‘From the moment we were taken off the tourist trail of UB to visit the Green Lake community project in the ger district, I knew that I had picked the perfect company to show me Mongolia. It really has been a privilege to visit this extraordinary country and to experience first-hand the day-to-day lives of Mongolians. Every day brought a new and wonderful aspect to the holiday, and I never tired of taking in the landscape and the human presence.’ Dean Andrews, Untamed Mongolia
- Includes National Naadam Festival
- Start Date – June 20 2022
- Duration – 23 Days (20 day option available excluding Naadam – ask Jess for details)
- Maximum Group Size 6
- Accommodation – Homestays, family ger camps, local hotels, 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.
Embrace Mongolia’s glorious, limitless space on our Untamed Mongolia small group experience – a celebration of the diversity of Mongolia’s ‘eternal’ landscapes. Mongolia’s landscapes form a backdrop to any journey in Mongolia but are a central element in our Untamed Mongolia experience where the focus is about exploring and discovering the striking landscapes of the Gobi Desert, the high open steppe and the spectacular lakeland and northern regions of Mongolia, including Lake Khovsgol.
This is the ultimate road trip combined with a camel trek, wild camping, day hikes and living alongside Mongolia’s herders. Join our Untamed Mongolia for an introduction to the real 21st Century Mongolia – its diversity of landscapes, its people and its way of life. This departure includes the National Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar.
June 20 – 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
June 21 – Baga Gazriin Chuluu Rock Formations – Middle Gobi Desert
Your destination today is Baga Gazriin Chuluu – the site comprises an area of extensive granite rock formations, and dry riverbeds with elm trees surrounded by steppe habitat. By-passed by most companies for the more famous ‘southern Gobi’, Baga Gazriin Chuluu is so much more than just the rock formations. The underground springs provide a water source and as a result, Baga Gazriin Chuluu is rich in history as well as the herding culture. We include our great hike into the interior where you’ll be the only people and the views are stunning.
- 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 Dembee & Batar herding family during bad weather. Outside Asian style squat toilet. No showers.
- Meals: L/D
- Travel: Roughly 235km on dirt road (approx 6 hours driving time approx not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions.
June 22 – Dalanzadgad – Southern Gobi Desert
A transfer day through epic landscapes down to the southern Gobi – see it as a Mongolian road trip. We recommend removing your watch and let the day and the journey unfold. Do not spend time in the van thinking ‘when will we get there’- you are already there; surrounded by the beauty that is Mongolia.
On arrival into Dalanzadgad why not visit the surprisingly great Camel Museum with its presentation of the Gobi. The square with its dinosaur statues is where locals of all ages come to take the air. It is worth spending time in, especially in the evening and you may well be approached by local students wanting to practice their English or who just want to interact with a foreigner.
- Accommodation: Simple apartment in Dalanzadgad. Consider this a one-night Gobi Desert Airbnb! You get to experience real-life and at the same time help to provide an additional income to a young family headed by Uugantuya and her husband Galbadrakh – although they may not be there due to work commitments.
- Meals: B/L/D
- Travel: Roughly 410km on asphalt and dirt road (approx 8-9 hours driving time not including stops. Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions.
June 23 – Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park | Yolyn Am | Homestay – Southern Gobi Desert
Explore the interior of the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park before heading to the home of the Batsuuri herding family. Gobi Gurvan Saikhan is Mongolia’s largest national park – a mountainous terrain rising out of the extensive desert plains and a region of incredible biological diversity. This mountainous region was formed by the same tectonic activity that created the Himalayas and is part of the Gobi Altai Range – the outer crumple zone of the Himalayan geological activity.
This includes exploring Yolyn Am – meaning Vultures Gorge/Mouth/Canyon it takes its name for the Lammergeier’s (Bearded Vultures) that you may see circling on the thermals. It is renowned for its sheet of ice several meters thick that forms during the winter in the narrow defile (often preserved until early July as the overshadowing peaks of Yolyn Am ensure a slow melt). The water tables beneath the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan were laid down by ancient processes – when the mountains began to lift, and fault lines cracked open, water squeezed up from below sought the easiest route downhill.
