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This horseback journey across the Mongolian steppe lands is hosted by the Steppe Nomads themselves, the largest remaining pastoralist people on Earth, an experience not available anywhere else on Earth. This rides will cover surprisingly contrasting habitats. The journey will be without vehicle support, in wild terrain.
During this horse riding trip, you will stay in spacious tentipis with foldable bed-cots. Bring your own sleeping bag. You will take along a Mongolian ger (yurt) to serve as your mobile restaurant, as well as showers and compost toilets housed in traditional Mongolian marquee style tents. For two nights, you will stay at Nomadic Journeys' own low-impact ger camp at Arburd Sands. Two nights will be spent in Ulaanbaatar at a centrally located hotel. All accommodation will be in shared double occupancy.
This ride covers surprisingly contrasting habitat, patchy water sources along the way nurturing wildlife. Wolves may be heard vocalizing at any time in the summer, but usually, they are not seen. You will undertake this horse ride as a "Nomadic Journey", e.g. without vehicle support, in wild terrain. All your luggage will be loaded onto camel carts. They are Bactrian two-humped camels, well adapted to the winter climate in Mongolia. Even a ger (Mongolian yurt) will be carried to serve as your mobile restaurant.
Nomadic Journeys emphasize the quality of human contacts and encounters with local people and respect for the horse and local equestrian traditions, from which many lessons can be learned. Traveling with Nomadic Journeys means a shared adventure with horses and camel carts in the great outdoors, choosing the life of the nomad.
On this tour, apart from the short drive to the starting point of your horse riding adventure and back to the city, you will not rely on any motor vehicle support. Instead, you will utilize traditional wooden carts, that Mongolian families still use moving from one pasture to another. Here, you will travel by camel cards and riding horses.
A Mongolian and English speaking guide will accompany the group at all times. A cook will follow with the camel cart caravan. In addition, the services of local herdsmen will be employed along with their animals. The horsemen follow a traditional lifestyle in the areas where you will be riding.
If the group consists of four riders or more, you will also have a Mongolian doctor come along as part of the crew. There are other languages guides such as Russian, French, German, Italian, Korean, and more, available at additional cost, booked and confirmed ahead of time.
You should be a competent rider, fit and capable of riding a horse at all paces confidently. You will cover varying terrains and will be in the saddle for several hours on most days.
Riding hours not included lunch time. Between 13:00 and 14:00 picnic lunch. Approximately 5-6 hours riding time, 20-25k.
Riding hours not included lunch time. Between 13:00 and 14:00 picnic lunch. Approximately 6-7 hours riding time, 25-30km.
Between 16:00 and 16:30 all guests should be at camp.
Riding tours may be done in the reverse for operational reasons.
Upon your arrival in Ulaanbaatar, you will be met by your horse guide and transferred to your hotel. There will be a tour briefing and dinner.
After breakfast, you will visit the Gandan Monastery, the centerpiece for the revival of Buddhist Lamaism in Mongolia. With luck, you will catch the prayer times. Then drive south out of the city and enjoy a picnic lunch on the grasslands. Continue across the steppe to a place in the middle of nowhere called Tseel. Your nomad hosts will meet you at Tseel with their horses and Bactrian camels. The area of Tseel has no or few nomads. You will select your riding horses. There will be a briefing and a short trial ride.
Today, you will start your ride going west to the mountains of Hoyd Önjuul. In the surrounding area, it is usually possible to spot herds of Mongolian gazelles (Procapra gutturosa) also known as White-tailed gazelle. With luck, you may even see the Black-tailed Goitred gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa) which is better adapted to arid environment indicating that you are riding in the transition zone of grasslands and desert steppes. In the mountain area, you sometimes are able to see red deer (Cervus elaphus), which Americans calls elk or wapiti. Certainly, wolves (Canis lupus) are around but seldom seen.
Following breakfast, you will break camp and load all gers, equipment, and provisions on to the camel carts caravan. You will ride for the full day south to the area Bayan Hills, where high-altitude fauna such as Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica) and Argali sheep (Ovis ammon) sometimes is seen. Argali is the largest wild sheep in the world. Pitch camp at Suman. Usually, there are many nomadic families in the immediate area, as there is a water source (Hudag means "well" in Mongolian).
Today you will turn east and ride to the rock wall like mountains of Zorgol Hairkhan (Sacred Zorgol) which can be seen in the distance all day. It is a striking feature on the otherwise undulating and flat steppe. Zorgol Hairkhan is mentioned in The Secret History of the Mongols, the oldest surviving Mongolian language literary work, which chronicles the life and genealogy of Genghis Khan.
