I sometimes get asked how do we put together the Mongolia small group experiences that we offer. Well … it’s about balance, equality and flexibility. We focus on how we can make a positive difference through tourism in Mongolia, how we can break the typical tourism stereotypes of Mongolia, how we can make sure the trip provides support for the local Mongolians involved in providing the activities and also just a really great but genuine experience for our guests.
With our Modern Mongolian Nomads small group experience, the landscapes of northern Mongolia and the central Khangai Mountains provide the backdrop. The focus is on how rural Mongolians are embracing the 21st Century whilst maintaining the traditions. Retired herders, small scale vegetable nurseries, cooperative members, small business owners and nomadic families. They are all hosts on this trip.
Landscapes play an important part in the way of life of rural Mongolians and this trip showcases the diversity of the way of life of the people that make their home in these landscapes including celebrating a rural Naadam Festival – one of the most important celebrations of the year – whether that be for local herders or a small town resident.
Ulaanbaatar – Mongolia’s capital city – is home to approximately 45% of Mongolia’s population. It is a tough, modern and cosmopolitan city of contrasts and extremes. It is also the cultural and business centre of Mongolia and a thriving urban hub. It maintains a strong Mongolian identity of its own.
On all of our Mongolia small group experiences, we include our free (informal and relaxed) city walking tour to provide our guests with a contrasting insight into a way of life, compared to that of the rural population. The day is not about museums or shopping – it’s about getting out and about and exploring and discovering a more local and human side to the city including meeting Ulzii …
Within our Modern Mongolian Nomads experience, the journey to Amarbayasgalant Monastery is as important as the destination itself.
Within tourism in Mongolia it is common for international visitors to want to get to their destination as soon as possible – often by taking a domestic flight. However, I like to promote slow travel … especially taking the local Trans-Mongolian train where our guests share their cabin side by side with Mongolian families and students returning home from their studies in Ulaanbaatar. We like it because it providesa different perspective – an alternative window – to local life in Mongolia.
Our guests travel in a second class compartment, the journey is approximately 6 hours and 30 minutes and is a delightful way to leave the city – as the rolling steppe slowly unfolds – passing through some of Mongolia’s most important agricultural land.
I love experiencing Bulgan Naadam. Bulgan is the provincial capital of Bulgan Aimag. Frequently overlooked by tour companies either due to its lack of tourist accommodation or because they prefer to visit Khovsgol because of the ease of being able to take a domestic flight, Bulgan hosts a fantastic local Naadam – festival of the Three Manly Sports.
Naadam events draw a large number of Mongolian families creating a vibrant holiday atmosphere. Our guests mix with the locals from the small town centre as well as with traditional Mongolian herders from outside the area. We say, don’t expect anything to operate on time and be prepared for plenty of waiting around as well – although there are always plenty of side stalls to explore and enjoy. The most important thing to remember is to experience Naadam from a Mongolian perspective.
‘The Nadaam festival is one of the most diverse cultural experiences I have seen. Mongol pride about their culture is powerful, but without the need for boasting.’
Myriam Schulze, MMN
Driving From Bulgan to Khogno Khan Nature Reserve
This is what I call a connecting day – travelling between landscapes – passing through mountain forest steppe scenery. Mongolia is about travelling through the middle landscapes (the everyday landscapes rather than those considered highlights) and understanding how the landscapes and the challenges that the locals face within them have helped to form the Mongolian personality – the individualism, hardiness, endurance, self-sufficiency, tolerance and their spirit of freedom. That’s what the drive from Bulgan to Khogno Khan is about.
Meeting The Galbadrakh Family
The Galbadrakh family are a young family – yak herders – that make their home in the district of Tsenkher in the Khangai Mountains. This is a personal friendship that we have built up over the past 13 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 the families, rather than disrupting their lives. Galdbadrakh and his family are members of the Cooperative Ar Arvijin Delgerekh – a 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).
‘I have travelled with a lot of companies in all different parts of the world. EL would be right up there with the best. It felt like a very genuine and personal experience which is very important to me.’
Catherine Challies, MMN
Suman Gol doesn’t feature in any of the ‘top 10’ or ‘must see’ lists of Mongolia. However, its remarkable lava terraces form part of the Tariat volcanic field and make the region worth exploring.
Dondov doesn’t fit the typical stereotype of a Mongolian herder and yet is a yak herder and another member of the Cooperative Ar Arvijin Delgerekh. He is also a small market gardener – only 1% of Mongolia’s immense landmass is dedicated to crops and Dondov likes to teach about the challenges of growing vegetables in the harsh terrain of Mongolia. Dondov is also a local historian and enjoys sharing his ger museum with his guests. And he is a great engineer from his cold water river shower to his homemade crusher.
‘You (from you as the boss to the trip assistants and the drivers) really try to make the satisfaction and comfort of your clients a priority. You make us feel that we’re not a number for you.’
Helene Girardeau, MMN
Orkhon River Valley
Mongolia is an ancient land and has a rich and varied history. However, the country only offers a hint at the flow of people and the cultures that have preceded modern Mongolia. One place to touch base with Mongolia’s history is the Orkhon River Valley – one of Mongolia’s four 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 an essential lifeline for nomads and their livestock.
You’ll be hosted by 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.
‘I felt connected to EL from the start, that I was being welcomed into an extended family, and felt that same care throughout my time in Mongolia, from my pickup and drop off at the airport. For me, the connection was one of the best things EL can offer in a way other companies can’t.’
Karen Liebel, MMN
For more details on joining our Mongolian Modern Nomads, look at the Mongolia small group tours page of our website. Do get in touch for further details.
Jess @ Eternal Landscapes