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The Ultimate Silk Road Roadtrip from Uzbekistan to Mongolia

The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes connecting the East and the West. It had a huge economical and cultural influence on Asia, Middle East and southern Europe. Although those days are long gone, you can follow the trace and explore historic locations as you travel across Central Asia. It is hard to keep track as The Silk Road network had a lot of trade routes but you can narrow it down to a simple route. To make your planning easy, we are introducing the Silk Road Road trip. On this trip you will be able to visit many historic sites and you will have a chance to see how the ancient trade network helped old cites and villages to grow into modern day metropolises.

Trip total: 11,477 kilometers.

Trip duration: 1-2 month

Recommendations: Suitable vehicle (4x4 one way rentals available at SIXT rent a car), local SIM cards, camping set, all weather clothes.

Trip Highlights:

  • Tashkent
  • Amir Timur Museum
  • Samarkand
  • Registan Public Square
  • Dushanbe
  • Rudaki Park
  • Pamir Highway and Fedchenko Glacier
  • Lenin Peak
  • Osh
  • Sulayman Mountain
  • Bishkek
  • Burana Tower
  • Issyk-Kul Lake
  • Almaty
  • Ile-Alatau National Park
  • Aral Sea and Barsa-Kelmes
  • Astana
  • Nur-Astana Mosque
  • Omsk
  • Ptich’ya Gavan Nature Reserve
  • Novosibirsk
  • Pervomayskiy Skver Ballet and Sculpture
  • Tavan Bogd Mountains
  • Khar Us Lake
  • Ancient City of Karakorum
  • Uvs Lake
  • Khovsgol Lake
  • Ulaanbaatar
  • Gandantegchinlen Monastery

Itinerary

Day 1, 2. Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is a landlocked Central Asian sovereign state bordered by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. Known for its mosques, mausoleums and Islamic architecture, Uzbekistan was one of the main part of the ancient trade route Silk Road. With a population of 31.85 million people across 448,978 square kilometers, this country is a lively place. Besides all the intriguing historical sites to see, you can shop around for rugs, silk, spices, handicrafts and traditional clothes. And to remember this trip or gift it to somebody you can get typical souvenirs such as Babaichik figurines, Tubeteika traditional caps and Shiljait herb (for medicinal purposes).

Start your trip in the capital city of Uzbekistan as Islam Karimov International Airport greets you with a warm welcome. Tashkent is known for its intriguing museums as well as a mix of modern and Soviet-era architecture. You can do all sorts of activities here but we recommend visiting the Amir Timur museum first. This museum will unravel the history of pre-middle age Uzbekistan. After that you could either take a walk in the Tashkent Botanical Garden or browse through Chorsu Bazaar, where everything imaginable is for sale. Other main sights include Kukeldash Madrasah, Telyashayakh Mosque, Palace of Prince Romanov, Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre and Yunus Khan Mausoleum.

Sightseeing:

  • Kukeldash Madrasah was built around 1570 by Shaybanid Dynasty (Persianized dynasty of Mongol origin) and you can enjoy architectural design and learn interesting histories about executions taking place or a holy pistachio tree.
  • Telyashayakh Mosque contains the Uthman Quran (8th/9th century manuscript Quran), stained with the blood of murdered caliph Uthman, it is considered to be the oldest extant Quran in the world.
  • Palace of Prince Romanov unfolds the history about Grand Duke Nikolai Konstantinovich, a first cousin of Alexander III of Russia. He was banished to Tashkent for some shady deals involving the Russian crown jewels. 
  • Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre were built by the same architect who designed Lenin’s tomb in Moscow. The theatre hosts world-famous Russian ballet and opera.
  • Yunus Khan Mausoleum consists of three mausoleums built in 15th century. The biggest one is the grave of Yunus Khan. He is the grandfather of Babur who founded Mughal Empire and was Khan of Moghulistan from 1462 to 1487.

Day 3, 4. Samarkand, Uzbekistan

The next stop in Uzbekistan is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cites in Central Asia, Samarkand. Known for its mosques and mausoleums, Samarkand was also one of the main part of the Silk Road. Registan, a square bordered by three ornates and madrassas dating back to the 15th century is a must see in Samarkand. Also we recommend visiting the Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum, which contains the tomb of Timur, a Turco-Mongol conqueror. Other main sights include Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Observatory of Ulugh Beg, Shah-i-Zinda necropolis (a large, designed cemetery with elaborate tomb monuments), historical site of Afrasiyab, Siyob Bazaar and the Afrasiab Museum of Samarkand.

