Trip Details – Living With The Tsaatan – Mongolia Horse Trekking Tour

‘I was blown away by the variety of the scenery andthe people. The highlights of the trip were the friendliness of the staff, the interactions with herders as people and friends and feeling part of the country.’ El guest, John Highley

Reindeer belonging to the Tsaatan reindeer herders of Mongolia

Image: EL guest Kairi Aun

 

Located in the far north of Mongolia, the Darkhad Depression is a broad expanse of open steppe and low forested hills and home to several thousand square kilometres of natural habitat classified as taiga (also known as the boreal forest). This vast region is Tsagaannuur, and as well as forming the northernmost tip of Mongolia, it provides the home range for the world’s southern-most indigenous reindeer population.

The Tsaatan are Mongolia’s smallest ethnic minority – a community of nomadic reindeer herders with strong shamanist beliefs. Originally from Tuva in Siberia, they have historically inhabited the border region of Russia and Mongolia. Ethnically, the community identifies as Dukha, but their lifestyle as reindeer herders earned them the Mongolian name Tsaatan, which means roughly ‘with reindeer.’

Our Living With The Tsaatan experience allows you to live alongside the Tsaatan. However, this is not an ‘organised tour.’  Apart from the road trip to access the taiga, it is a journey on which you must be prepared to step outside your comfort zone. During your time with the Tsaatan, nothing is contrived or planned. We leave the plan each day entirely flexible and in the hands of your host family.  This leads to a more respectful and genuine experience as well as a more personal and real insight for you as our guest. To do this though you must be open to all experiences and also able to appreciate life, whatever the conditions. If you’re able to travel in this way, rather than just a standard organised tour you’ll get an original insider experience of the day-to-day life and the challenges faced by the Tsaatan themselves.

Positive Impact Overview

  • No domestic flights. Emissions per km for domestic flights are high because a large proportion of the flight is spent taking off and landing. As we are serious about tackling the carbon footprint of the trips we offer, we try that a majority of our experiences don’t include domestic flights.

  • We are in the process of measuring the carbon footprint of each experience we offer and balancing the footprint through the Mongolian Nomad Carbon Project. We wanted a high-standard project local to Mongolia where the local community had a positive say in the scheme and its impact. It’s the first project of its kind in Mongolia – restoring traditional nomadic practices to enable ecosystem recovery and carbon uptake – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/climate-action-plan/

  • Our team of female Mongolian trip assistants is breaking down barriers in tourism and leading the way for other Mongolian women from a diverse range of backgrounds to work in and be supported by tourism. Mongolia’s growing economy has not directly translated into better employment opportunities for women and by choosing to travel with us you’re helping us to create long-term development and employment opportunities for our brilliant trip assistants – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/chandmana-erdene-a-circular-approach-to-tourism/

  • High unemployment rates and toxic masculinity are two very real issues faced by older more traditional men in Mongolia. By choosing to travel with us you’re helping us to provide long-term employment for our team of older, more traditional male drivers who have experience and accumulated knowledge but who would otherwise struggle to find employment and provide for their extended families.

  • The experience has been built with a focus on Mongolian culture and on creating local benefits for local people & communities including families we work in long-term local community partnership with – helping to supplement their income to help prevent urban migration, face the challenges of climate change and allowing them to maintain their fragile herding lifestyle – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/who-we-are/who-we-work-with/

  • A donation is made to the Mongolian projects that we provide long-term support to (and that you will visit) such as the Uuliin Nuur Community Project in Ulaanbaatar – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/project-support/

  • By offering this experience as a private experience without multiple departure dates we are limiting our impact. Although we all love spending time in nature, we need to strike a balance. By having a limited number of departures each year we’re not creating a tourism circuit.

