Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from JP of Bristol on 18/07/2019
Welcome to Mongolia! Your English speaking translator will be waiting for you at Ulan Bator airport at 11.30 (please book flights arriving before 11.05 otherwise plan to arrive the day before) for immediate departure for the Mongolian Steppe. No lunch provided today. There is a 1.30 hour drive to the plains which are dotted with yurts of the nomadic herders and the first herds of horses roaming free across the roads. This first night is spent in a yurt camp in the wilderness (up to 4 riders per yurt - showers in a separate building).
Day 2 - 6
5 days on horseback in the typical landscapes of Central Mongolia. The ride is guided by a nomadic herder through steppes, hills and valleys, together with small mountains covered with larch forests. There are many nomadic families living in the region with their yurts and herds of horses, cattle, goats and sheep. There will be at least one night of camping close to a family to discover their traditional way of life. The riding pace is fast as the support vehicle carries all the luggage and joins the group for lunch and at the end of the day, which allows long and fast gallops in the very open terrain. The horses are from a local breeder whose horses take part in many Naadam races, so they are fast and bred for endurance. Dinner and overnight in tents.
The camping sites are chosen carefully, one in the middle of nowhere in the huge steppes, one night close to a river, another in the forest where wolves are often heard and one night close to a nomadic family.
The last half day on horseback and departure to Ulan Bator where we will arrive in the afternoon and enjoy lunch en-route. The rest of the afternoon is dedicated to shopping in stores downtown, or at the Narantuul "black market" where you will find traditional clothing and objects of daily life. In the late afternoon, you will attend a show with traditional dances, music and songs from Mongolia, especially the amazing Khoomei. The Khoomei is overtone singing (throat singing) in which the singer produces two distinctively audible pitches at the same time, including a low pedal note, or drone, derived from the fundamental frequency of the vocal cord vibrations, and higher melodic notes that result when the singer's mouth acts as a filter, selecting one note at a time from among the drone's natural overtone series pitches.
No dinner included, to let you choose among the varied dining opportunities offered by Ulan Bator. Night at the Dream hotel or similar.
Breakfast and transfer to the airport (included for flights departing after 08.00).
Airport transfers included in the price are to the airport for flights leaving after 08.00 on day 13. Transfers at other times or from other locations must be arranged and paid for separately.
Single rooms are only available for 1 night on this ride, at the hotel in Ulan Bator on night 7. Single tents can be provided on the camping portion at no extra cost if requested before departure.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
The Mongolian horse is small, with particularly developed forequarters and a short and massive neck. The Mongolian horse is very strong for its size and very tough, they are well able to cope with riders up to the weight limit. The horses are almost never shod, except in winter in the Lake Khovsgol region in winter; this is in order to fix spikes to horses that pull the sleigh on the frozen lake.
Almost all colours are possible, including those with very old markings such as zebra stripes. Mongolian nomads do not name their horses, they call them by their colour and they have dozens of different terms to describe the subtleties of possible colours of their horses.
The Mongolian horse has a docile temper, despite spending months of freedom in the steppe it shows a very quiet behaviour as soon as its owner catches it for the ride. The traditional Mongolian saddle has a short base and high pommel and cantle.
They are ridden very differently to the Western style, you do not kick to increase speed, but simply use voice commands. Reins are held in one hand and the ponies are steered by neck-reining. In trot and canter riders should stand in their stirrups as much as possible.
Must be confident in walk, trot and canter. This is an adventurous ride and riders will be required to participate in horse care, grooming and tacking up etc. Must be fit enough for long hours in the saddle.
Mongolians stand in the stirrups at all paces and so the horses are not used to riders sitting in the saddle. You should be fit enough to stand in the stirrups at trot and canter for periods of up to twenty minutes. Minimum riding age is 12 years.
We strongly recommend that you wear a riding helmet in compliance with the standards in force in Europe or in your country of origin, as the practice of riding in Mongolia presents specific risks in addition to those related to the usual practice of riding as you know it.
We would like to draw your attention to the following points:
- This ride takes place in remote areas, where the rescue teams - even organized by your repatriation assistance company - can need several hours to reach you.
- There are very few hospitals outside Ulan Bator, and they lack efficient equipment.
- The low level of road infrastructure considerably extends any time of transport to a hospital.
- Mongolian horses live free and even if they are trained, they may have surprising reactions compared to the horses to which you are accustomed because of their strong instincts.
- The saddles used are adapted to the characteristics of the Mongolian horse and are therefore different from the ones you are accustomed to, requiring a period of adaptation during which the risk of fall is higher.
A limited selection of hats are available but MUST be requested before departure as these are not kept at the ride start point.
The weight limit for this ride is 15 st/209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
The majority of this trip makes use of tented camp accommodation. Riders should be prepared to help with camp preparation and packing to ensure maximum riding time each day.
Camping: Recent camping equipment, complying with Western standards of safety and quality, are used for your comfort. All of the camping and riding gear is carefully maintained and checked after each trip, and renewed as necessary. French Decathlon tents are used for 1 or 2 people and single tents can be booked at no extra charge to anyone who registers alone (on request before departure and subject to availability).
