better travel photography•COM
Newsletter 66 - sent on the 1 July 2023
Experience Mongolia's Naadam Festival
Our recent Uzbekistan trip went remarkably well, and it was great to return to this historic country, and also to visit some of the more out of the way places that fewer tourists get to. This included the Fergana Valley in the East of the country, which I have been wanting to explore right from my first visit to the country in 2003.
Uzbekistan has been at the crossroads of history for many centuries and there is an entrancing mix of Islamic and Soviet era architecture. Another country that was a part of the old Soviet Union, and has had a profound affect on the history of the region is Mongolia, and I am really pleased to be announcing our first trip for 2024 - to the land of Genghis Khan. You can find more details below.
We have been busy planning a range of tours for 2024 and 2025. We will shortly be releasing the proposed list, so that you can make some plans in advance. Destinations are set to include Nepal, Ethiopia, Madagascar and South America though.
Impressions of Mongolia
This adventurous exploration to the atmospheric country of Mongolia has been timed so that we can visit, and photograph the ancient Naadam Festival – a centuries old celebration of the skills Genghis Khan considered vital for the Mongol warrior: wrestling, archery and horse-racing.
Our adventure starts in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, which is an entrancing mix of modern buildings, Soviet-era architecture and traditional Buddhist monasteries – surrounded by suburbs of Gers (nomadic tents) and seemingly endless rolling plains.
For the next few days we explore the various camps that are set up around the city – where the competitors of the Nadaam Festival train and get ready for the big event. This is a perfect opportunity to get close to the competitors and take pictures before the actual festival starts. This will also be our first time to experience staying in a Ger - a traditional nomadic tent.
The three sports that we will witness are archery, horse-racing and wrestling - everything that the Mongol warriors from the days of Genghis Khan deemed essential for waging war across the steppes.
After the training camps we head off into the massive Gobi Desert to explore some of the natural wonders of this incredible country.
Our first stop will be the massive eroded granite structures of the Baga Gazriin Chuluu, which are home to ancient rock art and even a spring which is said to cure eye problems. This area has been revered by Mongolian people for generations. We will have a hike here to explore the area and also to try to see some of the local wildlife.
From here we head to Tsagaan Suvarg, a region of strange white cliffs that are said to resemble white Buddhist stupas. Again we will hike in the landscape for photography and wildlife spotting.
Our next location is Yolin Am, a gorge known as Vulture canyon. The nearby cliffs are noted for glowing red in the sunset, and have earned the name of the Flaming Cliffs.
Many different types of terrain make up the Gobi Desert, but the most iconic must be the soaring Khongoriin Sand Dunes. This vast sea of dunes stretches over 100km and some of the dunes are 300 metres high. Their name of 'singing dunes' comes from the strange noise that the sand makes as it blows in the wind - humming like the propeller of a plane. We stay here for two nights, giving us chance to photograph star trails and also enjoy a camel ride.
A long and atmospheric drive takes us to Ongiin Khiid - a pair of monasteries that were ruined during the Communist purges. A small monastery has recently been opened, along with a handful of monks.
Our last stop on this leg of the trip is the runined ancient city of Karakorum - formerly the capital of the Mongol Empire in the 13th Century. Near to the remains of the city lies the Erdene Zuu Monastery - the earliest surviving Buddhist monastery in the country.
After exploring the vast steppes and sprawling Gobi Desert, we head back to Ulaanbaatar for the opening ceremony of the Naadam Festival. This is now held in a vast stadium. We will be in the stadium for the opening ceremony and the archery tournament. The following day we will be back for the wrestling and horse-racing: the latter which happens out on the vast steppes on the outskirts of town.
The following day, the tour finishes, and you have the option of exploring further or heading for home.
This tour is officially an exploratory tour. Although Steve has visited Mongolia before, he has not run this trip before. It is based upon an existing Intrepid Travel itinerary, so we are confident everything will run smoothly.
Impressions of Mongolia departs from Ulaanbaatar on 29 June 2024 for 15 days. Under our new variable pricing policy, the cost is from £2950 per person if the full 12 people travel to £3150 per person for the minimum of 8 people. You can see more information on this link. You can see the full itinerary on this link and make your booking on this link.
We are keeping bookings open until the 9th July to give more people the chance to book, before we will decide on the final group.
Better Travel Photography
If you have any questions at all about anything on this email or would just like to say hello, then please do get in touch. The simplest way is to reply to this email.
Otherwise, I hope to travel with you at some point!
If you would like to know why you are receiving this email, please feel free to email us and ask! We will be able to tell you exactly when and how you signed up! If you want you can unsubscribe here.