Trip Details – Khovsgol Ice Festival – Mongolia Small Group Winter Trip

‘It remains a stand out adventure – remote, beautiful, free and with great interaction with the environment – including landscapes, animals and off course, the people. A true adventure, unlike any other. And it was possible thanks to the special way you built EL and tailored our trip.’ Ben Kidron, Khovsgol On Ice

  • Includes Khovsgol Ice Festival
  • Start Date: February 23 2022 AND February 23 2023
  • Duration: 12 Days
  • Accommodation – Homestays, Local Hotels, Family Operated Ger Camps
  • This is a small group trip. However, our maximum is group size is six – which is refreshingly small for the travel industry. These small group sizes mean that our trips are more respectful for your host families that we work in long-term local community partnerships with. It also means you’ll be one of few rather than one of many and this leads to a more genuine experience as well as a more personal and real insight for you as our guest. It also means that no two trips are ever the same as we can keep things flexible. 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.
  • Winter is a quintessential Mongolian season. It is cold, very cold, but the cold is an important part of what makes Mongolia and its landscapes extraordinary at this time of year.  For all of our winter trips, we provide traditional felt boots, hand-made goat skin blankets and can provide winter deels as well.

The Khoridol Saridag Mountains and western shoreline provide a backdrop to the frozen lake surfaces of Khovsgol Nuur. Notice the traditional and WARM (!) coats modelled by Turuu and Bataa. These are hand made for Eternal Landscapes.

Image: EL guest Kairi Aun

The wild and diverse landscapes of Khovsgol Nuur National Park dominate northern Mongolia and form the backdrop to this cultural adventure which focuses on the way of life for Mongolia’s Darkhad ethnic group including a three-day horse exploration of the lake by horse sleigh and the two-day Ice Festival.

Biologists use the word ecotone for places where different habitats meet – where a forest meets a meadow or a lake meets a shore. Khovsgol is an ecotone on a very large scale. The result is a wide range of habitats – wet meadows, shallow ponds, coniferous forest, steppe woodland, open steppe, alpine meadow, high mountains and the lake and lakeshore. You’ll get to experience all those different aspects of this remarkable area as we show you a more local and hidden side to Khovsgol.

This small group experience has been designed and put together by EL and Baasanchuluun  a member of the Darkhad  ethnic group and head of a young herding family located in the small communuty of Khatgal – on the southern shore of Khovsgol Lake.

These are our own personal friendships that we have built up over the past 15 years. We form long-term local community partnerships throughout the country and work side by side with each family. Our experiences are put together in a way which benefits each herder and their family, rather than disrupting their lives. This leads to a more respectful and genuine experience as well as a more personal and real insight for you as our guest. Because of the way we work you’ll get an original insider experience.

Trip Breakdown

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

Ulaanbaatar (UB) 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. 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. 

Our informal and relaxed city walking tour will give you a contrasting insight into a way of life, compared to that of the rural population as you spend the day in the company of one of our female Mongolian trip assistants exploring the city through the eyes of a local.

You’ll also visit the Black Market to buy a Mongolian del for the Tsagaan Sar celebrations so that you are warmly received by all that host you.

  • Accommodation: Your own choice
  • Meals: Local lunch and welcome drink
  • Travel: Free transfer

Day Two – Amarbayasgalant Monastery | Northern Landscapes

Image: EL guest Kairi Aun

 

A road trip to Amarbayasgalant Monastery – passing through some of Mongolia’s main agricultural land.

The monastery – where the remains of Zanabazar – Mongolia’s first Living Buddha (spiritual head of state) – are interred – was constructed between 1726 – 1736, when Mongolia was under heavy Manchu influence and this influence can be seen today. By the early 1890’s Amarbayasgalant was one of the greatest pilgrimage destinations in Mongolia.

It is situated in a haven of rugged beauty in the cul-de-sac of a long, deep valley backed by Mount Buren-Khaan against which the monastery is built. The valley is well-watered by the Iver River and has long provided an essential water source for nomadic herders and their livestock.

Staying With Davisuren

Family member Amarbayasgalant Monastery Mongolia

At Amarbaysagalant we work with Davisuren. She is a grandmother whose son is a herder out in the Iver Valley. She lives in a small house located close to the monastery and has a small shop that the young monks and local community members use.  Davaasuren offers two gers for visitors to stay in. Her way of life is basic and so is the ger accommodation she offers. But the location is fantastic – next to the monastery which means you are free to explore the monastery and its stunning surroundings independently without any need for a vehicle.

