Trip Details – Food Of The Nomads – Tailor Made Trip

‘I wish you could be cloned and offer the sort of service EL does for all the other countries we want to visit. A responsible travel company where you genuinely love the country and we feel where local people benefit from tourism – just as we benefited from learning about their lives.’ Michelle Le Blanc

Mongolian kettle

Experience daily rural life on the high steppe of Mongolia’s middle Gobi, central heartland, and Khangai Mountains as you are hosted by families that we work in long-term local community partnership with.

Our Food Of The Nomads cultural local food experience connects you and our host families as you learn side-by-side from the families about their life and then – through visiting local markets, informal cookery lessons, and shared meals – about Mongolia’s traditional, yet delicious, cuisine. Don’t be put off by the bad rap that Mongolian cuisine gets – it’s not all boiled mutton you know!

In Mongolian cuisine, simple base materials are processed with a surprising variety of methods, and combined with vegetables and hand-made noodles and other flour products for fresh homemade delights. You’ll also learn about ‘tsagaan idee’ or white food – the different dairy products including how airag (fermented mare’s milk) and shimiin arikh (yak’s milk vodka) are made.

Dishes will include Tsuivan (stir-fried flour noodles), khuurshuuur (mutton pancakes), and buuz (Mongolian dumplings). Don’t worry if you’re vegetarian – nearly all Mongolian national dishes can be easily converted into a vegetarian version.

  • Duration – 13 Days – Adaptable – length or season
  • Accommodation – Homestays – Hosted by families we work in long-term local partnerhsip with, family ger camps
  • Travel with & experience the friendship of our great Mongolian teams of male driver & female trip assistant as well as the friendship of the families we work in partnership with.
  • This is a customisable trip. It is adaptable, giving you the freedom to build a unique and personal trip for your chosen date. Upgrade your accommodation for all – or just part – of your trip, slow down the pace with few extra nights here and there or add a few more active adventures along the way. All images used throughout this document were taken either by EL guests or members of the EL team. This is the Mongolia that you will also experience.
  • We measure the carbon footprint of each tour we offer and balance the footprint through the Mongolian Nomad Carbon Project. See ‘The Small Details’ below.
  • COVID-19 – Book With Flexibility & Confidence. We have a comprehensive FAQ section.

Meet Your Hosts

This is Batbold and Jargaa - owners of a small tourist ger camp located in Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park in Arkhangai Province, Mongolia

Batbold & Jargaa at Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur

This is Tumee - an expert horseman and head of one of the herding families we work with in Mongolia's central Orkhon River Valley

Tumee & Jargaa in the Orkhon Valley

Mongolian herding family Lunar New Year

Davaasuren at Khogno Khan Nature Reserve

Dondov - a Mongolian herder

Dondov at the Suman River

A Mongolian herding family

The Galbadrakh family at Tsenkher

Solo Travel Mongolia

The Negui family in Erdenedalai

Trip Breakdown

Day One – Final Arrival Day | Discover Ulaanbaatar | City Walking Tour

Image: EL guest Tammy McCorkle

Ulaanbaatar is home to roughly 45% of Mongolia’s population and our free city walking tour will give you a more local introduction to this vibrant frontier-style city with a strong Mongolian identity of its own.

Yes, the city is chaotic and loud and not as glamorous as other capital cities but it is the beating heart of Mongolia and the hub of contemporary Mongolian urban life. The reality for many Mongolians takes place in this urban context, in a city they are striving to develop and improve. Ulaanbaatar deserves to be appreciated and explored as the urban centre that it is. 

Food Experience

Today you’ll spend the day in the company of one of our female Mongolian trip assistants exploring the food scene including visiting a local market before going to your local host family where you will spend the evening preparing dinner with them in their home.

  • Accommodation: Your own choice
  • Meals: Local lunch | Dinner  | Welcome drink
  • Travel: Free transfer

Day 2 & 3 – Erdenedalai | Middle Gobi 

Erdenedalai is our secret. Far from the ‘highlights,’ the ‘must-sees,’ and large tour groups it is a beautiful region little visited by other international visitors. And that’s exactly why we make it one of our bases. It’s great for slow travel experiences of a more immersive kind.