Sightseeing: 

  • Bibi-Khanym Mosque was one of the largest and most magnificent mosques in the Islamic world back in 15th century. Although, by the mid 20th century there was only a ruin of it, now the mosque has been restored.
  • Observatory of Ulugh Beg was built by the astronomer Ulugh Beg in the 1420s. It is considered to have been one of the finest observatories in the Islamic world by many scholars and famous astronomers such as Al-Kashi (produced sine tables to four sexagesimal digits of accuracy for each degree) and Ali Qushji (best known for the development of astronomical physics independent from natural philosophy) worked there. 
  • Shah-i-Zinda necropolis consists of several mausoleums and other ritual buildings that dates back to 9-14th and 19th centuries. The legend is Kusam ibn Abbas, the cousin of the prophet Muhammad was buried here after he was beheaded for his faith and he took his head and went into the deep well where he’s still living now.
  • Afrasiyab is the oldest part of the Samarkand. Established in war-torn times, it was located on high ground for defensive reasons. The name Afrasiyab is connected with the mythical King Afrasiab, the main antagonist of Shahnameh (an epic poem written by Persian poet Ferdowsi). 
  • Siyob Bazaar is the largest bazaar in Samarkand and all the daily necessities are sold. You can buy the famous “Samarkand naan” bread from here. 
  • Afrasiab museum of Samarkand opened its doors on the 2500th anniversary of the founding of the Samarkand city. The museum shares more than 22,000 unique exhibits such as ancient swords, ossuaries, knives, coins, arrows, ceramics and ancient manuscripts etc.

Day 5, 6. Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a mountainous and landlocked country surrounded by Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Afghanistan. This high altitude territory with stunning view was previously home to several ancient cultures including Oxus civilization, Andronovo culture and has been ruled by numerous empires and dynasties such as Mongol Empire, Timurid dynasty and the Russian Empire. Although, this area wasn’t a big part of the Silk Road, some paths of the trade route wounded across the country of Tajikistan. There’s not much to buy compared to other “Silk Road Countries”, but you can get good quality rugs and carpets as well as the Traditional Tajik padded coats. It is comfortable to wear and perfect for the colder weather in the mountains.

After exploring the country of Uzbekistan move on to Tajikistan. Specifically Dushanbe, the capital city. Here you can take a walk through Rudaki Park, named after the classical poet. Also we recommend visiting Vahdat Palace and Tajikistan National Museum. Other main sights include Dushanbe Zoo, Gurminj Museum of Musical Instruments and Dushanbe Flagpole (second tallest free-standing flagpole in the world at a height of 165 meters).

Sightseeing: 

  • Dushanbe Zoo keeps about 600 animals such as lions, jaguar, snow leopard, brown bear, black bear, african and asian primates, bactrian camel, donkey, wolf, vulture, golden eagle etc. Dushanbe Zoo is the only institution in the country that supports wildlife in captivity. 
  • Gurminj Museum of Musical Instruments exhibits about 100 musical instruments, mostly representing the Pamiri (Iranian ethnic group who are native to eastern Tajikistan) and Badakhshani (region including northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan) musical tradition.

Day 7, 8, 9. Pamir Highway, Tajikistan

Day 7

On the way to Kyrgyzstan take the M41 or better known as the legendary Pamir Highway, a road traversing the Pamir Mountains. It is breath taking to drive on this adventurous road through rocky mountains. The Pamir Highway is the second highest international highway in the world (4655m) and follows the paths forged by the ancient Silk routes, as you’ll be able to see ruins of fortresses, which are legacies of those forgotten times. Take a detour to Vanj on the Vanch Valley Road. The beautiful valley starts at the Pik Garmo and Pik Abu Ali Ibn Sino mountain massif, which is home to world’s longest (77km long) glacier outside the polar region, the Fedchenko Glacier. Follow the M41 again along the boarder to Afghanistan and pass Pyandzh River and Yazgulyam River and stay overnight in Khorog.

Day 8

Drive to Murghab city. On the way you’ll see Gunt River, Toguzbulok river, Sasykkul Lake and Tud-Kul Lake. Though the road crawls through nothing else but rocky mountains, the sight is beautiful.

