‘Every local family provided a great insight into their way of life. They felt involved rather than used. It felt that we were part of something rather than an inconvenience. This really helped us gain a great insight and have a truly beautiful experience.’ Martin Slaven, Spring Journey
- Start Date – May 7th 2022 and May 14th 2022
- Duration – 14 Days
- Maximum Group Size 6
- Accommodation – Homestays, family ger camps, wild camping
- No single supplements for solo travellers
- This is a small group trip. However, our maximum is group size is six – which is refreshingly small for the travel industry. Our 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 our website were taken either by EL guests or members of the EL team. This is the Mongolia that you will also experience.
This experience is not about ‘must see sights’ or the highlights of Mongolia. This is about real everyday life for rural communities as the spring thaw has started and the warmth of the sun is slowly bringing freshness to the land.
March is when the livestock starts to give birth and this continues through April into May. It’s an industrious time of year for Mongolia’s rural herding communities and that’s what this trip focuses on. The rural way of life – whether it be of a nomadic family that move 6 to 8 times a year or a retired couple with just a small number of livestock.
There are no contrived experiences. These are real people with real lives to lead. That’s why its slow-paced – to allow the families the time they need to focus on their work and still giving enough time to provide you with more of a local insight into rural life at this important time of year as well as exploring the spring landscapes of Mongolia through ger homestays and family-owned ger camps. You’ll get to experience the traditional way of life but at the same time gain an overview of what it means to be Mongolian in 21st Century Mongolia.
- Day 1 - Ulaanbaatar (UB)
- Day 2 - Tree Planting Project
- Day 3 & 4 - Erdenedalai
- Day 5 - Khogno Khan Nature Reserve
- Day 6 & 7 - Tsenkher
- Day 8 - Ulaan Tsutgalan
- Going 'Ger To Ger' With Tomorbat
- Day 9 & 10 - Yak Cart Trek
- Welfare Of The Yaks Used In Our Yak Cart Trek
- Day 11 & 12 - Orkhon River Valley | Kharkhorin
- Day 13 - Khustain Nuruu National Park
- Staying With The Batchuluun Family
- Day 14 - Ulaanbaatar (UB)
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.
- Accommodation: Your own choice
- Meals: Local lunch and welcome drink
- Travel: Free transfer
Day Two – Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project | Middle Gobi Desert
Travel to and explore the provincial capital of Mandalgobi including enjoying an informal stay at the Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project – a small, family run, non-profit conservation project that has been operating since 1975.
Why Do We Stay Here?
Gobi Oasis is a small tree-planting nursery project established by Byamba Tseyen in her hometown of Mandalgobi, Dundgobi in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia in 1975. For over 40 years, Byamba – the driving force behind the Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project, a retired forest engineer and local conservationist – has been leading this conservation project by growing small seeds & branches, and nurturing them in harsh conditions, before replanting them in areas in desperate need for defence against desertification.
Each group typically plants one tree at the nursery – EL and our guests have now planted over 120 of our own trees – species which are native to the desert – which represents around 3% of the total number of trees planted at Gobi Oasis.
As well as planting your own tree, we make a substantial donation per person for their visit and this payment will go towards the work of Gobi Oasis.
You will stay as the guests of Byamba and Radnaa – the founders of Gobi Oasis. Urnaa is their daughter-in-law and she will be your main host. She enjoys interaction with her guests and likes when they help her to prepare the evening meal.
- Accommodation: Comfortable ger (at homestay in town). Sit down 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: L/D
- Travel: Approx 280km on dirt and asphalt road (roughly 5 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions
Day 3 & 4- Erdenedalai – Middle Gobi Desert 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.
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.
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.
- 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
- Meals: B/L/D
- Travel: Day Eight: 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
Drive to explore this sacred granite mountain. within an area of secluded valleys, fresh water 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 an easy 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.
- Accommodation: Tent camp. UK VANGO tents. We also provide a kitchen tent and a toilet tent (well, a tent to cover the hole in the ground. I call it a ‘loo with a view!”). Solo travellers receive their own tent – no single supplement required. Alternative of simple private ger next to Davaasuren herding family during bad weather. Outside Asian style squat toilet. No showers.
- 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 Six & Seven – Tsenkher Homestay
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).
- 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 Six – 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 Eight – Ulaan Tsutgalan | Orkhon Waterfall | Central Heartland
The area surrounding Ulaan Tsutgalan was created by a series of volcanic eruptions (there are often different types of igneous rock lying on the surface – such as basalt and pumice stone which solidified from molten Magma after reaching the surface). The 20-meter high waterfall is formed by a series of small streams and rivers including the Ulaan Gol.