Solo Travel Mongolia

Image: EL guest Joyanne Horscroft

Erdenedalai is Mongolian for ‘Jewel Ocean’ and although far from the ocean this tight-knit and traditional community located in the middle of the Gobi steppe provides a genuine insight into everyday life in Mongolia.

Even though annual precipitation in this area is low, with no permanent lakes and very few springs, roughly 5880 herder households make their home in this transition zone between steppe and desert. It is a beautiful region little visited by other international visitors as it’s not considered a highlight by guidebook writers or tour companies. And that’s exactly why we make it one of our bases. As mentioned, it’s great for slow travel experiences of a more immersive kind. Although just wide-stretching semi-desert steppe, the views are expansive.

This is the first of EL’s own ger homestays in partnership with the herding families of Erdenedalai. We focused on a region little visited by other western groups as this meant our support would have more impact. The income raised from this homestay provides an additional income to the herding families that host you during your stay. We work side by side with the family making sure our experiences are put together in a way which benefits the families, rather than disrupting their lives. As our guest you benefit from a more intimate and genuine experience.

Food Experience

The majority of this trip focuses on the well-watered central heartland. That’s why we include two nights in the middle Gobi – so you can compare and contrast the way of life as well as the different ways dairy and meat products are used and preserved.  Herders in the middle Gobi region produce some of Mongolia’s best airag – fermented mare’s milk. Airag is a meal in one or even a meal replacement as herders will frequently drink airag rather than eating, especially in the summer months.

Here in Erdenedalai, you get to experience the process from the initial milking of the horses through to the preparation of airag with the large open skin sack (known as a khukhuur) and the wooden masher (buluur).

  • Accommodation:. With Nergui herding family. Hot shower available at the local town shower house – your own private cubicle with plenty of hot water. Queue with the locals and enjoy experiencing a little of their daily way of life

 

Ger Interior Mongolia

  • Meals: Day 2 – L/D & Day 3 – B/L/D
  • Travel: Day Two: Roughly 255km total on dirt road (approx 6 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions.

Day Five – Khogno Khan Nature Reserve | Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dunes – Central Heartland

Image: EL guest Lynn McCaw

Drive to explore this sacred granite mountain within an area of secluded valleys, freshwater springs, open steppe, and the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes. Khogno Khan Nature Reserve was taken under state protection partly due to the specialised taiga and steppe plants that grow in this area. The small but vital Tarna River provides an essential water source for the herders in the region.

Explore the hidden interiors of the mountain on a  3-hour hike to the small working temple of Erdene Khambiin Khid and the ruined Ovgon Khiid Monastery. A birch bordered path leads to this location and offers one of the most beautiful panoramas of the region.

Food Experience

Hosted by the Davaasuren family, come together in your guest ger in the evening to prepare a traditional evening meal for them.

  • Accommodation: Basic ger (shared with 2-4 other members of the group) next to family ger. Basic long drop outside toilet. No showers.

Staying With The Davaasuren Family

Mongolian herding family Lunar New Year

At Khogno Khan, we work in long-term local community partnership with the Davaasuren family who has lived in the region their whole life and who keep a small number of livestock – including horses & camels. In fact, Davaasuren is at his happiest on the back of a horse or camel showing off his home landscapes of Khogno Khan. He’s a bit of a entertainer as well and his horse or camel treks can include sand sculpting, impromptu wrestling matches, and singing.

This quiet older couple are always happy to welcome guests and they offer 4-6 guest gers alongside their own family ger as a way of supplementing their income. However, please understand though that as their way of life is simple, so are the facilities they provide but using the guest ger accommodation that Davaasuren and his family provide allows you to experience their daily life side by side with them.

  • Meals: B/L/D
  • Travel: Roughly 260km on dirt and asphalt road (approx 6 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions.

Day Five & Six – Tsenkher Homestay

A Mongolian herding family

Image: EL guest Myriam Gonzalez-Schulze

The Galbadrakh family are a young family – yak herders – that make their home in the district of Tsenkher in the Khangai Mountains. We form long-term local community partnerships throughout the country and work side by side with each family looking at ways we can provide long-term support. Our experiences are put together in a way that benefits the families, rather than disrupting their lives.