Day 9

Drive to Karakul Lake. This lake is great for bird watching as it is a home to various bird species like bar-headed geese, ruddy shelducks, common mergansers, saker falcons, Himalayan vultures, lesser sand plovers and many more. And before leaving Tajikistan you can go and see the Lenin Peak or also known as Ibn Sina Peak. It is located about 50km to the northwest of Karakul Lake. Lenin Peak rises to 7134 meters in Gorno-Badakhshan on the Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan border and it is the second highest point of both countries. Also on the way you will pass Verkhniy Muzhkul Nature Refuge where you may encounter some rodents and migrating birds. Enter Kyrgyzstan through Kyzyl-Art Pass on the M41 and drive to Osh city.

Day 10, 11. Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a rugged Central Asian country along the Tian Shan mountain ranges. Previously, the ancient Scyths (group of Iranian people, known as the Eurasian nomads) inhabited this territory. The landscape is entirely mountainous, so you can hike wherever you go. Once a stopover on the Silk Road, Kyrgyzstan bazaars offer huge variety of goods. You can buy real organic raw food here such as sweets, spices, oil, milk and seeds.

Our journey continues in Osh, the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan. It is the oldest city in the country as it stood in the Fergana Valley for over 3000 years. Osh is a lively place with the largest outdoor market in Central Asia, which was a major market along the Silk Road. Browse through the Great Silk Road Bazaar, the largest and most crowded outdoor market in Central Asia. Other main sights include Sulayman Mountain, Kurmanjan Datka Monument.

Sightseeing: 

  • The Sulayman Mountain is the only world heritage site in the entire country of Kyrgyzstan. Once was a major place of Muslim and pre-Muslim pilgrimage, Sulayman Mountain is a popular destination among locals and foreign visitors with a stunning view. The mountain is worshipped over several millennia and it is the prime example of a sacred mountain in Central Asia. 
  • Kurmanjan Datka Monument honors a stateswoman with the same name. Known for her boldness, she is a freedom symbol and a hero of Kyrgyz women.

Day 12, 13. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Day 12

The next stop in Kyrgyzstan is Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. On the way to Bishkek you will drive past Toktogul Dam. It is a hydroelectric and irrigation dam on the Naryn River in the Jalal-Abad Province. Toktogul Hydroelectric Station built on the dam is the largest power plant of Kyrgyzstan with capacity of 1,200MW.

Day 13

Bishkek is a city of wide boulevards and marble-faced public buildings combined with numerous Soviet-style apartment blocks. There are several museums, monuments and bazaar in the city center you can visit. But Bishkek is better known as a gateway to the Kyrgyz Ala-Too Mountains and Ala Archa National Park. The sprawling, forested mountain park is a popular destination point for weekend picnickers, hikers, horse trekkers, skiers, and mountain climbers. Also we recommend exploring Burana Tower, 9th century minaret and history exhibits as well as Altyn Arashan hot spring.

Day 14, 15

Drive to Karakol city to explore Issyk Kul Lake. Issyk Kul is the 10th largest lake in the world by volume and the second largest saline lake after the Caspian Sea. Issyk-Kul translates to “Warm Lake” and the lake is located in the northern Tian Shan Mountains. The lake’s southern shore is dominated by the rugged beautiful Teskey Ala-Too Range of the Tian Shan Mountains. As for Karakol city, it is the administrative seat of Issyk-Kul Region and serves as a good base for excursions into the surrounding area. In the city, you can visit Russian Orthodox cathedral (church that used as a stable during Soviet times) and Dungan mosque (impressive wooden mosque, built without metal nails by Dungan people). Historically, the Issyk-Kul Lake was a stopover on the Silk Road in medieval times. But also as archaeologists have discovered, the lake contains the remains of a 2500 years old advanced civilization. After exploring the Issyk-Kul lake head back to Bishkek.

Day 14, 15. Almaty, Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan

Now it’s time to enter Kazakhstan. An economically dominant and thriving nation compared to other Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan used to be the main part of the Silk Road. Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country and the ninth largest in the world but has a population of estimated 18 million people. Because its land area and population ratio, the density is among the lowest meaning there is a lot of untouched wilderness waiting for you to get explored. The trading and merchandising roots of the Silk Road carried on to this day and you can buy the finest silk, handmade accessories and silver jewelries from the biggest bazaars of Kazakhstan.