The Khan himself is said to have wintered here while in conflict with a competing leader. There are more nomads and livestock emerging now. You will be able to meet some during the ride. At Zorgol there are also breeding populations of Cinereous vulture (Aegypus monachus), the largest of the Eurasian vultures, its size on par with the condor of the Americas. The nests are quite low, on rocks and small trees. Your camp will be at the larger massif, called Ikh Zorgol Hairkhan Uul.
You continue riding east, passing the small Gobi lake Hariin Nuur, with chances for spotting some interesting bird species. The lake acts as an “island” for waterfowl flying across this “sea of grass”. You will cover about 25 kilometers to reach the smaller - but still impressive - Baga (small) Zorgol Hairkhan Mountains.
Usually, the pastures are excellent here, why you will encounter some nomadic families with their livestock around here. You will pitch camp here and scan the ridges of these spectacular rock formations for Siberian Ibex and Lammergeiers. Gobi high altitude fauna such as Argali sheep are present in the hills and rocks, and, if lucky, may be seen during the day.
The Gobi steppe in this area is quite variable since you ride through the transition zone of the Gobi, meaning there is true steppe, semiarid steppe, sand dunes, and also giant rock formations. Today, you will have an opportunity to pass archaeological grave sites dating back to the Hunnu empire, i.e. from the time before the Christian era.
You will ride for 25 - 30 kilometers east across the populated steppe and for the full day you can see the Zorgol Hairkhan giant rock formations behind you in the distance. They are several hundred meters high and are the central feature in the middle of the steppe.
Today’s ride turns north, a shorter distance to Shine Khudag, meaning New Well. Water sources are important in the Gobi grasslands. Your camp is loaded onto the camel caravan each day. Sometimes you will ride alongside the caravan, but often you will stray away from its straight course to explore interesting landscape features or for great views.
You will ride full day for 25 to 30 kilometers to Arburd Sands, passing several nomadic herder families along the way. The human inhabitants of this open and vast landscape are perhaps the most interesting since all families in the area are nomadic herders. The sand dunes of Arburd extend for about 20 kilometers.
They are a hideout for wolves and often you can see wolf tracks here. It is a Sahara-like landscape in the middle of the Gobi grasslands. The camel caravan will need to take a route around the sand dunes, while you can cross them on horseback. You stay will be at Arburd Sands Ger Camp for the night, which is located next to the dunes.
You will stay at the seasonal fully collapsible summer felted ger camp of Arburd Sands for another night, allowing for an opportunity to ride out and visit some nearby families over the day. Nomads here have large herds of cattle, especially cashmere goats. You may also choose to stay back and just relax at the camp and enjoy the scenery.
The return drive to Ulaanbaatar is about three hours. In the afternoon, you may explore the small city center on your own. Distances are short and nearly all points of interest can be reached on foot. Your guide is standing by to assist you in your shopping or sightseeing choices. You will have dinner together in a local restaurant followed by folk music entertainment. Certainly, there will be throat singers. Overnight will be spent at a hotel.
Transfer to the airport, railway station or to your next Mongolian destination. Nomadic Journeys can recommend a stay at Jalman Meadows Ger Camp in the Khan Khentii Protected Area, which provides for a sharp contrast to the Gobi steppes experience.
Mongolia is a country of growing visitor interest, with its unique cultural heritage, landscape, geographical situation, and natural ecosystem. It is in an ecological transition zone, where the flora and fauna of Siberia meet with the completely different species of the desert and steppes of Central Asia.
The steppe habitats once made up 25% of the global land area. Today the Pampas, the Puszta, the Prairies, and the Ukrainian steppes have largely been developed for agricultural output. Only the Mongolian steppes have survived. The high elevation of Mongolia creates unusually clear air and starry nights the year round.
It is an overwhelming visual experience of emptiness and vastness to ride into the great Mongolian void. The silent, treeless steppe, completely devoid of any fences. Stretching away into the distance: no trace of human activity except for the pastoralists themselves and their herds.
Nomadic Journeys' cook will prepare the meals. They pride themselves in having excellent cooks, adepts of both western and Mongolian cooking on trips. There is no problem accommodating vegetarians on the trips. You can usually buy fresh milk and yogurt from local herdsmen.
There is a Naadam Festival extension possible July 10 - 12. There will be horseraces with almost 1000 racehorses on the plains outside the city, as well as wrestling and archery. The cost is an additional 720 USD per person.
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