Three Camel Lodge: About the Destination

Located in Gobi, Mongolia

Gobi means “desert” in Mongolian, yet its topography is much more diverse than the word implies. From deep canyons to sand dunes to endless steppe, the Gobi includes sites of some of the most important paleontological discoveries of the past century. Nestled in a remote part of the southern Gobi, Three Camel Lodge is arguably the top luxury accommodation in Mongolia. The lodge is located well off of access roads, on the edge of a volcanic outcrop bordering Gobi Gurvan Saykhan National Park in Omnogovi Province. 

Places of Interest

Bulgan Sum (45-minute drive)

Established near a natural spring, Bulgan is a fertile farming area where much of the locally consumed fruits and vegetables are grown.

Khavtsgait (1-hour drive)

Examine the artwork of our ancestors at Khavtsgait, where some of the most precious petroglyphs of the Gobi are preserved on the mountaintop. These ancient and beautiful works of art can be clearly seen as the sun hits the rocks from a certain angle. The scenes depicted in these petroglyphs shed light on the everyday lives of the people who lived in the Gobi thousands of years ago.

Moltsog Els Sand Dunes (1-hour drive)

Moltsog Els, or the Singing Sands, is one of the few regions of the Gobi covered by sand dunes. Hike up and slide down the dunes and shoot images of the sculpted sand. If you wish, visit a camel herder’s family and enjoy an opportunity to ride a Bactrian camel.

Flaming Cliffs (1-hour drive)

The legendary Flaming Cliffs were named for the red-orange sandstone which glows brilliantly at sunrise and sunset. It was here, in 1923, that Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews and his exploration team from the American Museum of Natural History found the first nest of dinosaur eggs the world had ever seen. To the trained eye, the ancient formations of the Flaming Cliffs are rich with fossils, and paleontological expeditions continue to make significant discoveries at this site.

Tugrugiin Shiree (1.5-hour drive)

Tugrugiin Shiree is a white escarpment where the famous “fighting dinosaurs” (a fossil of a Protoceratops and a Velociraptor locked in combat) were discovered in the 1970s.

Gegeet Valley (2-hour drive)

Explore the spectacular panoramas of one of the world’s northernmost deserts when driving to Gegeet Valley, habitat of the elusive snow leopard.

Yolyn Am (2-hour drive)

Yol Valley Nature Reserve is cradled between foothills of the Altai Mountains in the northern part of the Gobi. An ancient river carved this surprisingly green valley, and its remnant streams now create ice formations that sometimes persist as late as July. Hiking through this prehistoric canyon leads to the habitat of indigenous lammergeiers, or bearded vultures, that feed mostly on the carcasses of dead animals. However, unlike other such scavengers, lammergeiers feed primarily on bone marrow, dropping large bones from the sky to break them into smaller pieces. Visit the area’s Natural History Museum for an overview of the flora and fauna of the region.

Gyalaany Am (3.5-hour drive)

Drive to the Gyalaan valley via Haalgan Davaa pass and the Hongoryn Els sand dunes. Surrounded by multicolored granite rock, the Gyalaan (“shiny”) valley was named for the reflection of the sun off its flat, smooth cliffs.

Hongoryn Els Sand Dunes (4-hour drive)

The towering sand dunes of Hongoryn Els run 60 miles alongside the eastern Altai Mountains. These "Singing Sands," reaching upward of 600 feet, are the Gobi’s most magnificent sand dunes and due to its isolation, this area’s beauty has been kept secret for thousands of years.

Wildlife and Natural History

Three Camel Lodge has a first-of-its-kind cooperative agreement with the Bulgan Sum township and Gob Gurvan Saykhan National Park authorities. The lodge serves as a base for scientific research and wildlife monitoring and actively fights against animal poaching and unauthorized removal of dinosaur fossils from paleontological sites. Hunting has been prohibited within a 12-mile radius of the Three Camels.

In a further effort to support scientific discovery in Mongolia, the lodge supports a variety of paleontological expeditions. One such expedition resulted in the discovery of a new dinosaur species in the Ankylosaur family. The species was named “nomadis” in honor of Three Camel Lodge's partner, Nomadic Expeditions.

Since 2005, the lodge has sponsored the Thousand Camel Festival, the primary goal of which is to protect the endangered Bactrian camel. The festival has also inspired a reawakening of interest in traditional crafts by local artisans.

The lodge is an active member of local grassroots conservation organizations such as the Ongii River Movement, a prize-winning organization that aims to protect Mongolia’s Ongii River, one of the very few rivers that run into the Gobi, from the damaging effects of mining activity.

People and Culture

The Gobi is inhabited in part by nomadic herders who consider their native landscape sacred. They frequently pass through the land occupied by Three Camel Lodge—to the delight of the guests.

Local Naadam Festival

Dating back centuries to the time of Genghis Khan, the Naadam games comprise the “three manly sports” of wrestling, archery, and horseracing that traditionally measured the courage, strength, and pride of nomads and warriors. Contemporary Naadam games engage both men and women and boys and girls in exhilarating contests as family and friends get together to celebrate the short, joyful summer season.

Witness a local celebration in the magnificent Gobi on the third weekend of June: the annual Naadam Festival in Bulgan organized by the Bulgan County in collaboration with the Three Camel Lodge. Away from the increasingly crowded games in Ulaanbaatar, the Bulgan festivities present a more intimate and genuine experience. Mingle with the locals during a full day of fun and excitement, including horse races by age group, such as soyolon (5+ year old), shudlen (2+ year old), and daaga (foal), wrestling matches, archery demonstrations, as well as ‘Best Couple on Horse’ and lasso-catching contests.

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