For your stay at Ulaan Tsutgalan, you will stay at the small tourist ger camp of owned by Tomorbat and his family. They are retired herders but their son and son-in-law are still herders and they milk their yak herds in the early morning which you can partake in. Tomorbat and his wife have lived in the region all their lives and continue to live here all year round. Their knowledge of the area is vast and we love them for this.
This region is famous in Mongolia for the hand production and traditional decoration of gers. Although the family do not speak English and keep to themselves, they are very kindly hosts. At some point you should ask to visit their home ger – hand made, carved, decorated and painted by Tomorbat.
- Accommodation: Basic ger (shared with 2-4 other members of the group) at family operated ger camp (8-10 guest gers). Basic long drop outside toilet and no showers.
- Meals: B/L/D
- Travel: 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. A shorter route is possible but depends on the road and weather conditions.
Tomorbat used to lead our longer adventurous style treks that we offer in the region but was getting too old to lead them. But, as Tomorbat and Namjilmaa get older, we wanted to continue working with them … as part of our philosophy of providing long-term support to the rural families we work with.
So together with Tomorbat we created our ‘ger to ger’ walk. Led by by Tomorbat himself, this simple concept just takes up a morning or an afternoon where our guests spend time with Tomorbat meeting local herding families in the area. We allow Tomorbat to decide the route and what families our guests visit and although it is a relaxed walk it provides a different more local perspective on Mongolia. It’s a simple enough concept but as well as providing our guests with a local travel experience in Mongolia it means we can continue to work with Tomorbat and support him as well as tapping into his wealth of local knowledge.
Day Nine & Ten – Yak Cart Trek
On our yak cart trek we slow everything right down with the yaks determining the pace of your journey. Why? Well, you combine a mixture of sitting on the yak cart with walking alongside it and as yaks have a slow and steady pace so will you. Exploring in this way means you slow down and start to observe what’s around you – from the wildflowers to the daily way of life being carried out around you.
The large-framed Khangai yak stem from the traditional yak-keeping provinces of Arkhangai, Ovorkhangai, and Khovsgol and rural families in the mountain forest-steppe of the Khangai regions still use carts when collecting water, during their migration and also for other tasks such as collecting wood. But, there are no highlights or must-see locations. Instead, the natural habitat of the domestic yaks – rolling slopes, river valleys and woodland pastures – form the backdrop.
Following the peaceful tempo of the yak cart, you discover the region that your herder host calls home – in the area where the family grazes their livestock. That means there’s time for popping in to a friend’s house for tea or for taking a little time out by the river.
- Day Nine – With herding family
- Day Ten – Basic ger (shared with 2-4 other members of the group) at family operated ger camp (8-10 guest gers). Basic long drop outside toilet and no showers.
- Meals: B/L/D
- Travel: –
Although we can’t answer for other herders or companies, we know that the herding families we work in long-term local community partnership with – including the one we arrange our yak cart trek through – care about the health and welfare of their yaks. Although there is no room for sentimentality on the Mongolian steppe, the herders are not cruel as their livestock are their insurance policy.
The yak carts used for the yak trek are part of the Mongolian herding culture and not something arranged just for tourism. Yak and yak hybrids (called khainag in Mongolian) are used as draught and pack animals – used for collecting water, wood or for carrying the luggage of herders when they migrate. They are also used for milk, meat and their wool. Those used for riding or for draught and pack animals typically have a nose ring as they are not harnessed like horses; the nose rope allows the rider to control speed and direction.
All livestock in Mongolia is free-ranging including yaks used in trekking. This means they are free to roam and graze and are brought in the evening before or morning of the trek from their grazing grounds. Once the trek is finished, the yaks are free to roam again.
The yaks are working animals used to pulling loads including carts. They are chosen specifically by the herder guides – who are also the owners of the yaks and the carts – and therefore understand the characteristics needed for the yaks to pull the carts. During the trek, we ensure (together with the herding guides) that the yaks receive adequate shelter, care, food and water. We match the weight of the cart to that of the animal and ensure that the weight is evenly balanced. The yak cart trek takes place in a region where the yaks graze – where they can find their natural fodder and water and are operating at an altitude suitable for them. The yaks used in our yak cart treks are not overworked or overloaded, nor forced to work through ill-treatment.
If you are concerned please get in touch but we ask for travellers to have an open mind and an inkling to understanding the situation in Mongolia.
Day Eleven & Twelve – Orkhon River Valley | Kharkhorin | Central Heartland
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 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 as essential lifeline for nomads and their livestock.
On the second day, there is nothing pre-planned as everyone is different in what they like to do. But there’s plenty of flexibility and options. Ideas include visiting Kharkhorin, exploring the area on a horse trek, experiencing the way of life of the family or a mix.
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.
