For a majority of your trip, your accommodation will be provided by rural families - some of the families are retired herders, some are herders who migrate twice a year, some are Gobi based, others make their home in the central grasslands. It’s a combination chosen to give you an insight into the summer way of life - whether that be the life of a working or retired herder or a small town resident.
It’s a balanced itinerary - allowing you to take the time to appreciate the detail of where you are as you travel through the middle Gobi, the central high steppe and the Khangai Mountains. It’s flexible as well with opportunities for day-hikes for spectacular views, time out for your own exploration and camel / horse rides and informal cookery lessons for those interested.
You’ll experience Gobi landscapes (including learning about Mongolian conservation practices at the Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project), river valleys (staying with herders Naraa and Bujee at Gorkhi Terelj alongside the Terelj River), lakes (time spent with the herder Monkhoo and his family at Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur) to a two-day ger to ger experience with the Cooperative Ar Arvijin Delgerekh. This cooperative focuses on working with herders producing spun yak wool, providing them with an alternative to diversify and increase their income. During your time here you will walk ‘ger to ger’ meeting a few of the families working as part of the cooperative and gaining a further understanding as to their way of life.
It also includes the rural two-day Kharkhorin Naadam celebrating with the locals. This itinerary is designed to provide you with an overview to Mongolia in the 21st century.
Day 1: Ulaanbaatar (UB) - City Walking Tour. Final arrival day into Ulaan Baatar: UB maintains a strong Mongolian identity of its own and has a ‘frontier’ feel and vibrancy. It is a city well-worth exploring as it is home to 45% of Mongolia's population and provides a contrast to the lives of those in rural areas. For those interested, we include a free walking tour to help introduce you to the city.
Days 2-4: Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Spend three days with Naraa and Bujee - herders that live in the Terelj Valley. You will experience their way of life as well as the magnificent wild landscapes that form the backdrop to their rural home.
Day 5: Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project. Enjoy the warmth and hospitality of our hosts Radnaa and Byamba as well as assisting them throughout their tree nursery project. You will have the opportunity to plant your own tree thereby making a positive contribution towards conservation practises in the Gobi.
Day 6: Erdenedalai. Erdenedalai is Mongolian for ‘Jewel Ocean’ and although far from the ocean this small town located in the middle of the Gobi steppe provides a genuine insight into everyday life in Mongolia. It is also the hometown of most of our drivers and a very tight knit and traditional community. You will stay with the family of one of our EL drivers.
Day 7: Khogno Khan Nature Reserve. A sacred granite mountain within an area of secluded valleys, fresh water springs, open steppe and sand dunes. This immense granite massif is home to what was once a very important monastery - Erdene Khambiin Khiid. Although destroyed in the 17th century and then again during the political purges of the 1930’s this site is tranquil and absorbing to visit.
Days 8-10: Cooperative Ar Arvijin Delgerekh - Arkhangai. Meet the families involved in the Cooperative Ar Arvijin Delgerekh. This cooperative focuses on working with herders producing spun yak wool, providing them with an alternative to diversify and increase their income.
During your time here you will walk ‘ger to ger’, meeting a few of the families working as part of the cooperative and gaining a further understanding as to their way of life. Yaks play a very important role for the livestock herders in the high mountainous regions of Arkhgangai. They not only provide meat, a wide variety dairy products and wool fibre but they are used both for transport. What also makes them an indispensable part of the animal husbandry in the high mountain regions is their ability to withstand an inhospitable climate and to quickly make up in the spring the large weight losses sustained over winter.
Days 11-12: Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park. Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park is a natural highlight of Mongolia, encompassing an area of wild nature - volcanic craters, rugged mountains, river valleys and rolling steppe.
For your two nights at White Lake, you will stay with the Monkhoo family - a herding family. White Lake is a popular choice with Mongolian holiday makers during the Naadam period and Monkhoo’s home is a quiet retreat away from the busyness of the lake. Their summer pasture is located in a beautiful valley overlooking the ‘khorg’ volcano, located just to the east of the lake (with no lake view).
What is there to do? I highly recommend hiking ‘over the hill’ for stupendous views of the lake (your trip assistant would accompany you). Alternatively, one of the ‘boys’ (the EL drivers) would happily drive you the short distance. You can help Monkhoo and his family with their herding work (Monkhoo and his brother Boldor share responsibility for the livestock)). Take an informal Mongolian cookery lesson. Or just enjoy relaxing in this rural setting.
Days 13-15: Kharkhorin Naadam. Kharkhorin is the ancient capital of Ogodei Khan and the centre of the Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century. You can visit Erdene Zuu Khiid (the oldest monastery in Mongolia) and the excellent Kharkhorin Museum.
You will spend two days at the Kharkhorin Naadam - mixing with the locals from the small town centre as well as with traditional herders from outside the area. ‘Naad’ means games and the aim of this two-day festival is to celebrate the traditional ‘Three Manly Games’ (or sports). We love the atmosphere and the colour and the high levels of sportsmanship – this is a true Mongolian celebration of ordinary people taking pride in their country and century’s old tradition melded together.
Day 16: Return to Ulaanbaatar. Head back through the rolling steppe into the pace of city life. Tour ends.
Just so you know:
As a team (I am the only westerner, the rest of my small team are Mongolian) we research, design and operate all aspects of the holidays we offer - there are no outside agencies or suppliers apart from the rural families that provide accommodation or who provide services such as our pack-horses during any treks we offer. Why?
Supporting local is at the heart of what we do and at the centre of each itinerary we offer. I firmly believe that going directly to the local people not only helps to support the rural communities through which you travel but it also allows us to source local knowledge. This leads to a more personal style of trip where you experience a more local way of travel.
This trip is now a guaranteed with only two spaces left. The maximum is six - providing you with a more individual style of trip. I work hard to make sure that our itineraries provide variety, are flexible and provide a genuine introduction that will enable you to get under the surface and experience the real local Mongolia.
This small group adventure ensures you will leave Mongolia feeling you have had a truly refreshing and individual experience. We can also offer it as a private tailor made holiday - adapted to your time frame, budget and and personal interests.
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