Day 16 by John Tsialos

Chinggis Khan Staue Complex and Tereij National Park 

Today is the last day of our Eastern Mongolian adventure and the road back to Ulaanbaatar is one that is well worn. As we join the highway again and approach the touristy Chinggis Khan Statue Complex we realise the extent of beauty and remoteness we have left behind. We climb the statue to get some photos and quickly escape the crowds to Tereij National park. 

Tereij is a day trip destination from Ulaanbaatar and hence there are many visitors and accommodation options. We spend some time around Turtle rock, an impressive large rock formation. We explore Gunjiin Sum, which is surrounded by beautiful forest within a rocky valley. The path to the monastery is lined with mantras and makes a very enlightening walk. We have lunch at a cheerful roadside vendor and head back to Ulaanbaatar. 

We arrive back at the Guesthouse and rest up before rejoining the world. It has been an unbelievable 16 days. With a combination of camping and very limited facilities, the East is great for the adventurous traveler who loves being with nature and wants to experience the real Mongolian nomadic life and land.  

by Ourania Bolis

Day 15 by John Tsialos

The Road to Burkhan Khaldunn Mountain 

Today the goal was to visit Burkan Khaldunn, which many Mongolians believe to be the the cradle of their nation. Chinggis Khan himself would return to this forested peak whenever he sought spiritual guidance from the Eternal Blue Sky. After some searching and flooded road negotiation we decide its too risky to continue. We observe the mountain from a distance and head back to the flats to set up camp. 

by Ourania Bolis

Day 14 by John Tsialos

Baldan Bereeven Monastery

After an early start and a few hours drive through pine spotted hills, and many grave makers, we arrive at Baldan Bereeven Monastery. Set in the Khentii foothills, Baldan was one of Mongolia’s largest and most important monasteries. Walking through the raw and rocky valley, with the buildings in part ruin, the feeling is otherworldliness. The main temple was beautifully revamped in 2010 and definitely worth a visit. 

After an hour of exploring we head to the resort area of Lake Koche. Upon arriving at the tourist ger camp we decide the crowds are not appealing and head into the pine forrest to camp. The purple flowered pine forrest is a magical place to camp and one of my favourites of the trip. 

by Ourania Bolis

Day 13 by John Tsialos


Today is mostly spent on the road to and beyond the small town of Binder (SW of Dadal). This is a land of rolling hills and flowers scattered all round with prehistoric graves and markers. We don’t stop in binder but notice the different architecture in the town. Here the houses are mainly bright roofed long cabins. There are also a few cafes and shops in town.  We come across a prehistoric archers wall, which is thought to be the perimeter of an ancient Quidan town. Walking through the ruins and observing the amazing view of the valley below you could see why this was a chosen place. We continue to head southwest and pass a few more monuments, The Queens Hat and Energy Tree. Darkness begins to fall and we camp near a small village by the road. A local woman comes by to say hello and we share sweet biscuits.

by Ourania Bolis

Day 12 by John Tsialos


After a few hours drive we arrive in Dadal. As the birthplace of Mongolia’s famous conquerer Chinggis Khaan, the area is scattered with several sites associated with the man. The landscape is dramatic with dark pine forests, clear rivers and flower fragrant grasslands. We spend some time exploring these sites, which vary from totem poles to stupas to monuments. We have lunch under some pines and imagine a young Chinggis living in this remote area. 

After consulting with some local famers we come upon a small museum owned and run by descendants of C. Khann. The very animated daughter of the hunter/taxidermist shows us around and we learn about the animals of the region, including the now extinct snow leopard. Another cabin is filled with memorabilia and photographs of family through the generations. We share some freshly churned cream and bread, which is famous in these parts.  It’s a great experience hearing about how people live now and then, told with such excitement and pride. 

With our take away cream and bread we drive up hills nearby to an amazing spot overlooking a huge river and set up camp. Surrounded by prehistoric graves and grazing cattle we drink red wine under another beautiful sunset. 

