Mongolia’s natural wonders—its plains, lakes, and deserts—are both beautiful and remote, the kinds of places that used to appeal only to hard-core adventure seekers. But a crop of new outfitters and a few upscale hotels are making travel here not just easy but surprisingly comfortable. Here’s an example of a customized, full-service trip offered by outfitter Nomadic Expeditions, which makes the best of the country accessible in just a few short flights.
Days 1-2: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar and visit Buddhist monasteries, a monument to Soviet soldiers, art and history museums, and cashmere shops. Base yourself at the gleaming new 28-story Shangri-La.
Days 3-4: Take the 90-minute flight to the city of Murun. Your private driver will drive you to Lake Hovsgol to hike in the green mountains and kayak on the massive blue lake. Overnight in a ger, the Mongolian equivalent of a yurt, at the Toilogt Ger Camp.
Day 5: On your return to Murun, you’ll stop to picnic at Lake Irkh while watching giant white swans fish for their own lunch, then return to Ulaanbaatar.
Days 6-9: Fly to Dalanzadgad in southern Mongolia’s Gobi Desert and head to Three Camel Lodge, a collection of 35 luxury gers equipped with en suite bathrooms made from local stone. A Safari-style 4x4 takes guests to Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes—known as the “Singing Sands” for the low hum they emit when you walk on them—and to a valley filled with millennia-old petroglyphs. The day ends with a sundowner and dinner served alfresco at the base of the Flaming Cliffs, where some of Mongolia’s most impressive dinosaur fossils have been found.
Day 10-11: Fly back to Ulaanbaatar and drive to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park for a chance to see endangered wildlife such as moose and brown bears. Spend the night in one of the 52 suites of the Terelj Hotel, Mongolia’s first five-star resort, before flying home the next day.