Trip Details – Women Only Mongolia – tailor made tour

‘(Wo)Men’s joy is in wide open and empty spaces.’ – Mongolian Proverb

Our Tuya – trip assistant and our office manager

Bring your sisters, your daughters, your mums, your grandmothers and your close female friends. Join this female-only female-led experience through Mongolia. Unlike most female-only experiences, we haven’t just replicated standard tour itineraries and just made them female only. Instead, we have designed this experience to allow you as a female traveller a unique opportunity to discover the challenges and lives of local women in Mongolia through a range of experiences.

As a female business owner, it is important to me to use my skills and influence to improve the prospects for other women. An integral part of our business philosophy is empowering women through travel and tourism and we do that by providing training and development opportunities to Mongolian women that want the opportunity to work in tourism (whether that be for a professional reason, for the development of personal skills, or for economic empowerment). Our Female Only Mongolia experience will be led by one of our brilliant female Mongolian trip assistants (guides) providing you with a more personal introduction to Mongolia as you travel with someone who not only sincerely loves their home country but loves the moments that travel brings.

Experiencing Mongolia from a woman’s perspective will surprise you. Women in Mongolia typically enjoy equality with men and traditionally have had higher social status and greater autonomy than women in some other Asian countries. During this experience, you’ll soon understand the breadth and depth of the careers and lives of women in Mongolia as you experience their daily lives side by side with them. This is the Mongolia they don’t cover in the guidebooks.

  • Duration: 15 Days – Adaptable – length or season
  • Accommodation – Homestays – hosted by families we work in long-term local partnerhsip with, Family operated ger camp, Wild camping
  • Travel with & experience the friendship of our great Mongolian teams of male driver & female trip assistant as well as the friendship of the families we work in partnership with.
  • This is a customisable trip. It is adaptable, giving you the freedom to build a unique and personal trip for your chosen date. Upgrade your accommodation for all – or just part – of your trip, slow down the pace with few extra nights here and there or add a few more active adventures along the way. All images used throughout this document were taken either by EL guests or members of the EL team. This is the Mongolia that you will also experience.
  • We measure the carbon footprint of each tour we offer and balance the footprint through the Mongolian Nomad Carbon Project. See ‘The Small Details’ below.

Trip Breakdown

Day To Suit You – Final Arrival Day | Discover Ulaanbaatar | City Walking Tour

Image: EL guest Tammy McCorkle

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 woman. You’ll also meet and spend time at the home of female shaman Javzandulam – learning more about her life and her work.

  • Accommodation: Your own choice
  • Meals: Local lunch and welcome drink
  • Travel: Free transfer

Day One – Day In The Life Of | Ulaanbaatar

Spend a relaxed morning at the home of B. Erdenetsetseg – a retired Associate Professor and member of the International Feltmakers Association. Here, you’ll enjoy an informal workshop  – designed to give you an insight into someone’s way of life in UB as well as a chance to practise this traditional art form. It also includes lunch in Erdenetsetseg’s home.

Erdenetsetseg - member of the International Feltmakers Association during one of our Mongolia day trip experiences

In the afternoon you’ll visit the Mongolian Quilting Centre –  more formally as the New Way Life NGO – established in 2005 to make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged and unemployed women based in Ulaanbaatar and in rural areas. They are trained in the art of quilting, textiles and embroidery and use their skills to generate income for their families by crafting products to sell.

Mongolian Quilting Centre

And then in the evening join together with the female trip assistants of Eternal Landscapes for informal drinks and dinner. Single mothers, teachers, linguists, herders. Our female trip assistants cover a broad spectrum of Mongolian society.

  • EL trip assistants
  • Accommodation: Of your own choice
  • Meals: Local Lunch | Dinner
  • Travel: Short drives

Day Two – Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project | Middle Gobi Desert

Meet Byamba

Byamba of Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project - located in Mongolia's Middle Gobi.

Image: EL guest Sue Fox

 

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 theyhelp 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
Homestay Mandalgobi Mongolia

Image: EL guest Brett Seychell

  • Meals: B/L/D
  • Travel: Approx 280km on asphalt road (roughly 6 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions

Day Three – Five – Erdenedalai Homestay | Middle Gobi Desert (return to UB late on Day Five)

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.

Meet Tsegmid

Solo Travel Mongolia

Image: EL guest Joyanne Horscroft

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.