Staying With The Batsuuri Family
The young Batsuuri family live in the shadow of the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan. As herders they follow a pattern typical to the Gobi – moving twice a year. In the summer, they head out onto the vast plain and in the winter closer to the protection of the foothills. Life in the Gobi is tough – extremely tough – and a sequence of weather events such as drought or floods could easily destroy their fragile way of life. As a way of supplementing their income they offer their home to our guests as a one-night homestay. It’s for one night as it helps to provide an additional income without disrupting their lives too greatly. They get the financial benefit and we as guests get to experience the reality of life in the Gobi. If you come with the attitude of wanting to be entertained or to have dinner with the family, then you’ll be disappointed. They’re too busy. Instead, come and experience a little of their way of life and enjoy the expansiveness and silence.
- Accommodation: Mattress on floor of ger provided by Batsuuri family. The group shares one ger. For those not comfortable with sharing as a group, tent camp next to ger. Asian style outside short-drop toilet. No showers. Solo travellers receive their own tent – no single supplement required.
- Meals: B/L/D
- Travel: Roughly 110km on asphalt and dirt road (approx 4 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions.
June 24 & 25 – Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes Camel Trek – Southern Gobi Desert
For centuries, up until the 1920s, the Gobi was traversed by camel caravans – mainly on the trade route between Urga (UB) and Beijing. We still think this is one of the best ways to experience the Gobi and it is a journey well worth the effort and the sense of peace you will experience amongst the dune landscapes is one rarely found in everyday life. These are Mongolia’s highest dunes with the range stretching over 180km – known locally as Duut Mankhan – the singing sands. Mongolians say the Gobi consists of 33 different types of desert but only 3% is sand dunes. Khongoryn Els dunes make up a large proportion of that percentage.
The camel trek is designed for one day/one night. There will always be time for climbing and exploring the dunes – best at sunrise or sunset. The camel trek will be vehicle supported so if you need to hop off and take a break you can. On the afternoon of June 25 you will return to the family-operated ger camp.
- June 24 -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. We call it a ‘loo with a view!”). Solo travellers receive their own tent – no single supplement required. Outside Asian style squat toilet. No showers.
- June 25 – Basic ger at small family operated ger camp (5-6 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. The location is key here – you are not reliant on a vehicle to access the dunes. It’s approximately a 30-40 minute walk to the base of the dunes from the family ger which gives you so much more freedom and flexibility especially for exploring at sunrise etc.
- Meals: B/L/D
- Travel: June 24 – Roughly 110km on dirt road (approx 4 -5 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions.
June 26 – Petroglyphs | Bayanzag | Flaming Cliffs – Middle Gobi Desert
Bayanzag is an ancient rock formation, one of the most important areas in Mongolia for dinosaur fossils. Bayanzag means ‘Rich in Saxauls’ and the name shows what is important for the Mongolian people – not the red sandstone cliffs named the ‘Flaming Cliffs’ by Roy Chapman Andrews but the small desert shrub that is nurtured by the rare outwash from the surrounding gullies.
En-route, visit the spectacular Khavtsgait rock petroglyphs en-route to the Flaming Cliffs. The petroglyphs show the culture, art and religious beliefs of the Bronze Age people who lived in the Mongolian Gobi and its neighbouring areas starting about 4000 years ago. The views are stunning.
Staying With The Gelgegarash Family
The Gelgegarash family are retired herders and grandparents and part of the Ankh San Cooperative – a herder cooperative engaged in small-scale vegetable growing and sustainable tourism. They are of the older generation and are typically reserved and keep themselves to themselves. However, they warmly receive visitors if you would like to meet them.
Your accommodation tonight is located roughly 6km from the Flaming Cliffs so you have to visit by vehicle. However, the area of ‘zag’ (Saxaul) which gives the area its Mongolian name, is only a short walking distance from your ger accommodation so could easily be explored.