A mere four hour drive from Bishkek will take you across the Kyrgyz-Kazakh boarder and to Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan. It served as the capital city until 1997 and remains Kazakhstan’s trading and cultural hub. Formerly known as Alma-Ata, which translates to “Father of Apples”, Almaty is known for its apples and sculptures and monuments dedicated to the delicious fruit. First, visit Central State Museum, which contains the whole history of the country. Then take a walk through Panfilov Park where you can visit Zenkov Cathedral. Other main sights include Ile-Alatau National Park, Almaty Zoo, Oriental Calendar Fountain, First President’s Park, Big Almaty Lake, Kok Tobe Tower. Also, you can do fun activities such as skating in the Medeu rink and skiing in the Shymbulak resort among many other resorts.

Sightseeing: 

  • Ile-Alatau National Park was created in 1996 and covers about 200,000 hectares. The landscape includes woodlands, alpine meadows, glacier and lakes. This picturesque national park provides a perfect hiking opportunity to outdoor lovers. There are several attractions inside the national park such as Shymbulak, a charming ski resort with numerous trails, Medeu, a high-mountain open-air ice arena, Kok Tobe tower and Big Almaty Lake. 
  • Almaty Zoo has about 6000 animals of more than 350 species. You can see examples of the unique and diverse wildlife of Kazakhstan including deer, wild rams, wolves, beavers, golden eagles and others. The zoo also exhibits animals from far away such as Himalayan bears, tigers, jaguars, Persian and Far Eastern leopards, elephants, zebras, markhors and crocodiles.
  • Oriental Calendar Fountain is one of the many fountains inside the inner city. Almaty has around 125 fountains and the Oriental Calendar one is a standout amongst them. This fountain has 12 sculptural figures representing the 12 animals of the Kazakh 12-year animal cycle. The fountain lights up at nighttime, so it’s never late to go see it.

Day 16, 17, 18, 19. Barsa-Kelmes Nature Reserve, Kazakhstan

Day 16

Travel across the vast grassland of Kazakhstan, which is the territory of the Saiga antelope as we head towards Barsa-Kelmes island. But before we reach the Barsa-Kelmes stop by Taraz city, the administrative center of Jambyl Region. The main attractions include Aisha Bibi Mausoleum, Prezidentskiy Park, Zhengis Park and Regional Museum.

Day 17

Drive to Shymkent, the capital city of South Kazakhstan Region, where you can spend a night and get some rest before heading out to Aralsk city. On the way, stop by Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve, the oldest nature reserve in Central Asia. Here, you’ll explore a beautiful landscape with rich flora and fauna. There are 267 types of birds, 52 types of mammals, 11 types of vermin and 2124 types of insects. After that continue driving to Shymkent. Stay overnight and head to Aralsk city.

Day 18, 19

Unload in Aralsk city and explore the mysterious Barsa-Kelmes. It is a former island in the Aral Sea. There are numerous legends about paranormal phenomena occurring on the island. Which is one of the main reasons why Barsa-Kelmes attracts tourists. But boating on the Aral Sea and exploring this nature reserves’ rich fauna and flora alone warrants a must visit.

Day 20, 21, 22, 23. Astana, Kazakhstan

Day 20

Our next destination is Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan. We’re taking the E38 again to Kyzylorda, but before that stop by the Syr Darya River. It is the longest river in Central Asia and flows across Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. Stay overnight in Kyzylorda city.

Day 21

Drive to Jezkazgan city in Karaganda Region on a reservoir of the Kara-Kengir River. You can take a walk in the Zhastar Park or go see a historical landmarks such as Vechnyy Ogon’ and Obelisk Pervostroitelyam Dzhezkazgana. Also, you can visit Jochi Khan Mausoleum located 50km to the north of Jezkazgan city.

Day 22

Head to Astana by taking the road to Korgalzhyn. You will pass Shalkar Lake and Balyksor Lake before reaching Astana.

