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NEW! Mongolia

Searching for the secretive Snow Leopard

2025 Dates
  • 18 Aug - 01 Sep 2025
Duration15 Days
2025 Price
£7395 pp
£495 single supplement. Deposit £1500

pre-flight airport hotel and lounge are inc.

Max Group Size12

Vast and sparsely populated, the landscape of Mongolia has barely changed since Genghis Khan created the world’s largest empire 750 years ago. This majestic wilderness hides a rich wildlife - an array of globally rare birds, a dream list of Central Asian specialities, as well as some of the most sought-after mammals on Earth!

This new Heatherlea tour has been carefully designed to incorporate the best chances of seeing all the main species, including the beautiful and mythical Snow Leopard without strenuous hikes or being exposed to the cold in thin air at high altitudes!

Other wildlife highlights amongst the seemingly endless desert, rolling steppe, and rugged mountains could include Saiga Antelope, Przewalski’s Horse, Argali Sheep, Mongolian Gazelle, Swan Goose, Père David’s Snowfinch, Güldenstädt's Redstart, White-naped Crane, Pallas's Sandgrouse, Mongolian Ground Jay, Altai Snowcock, Siberian Rubythroat, a selection of Asian buntings and larks, and with extreme luck - Pallas’s Cat!

Mongolia’s treasure trove of natural riches is becoming increasingly popular with adventurous birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Sandwiched between the vastness of Russia to the north and China to the south, Mongolia lies at the heart of eastern Asia. It is a land of immense, open steppe grasslands populated by pastoral nomadic horsemen and their herds, the rugged, towering Altai Mountains cloaked with beautiful evergreen forests in the west, and the sands of the mysterious Gobi Desert in the south. This amazing country provides unspoilt scenery, stunning landscapes and a mouth-watering list of mammals and birds, many unique to the special habitats we visit.

We stay in good hotels and comfortable, permanent ger (yurt) camps with good facilities - a tour highlight (and not to be confused with traditional camping!), travelling in well-equipped 4x4 vehicles, all making this far-flung, incredible destination accessible to everyone.


Snow Leopard

There is no guarantee of sightings of Snow Leopard, but we believe this is a tour that offers the best (and easiest) chance to see one! The terrain in Mongolia is easier to negotiate than other parts of their restricted range, where the conditions are generally much harsher (at higher altitudes, lower temperatures, steeper terrain, need of acclimatisation, lengthy hikes, sleeping in tents, etc.), and we use expert local guides and experienced drivers that will take us as close as possible to the best observation sites. Expect short walks that will demand basic fitness and ability to walk on rocky, uneven or steep terrain, although to reach some of the prime observation sites involves a walk of only several metres!
As we have plenty of time, we will be able to proceed at a speed that is comfortable for everyone - this holiday is planned to be very slow-paced, with plenty of time to enjoy everything. Finding a Snow Leopard takes patience, and this aspect of relaxing in the breath-taking mountain scenery, surrounded by the incredible alpine flora and unique bird life is a memory to last a lifetime.
Our local scouts will be on the mountain most of the time looking for a Snow Leopard, and have an impressive success rate, often locating one or more animals during the course of a week, regularly in easily-accessible places! The scouts are also in contact with local shepherds and if one of their animals is killed by the leopards, they will immediately report it to our local team. This is very important for conservation reasons as well as benefitting us greatly!


Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!

Monday 18 August - Day 1 - Departure 
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we take an overnight flight. Your pre-flight hotel gives additional opportunity to relax before your journey east.

Tuesday 19 August - Day 2 – Arrival & Ulaanbaatar
Arriving in Mongolia, our journey begins in the capital, Ulan Bator (Ulaanbaatar) – a city steeped in Buddhist history, with a great mix of eastern, Soviet and modern architecture. We check into our comfortable hotel, and depending on the time of arrival we may take a birding walk in the east of the city. Amur Falcon, Azure Tit, Azure-winged Magpie, Long-tailed Rosefinch, White-crowned Penduline Tit, and White-cheeked Starling are all possible along the Tuul River. Dinner in a traditional Mongolian restaurant offering delicious local and regional cuisine.