- Accommodation: Basic ger at small family operated ger camp (5-6 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: B/L/D
- Travel: Roughly 155km on dirt road (approx 5 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions.
June 27 & 28 – 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 that 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: June 27: 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.
June 29 – 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.
June 30 & July 1 – 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).
En-route, visit Kharkhorin – the ancient capital of Ogodei Khan and the Mongol Empire in the 13th Century. You’ll spend time at 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: 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: June 30 – Roughly 215km 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.
July 2 – 4- Terkhiin Tsgaaan Nuur National Park – Central Heartland
Drive to Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur and explore the volcano that created this beautiful area with an alpine lake at its core. Then there’s a chance to enjoy the legendary hospitality of our great friends, Batbold and Jargaa who run the Surtiin Eco Ger Camp. Both have grown up in the region and are at the centre of this rural community and it is with them and the protected area rangers that we arrange our annual two-day community rubbish collection.
There’s then the choice of a day-trek on foot or by horse from Batbold and Jargaa’s home to our White Lake campsite – exploring this diverse lakeland area – especially the ridge tops with their outstanding views over the surrounding mountains and the lakeshore. A natural highlight of Mongolia, White Lake National Park encompasses an area of wild nature – volcanic craters, rugged mountains, river valleys and rolling steppe. If you prefer not to join on the trek, you can always travel with the drivers to our campsite and then enjoy your own freedom to explore from there.
- July 2 – Basic ger at family operated ger camp (8-10 guest gers). You will share a ger with 2-4 other members of the group. Asian style sit down outside toilet. A single hot electric shower is available.
- July 3 & 4 – 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 ger accommodation during bad weather. Outside Asian style squat toilet.
- Meals: B/L/D
- Travel: July 2 – Roughly 205km on dirt and asphalt road (approx 5 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual depending on road/weather conditions.
July 5 & 6 – Jargalant | Zuun Nuur – Northern Landscapes
A majority of companies just drive straight on through, but the region connecting Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur with Khovsgol is one of our favourite areas. Perfect for a short slower drive and early arrivals at two of our favourite campsites. You will also visit Jargalant – a lovely rural community based along the Toin River Valley. Stunning views from the 108 Steps Temple.
- 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.
- Meals: B/L/D
- Travel: Roughly 300km on dirt road over two days
July 7 & 8 – Khovsgol Nuur National Park
Day Eighteen & Nineteen – Khovsgol Nuur National Park
Khovsgol Nuur 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 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.
On your second day, why not explore the Khoridol Saridag Mountains by hiking up the 2300m Chuchee Uul (above). Although an easy trail, it takes approximately 2.5 hours of walking (with approximately 700 metres of vertical climb) to get to the top with its remarkable view. However, even for those not keen on the 700 metres of climb you can still walk part way (still with views) or just enjoy walking along the lake shore with its lagoons.
- Accommodation: Twin-share ger or four-bed teepee at Gurvan Erdene Ger Camp. Western style toilet and hot shower in separate block although the showers are limited to certain times of day
We use Gurvan Erdene because it is the northernmost camp on the western shore – away from the main developed area. It is owned by a local Khatgal family and has a lovely atmosphere who are trying to manage the ‘footprint’ of the camp with eco toilets and solar showers. We prefer only to use Mongolian owned ger camps as our payment remains in the local community. It also means you often get to mix with Mongolian holiday makers who help to give you a different perspective on modern life in Mongolia.
- Meals: B/L/D
- Travel: July 7 – Roughly 200km 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.
July 9 – Return Ulaanbaatar
Return back to UB where 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 me know in advance.
We will transfer you to the airport or train station on your departure date.