Day 23

Formerly known as Akmoly, later on Akmola, Astana is a very modern city. Akmoly was established in 1830 and became the capital city of Kazakhstan in 1997 after the Supreme Council of Kazakhstan accepted the decree “On the transfer of the capital of Kazakhstan” submitted by Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan. There are several assumptions regarding the reason why they moved the capital. Some assume it was strategical decision to prevent separation of northern Kazakhstan, as there was still a Russian influence over that part of the country. Meanwhile some thinks it was for geographical purposes because the old capital Almaty was simply too far away other big cities. We recommend visiting 97m tall Bayterek Tower that provides panoramic vision over the city. Other main sights include Nur-Astana Mosque, Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center and Shopping Mall, Palace of Peace and Reconciliation as well as the Expo Center.

Sightseeing: 

  • Nur-Astana Mosque was built in 2008 as a gift in accordance to the agreement of the Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev and the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa. The mosque’s 40-meter height symbolizes the age of the Prophet Muhammad when he received the revelations. It has a total capacity of 7000 worshippers.
     
  • Khan Shatyr is a giant tent-like building in Turan Ave 37, Astana. With an area larger than 10 football stadiums, Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center and Shopping Mall offers a lot to see even if you’re not into shopping. This huge complex even has its own microclimate.

Day 24, 25. Omsk, Russia

After exploring Kazakhstan, it’s time to enter Russia. Head straight to Omsk, a city in the vast region of Siberia. Main sights include Omsk fortress, historical and cultural complex, Ptich’ya Gavan’ nature reserve, Omsk District Museum of Visual Arts.

Day 26. Kirzinskiy Nature Reserve, Russia

On the way to Novosibirsk you’ll find Kirzinskiy Nature Reserve. Established to protect its pristine forest-steppe and wetlands Kirzinskiy Nature Reserve has picturesque landscape. Endangered species such as roe deer, elk, fox, lynx, badger, ermine and muskrat roams around the area. This location gives you a chance to camp in the wilderness of Siberia.

Day 27, 28. Novosibirsk, Russia

Drive to Novosibirsk, the third most populous city in Russia after Moscow and St. Petersburg. We recommend visiting the Novosibirsk Zoo. It’s a world-renowned scientific institution. It has about 11,000 animals of 738 species and an active participant in 32 different captive breeding programs for endangered species. There are rare animals such as polar bear, yellow mongoose, mandrill and cheetahs in the zoo. Other main sights include Pervomayskiy Skver sculpture, Tsentral’nyy Park, Muzeum Krajoznawcze w Nowosybirsku. Drive to Ulgii, Mongolia by taking the P-256 bypassing Barnaul and Biysk cities.

Shortcut

Day 24, 25, 26. Astana – Pavlodar – Barnaul, Kazakhstan and Russia

Day 24

Instead of taking the long route you can skip Omsk and Novosibirsk by taking a shortcut through Pavlodar, a city located on the banks of the Irtysh River. Stay overnight in the city. Main attractions include Gusinyy Perelot, Naberezhnaya Park and Pavlodar Blagoveshchenskiy Sobor cathedral.

Day 25

Drive to Kurchatov, a small city located 235km to the south of Pavlodar. There’s a nuclear test area to the south west of Kurchatov. The Semipalatinsk Test Site, also known as “The Polygon”, was the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons. Total of 456 nuclear tests were conducted at Semipalatinsk from 1949 until 1989. Since its closure in 1991, Semipalatinsk Test Site has become the best-researched atomic testing site and the only one in the world that’s open to the public. Although, it is safe to visit the Polygon, it requires a permit to visit, which takes up to 3 weeks to acquire but is free of charge.

Day 26

Head to Barnaul city in Altai Krai, Russia, where you can continue your journey to Mongolia. But before that get some rest, take a walk and relax in the Nagorny Park or visit Altai State Museum of Local Lore and Kak-Tak museum.

Day 29, 30. Ulgii – Altai Tavan Bogd, Mongolia

Mongolia

Now we are approaching our final destination, Mongolia, a nation bordered by China and Russia. It is the second largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan in the world. Home to nomadic culture, Mongolia is known for its vast, rugged expanses (wide continuous areas) and Genghis Khan. And it is the most sparsely populated fully sovereign country in the world with only 3 million people occupying 1,564,116 square kilometers. Because of that, most of the land is still untouched and pristine.

During this trip across the country, we recommend visiting a local family in their Ger (yurt) either in the southern part of Mongolia, the Gobi Desert or the northern part, the Khangai (mountain land) to learn more about Mongolian nomadic lifestyle. Maybe even help them herding their sheep, goats, horses, cows and camels. It will be a fun experience.