  • Accommodation: Basic ger at small family operated ger camp (3 guest gers). You will have to share a ger with 2-4 other members of the group. Asian style outside long drop toilet. No showers
  • Meals: L/D
  • Travel: Roughly 385km on dirt and asphalt road. Approx 7 – 8 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions.

Day Three – Uran Togoo Volcano | Khutag Undur | Northern Landscapes

Uran Togoo Volcanic Landscapes Mongolia

Spend time at the monastery and then depart for Uran Togoo – Tulga Uul – a national protected area consisting of the extinct volcanoes of Uran Togoo, Tulga, Togoo, and Jalavch Uul. All four mountain names allude to their volcanic past with designations borrowed from around the fireplace – a bowl shape, three mounds reminding of the traditional iron tripod kettle support and a small pot.

They are part of the Khanuy-Gol Volcanic Field which has 10 cones with heights of 30–190 metres from the Pleistocene and Holocene epochs.

Having visited, you will continue to the small community of Khutag Undur where you will spend one evening.

  • Accommodation: Simple local hotel (maybe not en-suite facilities)
  • Meals: B/L/D
  • Travel: Roughly 325km on dirt and asphalt road. Approx 7 – 8 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions.

Day Four & Five – Khatgal | Horse Trek | Khovsgol

Meet Baasanchuluu

Baasanchuluu - head of his family and a member of the Darkhad ethnic group. Although young, his knowledge of the local area is as vast as the landscapes of his home. His pasture is located close to the community of Khatgal. Khovsgol Ice Festival, March 2018.

Image: EL guest Kairi Aun

Meet Baasanchuluu (Bambakh) – a modern ‘malchin’ (herder) and a member of the Darkhad ethnic group.  He is head of a young herding family located in the small communuty of Khatgal – on the southern shore of Khovsgol Lake. (This small group experience has been designed and put together by EL and Baasanchuluun.) As is common, he has a winter home within the town of Khatgal itself  and this is where you will stay – in his wooden house within the hasha – typical fenced compound that belongs to each extended family.

There is nothing planned in advance as everyone is different in what they like to do and not planing in advance leads to a more respectful and a more naturally Mongolian experience. But we recommend a full-day horse trek in the company of Bambakh exploring the winter landscapes. For the horse sleigh trip you’ll explore the lake so on the horse trek you’ll head into the interior mountain and steppe landscapes meeting Bambakh’s family and friends en-route.

But, if horse trekking is not your thing then there are hills to hike up within the town for remarkable views. Or, go for a spin on the ice with the EL drivers! Or, you can just relax and enjoy the gentle natural beauty of the area.

  • Accommodation: A mattress on the floor of Bambakh’s winter log house. Asian style 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.
  • Meals: B/L/D
  • Travel: Day Four – Roughly 300km on asphalt road (approx 7 hours driving time not including stops).  Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions.

Day Six – Eight – Khovsgol Nuur Horse Sleigh Expedition | Khovsgol Nuur National Park

Photo from one of our recent Mongolia winter tours to Khovsgol Ice Festival

Explore the frozen surface of Khovsgol Lake – the area of water that dominated Khovsgol Nuur National Park – Dalai Ej – Mother Sea to Mongolians. It is a spiritual place for Mongolians and its natural beauty makes it a stunning location to take a little time out.

Khovsgol is 126km in length and  represents roughly 70% of Mongolia’s fresh water and is the younger sister to Lake Baikal in Siberia and part of the same Rift System. If the sky is clear, you can stand on the shoreline and see the snowcapped Sayan Mountains – the border with Siberia. It is truly spectacular.

Bambakh – together with his brother Lokh and our other local horse sleigh guides – have hand built their horse sleighs in the local tradition – sleighs are a common form of transport for the Darkhad at Khovsgol in the winter months. These are the sleighs you will use. Lokh, Zorgio and the other local herders will drive the sleighs. It is their local knowledge that will guide and lead the trip.

We leave the route entirely flexible and in the hands of your local guides as this leads to a more organic and Mongolian type of exploration. However, this does mean you need to be flexible as the route will also be dependent on the weather and also the conditions of the lake (see below).

Horse sleigh expedition Mongolia
    Image: EL guest Kairi Aun
  • Accommodation: With local families
  • Meals: B/L/D
  • Travel: –

We need you to be completely flexible. The route will depend on two things – one is the ice and the second the weather conditions. With this in mind, the route will at times remain close to shore and at other times be right in the centre of the lake. Also, rather than a day-long ride it might be broken up into shorter rides with stops at local families en-route for a picnic lunch and also to stretch the legs.