Galdbadrakh and his family are members of the Cooperative Ar Arvijin Delgerekh  – an NGO that works solely with yak herders in Arkhangai Province helping them to produce spun yak down thus helping to sustain and improve the livelihoods of the member herders as it allows them to diversify and increase their income (the herders being paid the full value of their harvest for a higher price than the local market).

Food Experience

Understand the many varied uses for yak milk and experience the variety of ways the central family stove is used for preparing meals as you help the family to prepare their evening meals.

  • Accommodation: The Galbadrakh family live as part of a ‘khot ail’ – an extended family – and make one of the family gers available for guests to sleep in. You will have to share a ger with 2-4 other members of the group. Hot shower available at the local town shower house – your own private cubicle with plenty of hot water. Queue with the locals and enjoy experiencing a little of their daily way of life
  • Meals: B/L/D
  • Travel: Day Five – Roughly 215km on dirt and asphalt road (approx 5-6 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions.

Day 7 & 8 – Tsetserleg Market | Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park

Drive through Arkhangai Aimag to Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park. This is a diverse lakeland area – especially the ridge tops with their outstanding views over the surrounding mountains and the lakeshore. A natural highlight of Mongolia, White Lake National Park encompasses an area of wild nature – volcanic craters, rugged mountains, river valleys and rolling steppe.

Food Experience

Our hosts Batbold and Jargaa own and run the Surtiin Eco Ger Camp. Both have grown up in the region and are at the centre of this rural community. They are great friends and it is with them and the protected area rangers that we arrange our annual two-day community rubbish collection.

Jargaa prepares all meals herself for her small business and you will spend your time side by side with her, learning her amazing art form (and with Jargaa, it is an art form). The kitchen is at the centre of family life here and you’ll love joining in with the informal cookery lessons which will cover everything from shol (traditional soups) to the Mongolian version of doughnuts as well as experiencing the legendary hospitality of Batbold and Jargaa.

En-route to Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur, there will be a two-hour stop in the provincial capital of Tsetserleg to experience its great local market with a mix of dairy, meat and vegetable products from the local surrounding region.

  • Accommodation: Basic ger at family-operated ger camp (8-10 guest gers). You will share a ger with 2-4 other members of the group. Asian style sit down outside toilet. A single hot electric shower is available.
  • Meals: B/L/D
  • Travel: Day 7 – Roughly 180km on dirt and asphalt road (approx 5-6 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions. 

Day 9 & 10 – Suman River

Suman Gol Mongolia

Explore the volcano that created Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park with its alpine lake at its core before continuing on to Suman Gol where you will stay with Dondov – another member of the Cooperative Ar Arvijin Delgerekh. He is also a small market gardener and a local historian.

Don’t try to find this location in a guidebook – you won’t. But, although basic, the location of Dondov’s small camp comes as a surprise – next to the river and part of the Tariat volcanic field. There are petroglyphs to explore as well as the lava terraces. 

Food Experience

Only 1% of Mongolia’s landmass is dedicated to crops and here you can learn from Dondov more about the challenges of growing vegetables in the harsh terrain of Mongolia.

  • Accommodation: Basic ger at family operated ger camp (4-5 guest gers & some wooden houses). Asian style outside toilet and option for a (brilliantly engineered) cold shower.
  • Meals: B/L/D
  • Travel: Roughly 100km on dirt and asphalt road (approx 2-3 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions. 

Day Eleven & Twelve – Orkhon River Valley | Kharkhorin | Central Heartland

Mongolia's Orkhon River Valley

Continue to the home of Tumee and Jargaa – a herding family we work with located close to the Orkhon River. They are modern-day herders, a strong part of the local community, and move up to six times a year.

The Orkhon River Valley is one of Mongolia’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s a cultural WHS and represents the evolution of nomadic pastoral traditions in Mongolia – this region is considered the cradle of Mongolian civilisation and an area rich in nomadic life as the Orkhon River provides as essential lifeline for herders and their livestock.

Kharkhorin is the ancient capital of Ogodei Khan and the Mongol Empire in the 13th Century. Visit Erdene Zuu – Mongolia’s oldest monastery and visit the excellent Kharkhorin Museum with its clear and updated exhibits based on the history surrounding the Orkhon River Valley and the Turkish and Mongol Empire. Even if history doesn’t really ‘grab’ you, we recommend a visit as it helps to bring the history of the area alive.

