight that may suit you better, please let us know, noting that for our US clients, we will most likely refer you to one of our preferred partners. For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.

If you wish to arrange your own flights you are completely free to do so and in this case we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require. However please note that if you are planning on making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.
 

Flight Code Departing Arriving
TK 1988 London Heathrow (LHR) 06:45 Istanbul (IST) 12:35
TK 236 Istanbul (IST) 18:10 Ulaanbaatar Airport (UBN) 07:10
TK 237 Ulaanbaatar Airport (UBN) 08:45 Istanbul (IST) 13:05
TK 1971 Istanbul (IST) 15:00 London Heathrow (LHR) 16:55

Visas

Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact a reputable visa agency. More details can be found here - www.wildfrontierstravel.com/visa

For this tour UK & US passport holders staying for 30 days or less no longer require a visa to enter Mongolia.
Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.

Extensions

If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Or alternatively you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.

The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries.

Below is just a small sample of what you could do. Please contact the office for more details and to discuss your individual requirements.

Terelj, Genghis Khan statue & Gun Galut

Terelj, Genghis Khan statue & Gun Galut

Only a few hours to the east of the capital you’ll find the ever popular Terelj National Park with its stunning scenery, the world’s largest statue of Genghis Khan and the Gun Galut Nature Reserve which is great for walking and kayaking. Allow 3-4 days.

Land of The Great Khan

Land of The Great Khan

For a more in-depth look at Mongolia, why not combine this trip with the Land Of The Great Khan group tour which takes in the central and southern areas of the country. Book both trips together and get a discount. Allow 14 days.

Governmental Travel Advice

Many governments issue advice which highlights potential hazards their citizens might experience when travelling abroad. We strongly suggest you refer to your country’s particular advisory site before booking and contact us if you have any queries or concerns. Click to follow links to the advice of the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or the US State Department.

Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective governments.

Key Information

CLIMATE

Although it boasts over 260 sunny days a year and is known as the "Land of the Blue Sky", Mongolia's climate is extreme with fierce summers and bitterly cold winters. Whilst September is considered a good time for travelling, the temperatures in the West are much colder than the capital Ulaanbaatar. During the daytime and in the evenings you will need to be prepared to wrap up warm and bring adequate clothing with you. Rain is unlikely but always possible. Snow can be found in some areas of the West.

IS THIS TRIP FOR ME?

It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. All our tours have a fitness rating as a guideline but you should check the day-by-day itinerary carefully. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office.

KEY ASPECTS TO CONSIDER

Anyone in a reasonable state of health, with an open mind and a sense of adventure should be perfectly able to cope with this tour, as all the walks are optional.  The Baga Turgen Waterfall walk is over loose and rocky terrain with some inclines/declines. Those with a good level of fitness should be able to cope with this walk. Please be advised that on this trip vegetarians can be catered for but the selection and variety may be very limited, therefore we recommend packing a few extra bits to fill the gaps!

There are some long drives (Days 3,6 and 9) to be taken but that is part of the Mongolian experience, and there will always be time for walks, photos and local encounters. Horse riding is available on some days of the tour, as an optional extra but only for those with previous riding experience.

The Baga Turgen Waterfall walk is optional and those that don't wish to partake, the terrain for the walk is loose and rocky with some inclines/declines. Those with a good level of fitness should be able to cope with this walk.

Currently the Sagsai Eagle Festival is scheduled for the 16th and 17th of September. The dates of the festival may move to 17th and 18th of September. If the festival dates move then due to domestic and international flight schedules we will only be able to attend the morning of the festival on the 18th September before departing for Ulaanbaatar.

THE NATURE OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL

We feel that it’s worth pointing out that while we will always strive to stick as close to the stated itinerary as possible, it may be necessary from time to time to make changes to our itineraries or services (due to weather, political and religious influences etc.) and this can happen with little or no notice. This unpredictability can be one of the most exciting aspects of adventure travel and for many of our clients often leads to unexpected highlights as the tour-leader necessarily adapts the tour to the changing conditions. However we are aware that this lack of assuredness may not suit everyone. As such, with the greatest respect, if you are someone who needs to know that everything will happen exactly as planned, we would kindly suggest that perhaps our tours are not for you. Adventure travel can be infectious and once you’ve caught the bug, it is likely to never leave you, but especially if this is your first such tour we would strongly urge you to give us a call if you have any concerns whatsoever about your suitability for this trip.

TRAVELLING SOLO AND SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS

As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!

Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip. On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you only for the nights in Ulaanbaatar and Ölgii. 

Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.

INSURANCE

Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. Please see the Insurance section for more details.

General Information

TOUR PRICE

All our tours are priced on a land-only basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from your tour.

DEPOSIT

A £200 (or equivalent) deposit is required to confirm your booking.

PROTECTION FOR YOUR MONEY

For further details please see our travelling with peace of mind page

WILD MILES

This tour will earn you 8690 Wild Miles

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.

Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatory
Tips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documents
International Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UK
Airport Transfers: We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flights
Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs

WILD FRONTIERS COMMUNITY

If you’re still not sure if this trip is right or just want to see get some different perspectives, then why not have a look at the wide variety of resources we have on our website? Browse our community section to read our blogs, watch videos and find out about our events. 

WHY WILD FRONTIERS?

We are frequently asked what makes Wild Frontiers different from other tour operators. Visit our Why Wild Frontiers page to find out.