- 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
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 Thirteen – Khustain Nuruu National Park | Central Heartland
Transfer to Khustain – one of Mongolia’s conservation success stories – noted for its successful reintroduction of the endemic Przewalski horse– the only wild horse to survive in modern times and known as Takhi in Mongolian.
Khustain Nuruu National Park is part of UNESCO’s ‘Man and the Biosphere’ reserves. The Khustain National Park Trust was established in 2003 and deals with the management of the national park contracting with Mongolia’s Ministry of Nature and Environment. Khustain is now run as a dedicated NGO specialising in nature and environmental research and conservation. As the Przewalski horse (known as takhi in Mongolian) is a flagship species, its protection also helps to increase environmental awareness in Mongolia.
Having arrived, visit the (recently updated) information centre located at the entrance to the park. Then, depending on your arrival time, explore the ridges with views over the distant Moltsog Sands as well as the partly forested Khustai Mountains. Trek to look-out points, while having a reasonable chance to see red deer, corsac foxes, Siberian marmots, black vultures and other numerous raptors such as eagles and falcons.
The stars of the show are obviously the Takhi which are free ranging through the hills and mountains of the national park. The Takhi have a number of ranges which include the ridge tops of the national park. As with all wildlife, there is no guarantee of catching a sighting but we will try – whilst keeping within the strict rules and regulations of the NP.
- Accommodation: Tent camp. UK VANGO tents. We also provide a kitchen tent and a toilet tent (well, a tent to cover the hole in the ground. I call it a ‘loo with a view!”). No showers. Solo travellers receive their own tent – no single supplement required.
- Meals: B/L/D
- Travel: Roughly 325km on asphalt and dirt road (approx 7 hours diving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions
The Batchuluun family are your host family. They are herders and migrate typically twice a year different pastures with their livestock and offer additional guest gers for visitors to stay in. By staying with the Batchuluun family you are helping to support community-based tourism within the Khustain region. The Bayansonginot Cooperative is a community-based tourism organisation based in the buffer zone of Khustain Nuruu National Park and Batchuluun is the head of the Cooperative. Herding families within the area have come together to focus on developing community based tourism as an alternative income generation as well as promoting the modern-day herding way of life. The women members of the cooperative are treated as equals and attend the meetings and are also involved in the decision-making. They also hand-produce felt items from their sheep herds – they do this for additional income as well as a sense of empowerment.
- In the winter months, Batchuluun and his family are located in the mountain foothills of the national park – protected from the harsh winter winds.
- In the summer months, the family is located out on the broad and wide Tuul River Valley where the air circulates more freely and there is better grazing for their livestock.
- The winter pasture is easier for independent exploration. The summer pasture is located in the middle of the long valley and requires transfers by vehicle to get you into the foothills of the park.
- Both locations allow you to explore the archaeology of the region including the Neolithic graves of Öngut (roughly from the 6th or 7th century A.D).
- This is a popular region for visitors so expect that there will be other international visitors staying at the camp.
Day Fourteen – Return Ulaanbaatar
Spend the morning trekking through the NP accompanied by your EL trip assistant.
Although the main valley is busy with visitors trying to catch a glimpse of the horses, the backcountry offers a diverse and wild landscape perfect for getting away from it all for a few hours. This is how we prefer to explore the park – this slower pace of exploration helps to provide you with a better understanding of the biodiversity of Khustain. – its people, landscapes and wildlife
The length of the foot trek is flexible so you can decide your own departure time to Ulaanbaatar. On arrival in UB, 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 Jess 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 130km on asphalt and dirt road (approx 2.5 hours driving time depending on city traffic). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions.
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
- 2 Guests US$ 2865 pp
- 3-5 Guests US$ 2530 pp
- 6 Guests US$ 2240 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 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
- Camel or horseback rides
- Entrance fees to monasteries, temples and museums (when with local team) – excludes camera tickets
- 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)
*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.
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.
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.
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!
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!).
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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!
- 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
- Not all itineraries include tent camping. Please check your itinerary.
- We use VANGO Hurricane or Nemesis tents. There is also always a kitchen tent and also a toilet tent. However, this is not the same as a 5* safari in Africa!
- When camping, we do not camp too close to family gers as this intrudes on their privacy. However, local life is only a short walk away. If you like landscapes then you will love our campsites.
- 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.
- 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 Spring Journey small group trip
- Learn more about our Yak Cart Trek – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/yak-cart-trek-mongolia/
- Learn more about our ger to ger walk with Tomorbat – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/local-travel-experiences-in-mongolia/
- Learn more about our work with the Ar Arvidjin Delgerekh Cooperative – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/ar-arvidjin-delgerekh-cooperative-mongolia/