Wednesday 20 -Thursday 21 August - Days 3 & 4 – Gun Galuut Nature Reserve
After breakfast we start driving towards Gun Galuut Nature Reserve. On the way we pass the hugely impressive statue of Genghis Khan (the largest equestrian statue in the world at over 40 metres high!). Shortly before we arrive at our camp there will be some very productive shallow lakes and marshes where we should encounter good numbers of waders, including Long-toed and Red-necked Stint, Pacific Golden-Plover, Spotted Redshank, and Wood and Marsh Sandpiper. The lakes have yielded many surprises in the past including Baikal Teal, Falcated Duck, Little Curlew, Asian Dowitcher and Grey-tailed Tattler, so expect the unexpected! Our ger camp is situated in a beautiful river valley surrounded by steppes and rocky hills. Gun Galuut protects a range of mountain and steppe habitats along with some varied and exciting wetlands. The rocky hills are home to a strong population of Argali Sheep and the extremely hard-to-see Pallas’s Cat in good rodent years. We will scan the rocky outcrops during late afternoon for the cats hunting Brandt’s Voles - their favourite prey! Our best chance of the Argalis is when they will be grazing on the mountainside in the early morning, but there is also a chance of other mammals, including Corsac Fox, Daurian Pika, Mongolian Jird and the nocturnal Siberian Jerboa. The birdlife of Gun Galuut is very rich. We will explore the vegetation along the river for a variety of warblers including Pallas’s Grasshopper, Greenish, Two-barred, Dusky and Thick-billed, as well as Olive-backed Pipit, Taiga Flycatcher, and Black-faced and Pallas’s Buntings. White-naped Cranes nest in the marshes and we should find this magnificent bird in family groups along with other crane species including Common and the daintier Demoiselles. The lakes also attract numerous water birds including grebes, swans, ducks, gulls and as many as five species of terns. We may see Bar-headed and Swan Geese, Whooper Swan, and a variety of duck including Stejneger’s Scoter. As we drive through the rolling, short grass steppe we may find several species of lark including Asian Short-toed, Horned and Mongolian, Isabelline and Northern Wheatears, and Richard’s and Blyth’s Pipits. We will particularly be on the lookout for the sandy-coloured Père David’s Snowfinch that inhabits the steppes. Raptors are numerous, and we will look out for Upland Buzzard, Steppe Eagle, Cinereous Vulture, Black-eared Kite, Eastern Marsh Harrier, and Saker Falcon – the national bird of Mongolia. The rocky slopes are home to Rock Sparrow and Twite, while Pallas’s Sandgrouse could be present anywhere in the area. 

Friday 22 August - Day 5 – Terelj National Park
We leave Gun Galuut and visit Terelj National Park on the way back to Ulaanbaatar. Terelj has fantastic rock formations, coniferous and riparian Taiga forests and is home to many birds, with chances of the handsome Siberian Rubythroat, Red-flanked Bluetail, Daurian Redstart, Taiga and Dark-sided Flycatcher, Red-throated Thrush, Dusky, Hume’s and Two-barred Warbler, Spotted Nutcracker and Black Woodpecker. Eastern Buzzard is usually seen patrolling the mountains and Lammergeier can also be seen. Rocky outcrops are home to Rock Thrush and Godlewski’s Bunting. We have lunch in Terelj and in the afternoon drive back to the capital.

Saturday 23 August - Day 6 – Khovd
Returning briefly to Ulaanbaatar, we take a short domestic flight west to Khovd - our gateway to the Altai Mountains and the surrounding desert, large lakes and steppe. We shall spend six nights in our comfortable ger camp, venturing into the deep rocky valleys or the higher regions searching for Snow Leopard, the mysterious “mountain cat” that has a healthy population of 10-15 animals in a limited range. The camp is operated by a local wildlife organisation with the sole aim of protecting the extremely rich nature and wildlife of the area. The camp is located in the foothills of Jargalant Khairkhan (Blissful, Holy Mountain in Mongolian), facing the craggy slopes on one side, and the expansive Khar-Us Nuur lake on the other. The facilities at the camp are shared, but comfortable and clean. Our local team is keen to provide everything we may need for maximum comfort, although a visit to the shops for supplies may be a lengthy process! We will literally be on our own in the middle of nowhere (apart from a few nomadic herders and their animals!)

Sunday 24 – Thursday 28 August - Days 7-11 – The Altai 
Our main priority over this period is searching for the elusive Snow Leopard, and we have timed our trip to coincide with the period when the cats are most likely to be seen hunting or guarding their prey. There will always be other things to look at too though! The soaring raptors above us, the playful Siberian Marmots that keep whistling to each other signalling danger, or the grazing Siberian Ibex with their amazing ability to climb almost vertical cliffs. The terrain is home to White-winged Snowfinches, Mongolian Finches, Brown Accentor, and the local race of Shore Lark. The beautiful Güldenstädt's Redstart also inhabit the highest peaks, and we will scan the cliffs for flocks of Altai Snowcocks. Lammergeier, Steppe Eagle, Black-eared Kite, Saker Falcon, Cinereous and Himalayan Vulture are often seen as they scan the pastures for prey or carcasses, most probably left by Snow Leopards.

The odd-looking Saiga Antelope is now critically endangered, and the local population (subspecies “tatarica”) is sometimes considered to be a separate species. We will search for them as they run across the semi-arid plains, easily identifiable as they always keep their head down. The steppe also has the pretty (and endangered) Black-tailed Gazelle, and another possible highlight is strictly an after-dinner activity around our campsite - we will walk in the flat, rocky desert area using torches to scan for the cute and charasmatic Siberian and Mongolian Three-toed Jerboas, tiny kangaroo-like rodents that first appear as “jumping, glowing eyes”.

