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Exploring the Unexplored: Russia, Mongolia and China in 11 days

Eleven days, three different countries and a lifetime of memories are what’s in store in this epic trip across from Russia into Mongolia and through to China. The journey takes you over the unexplored Altai Mountains, across the incredibly remote Western Mongolia region and into the  ancient Northern Chinese city of Turpan, which will be where you finish your overland adventure. The border between Western Mongolia and China remained closed for many travelers until recently, and this handcrafted itinerary takes full advantage of the new opportunities to follow a route usually reserved for locals. After some sightseeing in Novosibirsk, you’ll head on to the foothills of the Altai Mountains and across the Gobi desert, with stop-offs in Ulgi, Hovd and Qinghe Xian - all whilst staying in a range of hotels, traditional ‘yurts’ and quaint wooden lodges. 

Highlights   Pricing
  • Go sightseeing in the central Russian city of Novosibirsk, stopping-off at one of the largest and most impressive stations on the Trans-Siberian railway
  • Get in touch to nature, spending the night next to the riverbank in the foothills of the Katun River
  • Cross over the Russian-Mongolian border after passing snowcapped mountains
  • Tackle the Western Gobi desert, one of the most sparsely populated places on Earth
  • See the ancient Chinese city of Turpan in all its glory
 
Starting at
$1,150
per person per day
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Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1

Following an early morning breakfast and check-in to your hotel, take time to rest before heading off with your guide for lunch in a traditional Siberian tavern. After your fill, it’s time to see Novosibirsk with a half-day sightseeing tour covering all the major attractions such as the iconic Trans-Siberian Railway Station, Ascension Cathedral, and Lenin Square. Before heading back to the hotel, there’s also a chance to try the cuisine at a hunting workshop, including bear salami, wild meat, wild berries.

Day 2
Katun River/Altai Mountains

This second day is really when your 11-day cross-country adventure begins. Leave your hotel and Novosibirsk behind, making your way to over some spectacular Siberian scenery towards the Altai Mountains. You’ll have a night’s rest before taking on the range the next day, and the accommodation tonight is a quaint wooden lodge situated on the picturesque banks of the Katun River.

Day 3
Chibit Settlement

After breakfast you’ll be hitting the road, which happens to be one of the most spectacular in the whole of Russia. The drive along the famous Chuysky Tract that was once the main trade route of Russia and China takes you over the stunning Seminsky and Chike-Taman Passes in the mountains. The final destination of the day is the tiny and incredibly remote settlement of Chibit: no hotels here, so it’s a night under the stars in the tents and sleeping bags provided!

Day 4
Ulgi

After waking up surrounded by nature, pack up your tents and jump in the 4X4s again; today’s itinerary leads you to the second country of this trip – Mongolia. Pass through the breathtaking Kosh-Agach district, which boasts snowcapped mountain tops in the distance for most of the way. The journey takes you to one of the remotest areas of the Altai Mountains at the border with Mongolia, which after you cross, you’ll head on to the tiny village of Ulgi where you’ll be spending the night in yurts.

Day 5
Hovd

On the morning of this fifth day you’ll be heading south, towards the once prosperous trade town of Hovd, an important stop-off on the ancient Northern Silk Way, connecting Russia and China. On the way to Hovd we stop for lunch near Lake Tolbo, which boasts beautifully clear water 6,500 feet above sea level. Before arriving in your hotel in Hovd, there’s a chance to see 15,000-year-old cave paintings by indigenous tribal groups.

Day 6
Uench/Yurty

Enjoy breakfast before checking out of your hotel, ready for spending the next three days of the trip exploring the incredibly remote Altaian Gobi region of Mongolia. The day will be spent driving past some breathtaking scenery, and there will be plenty of opportunities to stop enroute to snap photos, and take it all in. This is one of the most sparsely-populated areas of Mongolia, a country already well-known for being incredibly remote. There are no hotels for miles, so it’s overnight in traditional Central Asia ‘yurts’, making for a memorable night’s sleep.

Day 7
Qinghe Xian

Wake up surrounded by the sparse, naturally beautiful Mongolian landscape and enjoy a leisurely morning and breakfast around your yurts that you spent the previous night in. You’ll depart the Uench region for Bulgan and then on to Qinghe Xian - across the Chinese border. After you’ve entered what is the third country on this trip, head head across Jungaria along the frontier of the Gobi desert. Once in Qinghe Xian, check in to your hotel and enjoy dinner.

Day 8
Qitai

Take time for breakfast at the hotel Qinghe Xian and prepare for a full day of overland adventure across the Western Gobi Desert, also known as the Gurban-Yungut Desert. On the way, there is chance to witness the Multicolored Bay – perhaps the the most impressive of sights throughout the trip, comprised of rocks of all shapes, sizes and different colors. End the day’s journey in the remote Qitai region, which is where you’ll be spending the night.

Day 9

Leave Qitai behind for a drive through Tien Shan Mountains. You’ll be making your way towards Turpan City, once an important city along the ancient Silk Road trade route. Turpan is an old city with a long history and traces have been found of ancient civilisation dating back as far as 6,000 years. There will be plenty of time to see the city in all its glory the following day.