First, cross the Russia-Mongolia border by Ulaanbaishint Check Point, then drive to Ulgii, the center of Bayan-Olgii province and stay overnight. Start the Mongolian trip with Altai Tavan Bogd National Park where you can see towering snowy mountains, beautiful glaciers, green valleys, and crystal lakes. Tavan Bogd massif has a peak named Khuiten with its height reaching 4374m, making it the highest point in Mongolia. Altai Tavan Bogd is the ideal destination for mountain climbers.

Day 31. Khar Us Lake, Khovd, Mongolia

After exploring the magnificent Altai Mountains drive to Khar Us Lake (Black Water Lake). Often regarded as “Heaven on Earth”, Khar Us Lake area provides picturesque scenery including prairie, steppe, Gobi desert and snowy mountains. The lake itself hosts 268 species of birds and it is perfect for bird watching and photography.

Day 32, 33. Sharga, Govi-Altai, Mongolia

Day 32

Head to Sharga soum of Govi-Altai province. You’ll explore Sharga Sand Dunes first in Sharga-Mankhan Nature Reserve. It was established in 1993 to protect the Saiga antelope. Camp in the beautiful sand dunes of the Gobi desert and you might be able to catch a sight of Mongolian saiga herds in their natural habitat.

Day 33

Drive to Shargiin Tsagaan Lake, an oasis in Sharga Gobi desert. Rare species of animals such as goitered (black-tailed) gazelles and wild boars come here in summer times. The lake hosts several types of migratory birds.

Day 34, 35. Buuntsagaan Lake, Bayankhongor, Mongolia

Day 34

On the way to Buuntsagaan Lake, stop by Burkhan Buudai Bioreserve. It was established to preserve the unique nature of Burkhan Buudai Mountain. The mountain is full of intimidating cliffs and ravines and covered in medical herbs such as roseroot, bourtree as well as berries like sea buckthorn, gooseberry. Camp near Burkhan Buudai Mountain and stay overnight.

Day 35

Head to Buuntsagaan Lake, located in Baatsagaan soum of Bayankhongor province. This salt-water lake looks like it is white from far, hence the name Buuntsagaan that means Whole white. The lake hosts 96 types of birds. Set up your tent and spend a night under a clear blue sky and billions of stars.

Day 36. Khangai Nuruu National Park, Bayankhongor, Mongolia

Drive to Erdenetsogt on the banks of Tuin River for a visit to Khangai Nuruu National Park. Khangai Mountains are full of springs and attract many different species. You have a chance to spot boars, deer, skunks, manul cats, falcons and eagles here. Also, a lot of rivers take source from the Khangai Mountains.

Day 37, 38. Karakorum, Ovorkhangai, Mongolia

The next stop on the way to Ulaanbaatar is Karakorum in Kharkhorin soum of Ovorkhangai province. Karakorum was the capital city of the Mongol Empire between 1235 and 1260, and of the Northern Yuan dynasty in the 14–15th centuries. There is a museum built on the ruins that will unfold the intriguing history of the ancient city. You can visit one of the earliest surviving Buddhist monasteries in Mongolia, the Erdene Zuu Monastery that located right next to the ruins of Karakorum.

Day 39. Tsenkher Hot Spring, Arkhangai, Mongolia

After exploring the ancient city of Karakorum, drive 120km to the west of Kharkhorin and you will find the Tsenkher Hot spring. The springs have healing properties and heats up to 86-Celsius degrees. Relax in naturally heated outdoor water pools or recharge yourself up in indoor baths.

Day 40, 41. Khogno Tarna, Bulgan, Ovorkhangai, Mongolia

Head to Khogno Tarna National Park. Because it had lots of historical and cultural value, Khogno Tarna natural reserve became national park in 2003. Hike in Khogno Khan sacred mountain, camp outside in Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dunes, visit Khugnu Tarni Monastery, and Shireet Tsagaan Lake. You can explore Bronze Age rock paintings near Khugnu Khan Mountain and ride a camel through the sand dunes.

Day 42, 43. Khustain Nuruu National Park, Tov, Mongolia

The last stop on the way to Ulaanbaatar is Khustai National Park. It was created to reserve Takhi (Przewalski's horse) the last remaining wild horse species introduced to Mongolia back in 1992. To see the Takhi horses you have to be patient as they usually hide out high in the hills during the day. So evening is the best time to find and observe them. You need to find a camping spot outside the park since it is forbidden to camp or picnic inside the park.