As part of your experience you will spend time following in the footsteps of Tsegmid. Domestic tasks remain similar to centuries ago, and although roles are quite distinct, there is often sharing and mixing of responsibilities. The woman’s duties focus on domestic matters within the ger – such as helping to milk the animals (many times), collect water from the river, cook up a storm on her small central stove and then of course help to prepare the Mongolian barbecue.

  • Accommodation:
  • Day Three & Four – 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
  • Day Five – Single en-suite room at central hotel in Ulaanbaatar

Ger Interior Mongolia

    Image: EL guest Séverine B.
  • Meals:
  • Day Three & Four – B/L/D
  • Day Five – B/L
  • Travel:
  • Day Three: Approx 110km total on dirt road (roughly 3-4 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions
  • Day Five – Approx 280km on asphalt road (roughly 6-7 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65km/hour are usual but depend on road and weather conditions

Day Six – Nine – Fly Ulgii or Khovd | Altai | Kazakh Eagle Hunter Homestay (with Asker family) | Western Mongolia

A family photograph of the Asker Kazakh family during one of our Mongolia tripsFly out to Ulgii or Khovd – the provincial capitals of western Mongolia – where you will meet your EL team and then head to the small community of Altai district – in the south of Bayan Ulgii Province.

Altai is a remarkable location – deep on the Chinese border. Your destination is the summer pasture of Kazakh herder and eagle hunter Asker and his wife Ahgul. What makes this family so special is that they have one son (Nargulan) and FIVE daughters – Ahjakar, Ardagul, Aijarin, Jakarke and Aigerim. This delightful family will be your hosts as you spend time in the company of their daughter Aigerim – one of the regions young Kazakh eagle huntresses.

Don’t try to find the location in a guidebook … you won’t. But, the lush alpine meadows, the open plains, the dense forests, the high snowy peaks and the crystal-clear rivers and lakes are worth the effort.

There is nothing planned as everyone is different in what they like to do and not planing in advance leads to a more respectful experience. But there’s plenty of flexibility and options including learning more about the way of life or even a great horse trek or full-day hike into the landscapes of the interior.

Landscapes of western Mongolia

Experiencing Kazakh hospitality in western Mongolia

Image: Massimo Rumi

As Kazakh culture dictates, they are warm and generous hosts and this image shows the incredible table that awaits visitors at each home. At some point during your time in Ulgii you will try ‘Besbarmak’, a dish consisting of boiled horse or mutton. This is is one of the most popular Kazakh dishes and is also called ‘five fingers’ because of the way it is eaten – using your hands.

  • Accommodation:  Asker does have an additional ger for guests to stay in but depending on when you visit, he may have taken it down in time for his migration back to his winter pasture just outside of Altai. Alternatively, we always provide tents for each guest and these can be put up next to the family home. Asian style long drop outside toilet. No showers.
  • Meals: Day Seven – D * other meals depend on flight time & B/L/D
  • Travel: Day Seven – Up to one hour transfer time from Chinggis Airport and then approx 130km total on asphalt and dirt road (roughly 4 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions. Please note, if you fly into Khovd the transfer time is longer.
  • 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

Meeting The Eagle Huntress (es) of Mongolia

Kazakh Eagle Huntress

Image: EL guest Marios Forsos

You’ve probably heard of Aisholpan (the main star of the documentary The Eagle Huntress). However, you may not have heard of Aikerim or Ahkelik. They are also young eagle huntresses and have been training and hunting with their eagles as long as Aisholpan … just they had no documentary made about them.

We are proud that we work with all three and their families. Yes, they are eagle hunters and the subject of many media images. But they are also young women who enjoy going to school and meeting with their friends. They are very sociable young women and like to meet people from other cultures and countries.

At EL all of our trip assistants (guides) are Mongolian women and we believe that seeing women in independent positions is surely one of the best ways to inspire younger girls within the rural communities of Mongolia – including the eagle huntresses  – and to let them understand that they can do the same.  What I love is that eagle hunting has allowed both these young women to become courageous whilst at the same time teaching them the strength of perseverance as they continue to overcome obstacles such as centuries of tradition.

However, whether you get to meet them will depend on their schooling – schooling is important to their future and we like to support rather than impose. But, you’ll be part of their household – going hunting with their father – and therefore part of their daily life. 