By Ourania Bolis

Day 11 by John Tsialos


After a very necessary sleep in, we hit he road with throbbing heads. The plan is to drive as far as possible north west towards Dadal (Khentii province). The landscape and weather start to considerably change as we head into Khentii; where the steppe meets the forrest. The usually soaring blue sky quickly turns black which sends wildlife running. We follow the massive herds of bolting gazelles but they are quicker than us and we stop to avoid lightning strikes just 20 metres away! Then massive golf ball sized hail begins to fall. Our amazing driver Ganba decides to continue as the roads are now becoming flooded and as hail melts it creates multiple cracks down the mountain and across already precarious roads. With some very frightening but skilled driving we get to the other side. From outside the car we look in awe at the aftermath of the storm we have survived.

Further along the road we meet a mother and her two children attending their horse after a wolf attack. We feed the horse some candies and decide to camp near the family ger. After setting up camp we watch the kids round up the sheep and goats, the boy on horseback, the girl on skipping rope. It’s such a joy to watch the enthusiasm in their task as work and play. We sleep with family dogs standing guard against wolves. 

Day 10 by John Tsialos


After 10 days and only one shower we are ready for another hotel stay. We arrive in Choilbalsan at midday and check into a hotel; the perfect place to recharge and prepare for the final stretch of the trip and northeastern Mongolia. The museum is closed today so we have lunch, rest and catch up with the world on hotel wifi. Mongolia’s easternmost capital Choibalsan has a very Russian massive apartment block feel. It’s Jane’s last night on the trip so we go for a farewell dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Lots of food and vodka follow with some shenanigans at the hotel as we crash.  We don’t see very much of Choilbalsan as we’ve become very fond of the road and open spaces and are ready to head out there again. 

by Ourania Bolis

Day 9 by John Tsialos

Buir Nuur and the road to Choibalsan

After a good nights sleep we step out of our ger into blue skys and lake views. Walking along the shore line, the lake is so big it seems very much like the ocean. I feel I’m back in Australia accept for the horses dotting the beach. The water was not particularly inviting so we skipped swimming. It was interesting to see some glass type small dwellings along with traditional gers. We leave after lunch for the long drive to Choibalsan. The roads are precarious and as tourists we can’t drive too close to the Chinese border. Further, we need to camp at least 20kms away. After a particularity orange sunset we are 80kms from Choibalsan and have an early night as the temperatures begin to drop overnight.  After the utterly flat and endless horizons of the steppe the lake is a significant welcome. However the effort it takes to get there, I'm not sure it’s definitely worth it. Unfortunately we don’t witness the famous lake sunset either. 

by Ourania Bolis

Day 8 by John Tsialos

Buir Nuur and Khalkhiin Gol (War Memorials)

Following 6 hours of driving through rising grasslands we arrive at the far eastern edge of Mongolia and the area of Khalkiin Gol. After lunch of fried meat dumplings at a local town ger, we spend a little time exploring some abandoned buildings where horses frolic. We visit the war museum which provides a good insight into the site as a significant pre-World War II battle between Mongolia and Japan which changed the course of Mongolian and world history. We drive along the hills overlooking the Khalkiin River and visit numerous Soviet- style military monuments and memorials built to honour the Soviet and Mongolian dead. Some of these are very impressive and their setting amongst the swaying grass and purple flowers leave quite an impression. We head towards Buir Nuur and visit a small temple. At 7pm after some skilled road negotiation we arrive at Lake Nuur. This is a holiday destination for Mongolians an we hire a ger to spend the night. 

by Ourania Bolis

Day 7 by John Tsialos

Around Dariganga     

We begin the day early and spend an hour looking around Ganga Lake (13kms south east of Dariganga). With a combination of salt and fresh water, the lake creates a unique micro atmosphere for migrating swans (end of September till mid October). We don't see the swans however the wetlands contain other beautiful birds. There is also a bubbling fresh drinking spring.

Next we visit the mountain Shilling But, where a statue to the great and generous man who gave to the poor is a place for people to give thanks and offerings. 