Food Experience

Domestic tasks for Mongolia’s herders remain similar to centuries ago, and although roles are quite distinct, there is often sharing and mixing of responsibilities. Spend time experiencing and sharing typical herding tasks side-by-side with Tumee and Jargaa including milking the livestock,  collecting water from the river, cooking up a storm on the small central ger stove, and helping to prepare the Mongolian barbecue which you’ll come together as a group to make on the final evening.

  • Accommodation: Basic ger (shared with 2-4 other members of the group) next to family ger. Basic long drop outside toilet. Hot shower available at the local town shower house – your own private cubicle with plenty of hot water. Queue with the locals and enjoy experiencing a little of their daily way of life

Staying With The Tumee Family 

This is Tumee - an expert horseman and head of one of the herding families we work with in Mongolia's central Orkhon River Valley

As with all the families we work with, we work in long-term local community partnership with Tumee and Jargal. Local to the area – they both went to school in the region – one of their adult sons is a member of the Genghis Khan Polo Club. They are considered integral members of their local community. Although they agree their way of life has challenges, they love it for the sense of freedom it provides.

  • Meals: B/L/D
  • Travel: Day Eleven – Roughly 130km on dirt and asphalt road. Approx 4 hours driving time not including stops. Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions

Day Fourteen – Return Ulaanbaatar (UB)

Return back to UB where we’ll transfer you to your accommodation and the rest of the day will be yours to create your own experience. Remember you could use our UB guide to help you to explore the urban side of Mongolian life in downtown Ulaanbaatar. Alternatively, one of our trip assistants could be made available but please let me know in advance.

We’ll transfer you to the airport or train station for free on your departure day.

  • Accommodation:  Of your own choice
  • Meals: B/L
  • Travel: Roughly 355km on asphalt and dirt road (approx 7-8 hours driving time depending on city traffic).  Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions.

From Our Blog

Learn more about the dishes you’ll be preparing and cooking.

Tsuivan – Mongolian Noodles

Khuushuur – The Ultimate Street Food

Being Vegetarian In Mongolia

Tsagaan Idee – Mongolia’s Dairy Products

Khorkhog – Traditional Mongolian Barbecue

Mongolia’s Traditional Cuisine

The Small Details

For all of our small group trips we offer a sliding price scale. We appreciate your holiday funds are precious and so the more people that book so the price comes down and everyone benefits.

Group Size – Maximum of six. Minimum of two required for a guaranteed departure 

  • Now with a 10% discount as a way of saying thank you for choosing to travel after two very difficult years and also as a way of celebrating Mongolia reopening.
  • 2 Guests US$ 3260 pp US$ 2935 pp
  • 3-4 Guests US$ 2680 pp US$ 2410 pp
  • 5 Guests – US$ 2525 pp US$ 2270 pp
  • 6 Guests US$ 2295 pp  US$ 2070 pp

Where Does Your Payment Go?