Day Ten – Thirteen – Tsengel Khairkhan | Kazakh Eagle Hunter Homestay (with Bashakhan family) | Western Mongolia

Kazakh family Mongolia

Image: EL guest Sam Reinders

Stop in Ulgii to have a hot shower at the local town shower house – just as each of the family members that host you do. Then transfer to through the Altai landscapes to Sagsai – a district of Bayan Ulgii Province.

You’ll be hosted by the Kazakh eagle hunter Bashakhan. Together with his family, they move twice a year. In the summer months, their summer pasture is located within the region of the snow-capped Tsengel Khairkhan Mountain.

The landscapes of Tsengel Khairhan form the backdrop for the next three days. This mountain has an elevation of 3,943m and is one of highest glacier mountains in the Mongol-Altai mountain range. It is unexpectedly beautiful. And off the beaten track. This is the Altai that few others get to see and you’ll experience it through the eyes of Bashakhan but most importantly his wife – Hamalgan – and his daughter in law – Tolhyn. We leave the days flexible – you could take a horse trek or spend the day relaxing enjoying the rural way of life of Baskakhan or Hamalgan and Tolhyn – both are talented embroiders and will show you the skill behind this ancient tradition.

Panoramic view of the snow capped Altai Mountains in western Mongolia

Image: El guest Shonali Lihala

  • Accommodation:  Basakhan does have an additional ger for guests to stay in but depending on the date of your visit, it may be his summer ger or his winter clay brick house. Please be prepared to be flexible. Alternatively, we always provide tents for each guest and these can be put up next to the family home. Asian style long drop outside toilet. Hot shower 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 Ten –  Approx 230km total on asphalt and dirt road (roughly 6 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions. P

During your time in Bayan Ulgii Province you will have the services of a Kazakh translator working alongside your EL trip assistant. This is not a professional translator. This is either Jako or her husband Baurjan – local Kazakhs who can speak Mongolian (and depending on who works on your specific trip, a little English) and who supplement their income by working as translators specifically for EL. It could be that your questions have to be translated from English into Mongolian and then into Kazakh (and the answers vice versa). It might at times test your patience but just relax and enjoy being with Jako and Baurjan who have become part of the EL family.

Jako and Baurjan - Our Kazakh fixers

Day Fourteen – Ulgii (contingency day)

Ulgii - the provincial capital of western Mongolia

Image: EL guest Meei Wong

Travel back to Ulgii where you will be hosted by our Kazakh translator Jako and her family.

Ulgii is a predominantly Kazakh city where a Muslim influence is widespread, from street signs to clothes and food, and gives the town its diverse atmosphere. As well as spending time at the family home do as the locals do and visit the market where you can purchase some locally made wool and embroidery crafts and take in the view from Ulgii’s viewpoint – always popular with local families. Also, consider the surprisingly interesting local museum.

And for those that think why bother visiting Ulgii?… remember, for each of the families you live with, Ulgii is part of their way of life … they use it for shopping, for meeting friends, for attending school or visiting the doctor. It’s as much part of their life as hunting with eagles is.

Meet Halmira

Halmira was widowed when her youngest child was just two. A mother of five, Halmira survived financially by creating traditional Kazakh embroidery. However, apart from local sales she has never really had an outlet for her remarkable skill … until now. With Halmira, her home is her workshop.  Self-taught, Halmira uses her own motifs as well as more traditional designs for the Kazakh embroidery and wall hangings she hand makes. She works freehand but uses handmade stencils. For those that wish to, we arrange for you to spend time at the home of Halmira learning this incredible skill.

Meet Halmira, Olgii Western Mongolia

  • Accommodation: At the home of Jako and Baurjan. Outside toilet. Hot shower 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: Roughly 60km on dirt road (approx 2 hours driving time not including stops). Averages of between 30 and 65 km/hr are usual but depend on road and weather conditions.

Day Fifteen – Return Ulaanbaatar

Fly back to Ulaanbaatar. On arrival into 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 me know in advance.

We will transfer you to the airport or train station on your departure date.

  • Accommodation: Of your own choice
  • Meals: Breakfast * Lunch depending on flight time
  • Travel: Approx 20 mins transfer to Ulgii Airport and up to one 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

From Our Blog

Learn more about our work with and support for Mongolian women.

Read about how we work with some of Mongolia’s young female eagle huntresses and their families.

