This journey on horseback is a first in Mongolia: you don't have to choose between riding in the dunes or on the steppe. This trail traverses 3 ecosystems: the northern part of Gobi Desert located in the geographical centre of Mongolia and the green Orkhon Valley and the mighty Khangai and Naiman Nuur Mountains. You get to experience the variety Mongolia offers all in one trip.
Accommodation includes tented camps (7 nights), yurts (3 nights ) and a hotel in Ulan Bator (2 nights). Equipment is carried in the back-up vehicles or by camel.
At the end of the trip you will spend one night in traditional yurt accommodation, with a special meal cooked for you by the family. The horses used on this trip are owned by the local herdsmen and are sure-footed and willing. They have custom tack which combines western comfort for the rider with a good fit for the local horses. There are opportunities to gallop in the wide-open steppe and you can ride the camels as well if you like!
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 FM of Bristol on 23/07/2017
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 self-organised transport to the hotel will be required, at own cost). We will visit the Gandantegchinlin Monastery and the National Museum of Mongolian History. Dinner downtown and overnight at the Dream hotel or similar. No lunch provided today.
Breakfast and departure with our 4x4 vehicle to the Bayan Gobi Desert, the "rich Gobi." Lunch en-route. We will meet the nomadic herder who will be our equestrian guide for the next three days of horse riding in the wilderness of Bayan Gobi, between dunes and steppes.
We will set up our first camp in the wilderness, in a sparsely populated area on the southern edge of the Bayan Gobi Desert.
Each rider sets up his/her own tent (single tent provided at no additional charge on request before departure). A shower tent and a large tent for the preparation of meals make our camp comfortable. Dinner and overnight in tents.
Days 3, 4 and 5
We leave for 3 days of horse riding adventure in the Bayan Gobi Desert.
This equestrian tour in the Bayan Gobi Desert is the best choice for riding a horse in a typical landscape of the Gobi Desert, as there are no horses deep in the southern Gobi, only camels. This area is truly the heart of Mongolia in its geographical centre. It is also located at the junction of three major Mongolian ecosystems: two of the main mountain ranges in the country - the Khangai and Khentii - and a northern edge of the Gobi Desert. Mount Batkhan overlooks this area and gives rise to several rivers and springs which mix their waters with the sand dunes of Elsentasarkhai - the "sand break" - forming a changing and spectacular scenery. One evening will include the opportunity for camel rides for those wishing to try this fun experience.
Every night after riding between dunes, rivers and steppes, we will set up the camp.
In the afternoon of Day 5 we will reach the Khogno Khan cliffs, where we will visit the Ovgon Khiid monastery, set amongst dramatic scenery.
Dinner and overnight in a yurt camp nestled at the foot of the cliffs (2-4 riders per yurt in individual beds, showers and toilets in a separate building).
After breakfast, we'll take a 4-5 hour drive to the Orkhon Valley, a famous World Heritage Site in Central Mongolia.
We will meet the nomadic herders and horses who will be our companions for our next riding adventure over the next 8 days. The change in environment is striking: after the desert and sandy expanses of the Bayan Gobi, we are now in a mountainous area, a maze of green valleys with forested slopes. After lunch we will ride out in to the Naiman Nuur Park in the upstream part of the valley, a volcanic region where black ancient lava flows contrast with the white running water of the Orkhon River After the ride, we will set up camp in the wilderness for dinner and overnight.
We will spend 5 days riding through the Orkhon Valley, from the upstream regions on the edge of Naiman Nuur Park to Karakorum, the former capital of the Mongol Empire. During this time we will ride Khangai Mountains, climb to the Tovkhon Monastery and visit the famous Orkhon Falls. We will be treated to spectacular views across the valley, and experience the traditional lifestyle of the nomads of Mongolia when we spend a day with the families of our guides. This interactive experience can include helping the family to round up the herds, enjoying a Khorkhog (a Mongolian ‘barbeque’), and talking to the families. On this night we will stay in a ‘guest-yurt’ close to the family’s yurts, while the other nights will be camping in the wilderness.
After breakfast, we will ride the rest of the way to Karakorum, the former capital of the Mongolian Empire.
Lunch at the Karakorum gercamp. Visit Erdene Zuu Monastery. Dinner and night at the yurt camp (2 to 4 riders per yurt, with single beds, showers in a separate building).
Breakfast and early 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.
Coffee and light snacks will be available at the hotel and transfer to the airport (included for flights departing after 08.00).
Airport transfers included in the price are from Ulan Bator airport at 11.30 on Day 1 of the package and 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, to arrive at Dream Hotel for 14.00 on Day 1.
Single rooms are only available for 2 nights on this ride, at the hotel in Ulan Bator on night 1 and 12. 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 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 which is used for hosting - there are table and chairs for meals and socialising. The logistics vehicle also brings the table and the chairs for the picnic lunches (except in very remote regions, such as Naiman Nuur Park, where pack yaks are used). 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.
Ulan Bator (Ulaanbaatar) has a continental climate with dry winters and short cool summers.
Most yurt camps have electricity and you can charge phones and cameras in the evening.
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 a 13 day/12 night programme with set departures departing every Saturday between May and September
2017: Every Saturday from the 29 April to 16 September. Private tours can be arranged on request.
2018: Every Saturday from 5 May to 15 September. Private tours can be arranged on request.
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2017||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||279|
|2017||13d/12n||8||Single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||54|
|2018||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||285|
|2018||13d/12n||8||single supplement (Ulan Bator only)||55|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2017||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||315|
|2017||13d/12n||8||Single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||60|
|2018||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||315|
|2018||13d/12n||8||single supplement (Ulan Bator only)||60|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2017||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||385|
|2017||13d/12n||8||Single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||74|
|2018||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||385|
|2018||13d/12n||8||single supplement (Ulan Bator only)||74|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2017||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||3,039|
|2017||13d/12n||8||Single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||585|
|2018||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||3,039|
|2018||13d/12n||8||single supplement (Ulan Bator only)||585|
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.