Challenges that need to be faced are mainly to do with the weather. The weather in March can be hard – bitter enough that your breath freezes in the air as you speak but this is all part of this remarkable experience. The wind can cause difficulties as it rushes through the 3 or 4 corridors that cross through the Khoridol Saridag limestone mountain range that dominates the western shoreline. Also, there might be compression crests. But these are all challenges that your local horse guides know to look out for and how to deal with.

We insulate the horse sleigh with our hand made traditional goat skin blankets. We also provide you with your own hand made full length goat skin del (traditional Mongolian coat) and a pair of Mongolian felt boots. Lunches are taken always with a small camp fire. Having these picnic lunches allows us to explore the sandy beaches, rocky shorelines, forested coves and the small cliffs that can be found alongside the lake.

Frozen Khovsgol Nuur Mongolia

Image: EL guest Kairi Aun

Yes, there will be challenges but this style of experience provides a  rare tranquility, The immensity of the lake and its landscapes are awe-inspiring. You’ll find complete freedom as you fly over the ice listening to your sleigh guide singing traditional songs about horses and love. The ice is pure and transparent – virtually untouched – and you can lose hours of your day looking at the trapped air bubbles and being mesmerised by the colours.

Khovsgol Horse Sleigh Expedition Mongolia

Image: EL guest Kairi Aun

The horse sleighs used for the expedition are part of the Darkhad culture and not something arranged just for tourism. However, we still take the welfare of the horses used for the expedition seriously.

  • The horses are working horses and chosen specifically by the Darkhad guides – who are also the owners of the horses and the sleighs – and therefore understand the characteristics needed for the horse to pull the sleigh.
  • We work in long-term local community partnership with the herders and know that the animals are not overworked and in good condition. However, the animals are chosen based on factors such as terrain, altitude, temperature, hours of work, age and their condition.
  • During the expedition, we ensure (together with the Darkhad guides) that the horses receive adequate shelter, care, food and water. We match the weight of our guests to that of the animal and ensure that the weight is evenly balanced when riding. All tour equipment is carried in the EL support vehicle therefore lessening the load of each horse.
  • If a horse is injured or becomes ill, they are not be worked again until they are fit.

Day Nine & Ten – Khovsgol Ice Festival

 

Image: EL guest Kairi Aun


Image: EL guest Kairi Aun

Spend two days at the Ice Festival. Held at Khatgal to promote tourism outside of the main tourist season – it focuses on the region’s special features.  Don’t get caught up in notions of authenticity – the Ice Festival features  a lot of local involvement. The festival draws local Mongolian spectators as well as westerners and the locals are always more enthusiastic – including often wearing their best winter dels. Unlike tourist versions of festivals, this feels like a party for locals, thrown by locals.

But, don’t come expecting a rigid programme of events that all occur on time. Yes, there are activities and competitions throughout the two days but this festival is more a celebration of local community, networking and collaboration to ensure a better future for the region and its herding community.  So. Ditch your watch. Wrap up warm. Use the EL van as a base to warm up when needed and come and enjoy meeting the locals and being part of this festive atmosphere which includes Ice Sumo, tug-of-war, ice sculpting an ice-driving rally and ice skating. There is also usually a  shamanist ceremony as well as a musical concert.

On the afternoon of Day Nine, you will return to Murun. Why not explore the Ushigiin Uver deer stones complex located close to the spectacular Delger Murun River. Known as Bugan Khoshoo in Mongolian they are believed to possibly be ancient grave markers for warrior chiefs.

Murun is the llively capital town of Khovsgol Aimag which bears the hallmarks of being a trading outpost close to the border with Russian Siberia, in that it is slightly wild and rough around the edges. However, this adds to its charm and unique atmosphere – especially the market in the centre of town.

  • Accommodation:
  • Day Nine: A mattress on the floor of Bambakh’s winter log house. Asian style 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.
  • Day Ten: Provincial hotel (en-suite)
  • Meals: B/L/D
  • Travel: Day Ten: Roughly 100km on asphalt road (approx 3-4 hours driving time). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions.