Read more about our philosophy behind only employing Mongolian women as our trip assistants (guides)

Learn more about our long-term local community partnership with Kazakh embroiderer Halmira in Ulgii, Western Mongolia

What does International Women’s Day mean for our team of female trip assistants?

Be inspired by the stories and experiences of female adventurers that have visited Mongolia.

The Small Details

  • For all of our trips we offer a sliding price scale. We appreciate your holiday funds are precious and so the more people that book so the price comes down and everyone benefits.

Group Size – Maximum of six. Minimum of FOUR required for a guaranteed departure

  • 4 Guests     US$ 3575 pp + domestic flight of approximately 750,000 MNT pp
  • 5 Guests     US$ 3185 pp + domestic flight of approximately 750,000 MNT pp
  • 6 Guests     US$ 2845 pp + domestic flight of approximately 750,000 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
  1. Camel or horseback rides
  2. Entrance fees to monasteries, temples and museums (when with local team) – excludes camera tickets
  3. Festival tickets if festival is highlighted in itinerary
  • For winter trips, we also provide each traveller with one of our traditional hand made goatskin blankets. These are used by most rural Mongolians and go on top of the sleeping bag. They are fantastic insulation. Also, you get a pair of Mongolian felt boots to wear during your time in Mongolia. These are commonly used by herders and insulate the feet much better than western-style hiking boots and socks can do. They are waterproof. About the cold, predicted winter temperatures could scare at first sight, but it is a very dry cold and with good preparation (as in the right clothing including thermals)  minus 25 ° C could be compared with – 5 ° C in Europe. We look after you!
  • International airfare to and from Mongolia
  • Accommodation in Ulaanbaatar

* Our trip pricing excludes the price of accommodation in UB though. Why?  Everyone is different is the standard of accommodation they prefer at the start and end of a trip. As there is now such a variety of hotels in UB it is easier to exclude this cost. I provide a list of ideas covering varying standards and budgets and I can also help with booking. There’s everything from a homestay through to Airbnb, US$10 guesthouses and the Shangri-La!

  • Domestic flight where/if applicable

*If you are travelling by domestic flight, the schedule and cost of the domestic flights have not yet been determined by the Mongolian airlines. Once you have booked this trip, you will be notified directly by us as soon as that info becomes available. Reservations and payment arrangements for any domestic flight will be coordinated by us.

  • Passport and visa fees

Let us know your nationality at the time of booking and we’ll confirm whether you need to apply for a Mongolian visa. It is a relatively easy process depending on your nationality and we can help with some of the formalities.

  • Travel insurance (mandatory) 
  • Gratuities

*Each member of the local team receives a responsible but fair salary and none have to rely on receiving gratuities to supplement their income.  In addition, we make sure that everyone who works with us or helps us is fairly rewarded for their work and the service they provide. At the end of the tour, if you wish to make a gratuity to the local team then thank you – it is not compulsory but it is appreciated when given. If you would like to provide a tip,  a tip for the drivers would be roughly equal to what you would give to the tour guides – anything from $20 (USD) per member of staff (driver & tour guide) is a good minimum guide.

Take a look at our comprehensive FAQ section (including our flexible Covid cancellation policy) – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/mongolia-faqs/

We are members of Tourism Declares A Climate Emergency and a signatory of The Glasgow Declaration which requires us to publish an annual Climate Action Plan. It also means we have essentially signed up to work towards halving our emissions by 2030 and reaching Net Zero as soon as possible before 2050. We must report publicly on an annual basis on progress against our interim and long-term targets, as well as on actions being taken.

One of the five pathways defined in the Glasgow Declaration is ‘measure’ and we have started the process of measuring the carbon footprint of our tours. We use the carbon calculator tool Carmacal – specifically designed for tour operators and 2017 winner of the UNWTO Award for Innovation in Research and Technology. We then measure the carbon output of the meals we provide on tour using https://www.muchbetteradventures.com/magazine/hey-travel-industry-heres-how-to-measure-your-carbon-footprint/ and add this to the carbon total.  We then balance the footprint for each tour by purchasing Plan Vivo Foundation carbon certificates which are used to support the Plan Vivo Mongolian Nomad Project – working in partnership with the Mongolian Society of Range Management.

It’s not perfect, but it is a start. After all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and the way we measure the carbon footprint of our tours is manageable and achievable for us – a very small business with limited finance and resources.

We will be publishing the carbon footprint for each tour on each specific tour page but this will take a little time.

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