  • Duration: 16 Days (6 days of horse trekking) – Adaptable – length and season
  • Accommodation – Homestays – Hosted by families we work in long-term local partnership with, Small ger camps, Wild camping
  • Maximum Group Size – we prefer 6 as it helps manage our impact but we will increase it for private trips
  • 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.
  • Book With Flexibility & Confidence. We have a comprehensive FAQ section.
  • Domestic Flights To/From Murun
  • We prefer not to use internal flights for journeys of an hour or less as planes use most fuel during the take-off and climb to altitude, so on short flights, the carbon emissions to passenger km ratio is higher. However, there is a domestic flight between Ulaanbaatar and Murun and we understand that your time might be limited so you might prefer to fly to reduce the number of travelling days. This will be dependent on your travel dates as domestic flights are seasonal.
  • Alternatively, take the public bus between Murun and Ulaanbaatar (direct with frequent departures and refreshment and comfort stops en-route). We’ll book the tickets and we’ll cover the cost. Yes, it takes longer to get where you’re going, but the journey itself becomes part of the adventure.

Detailed Day-To-Day Breakdown

Please email or send a message through WhatsApp for the full itinerary details. Price details are below.

From Our Blog

Learn more about Mongolia’s immense Darkhad Depression.

The Small Details

  • For all of our 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.
  • If you are travelling with children, let us know their ages as we do offer free experiences for children under 15 excluding certain costs.

Group Size – Minimum of two or pay a surcharge | We prefer a maximum group size of 6 as it helps manage our impact but we will increase it for private trips 

  • Final group size of 2 guests      USD 3580 pp          
  • Final group size of 3-5 guests  USD 3065 pp          
  • Final group size of 6 guests      USD  2795 pp        

Where Does Your Payment Go?

  • As well as a registered Mongolian business that pays tax in Mongolia we are also a social travel enterprise that invites our guests to be part of a bigger travel philosophy. Our goal is a form of tourism that is fair and equitable for everyone and every experience we offer helps to support our work. This means we don’t offer tick-list or general travel experiences which limits our size and income. (We receive around 100-150 travellers a year.)
  • Our team of female Mongolian trip assistants is breaking down barriers in tourism and leading the way for other Mongolian women from a diverse range of backgrounds to work in and be supported by tourism. Mongolia’s growing economy has not directly translated into better employment opportunities for women and by choosing to travel with us you’re helping us to create long-term development and employment opportunities for our brilliant trip assistants. We are also in the process of establishing a formal tourism training intiaitve and support centre for Mongolian women – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/chandmana-erdene-a-circular-approach-to-tourism/
  • 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.  High unemployment rates and toxic masculinity are two very real issues faced by older more traditional men in Mongolia. By choosing to travel with us you’re helping us to provide long-term employment for our team of older, more traditional male drivers who have experience and accumulated knowledge but who would otherwise struggle to find employment and provide for their extended families.
  • Your payment remains in Mongolia and goes back into the communities through which you travel and our trips provide long-term support to a range of Mongolian herding families as well as projects that we work in long-term local community partnerships with. 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. As an example, our long-tem support of herding families allows them to survive the challenges of climate change.
  •  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 – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/climate-action-plan/
  • 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 (+ 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 a festival is highlighted in the 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 – 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. We do this in our Climate Action Plan linked above.

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 wanted an accurate footprint analysis whilst also keeping the process manageable and achievable. Of the limited carbon calculators available to small tourism companies with a restricted budget we have signed up with the carbon calculator tool Carmacal – specifically designed for tour operators and the 2017 winner of the UNWTO Award for Innovation in Research and Technology.
  • However, there are limitations with this online tool in the fact that – like most online carbon calculators – you can only measure transport and accommodation and a few very specific activities. But, the main contributors to carbon footprints are food, consumption, transportation, and energy, and all are heavily utilised during a tourism experience.
  • As a result, Jess has been working with postgraduate student  Kelly Hirschbuehler from the Responsible Tourism Management Postgraduate Course of Leeds Beckett University in the UK – the only responsible tourism management MSc certified by the UNWTO – looking at how we can measure the carbon emissions of meals on tour as well as the carbon footprint of our office as well as certain tour activities.
  • Using the calculations provided by Kelly in her research project we can now better calculate – not perfectly but still better – the overall carbon footprint of each trip we run.

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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