Day Eleven & Twelve – Selenge Gol | Bulgan | Ulaanbaatar

There’s no other way back to UB apart from the road trip. But, don’t spend your time thinking ‘when will we get there?’ You are already there surrounded by the beauty that is Mongolia in winter. Remove your watch and relax. These days are about the immensity of Mongolia’s winter landscapes as you travel through Khovsgol and Bulgan Aimags.

You will also stop at the powerful Selenge River – formed by the confluence of the Ider and Delger rivers, the Selenge is Mongolia’s principal river and a critical ground water source for Mongolia as well as the most substantial source of water for Lake Baikal in Siberia. Enjoy the spectacular views out over the river – stretching below the small town.

You’ll spend one evening in Bulgan and arrive back into UB on Day Twelve. On arrival back into UB, we’ll transfer you to your accommodation in UB 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 will transfer you to the airport or train station on your departure date.

There is a small eagle festival held in Ulaanbaatar in early March. However, the dates are not confirmed until January or February. Also, the Ice Festival can take place on March 2 and 3 or March 3 or 4 and the dates won’t be confirmed until in January or early February. So once we know what dates the Ice Festival will be on then we know if we can get back to UB for the eagle festival.

  • Accommodation:
  • Day Eleven : Provincial Hotel
  • Day Twelve: Your own choice of accommodation
  • Meals: B/L/D and B/L
  • Travel:
  • Day Eleven – Roughly 300km on asphalt and dirt road one way (approx 7 – 8 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions.
  • Day Twelve – Roughly 350km on asphalt and dirt road one way (approx 7 – 8 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions.

The Small Details

  • For all of our low season experiences 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 – Minimum of two. Maximum of six. Minimum of two required for a guaranteed departure

  • 2 Guests        US$ 2145 pp
  • 3-4 Guests     US$ 1905 pp
  • 5 Guests        US$ 1720 pp
  • 6 Guests        US$ 1575 pp

The above prices include a 15% discount pp as a thank you for choosing to travel with EL outside of the main season. We are keen to extend the season for the benefit of our Mongolian team and the rural families and Mongolian businesses we work with – to make tourism less concentrated around peak season (July) and to help the income of the people we work with be more evenly distributed. Thank you for being part of that 🙂

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 also a member of Tourism Declares A Climate Emergency – a collective of travel organisations who have declared a climate emergency and are coming together to find solutions. We accept our responsibility to tell the truth, work together, and 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
  • For winter trips, we also provide each traveller with one of our traditional hand made goatskin blankets. These are used by most rural Mongolians and go on top of the sleeping bag. They are fantastic insulation. Also, you get a pair of Mongolian felt boots to wear during your time in Mongolia. These are commonly used by herders and insulate the feet much better than western-style hiking boots and socks can do. They are waterproof. About the cold, predicted winter temperatures could scare at first sight, but it is a very dry cold and with good preparation (as in the right clothing including thermals)  minus 25 ° C could be compared with – 5 ° C in Europe. We look after you!
  • 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.

What Will It Be Like?

Although there is a structure in place – we don’t provide a tight schedule or overly detailed itinerary – that sort of rigidity just seems incongruous in a land of such freedom among a country of herders.

Yes, there may well be irritations and difficulties – this is Mongolia, one of the largest, most remote countries in the world, with limited infrastructure. Mongolian people are tough and resilient and make their way of life in both the city and countryside seem easier than it actually is. Mongolia will challenge you at times. We’re on hand  to iron out any niggles and make the experience as smooth as possible but you need to be sure you’re able to demonstrate flexibility,  patience, and both a sense of humour and a sense of adventure. 

Are you up for a road trip? It’s something to consider since there are always several long travel days on any Mongolian journey.  Mongolia can be a challenging destination, road conditions can change dramatically with the weather and some drives may be prolonged as a result. It simply comes with the territory. Traveling long distances is an integral part of Mongolian culture and it is considered bad form to complain or ask about the length of time of any road journey. If you can accept the journey as part of the overall Mongolian experience, you’ll do fine.

Travelling In Winter
  • Winter trips can sometimes be susceptible to unforeseen problems which might result in last-minute itinerary changes.  Things will not happen on a perfect schedule and conditions will be very rugged – you will be required to step outside your circle of comfort. Please base your expectations on this important point.
  • Facilities will be more limited than you have maybe experienced on previous winter trips elsewhere.
  • In towns, accommodation is heated through a central piping system which gets turned on in late September and turned off in May. You may find the rooms overly warm and stuffy but there is typically no thermostat so the only option is to open a window.
  • Apart from in the towns, your accommodation will be in family provided accommodation where there won’t be hot showers and the toilets will be OUTSIDE Asian style long drops. All family accommodation will be prepared for winter and heated by a stove but you’re probably used to an insulated house with central heating. There is a substantial difference.
What About The Weather?