The tents include a self-inflating mattress or good foam mattress which are especially thick for your comfort. There is a large communal tent with table and chairs for meals and socialising. The logistics vehicle also brings the table and the chairs for the picnic lunches.
A "shower tent" is also provided. The shower water can be heated on demand on the campfire.
One night on the trail will be spent in guest yurt accommodation, with a nomadic family.
Guest-yurts by nomadic families: This accommodation is a fantastic opportunity to share and discover the traditional way of life of the nomadic herders in Mongolia. 2 or 3 guest-yurts are set close to the family's yurt, surrounded by the free-roaming horses, yaks, sheep and goats.
A guest-yurts will contain 4 or 5 single beds, heated with a traditional stove and meals are served either in the family's yurt or outside, weather permitting. Your host will prepare traditional Mongolian dishes and it can be interesting to see how women cook only with the central stove of the yurt.
For your comfort, a shower tent is provided close to the yurts where water can be heated on the stove. Dry toilets are also at your disposal.
You will be offered some tea mixed with milk and salt. You will soon get used to it, but you will also find "Lipton" tea in the yurt (ger) camps.
Touristic Yurt camps (Ger camps): These are the most comfortable accommodation in Mongolian countryside. You will sleep in traditional yurts (called gers in Mongolia), furnished with single beds (from 2 to 5 beds / yurt), small tables and a stove. It is very difficult - or impossible - to have single yurts in most of the camps, so be ready to share your yurt with other travellers from the group. Some camps offer yurts with double beds, but it can not be guaranteed.
You can find showers, washbasins and toilets in a separate building and a restaurant provides breakfast and meals.
Good to know: Yurt camps are the most comfortable accommodation available in Mongolia, but don't expect luxury: hot water in the showers is often unpredictable, electrical standards are "unique" and food at the restaurants relies on good supply conditions due to their remote situation.
Yurt camps offer simple international food, adapted to their different clients: Mongolian people and tourists from European, American and other Asian countries (China, Korea, Japan).
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
All British and European passport holders must have a Mongolian visa. A Mongolian visa (for up to 30 days stay) is normally valid for six months from the date of issue and should be obtained from your nearest Mongolian Embassy before travelling. Your passport must be valid for more than six months after the date you intend to enter Mongolia.
Mongolian embassy in the UK can be contacted at:
Address: 7 Kensington Court, London W8 5DL, Telephone: (020) 7937 0150, Email: email@example.com Website: http://www.embassyofmongolia.co.uk/
In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on 0207 008 0232/0233 or at www.fco.gov.uk.
The British Embassy in Mongolia can be found at: 30 Enkh Taivny Gudamzh, (P O Box 703), Ulaanbaatar 13, Mongolia
Telephone: (976) (11) 458133
Office Hours Local Time:
Mon-Thurs: 0830-1300 & 1400-1700, Fri: 0830-1330
Ulan Bator (Ulaanbaatar) has a continental climate with dry winters and short cool summers.
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org. You should also consult your G.P.
Electricity is 220 volts (U.K is 230) and most appliances can be plugged in with appropriate adaptors.
Your hosts now have an invertor which runs off the vehicle battery and produces 230V, into which any UK mains electric appliance can be plugged (good for charging camera, ipod etc). There is also a battery charger, which can charge ordinary rechargeable AA and AAA batteries.
Most yurt camps have electricity and you can charge phones and cameras in the evening. The support vehicle has a cigarette lighter which fits a standard adaptor, allowing cameras to be recharged. The ride will meet the suport vehicles every evening so there are many opportunities to re-charge batteries. Ulaanbaatar is quite a ‘wired’ city, with numerous internet cafes, and even a free wireless network covering the city centre. If checking bank accounts etc, it is best to use the internet service in your hotel. There is cell phone coverage in UB, and some smaller towns which we will pass along the way. Once we start riding, there will be no coverage.
Summer in Central Asia is hot during the day but cold at night, so you must be ready to face any situation!
Dress comfortably and relaxed, but be careful not to offend the sensibilities of your local hosts.
We recommend you bring the following equipment (in a big soft travel bag, please avoid hard suitcases):
Paddock boots or hiking boots with half-chaps or full-chaps. Avoid plastic riding boots as you have to be comfortable if you need to walk,
Riding hat or helmet STRONGLY ADVISED,
Shirts or t-shirts (long sleeves protect better from sun and mosquitoes),
Pullover, fleece sweaters or fleece jacket,
Warm coat and windbreaker,
Warm underwear for the night,
Comfortable shoes for non-riding activities,
Hat or cap,
Scarf (against the dust and wind…),
Personal toilet bag,
High protection sun screen and lipstick,
Soothing drops for the eyes,
Tissue/toilet paper and wipes,
Personal medication (muscular ache, diarrhoea, sunburn…),
Soap and shampoo (biodegradable if possible),
Antibacterial product for hands,
Sleeping bag (comfort temperature -5°C),
Sleeping bag liner,
Pocket knife and lighter,
Camera + batteries + powerbank,
Electric adaptor if needed,
Passport + visa (if needed),
Photocopies of important documents,
Small backpack for day visits,
Glasses/contact lenses as necessary (spares are advisable),
Large rubbish bag for dirty clothes.