Day 10

A full day tour around the impressive Turpan City awaits on this penultimate day of your trip. Rise early and head out, visiting several key points of interest around the city such as markets and fortresses, as well as the famous Turpan Depression, Aydingkol Lake, and the "1,000 Buddha" Cave Mountains Temple complex at Bizalkik -15 minutes’ drive away. In the evening it’s back to the hotel for dinner and a well-deserved rest after 10 days on the road.

Day 11
Departure

This final day of the trip is set aside for travel onto your next destination or departure home. Enjoy one final breakfast at your hotel in Turpan City, check out, and transfer (via private transportation) to the airport, where you’ll catch an onwards flight either to Novosibirsk or Beijing.

 

Suggested Accommodations

Location
Accommodation
NOVOSIBIRSK
Doubletree by Hilton , Marriott Hotel

Doubletree by Hilton

Doubletree by Hilton is a four-star hotel in Novosibirsk, ranking among the best places to stay in what is Russia’s third-largest city. The large, modern hotel is located right in the heart of the city, although the actual road is slightly quieter than the nearby busy streets. Doubletree is just a short walk away from the famous Opera Theatre, and also a handful of other major tourist attractions in Novosibirsk. Most of the rooms and suites here present excellent city views from the large windows, which also allow light to flood into the spacious rooms during the day. The range of double and twin rooms here come fully furnished with a long list of facilities including a 32-inch LCD TV, a mini-bar, a safe, air-conditioning and en-suite bathrooms. Those upgrading to a suite can enjoy the added luxury of a refrigerator, adjacent dining area, and additional queen-sized pull-out sofa. The on-site restaurant, Paris, serves a buffet breakfast every morning from 7am and stays open until late serving international food. The hotel also has a large swimming pool, fitness center and various  business facilities. 

 

Marriott Hotel

This luxurious five-star hotel was only opened in 2014, and now stands as one of the top places to stay in the central Russian city of Novosibirsk. Marriott really is a global name you can trust, and this Novosibirsk branch is no exception; expect a great location, stylish and spacious rooms and a whole host of onsite facilities and amenities. Located in the heart of the city, Marriott Hotel Novosibirsk is just steps away from the metro, shops and major attractions in the city such as the popular Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet. The hotel caters for many different types of guests, such as travelers making their way through Siberia on the train, and this is also a popular choice for business guests with its conference room facilities. In terms of leisure opportunities, Marriott Novosibirsk boasts an excellent rooftop bar with great views across what is Russia’s third-largest city. There’s also a large, all-day international restaurant that serves a buffet breakfast in the morning and a varied menu throughout the rest of the day.

 
 
ALTAI MOUNTAINS
Lesotel Lodge

Lesotel Lodge


The Altai Mountains present some of the most stunning scenery in the whole of Russia, and this quaint wooden lodge-style hotel takes full advantage of the surrounding natural beauty, situated near the banks of the River Katun, 20 miles from Gorno-Altaisk city. There’s a flexible range of accommodation options here, from large shared cabins to private double and twin rooms. This unique hotel offers an excellent combination of modern facilities and nature. Each room is well-furnished, coming with large and comfy beds, heating, electricity, en-suite bathrooms and a range of other home comforts to make for a pleasant stay. The grounds, set around a delightful pine forest near the river, consist of several wooden lodges and a main restaurant building where breakfast is served every morning alongside a daily menu catering for local and foreign visitors. 


 
 
TURPAN
Huozhou Hotel , Tuha Petroleum

Huozhou Hotel


Well-situated, the Huozhou Hotel is just minutes from the brand new Turpan Museum, a bustling bazaar next to the Qingnian Lu grape vine-covered promenade, and a row of small, typical Uyghur restaurants. The hotel offers 100 clean, spacious, newly-designed rooms, large bathrooms with rain showers and comfortable furnishing. The decor is muted, with dark-wood furnishings, playing up the hotel’s upscale, classy feel. In-room facilities include air conditioning, internet, and a hair dryer, but most rooms lack refrigerators. Building A provides guests with particularly exceptional views of the nearby lake. There is an on-site restaurant, business center, and lobby bar. The Huozhou is of the best offered accommodations in Turpan, and a perfectly charming place to rest between busy days of exploring the unparalleled beauty and cultural richness of this remote region in China.


 

Tuha Petroleum


This new hotel is the best the Turpan area has to offer. Well-situated, the hotel is just two minutes from a bustling market and walking distance to other attractions, including a museum and traditional shops. The highlight of the hotel is its location at the commercial heart of Turpan, a vibrant little town with much to offer. Spacious, comfortable rooms, WiFi, air conditioning and facilities including a covered pool and spa, bowling alley, karaoke, billiard tables, and more, are available to guests. Buffet breakfast is provided in the mornings to help guests start their day off well, while Chinese and Western cuisine are served up on-site for lunch and dinner. An on-site bar and lounge provides an ideal spot for guests to meet up with friends and colleagues for drinks after a long day of travel.  


 
 
Meet An Asia Expert
From Our Blog
Our co-founder & CEO Catherine Heald lived in China for 7 years and returns often. She loves trekking in the rice terraces of Ping An, and hugging baby pandas in Chengdu!
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