The nearby lakes and wetlands may have drinking Pallas’s Sandgrouse at their edge, Pallas’s Gulls, Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns, Whooper Swan and Dalmatian Pelican breed amongst the vast expanse of reedbeds, and sometimes large concentrations of White-headed Duck and Red-crested Pochard are also found on the lake. The nearby grasslands contain passerines, including Asian Short-toed Lark, Richard’s Pipit, Western Yellow and Citrine Wagtail and Pallas’s Bunting. Another avian highlight of Mongolia, the Mongolian Ground Jay is present in the area, and we have an excellent chance of seeing these enigmatic birds.

Friday 29 – Saturday 30 August - Days 12-13 – Hustai National Park
Leaving this magical place behind, we drive to the airport and fly to Ulaanbaatar before driving to the Hustai National Park, home to the successfully reintroduced Thaki or Przewalski’s Horse – the world’s only true wild horse species. Short walks along the rolling hills will bring us Long-tailed Souslik and Tarbagan Marmot, and the rocky areas are home to Pied Wheatear, Meadow Bunting and Lesser Whitethroat. The elm trees along the valleys hold a small population of the elegant Amur Falcon, while Lesser Kestrel hunt on the hillsides and Golden Eagle patrols the sky. The elegant Demoiselle Crane is often seen in the grasslands along with Mongolian and Asian Short-toed Lark, and we will also look for Daurian Partridge, and we have a good chance of adding Mongolian Gazelle to our mammal list as well.

Sunday 31 August - Day 14 – Back To The City
We spend two hours driving back to Ulaanbaatar after a final morning birding around the Hustai National Park. In the afternoon, depending on what is happening, we may have the opportunity to explore the fascinating history of the capital, partake in some city sightseeing or indulge in some cultural tour.

Monday 1 September - Day 15 – Back To The UK 
We drive to the airport in the morning for the flight back to London.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • return scheduled flight from London – Ulaanbaatar, internal flights, airport taxes, baggage and hand luggage up to airline included limit.
  • airport transfers, ground transportation, entrance fees, accommodation and meals as specified.
  • the services of Heatherlea leaders.
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions. Read More...

Free Field Guide! - 'Birds of Mongolia' by Sundev Gombobaatar & Christopher Leahy is included in your holiday price. One copy per room booked.

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • travel to and from departure airport before and after holiday, baggage above airline included limit
  • incidental tips, expenses of a personal nature including drinks and personal insurance.

More holiday information:

Accommodation: The overall standard of accommodation on this tour is good, but please note that Mongolian hotels generally average below the international standard in the West. All hotel rooms are en suite. We spend ten nights in comfortable ger (yurt) camps, which for many visitors are a highlight of the tour. The ger camps are permanent and purpose-built to accommodate tourists, offering comfortable but simply furnished accommodation. Bathroom facilities at the ger camps are in shared permanent toilet blocks and are usually clean. Hot showers are also available in shared facilities. Please note that there are en suite rooms (chalets) available at Gun Galuut camp, so please let us know if you want to upgrade.

Food: Is generally good and wholesome although for some it may seem to lack variety. We can cater to most people with special diets.

Walking: This is an easy-paced holiday. There will be some easy to moderate hill trails, but all taken at a gentle pace. Comfy walking shoes or lightweight boots recommended. Be prepared for optional early starts tempered where possible with a break after lunch prior to birding again later in the afternoon.

Weather: Mongolia has a continental climate and can vary considerably at this time of year - you need to dress accordingly. Generally, it will be warm or hot during the day, but it can be chilly at night and in the early mornings. Cold weather can be expected at the higher altitudes with strong winds, and rain is also possible at almost any time. Temperatures during the day may range between 15-25˚C, while night-time temperatures in the mountains can drop significantly.

Altitude: Most of the tour will be spent above 1300m and we will spend time in landscapes often at 1800m. Our camp in the Altai Mountains is situated at an elevation of 1700m and we will drive up to maximum 3000m in search of Snow Leopard.

Insects: There is no malaria risk on this tour. Mosquitoes can be a local nuisance in certain areas. Be sure to bring some repellent, just in case.

Group size: Is restricted to 12 clients maximum.

Travel: 4x4 vehicles provide greater comfort and safety, with knowledgeable local drivers who will ensure we get to our destinations safely. There will be some long drives, some along un-made roads through scenic landscapes, but we will stop regularly. A window seat will be provided to all clients and there is permanent radio contact between vehicles.

Visa: United Kingdom citizens will need a passport valid for at least six months from date of departure. UK citizens do not need a visa to visit Mongolia as a tourist for up to 30 days within a 6-month period. Other nationalities should check details in advance.

Flights:  Are by scheduled airline, from London to Ulaanbaatar possibly via a European hub. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.

Photos: Although predominantly a wildlife watching tour, the scenery and landscape is highly photogenic, and the range of birds and mammals encountered will offer good incidental photographic opportunities.


Photo credits: Our thanks go to Eco-tours whose images are used on this page.

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

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The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248