In 2008 the temporal focus of the Palaeoclimate Modelling Intercomparison Project was expanded to include a model intercomparison for the mid-Pliocene warm period (3.29–2.97 million years ago). This project is referred to as PlioMIP (Pliocene Model Intercomparison Project). Two experiments have been agreed upon and comprise phase 1 of PlioMIP. The first (Experiment 1) will be performed with atmosphere-only climate models. The second (Experiment 2) will utilise fully coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models. The aim of this paper is to provide a detailed model intercomparison project description which documents the experimental design in a more detailed way than has previously been done in the literature. Specifically, this paper describes the experimental design and boundary conditions that will be utilised for Experiment 1 of PlioMIP.