Nested in the hidden Iven mountain river valley surrounded by lush green fields is the spiritual and historically significant Monastery known as Amarbayasgalant. In 1727, the works to establish this awe inspiring monastery were initiated in the memory of Undur Gegeen Zanabazar by the order of the Manchurian Emperor. This monastery was spared the destruction that faced over 900 monasteries throughout Mongolia during the social revolution times and its even accounted that soldiers had actually dismounted their horses in honor and paid their respects. Today, Amarbayasgalant thrives – with its Buddhist Monks living onsite and carryout year-round spiritual activities as they did in the old days during the exploration times of Roy Andrew Chapman in Mongolia.
Even now, travelers are warmly welcomed from far abroad to experience the warm generosity and warm atmosphere of the Monk’s that reside in these culturally important historical walls of early Mongol Civilization. Like the old days, you will also have to assist in the self-subsistence of the locals which includes herding of livestock, milking of cows, learning the cultural techniques of local cuisines as well as enjoying your intimate time with the families learning traditional games that have been developed via the ankle bones of sheep. This is a true honor that one should consider if you are planning to visit Mongolia – regardless of your background, you will have truly unforgettable memories that will enhance your overall Mongolia Social Cultural and Historical journey to this amazing land that was home to rulers of the known world.
Difficulty of trip: moderate
Community Fee: 256USD for 5 days/ 4 nights
Additional In-Country Expenses:
UB to Darkhan & return Bus Fee (approx): USD 9.00
Micro bus to first ger and pickup (4-10 persons.): $178 USD
Small car to first ger and pickup (2-3 persons.): $178 USD
Note: Jeep cost can be divided by number of persons
Booking & Travel Orientation w/ handbook: USD 25.00
Day One - Experience Rural Community Life (L,D): You will depart from Ulaanbaatar at 11AM will journey by coach (much like the USA Greyhound Bus Line) northwards through rolling hill valleys as you make you way to Dakhan Ull and arrive around 3PM. Upon arrival, you will be warmly greeted by the local facilitator that will guided, much like how Buddhism arrived in Mongolia from India via Tibet, your first meal along your travel will be an authentic Indian dishes at Raja’s Curry House. Afterwards, you will begin your walk around the city and casually enjoy the local sites that includes: the local museum, the Youth Theatre, My Mongolia Park, the Buddha Statue, the Morin Khuur Complex and the first (small-scale) hanging bridge in Mongolia; which are testaments to the creativity of this rural city development planning authorities. In the evening time, you will have a curry with parata (Indian Pancake) and salad for dinner and stay overnight at the local hotel.
Day two - Journey to the Mountain Valley of Amarbayasgalant Monastery (B,L,D): After breakfast at Raja’s curry house, you will begin your 160 kilometer vehicle journey to the remotely nestled Amarbayasgalant Monastery located in a picturesque mountain valley. Along the way, you will see amazing golden wheat fields, small villages and as you make you way northwards you will drive through flowing green fields to Mr. Ganbaatar’s nomadic family where they will prepare and welcome you with a hot traditional nomadic lunch and tea. This afternoon you will begin you 2 kilometer trekking journey to Amarbayasgalant, as you approach this historically and culturally significant testimony to reminisce of Manchurian Rule in Mongolia – this true relic of an ancient empire will astonish you. When you approach the monolithic stone wall located at the main entrance take a moment, imagine a Calvary of soldiers dismounting their steeds and rendering this Monastery untouched by the revolution that swept the entire country during the People’s Revolution. A peacefully robed Monk will guide you through the hallow walls of the monastery and will introduce you to its rich history as well as familiarize you with the daily routines of their lives. In the evening you will return to the nomadic family where upon arrival they will prepare and serve you with a hot nomadic dinner while you can assist the other family members with nomadic works before your evening dinner. Before retiring to your tent for the evening, this is a great opportunity to spend quality time with the nomadic family and learn traditional games with the anklebones of sheep.
Day Three - Experience a Monk’s Life (B,L,D): Try catching the early morning sunrise, pull out the camera and enjoy the soft light – this is prime time to capture those truly unforgettable photographs of the region. Soon after breakfast, you will begin you 2 kilomter trek back to Amarbayasgalant Monastery where you will be greeted and warmly welcomed by the Monks as you will have an unparalleled opportunity to immerse and participate in their daily routine together. Now this means that they may have cooperative activities and individual activities set up for you so be accepting of their tasks as this is a true honor. During the day you will have plenty of opportunity to absorb the peaceful ambience and even meditate when and if the monks are chanting. During lunch, of which you will have with the monks, you can try conversing with them in English (as some of them do speak) and even go out for a game of football with the younger monks or take the time to enjoy near access with them in the environment and spend the afternoon take those priceless photos. In the evening you will return to the nomadic family where upon arrival the family will prepare and serve you with a hot nomadic dinner before retiring for the night in your tent.
Travelers Note: During your stay, feel free to bring some fun stuff like a football – you’ll be surprised that during their free time, some do enjoy kicking the ball around. As for dress codes, please do dress appropriately to show your respect to and remember that it’s prohibited to consume any alcoholic beverages or cigarettes, to shout or speak loudly and whistle or throw rubbish inside of the Monastery walls. Photography is allowed once the monk’s have given their permissions.