At midday we trek up Shiliin Bogd Uul, one of the most sacred mountains in Mongolia. For me, this a highlight of eastern Mongolia. The 360 degree plains are littered with the smooth calderas of extinct volcanos brushed by constant winds. It’s a very raw and dramatic landscape which feels other worldly. We also spot marmots at the base of the mountain weaving their way around  complex burrows.  The nearby Taliin Agui (cave of Tali) was closed, its uncertain if this is a permanent thing. The cave is meant to project positive energy and is the largest in Mongolia. It’s walls glitter in utter darkness. We head east towards Lake Nur and into vast open spaces. Here we share the road with the petrol tankers of a very productive Chinese petrol company. 

After 5 hours of driving we decide to set up camp some distance from the road. We are 200kms from Lake Nur.

by Ourania Bolis

Day 6 by John Tsialos


After a 6 hour drive east we arrive at Dariganga. We have our first taste of local Mongolian food of noodles, dumplings and soup, which are a staple. It’s a cuisine I don’t warm to the entire trip. The lack of fresh foods and strange tasting meats is not a good combination. Nevertheless we continue with the camping dried and canned foods which suit our road tripping lifestyle. 

Dariganga is a small town surrounded by vast grasslands punctured with volcanic craters, sands dunes and small lakes. We visit some dunes, a small lake and the Altan Ovoo, an extinct volcano topped by a stupa. Men visit the top and women the stupas at the base to make offerings. We also visit a few of the broken balbals (stones carved into roughly human shape, of around the 13th or 14th century Mongol period). More offerings are made here. 

We find a good spot in the steppe outside town to camp for the night. A bright red sky surrounding the volcanic craters creates a very apocalyptic sunset which sets the mood for the next days trek up Shilyn Bogd, an eastern Mongolian highlight.

by Ourania Bolis

Day 5 by John Tsialos

The Road to Dariganga 

After a very nice sleep in and use of hotel wifi we head east towards the town of Dariganga. Here the landscape changes from desert to green hills. This begins the part of the trip where precarious roads and the rampant use of satellite navigation dominate. At midday we come across a car stuck for a day. We drag them out only to then become stuck ourselves. Several hours later, with the help of the saved car occupants and others, we escape, share lunch with our aids and head off. This seems a common occurrence in this part of the world. On these roads you often see no one for hours or days. As we experienced, It is part of the nomadic culture to help others and welcome a fellow traveler into your home for shelter. 

We spend the night with a nomadic family in one of their brightly decorated three gers. We watch as teenage boys show us their horse riding and lassoing skills. Later the family make fried meat dumplings to sell at the local Nadam festival the next day. We play with the children into the night. Sleeping in the ger is cosy and sheltered from the sun and wind. 

By Ourania Bolis

Day 4 by John Tsialos

Around Sainshand 

Khamaryn Khiid Monastery, Shambhala and Bayanzurkh Uul (Black Mountain)

We make an early start today and head straight to Khamaryn Monastery. The original monastery and three story theatre was built by the leader of Mongolia’s Red Hat Buddhists, Danzan Ravjaa, who is revered in Mongolia as a living god. The rebuilt temples are alive with activity and local camels  graze in the sand whipped surrounds. Next stop is Ravjaa’s Shambhala site where followers come to chant and pray and undertake several rituals, which Jane enjoyed participating in. You certainly get swept up in the enthusiasm of the activities and perhaps absorb some energy from the spiritual centre. Interesting are the small caves nearby. At the Mother’s Womb visitors enter the cave, give an offering and pray to the mother. 

Next we head to Black Mountain 20kms away. This is the spiritual home of the third Noyon Khutagt (a predecessor of Danzan Ravjaa). Men climb the summit to the wishing Ovoo and whisper their wishes. Women and children’s rituals are at the first hill and temporary lounge, which offers spectacular views.  This is a popular spot and there are some facilities such as toilets and sellers of local dumplings and souvenirs. 

After a long day we head back to Sainshand. At the small city we are welcomed by rain and head indoors to the Natural History Museum. With a good collection of taxidermy Mongolian animals, marine fossils, a Protoceratops skeleton and dinosaur egg and some Mongolian soldier armour from imperial days, its well worth a visit. 

