When you think of Mongolia one of the first images that comes to mind might be that of the wide-open steppe during summer. But Mongolia’s deep winter wilderness is (I believe) an opportunity missed by many and one of the most remarkable regions to experience Mongolia’s winter is Khovsgol Nuur National Park. And one of the most remarkable experiences is a Mongolia horse sleigh expedition at Khovsgol.
Why? Here’s one reason …
Khovsgol Nuur (lake) is the area of water that dominates Khovsgol Nuur National Park in northern Mongolia. The lake is known as 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 freshwater 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.
And in the winter it is frozen. Deeply frozen.
Baasanchuluu (Bambakh) is the head of his family and a member of the Darkhad ethnic group. He has lived in the Khovsgol region his whole life with his livestock pasture being located close to the community of Khatgal – which reveals the proximity with Siberian Russia through its log house architecture. We have worked closely with Baasanchuluu and his family for all our adventure inspired Khovsgol experiences since 2011.
We focus on community-based tourism – working directly with local people, rural families and communities – slowly building up long-term local community partnerships with them. Low season in Mongolia is brutally long – from the end of October almost up until the beginning of May. As part of our long-term support, we look at ways in which we can continue to provide support to the families and communities we work with even during this low period and thus created our horse sleigh expedition.
Together with his brother Lokh and their childhood friend Zorgio, Bambakh & co have hand-built 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 we use for our Mongolia horse sleigh expeditions on Khovsgol – with Bambakh, Lokh and Zorgio driving the sleighs. It is their local knowledge that guide and lead our trips.
We insulate the horse sleigh with our hand made traditional goatskin 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 campfire. 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.
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. Yes, there will be challenges. The weather 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.
Each evening you will be hosted by local families that make their winter home alongside the lakeshore – as you travel you’ll see traditional gers put up on the banks; smoke curling up through the groves of Siberian larch.
It is breathtakingly beautiful – the simple purity of the landscapes and the frozen lake. This style of experience provides a rare tranquillity. 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.
Why not join us?
Jess @ Eternal Landscapes