Mongolia’s weather system has a reputation for a reason. We’ll prepare you for what weather to expect during your trip (including links to the long-range weather forecast for the regions you will be visiting) and also provide a detailed packing list on booking.

Who Is The Local Team?

You will travel with a team of male Mongolian driver and female Mongolian trip assistant. We do not outsource the logistics of our trips to drivers and guides working the tourism circuit. Instead, we have worked on nurturing our own local operations and provide long-term training, support and employment opportunities to those that want the opportunity to aim to be the best they can be thus supporting them in their aim. This has led to the formation of our small but great team. 

**Our female Mongolian Tour Guides are dynamic women who are searching for an opportunity to train for the long-term career opportunities that we provide. You’ll travel with someone who sincerely loves their home country, loves their job and genuinely cares about you as our guests. We are proud to be able to provide a starting block to women in Mongolia. We invite you as our guests to become a part of this philosophy.

   **We employ ten male drivers and knows each one personally. Their English may be limited and they are not necessarily modern urban types – more the traditional strong and silent type – but they are superb at navigating the Mongolian roads. (Often older or more traditional men are now overlooked by other tour companies who prefer younger more international Mongolians who speak English.  We wanted to provide equal opportunities and so as our trip assistants are female and typically younger with a more modern outlook, so our drivers are all male, older and from more traditional backgrounds. We find it is a partnership that works well.) If you take the time to get to know them, you’ll see why we employ them. As well as handling the challenges of the roads, they are supremely talented at the Mongolian skill of ‘mongolchlokh’ – improvising the Mongol way. It’s a joy to watch, so if your vehicle does break down, don’t get angry. Instead, watch the drivers do what they do best – improvise!

Meet Our Team
Our Local Long Term Community Partnerships

We work with a network of local families throughout the country. These are long-term local community partnerships we have built up over the 15 years+  we have been based here. These are also our own personal friendships.

We never ask a family to change their daily living for us.  We do not try to change Mongolians or their way of life for our/your own benefit or comfort. We don’t ask them to change their daily schedule or to put on an ‘act’ as this would lead to a contrived experience. Nothing is planned in any program, because we do not disturb the rhythm of life of the working families visited. We are just trying to share / experience  a portion of their life (also rarely wear a watch let alone work to an agenda!).

Our Community Partnerships
What Is The Tour Vehicle?
  • The 4×4 Russian Furgon / UAZ van (not jeep). Our Furgons are driver-owned but we support the drivers with maintenance fees.
  • Each vehicle has its own simple mobile kitchen, its own sunshade, a small library as well as a 220v inverter/charger. We only put a maximum of three to four guests per vehicle.
  • Each Furgon has a high wheel-base, ample luggage space, a sociable layout with forward and backward facing seats, surround side windows and most importantly, impressive off-road capability.
  • As is typical with all Furgons, due to the design of the vehicle, seat-belts are not available (2021 although we’re working on it for 2022. Get in touch for details if you’re concerned) but our Furgons are fitted with grab handles in the passenger area.
What Are The Meals Like?
  • Included meals will be provided mainly by the local team team. Since each of our vehicles contains a kitchen, it offers considerable freedom and flexibility. It also allows for picnic lunches en-route (and gives you lots of time to stretch their legs and do a little exploring). 
  • The majority of Mongolians eat meat and for Mongolia’s herders it is an essential part of their diet. Due to the remote locations and the lack of facilities, there will naturally, but occasionally, be limitations in place. (If you’re the type of person that must have five pieces of fruit a day then you may struggle.) But you can count on meals that will be tasty and filling. The team is encouraged to purchase local seasonal produce to help support each community we pass en-route. Also, we take food miles into consideration so do not expect kale smoothies or Thai curries or paella or Chinese stir fry. We just provide honest, heartening grub. You may see a pineapple in one of the markets but, no! We won’t necessarily buy it! 
  • We make every effort to cater to those with dietary requirements. However, you are personally responsible for providing clear information regarding dietary needs so we can help you to understand well in advance what you might realistically expect. There will be ample room on the booking form for you to convey these details. 
  • In Ulaanbaatar, there is a wide range of local Mongolian restaurants and international options. There are Japanese, Italian, Indian, Ukrainian, French, Mexican, American and even North Korean restaurants to name a few. Vegetarians are well represented, too, with a surprising number of meat-free, vegan restaurants. Most pubs and bars also serve food.
Being Vegetarian in Mongolia
What About Drinking Water?