- Accommodation: Of your own choice in Ulaanbaatar
- Meals: B * other meals depending on flight time
- Travel: Roughly 100km on asphalt and dirt road (approx 2-3 hours driving time not including stops). Up to 1 hour transfer time from Chinggis Khan airport
- Flight Departure and Arrival Time TBC. Weight restriction 15kg (10kg check-in and 5kg hand luggage). Hand luggage ‘officially’ restricted to 1-piece. Excess baggage charges are between $4-$7 per kilo depending on the route. Please note that the domestic airline may change the flight time schedule closer to the day of departure
July 10 – Naadam Horse Racing
Don’t be put off by what other companies say is a ‘tourist event’ – it isn’t. Naadam is a celebration of sportsmanship, ordinary people taking pride in their country and century’s old tradition melded together. It is also a time when Mongolians celebrate who they are, how proud they are to be Mongolian, their heritage and the qualities that produced the warrior nation of Chinggis Khan. This is Naadam.
The horse racing events of the national Naadam take place in the week leading up to Naadam and is held at Khui Doloon Khudag roughly 40km from UB. We’ll transfer you out early for the first race of the day – typically the Khyazaalan (four-year-old horse) race where they cover roughly 18km.
If you wish, you can also stay for the second race of the day – the Shudlen (three-year-old horse) race where they cover 14-16km. Alternatively, head back to UB to enjoy the Deeltei Festival (a fashion show and celebration combined of the Mongolian dell) in Sukhbaatar Square.
Few tour groups attend the horse racing on July 10. It typically draws far more Mongolian spectators than foreigners – creating a vibrant holiday atmosphere.
- Accommodation: Of your own choice
- Meals: L
- Travel: 40km on asphalt road (approx 1 hour driving time one way depending on traffic in city)
July 11 & 12 – National Naadam Festival
July 11th and 12th is the national Naadam Festival celebrated in Ulaanbaatar – Naadam celebrates the ‘Three Manly Games’ (or sports). We love the atmosphere, the crowds, the noise and the colour. It is a true Mongolian celebration of first-class sportsmanship, ordinary people taking pride in their country and century’s old tradition melded together.
Tickets are for the opening ceremony and the wrestling. All other events including the archery and the ankle bone shooting are free and take place at the festival ground outside the stadium. There are also EXCELLENT free music and dance concerts held in central Sukhbaatar Square during the Naadam period.
If your time is short then just stay for July 11th as this will give you a good overview of all aspects of the festival. See below.
We’ll provide you with our own personal guidebook and detailed programme to the Naadam Festival. The festival is about flexibility for you – we’ll (Jess and her Mongolian trip assistants) will be on hand throughout the two days to answer any questions or to provide guidance. However, you are also entirely free to make your own experience.
July 11th – We arrange a time and place to meet our guests that are attending the Naadam and we walk with you down to the Stadium. We’ll show you the location of the archery and the ankle bone shooting. We’ll then take you to the ticket gate for the Opening Ceremony. What you then decide to do is up to you – free for you to spend as you wish – inside or outside of the Stadium – but as mentioned, we’re on hand to be of help.
There is a free concert held in Sukhbaatar Square on the night of the 11th with excellent fireworks at around 11pm
July 12th – On the 12th, you’re free to follow the programme. For those with stamina we highly recommend watching the wrestling from the 5th round onwards (takes place around 2-4 pm on July 12th) in the Naadam Stadium.
- Accommodation: Of your own choice
- Meals: –
- Travel: –
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 THREE required for a guaranteed departure
- 3 Guests US$ 3335 pp + domestic flight of approximately 350,000 MNT pp
- 4-5 Guests US$ 3230 pp + domestic flight of approximately 350,000 MNT pp
- 6 Guests US$ 2995 pp + domestic flight of approximately 350,000 MNT 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.
Blog posts to inspire & connected with our Untamed Mongolia small group trip
- Learn more about our work with the Ar Arvidjin Delgerekh Cooperative in Mongolia – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/ar-arvidjin-delgerekh-cooperative-mongolia/
- Learn more about our annual community national park clean up at Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/annual-community-national-park-clean-up/
- Learn more about Mongolia’s Naadam Festival – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/mongolias-naadam-festival/
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.