  • In our experience, how people choose who to book with usually comes down to the cost. Budget is a very personal thing and everyone is different in what they want to pay.
  • We’re a registered Mongolian business and registered social entrepreneurship. We are not a luxury tour operator. We’re a small business that receives around 150-200 bookings per year. We can’t compete on price with our budget competition that don’t pay sustainable wages, or with the international companies that use agencies to run their trips and receive 1000s of bookings per year. We also can’t compete with individual guides or drivers that offer cut-price trips.
  • To help you see where your payment goes, we’re very much driven by our philosophy of making a positive difference in Mongolia through tourism.
  • We focus on community-based tourism – working directly with local people, communities and projects – slowly building up relationships and what we call long-term local community partnerships with them. We work side by side with each and our experiences are put together in a way that benefits and support each family or project, rather than disrupting their lives or work. We also run our free long-term training school for Mongolian women that want to work in tourism – providing training and then creating long-term flexible employment opportunities for them. 
  • Your payment remains in Mongolia and goes back into the communities through which you travel. We are committed to providing honest and ethical business opportunities for the local people we work with, at fair rates, as well as providing long term support.  We also focus on making sure our impact is as positive as it can be. I am the only westerner (the rest of my small team are Mongolian) and we don’t work with any outside agencies or ‘buy’ services from other in-country operators.
  • We are a signatory of the Glasgow Declaration (a commitment to take action to halve tourism’s emissions by 2030 including our own, and to report on progress made each year) as well as a member of Tourism Declares A Climate Emergency – a collective of travel organisations that have declared a climate emergency and are coming together to find solutions and to help build a new, regenerative tourism.
  • All meals outside of the city of Ulaanbaatar. Mainly prepared and cooked by your local team so they are fresh and it means we offer more flexibility for any dietary requirements. We also provide filtered drinking water (not bottled), tea and coffee. 
  • In Ulaanbaatar: local lunch and welcome drink on city walking tour
  • Local team of English speaking female Mongolian trip assistant and Mongolian male driver
  • All overland transportation throughout the trip (4×4 Russian Furgon van + fuel)
  • Each vehicle has a charger for cameras and phones
  • Free (informal and relaxed) city walking tour of Ulaanbaatar
  • Transportation to and from the airport on arrival and departure days
  • All activities mentioned PLUS any activities offered including
  1. Camel or horseback rides
  2. Entrance fees to monasteries, temples and museums (when with local team) – excludes camera tickets
  3. Festival tickets if festival is highlighted in itinerary
  • International airfare to and from Mongolia
  • Accommodation in Ulaanbaatar

* Our trip pricing excludes the price of accommodation in UB though. Why?  Everyone is different is the standard of accommodation they prefer at the start and end of a trip. As there is now such a variety of hotels in UB it is easier to exclude this cost. I provide a list of ideas covering varying standards and budgets and I can also help with booking. There’s everything from a homestay through to Airbnb, US$10 guesthouses and the Shangri-La!

  • Domestic flight where/if applicable

*If you are travelling by domestic flight, the schedule and cost of the domestic flights have not yet been determined by the Mongolian airlines. Once you have booked this trip, you will be notified directly by us as soon as that info becomes available. Reservations and payment arrangements for any domestic flight will be coordinated by us.

  • Passport and visa fees

Let us know your nationality at the time of booking and we’ll confirm whether you need to apply for a Mongolian visa. It is a relatively easy process depending on your nationality and we can help with some of the formalities.

  • Travel insurance (mandatory) 
  • Gratuities

*Each member of the local team receives a responsible but fair salary and none have to rely on receiving gratuities to supplement their income.  In addition, we make sure that everyone who works with us or helps us is fairly rewarded for their work and the service they provide. At the end of the tour, if you wish to make a gratuity to the local team then thank you – it is not compulsory but it is appreciated when given. If you would like to provide a tip,  a tip for the drivers would be roughly equal to what you would give to the tour guides – anything from $20 (USD) per member of staff (driver & tour guide) is a good minimum guide.

Take a look at our comprehensive FAQ section (including our flexible Covid cancellation policy) – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/mongolia-faqs/

We are members of Tourism Declares A Climate Emergency and a signatory of The Glasgow Declaration which requires us to publish an annual Climate Action Plan. It also means we have essentially signed up to work towards halving our emissions by 2030 and reaching Net Zero as soon as possible before 2050. We must report publicly on an annual basis on progress against our interim and long-term targets, as well as on actions being taken.

One of the five pathways defined in the Glasgow Declaration is ‘measure’ and we have started the process of measuring the carbon footprint of our tours. We use the carbon calculator tool Carmacal – specifically designed for tour operators and 2017 winner of the UNWTO Award for Innovation in Research and Technology. We then measure the carbon output of the meals we provide on tour using https://www.muchbetteradventures.com/magazine/hey-travel-industry-heres-how-to-measure-your-carbon-footprint/ and add this to the carbon total.  We then balance the footprint for each tour by purchasing Plan Vivo Foundation carbon certificates which are used to support the Plan Vivo Mongolian Nomad Project – working in partnership with the Mongolian Society of Range Management.

It’s not perfect, but it is a start. After all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and the way we measure the carbon footprint of our tours is manageable and achievable for us – a very small business with limited finance and resources.

We will be publishing the carbon footprint for each tour on each specific tour page but this will take a little time.

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