In rural areas in Mongolia, there is no running water. Since recycling is extremely limited in Mongolia, we do not buy bottled water. Instead, the local team travels with two 20l containers per vehicle and collect drinking water from the small town drinking water stations and filter it for your consumption. You will need to bring a resusable water bottle with you. We provide a detailed packing list on booking.

Our Partnership With Water-To-Go
Toilet Breaks When Driving

Regular toilet breaks are taken during road transfers. There are limited public facilities available (none) so we provide a small trowel and plastic bags. You can either take the trowel and dig a small hole (in which you can leave the toilet paper and then re-cover with the soil) or place your toilet paper into the small bag and place the bag into the main rubbish. We do not burn the paper – arid conditions, a strong breeze and grassland do not make for a good mix!

Providing Toilets In Tourism
Accommodation - Family Operated Ger Accommodation & Homestays
  • As much as possible we use rural family operated ger accommodation. We prefer to support this local form of accommodation as it helps provide a supplementary income and extra financial security for them meaning they are one step further away from having to consider urban migration.
  • These are all families we work in long-term local community partnership with – we NEVER turn up unannounced and we never just turn up to a herding family demanding accommodation.
  • The circumstances and type of ger accommodation provided will change from family to family. Consider them as small rural businesses NOT rustic luxury homestays. Be prepared for a variety of standards. Please remember that this is someone’s way of life and home and that they provide what they can in relation to their circumstances.
  • Beds will vary in comfort – most rural family members still traditionally sleep on the floor so don’t really understand the concept of double memory foam mattresses!
  • You should have your own private ger either to share as a group but we don’t offer exclusivity as this limits the income of the families so do expect other westerners during peak times.We try to get the right balance but during peak season please accept that you might see other westerners
  • Toilets (Familes & Homestays) – Some will be better than expected. Some will be worse than expected. Most will outside long (or short) drop Asian style and if it is at a family home then the toilet will be shared by you and the family. The toilets are not there to disgust you – this is the reality of life on the ground.
  • Showers (Familes & Homestays) – Most Mongolians visit the local town shower house. So this is what you do as well. It gives you an introduction to real daily life for a majority of Mongolians in both urban and rural areas as well as a hot shower. You get your own private cubicle with plenty of hot water. Queue with the locals and enjoy experiencing a little of their daily way of life- Most Mongolians visit the local town shower house. So this is what you do as well. It gives you an introduction to real daily life for a majority of Mongolians in both urban and rural areas as well as a hot shower. You get your own private cubicle with plenty of hot water. Queue with the locals and enjoy experiencing a little of their daily way of life
Accommodation - Tourist Ger Camps
  • If requested and in some locations (such as Khovsgol), we do offer accommodation at ger camps. We don’t book the most luxurious or the most exclusive. Instead, we choose the ones that we think work best for you and your style of trip as well as the locations you are visiting.
  • There WILL be times during your journey when the availability of certain amenities at these ger camps may be lacking. The reasons for this can be varied – low season; high season; electricity/generator problems; remote locations; the simple fact that some amenities are only catered for between certain times of the day. Examples of this could be a ger camp having a lack of hot water, or only having hot water at certain times.
  • Lighting in the evening at some places may be by candle-light, and electricity may not be available.
Accommodation - Local Hotels
  • We don’t use hotels in all itineraries.
  • Where we do use a hotel, it is locally owned – built for the passing Mongolian trade rather than for western visitors so they have been built with the local population in mind so they are not corporate chains. However, one or two will pleasantly surprise you.
  • Why do we do this? It brings money and support into the local communities.  As well as staying at the hotel we eat in local restaurants and buy our tour produce from the local market so you get a more real insight into the way of life for the locality.

We are members of Tourism Declares A Climate Emergency which requires us to publish an annual Climate Action Plan. As part of our plan we carbon offset all domestic flights.

Although carbon offsets are far from imperfect and not the whole answer, they make a difference. Emissions per kilometer for domestic flights are always much higher because such a large proportion of the flight is spent taking off and landing. With this in mind, as a company, we will be calculating the offset for all domestic flights used by our guests and paying the offset to buy 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. 

Blog posts to inspire & connected with our Khovsgol  Ice Festival winter trip

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