Day Four - Horseback Trail Riding (B,L,D): After your nomadic breakfast, today you are going out on a 15 kilometer round-trip horseback ride with Mr. Ganbaatar or his son for through the nearby forest where you will enjoy a brief break at the stupas. Be sure that you have a daypack on this ride with your camera readily available for snapping those truly panoramic shots of the region from high vantage points, as today you will gain a lot ground on horseback. The mountainous landscapes are truly remarkable abundantly overflowing with valleys, forests and small streams – it’s a day to allow the regions inescapable beauty to fill your heart and mind with solace. Later this afternoon, you will head back to the nomadic family where upon arrival they will prepare and serve you with a hot nomadic lunch to which afterwards you can spend the rest of the day assisting the family with their daily routines that includes cleaning up the livestock pen, collecting water or firewood or dung and using their nomadic tools and baskets. In the evening they will prepare and welcome you with a delightful farewell dinner to which you can enjoy with the family before retiring for the night.
Day Five - Depart back to Darhan: After breakfast, our driver will arrive at nomadic family to pick you up and take you back to Darkhan (160 kilometers). Upon arrival in Darkhan, you will have your afternoon farewell lunch at Raja’s Curry House before the catching the 3-4PM but back to Ulaanbaatar.
Optional: You can extend your stay if you want at the Monastery to experience more on the live the life of the Monks.The Monks likes to play soccer or football, if you can bring a soccer ball during your trip, you will have opportunity to play soccer with the Monks.
Terms and Condition for travelers at the Monastery:
Not permitted to shout or speak loudly in the monastery.
To wear a decent dress code to show the respect and observe the spiritual atmosphere in the monastery.
No alcohol, smoking, whistling, throwing rubbish in and within the monastery.
Photo’s are aloud only after the Monks are agreed to be taken, it is advisable to ask before you take any photos.
Basic daily schedule of the Monks:
08:00 a.m. – The Monks begins their daily work and assemble at the monastery
10:00 a.m. – They start their Pujee (prayers)
13:00 p.m. – Lunch
14:00 p.m. – Study Classes
18:00 p.m. – End of the day
Visiting nomadic family
Nomadic breakfast, lunch and dinner which are stated on itinerary
Malaysian breakfast, lunch and dinner in Darkhan which are stated on itinerary
One overnight at guest house in Darkhan
English speaking guide on route
City tour in Darkhan
Amarbaysgalant monastery fee
Herder guide service on route
Horse riding according to itinerary
Cultural activities (milking animals, play ankle bone game etc)
Boiled water on route
Local jeep arrangement by facilitator
Mongolian Cultural Travel Tips & Information
Horseback Riding in Mongolia
Mongolia's Gobi Desert Camels
Mongolians and horses have historically co-exist since the early times and It’s impossible to imagine Mongolians without horses. There are many horse related folk legends, stories about horses, epic literature and songs written about horses. Mongolians prohibit the cursing of horses, beating horses and whipping of horses on their heads and chests. Mongolia’s horse culture according to their traditions teaches to show to respect to the horse during its life and honorifically place the horse’s head on an Ovoo or other sacred place to show their respect to the nobility of their horse’s life. The head of a horse is often decorated with white stones or horse dung. Heads of especially fast racing horses are usually wrapped in a blue scarf. The Mongolian traditional horse head fiddle further glorifies the station of the horse by its artistic design and traditional sounds. The culture of the Mongolian horse even spreads to embroidery, handicraft, wooden carving, metal and silver crafts – Mongolia’s respect of the horse can be found everywhere throughout the country.
The world’s rare two-humped Mongolian Bactrian Camel is considered to be the tolerant and noble animal among five animals (horse, cow, sheep, goat and camel) and is sand colored herbivores mainly found in the Gobi Desert region of Mongolia. Mongolia leads the number of Bactrian camels in the world and Mongolian camels were domesticated in olden days and are traditionally used as nomadic transport. When Mongolian camels are used for nomadic transportation their noses are pegged and they are outfitted with a leading rein, halter, saddle, saddle cloth and stairs. Mongolian camels weight is between 400-800kg and camel meat is low in fat and lean. Mongolian camel milk is a staple food for Gobi Desert nomads and is more rich in fat and protein than cow’s milk. A female camel produces about 3 to 4 liters of milk a day; camel milk can readily be made into airag (fermented beverage), hoormog (yogurt diluted with milk) and dried curds. Mongolian camel wool is produced as a natural insulation against the cold and easily sheds in the heat. Mongolian camel wool has unique characteristics of silky softness and strength.
Riding Mongolian Camels
Mongolian nomads say that it’s much closer to the sun from the top of the tallest animal of desert - so while you are riding a Mongolian camel you will always have a panoramic view of the Gobi Desert. Generally, Mongolia’s camel guides are Mongolian nomads that are born and live in the Gobi Desert. Mongolians often start to ride camels at a very early age and have plenty of experience to share with you about how to saddle, groom and command to lay down a camel to mount and dismount. During your camel trek, you can help the Mongolian nomad by looking after your camel; learn how to groom it, saddle and unsaddle it as well as bring water and feed it. Kind attention between the camel and the rider always contributes towards establishing a close. Almost any traveler can ride a camel (in reasonable physical condition) and learn how to control it quickly – though its highly recommended to review the camel riding tips that can be found in the Ger to Ger Travelers’ Handbook. Its good to apply your knowledge and practice on a camel with a Mongolian nomad around their Ger (traditional dwelling) before starting a long trek. A camel trek could cover between 5 to 25kms a day between nomadic families or even for a short roundtrip for sightseeing.