Day 44. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Finally after thousands of kilometers our trip ends in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. The main sights include Gandantegchinlen Monastery, Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, Sukhbaatar Square, Choijin Lama Museum, Zaisan Memorial. You can enjoy beautiful nature and see the famous Turtle Rock at Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. An hour of drive will take your there. And there’s a Genghis Khan statue in Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex to the east. It is the biggest statue in Mongolia and tallest equestrian statue in the world with its height reaching 40m. The statue has a museum under it, and there are two exhibitions related to the Bronze Age and the Xiongnu period as well as 13 and 14th centuries.

Alternative Route

Day 29, 30. Ulgii – Uvs Lake, Mongolia

You can travel across the northern side of Mongolia instead of the southern side. On this road you’ll explore the two biggest lakes in Mongolia. First stop is Uvs Lake. Uvs Lake’s surface covers over 3400km2, making it Mongolia’s largest lake and the water is said to be saltier than the ocean. The area around the lake is ideal for bird watching. Over 300 bird species are documented around the area such as gulls, geese, spoonbills, cranes, eagles and white-headed duck.

Day 31. Altan Els, Uvs, Mongolia

After exploring the Uvs Lake drive to the east. We are headed for Altan Els, which translates to Golden Sand, located in Baruunturuun soum of Uvs province. On the way you will pass Bayan Lake. Altan Els sand dunes cover 1,775,000 square meters. Small parts of the southern side of the sand dunes have pine and larch forest, which creates a picturesque view.

Day 32. Tes River, Zavkhan, Mongolia

Next stop is at Bayantes soum of Zavkhan province. Tes River is right next to the Bayantes town. It hosts rare migratory birds as well as rare mammals. The river widens around Bayantes soum, creating a beautiful view. Also the Tes River basin serves as a seabuckthorn reserve and other berries such as black currant, gooseberry, barberry and black cherry grow in the area.

Day 33, 34. Khovsgol Lake

Next stop is Khovsgol Lake. Khovsgol Lake and the area surrounding it is a paradise for outdoor travelers and there are plenty of activities like hiking, bird watching, fishing, horseback riding and kayaking. The lake is inhabited by nine species of fish including the Eurasian perch, lenok, burbot, and Hovsgol grayling and the area is rich with various plant and animal species. The region hosts three separate unique nomadic tribes: Darkhad, Buriat and Tsaatan (Reindeer herders). After exploring the green taiga of Khovsgol, drive to Erdenet City and then to Ulaanbaatar. On the way, you can visit Amarbayasgalant Monastery. Dedicated to Saint Zanabazar, architectural construction of the monastery is picturesque.

Day 35, 36. Amarbayasgalant Monastery, Selenge, Mongolia

Day 35

Head to Erdenet City, the third largest city in Mongolia. Erdenet is one of the youngest settlements in Mongolia and was founded in 1974. The city was built near an area where large deposits of copper were discovered. Today Erdenet hosts the fourth largest copper mine in the world and the mine accounts for 13.5% of Mongolia’s GDP. You can visit the mining site by making an appointment. Get some rest and stay overnight.

Day 36

Drive 110km to the north-west of Erdenet City where you’ll find Amarbayasgalant Monastery. It was built by Manchurian Emperor in the 18th century. Dedicated to Saint Zanabazar, architectural construction of the monastery is picturesque. The main style is Chinese, influenced by Mongolian and Tibetan architecture. Although, Amarbayasgalant was affected by communist purge during 1930s, the monastery partly survived the destruction and was repaired by UNESCO from 1975 until reopening in 1990.

Day 37. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Finally after thousands of kilometers our trip ends in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. Although, the city covers relatively small area, this metropolis has a population of more than 1,372,000 people, thus creating a busy urban area. Soviet-era buildings, museums within surviving monasteries and a vibrant conjunction of traditional 21st century lifestyles form the modern city. It’s the coldest capital in the world, but if you visit in summer times, the city bursts into life. We suggest browsing the cashmere stores in Ulaanbaatar because cashmere products are relatively cheap due to high number of goats in the country. The single hub for trips to any destinations within Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar hosts the only international airport in the country, which makes it the ideal ending point of this long journey.

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