We welcome a hotel stay and shower tonight, with dinner at the lovely Chinese Restaurant and talk of the days activities and the road ahead. 

by Ourania Bolis

Day 3 by John Tsialos

To Sainshand 

Today was spent mostly on the road. We head east for 2 hours to Dalanjargaan, a small town with a old Russian military base. Then we rejoin the highway for 3 hours till we reach Saynshand city. We stop for supplies and head towards Khamar Monastery, which is about 30 minutes away. We decide to explore the monastery the next day and find a nice place to camp on top of grassy sand dunes. After another amazing sunset the wind picks up and we escape to the safety of our tents.

by Ourania Bolis

Day 2 by John Tsialos

Ikh Nart Mountain

After coffee and a cooked breakfast we head east to Ikn Nart Springs and Mountain. Most of the day was spent weaving through a complex web of roads and stopping at a ger for directions. This was our fist glimpse of a nomadic family busy with their daily tasks. The scenic route also allowed a fleeting sight of some very speedy gazelles. We stop for lunch at a small creek which we share with some beautiful horses.  After much road negotiation we reach the spring which is cool and refreshing. We are told the roads up the mountain are not great but we manage to find the perfect spot to camp for the night. Equipped with a covered wooden picnic area, fireplace and drop toilet, which are all a welcome addition to our camping experience. 

We head for a pre dinner wonder around the rocky terrain just before dust and are elated at the appearance of so much wildlife from behind the rocky cliffs. Ibex peer their heads around corners and slowly make their way out to say hello. Some amazing photos follow as we hang with these guys for a while. 

Walking back towards a fiery red sunset, after enjoying a hot dinner and a few drinks around an open fire, we share our enthusiasm in wild animals and the best ways of capturing them. 

by Ourania Bolis

Eastern Mongolia DAY 1 by John Tsialos

Ikh Gazriin Chuluu Natural Reserve

Driving south on the highway out of Ulaanbaatar the urban gives way to the famous Mongolian vast grasslands. Our first glimpse of horses, farm animals and various wild flowers in abundance. In 3 hours we reach the small town of Mandalgovi of the northern Govi. From here its dirt roads and chive fragrant grass. We stop for lunch in the deserted landscape. Quiet all round, something we would become very fond, of and soon discover the main attraction of the East.

After another 3 hours drive we arrive at Ikh Gazriin Chuluu’s massive rock formations. These impressive natural mineral rich structures are full of wild life including eagles, wild sheep and vultures.  After setting up camp for the night we head out into the rocks looking for the elusive wild sheep; who don’t let you get very close.  As the sun sets we enjoy our first camp dinner and sit under the stars with a few vodkas. Lucky for our sturdy tents, a huge storm passes through overnight and sets the tone for the adventure ahead: anything is possible in Mongolia.

by Ourania Bolis

Ulaanbaatar by John Tsialos

Following a 24 hour journey from Melbourne the decent into Ulaanbaatar at sunrise was a perfectly breathtaking glimpse into the 3 weeks ahead. Stepping out into the pine scented morning, we were greeted by our driver from Meg’s Guest house and Tours. Staying in Meg’s beautifully appointed and superbly located apartment, we spent the first 2 days exploring Mongolia’s vibrant  capital. 

The Gandan Tegchenling Monastery is recognised as the main and most important religious centre of Mongolia. Considered a treasure house of buddhist heritage, knowledge, rituals and artistic items, the vast grounds are busting with activity everyday. 

Sukhbaatar Square is the perfect place to take in a bit of people watching. Tourists, students and even wedding party’s gather on the steps of government surrounded by the impressive monuments of Mongolia’s important historical figures. There are also many museums around the city to visit wherever your interests lie. Shopping for antiques and Mongolian cashmere is also heaps of fun.

Come night in Ulaanbaatar the traffic chaos is gone and bars and restaurants come to life. You can find a variety of food options from Mongolian to Korean to western fast food options. There are also good bars on Seoul St and surrounds. 

by Ourania Bolis