As weather in Mongolia can change very quickly during the day, and is always a bit chilly at night because of the altitude, we suggest that you take clothes according to the “layering system”.
1.Base layer - Worn next to the skin, creating a thin layer of warm air against the body, helps to wick moisture/sweat vapor from the skin to regulate body temperature. Can be worn alone in warm conditions.
2.Midlayer - Worn over the base layer to help trap in body heat (usually polar fleece jumper).
3.Outer layer - Protects you against wind and rain.
Layering your clothing will help you to keep warm, dry and comfortable through varying conditions, allowing you to add or remove
layers depending on how you feel and the conditions you’re in.
Keep in mind that your clothes have to be large: the air between the layers will keep you warm, so don’t take too small sizes.
This is an 8 day/7 night programme with 6 days riding available every Saturday between May and September.
2019: 16 May; 6, 27 Jun: 4, 18 Jul; 1, 29* Aug (*French speaking group): 5 Sept
Only available in Ulan Bator
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2019||8d/7n||6||supplement for group of 2-3||209|
|2019||8d/7n||6||single supplement in Ulan Bator||37|
|2019||8d/7n||6||extra night single in Ulan Bator||74|
|2019||8d/7n||6||extra night double pp in Ulan Bator||46|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2019||8d/7n||6||supplement for group of 2-3||225|
|2019||8d/7n||6||single supplement in Ulan Bator||40|
|2019||8d/7n||6||extra night single in Ulan Bator||80|
|2019||8d/7n||6||extra night double pp in Ulan Bator||50|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2019||8d/7n||6||supplement for group of 2-3||269|
|2019||8d/7n||6||single supplement in Ulan Bator||48|
|2019||8d/7n||6||extra night single in Ulan Bator||95|
|2019||8d/7n||6||extra night double pp in Ulan Bator||60|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2019||8d/7n||6||supplement for group of 2-3||2,479|
|2019||8d/7n||6||single supplement in Ulan Bator||439|
|2019||8d/7n||6||extra night single in Ulan Bator||885|
|2019||8d/7n||6||extra night double pp in Ulan Bator||555|
You will mostly see the herds: horses, camels, yacks, sheep and goats as well as lots of birds of prey and vultures.
How to establish contact with a nomadic family:
Simple tips will help you, especially with the children;
- Be creative, do not stay in a role of simple spectator, get involved: for example, if you take some paper and coloured pencils, do not distribute them to the children as a Santa Claus, sit with them and draw too. You'll be guaranteed some giggles when you will compare your drawings! You can also try origami which will amaze the children and their parents.
- Learn simple magic tricks before leaving, your success is guaranteed! Great for in the evening around the stove!
- Ask your guide to teach you how to play jacks and other traditional games for the evenings in the yurt with your nomadic friends.
- Dare to sing, the Mongols adore it and the evening can end in a crazy karaoke!!!
- Ask the women if you can help them to milk animals, to prepare the meal...
- Ask the men if you can help them with the herds...
Above all, be curious and open minded, try as much as possible to be an actor instead of a spectator, so that this journey turns into a real human adventure for you, reinventing the simplicity and the happiness to be together...
The Orkhon Valley:
Classified in 2004 as World Heritage Site by UNESCO as the cradle of nomadic Mongolia, the "cultural landscape of the Orkhon Valley", about 121,967 hectares, covers an extensive area of pastureland that stretches approximately 80km from long and 15 km wide on both banks of the Orkhon river. The site also includes Karakorum.
Grasslands are still used today by Mongolian nomadic herders, and many families keep perpetuating the traditional way of life. In the valleys and around the rivers are nestled yurts that house the nomadic families. In the wild, herds of horses, yaks, sheep and goats are moving in these protected areas.
The Orkhon Falls are actually the Ulaan Tsutgalan River Falls. The river falls into a spectacular canyon formed after an earthquake and a volcanic eruption more than 20 000 years ago, forming a cascade of 20m high and 10m wide.
The site is enchanted by the contrast between the whiteness of the foam and the black rock that forms the canyon walls. Going down along the walls to the foot of the fall, you will discover trees and flowers (wild peonies in June) that take advantage of the abundance of water to grow.
Mongolia is a huge landlocked country, more than six times the size of the UK, sandwiched between Russia and China. It is also one of the highest countries in the world, with an average elevation of 1580m. Mongolia can be divided into six distinct zones including desert, steppe, mountain and taiga. The southern third of Mongolia is dominated by the Gobi Desert.
The name 'Mongolia' has always stirred up visions of the untamed - Genghis Khan, camels wandering the Gobi Desert and wild horses galloping across the steppes. Even today, outside of Ulaan Baatar you may get the feeling you've stepped into another century rather than another country.
Mongolia is seven or eight hours ahead of GMT depending on which part of the country you are in. They use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.
The major religion is Tibetan Buddhism.