This is a true adventure trail, taking in some of Mongolia's wildest and most remote scenery and progressing through areas that are unreachable by road. Each night the group will set up camp somewhere new, allowing riders to experience Mongolia in the traditional nomadic way and reach places that are rarely seen by other travellers.
Accompanied by nomadic herders and horses, the ride will begin on the outskirts of Ulan Bator. The trail leads the way through the World Heritage Site of Orkhon Valley, with a to visit the mountain-top Tovkhon Monastry and the majestic Orkhon Falls. Out of the Orkhon Valley and into Naiman Nuur Natural Park, we leave the back up vehicles and progress with pack yaks to carry the luggage and camping equipment. The park is very wild and there is no better way to see it than on horseback.
Accommodation is in a tented camp, with equipment carried in the back up vehicles or by yak. 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 of the guide who accompanied the trip. This is a fantastic chance to be a part of the traditional Mongolian culture, and you can spend the day getting involved with the day to day activities of a nomadic herdsman. The horses used on this trip are owned by the local herdsmen and are sure-footed and willing. The opportunity for galloping in the wide-open Steppe make this a great trail for adventurous, experienced riders.
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 GE of Saanen on 21/08/2019
Your transfer guide will meet you at Ulan Bator airport at 11.30am (please book a flight arriving before 11.05am). Transfer to your accommodation and have a moment to relax - lunch is not included. If you are not arriving to Ulan Bator on the first day of your package you will need to meet your guide at the hotel at 14.00. Meet in the hotel lobby at 14:00 ready for the afternoon activities. Begin with a visit to the Gandantegchinlin Monastery. This is a Tibetan-style monastery that was founded in 1809 and restored in 1990. The name Gandantegchinlin is also translated as the "Great Place of Complete Joy" and it is home to over 150 monks. Another attraction you will visit is the National Museum of Mongolian History, where you can witness Mongolia's culture through their collections. Dinner downtown and overnight in the Dream Hotel or similar (2*)
After breakfast we will drive to Karakorum and have a picnic lunch en-route. Karakorum is a very well known historic site, it is the ancient capital of the Monggol Empire that was founded in the 1235 by Genghis Khan's son, Ogodel. Karakorum was destroyed by Manchurian soldiers in 1388 and whatever was left of the site was used to build Erdene Zuu Monastery. Erdene Zuu monastery was a religious shrine in Mongolia and it was also destroyed in 1939 before being turned into a museum in 1947. It houses different Buddha statues and is also surrounded by 108 stupa that symbolise what the city used to look like.
This is a long day on the road (6-7 hours drive - depending on the condition of the roads), but this evening, you will already be in the Orkhon Valley World Heritage Site, ready to start your horse riding tour tomorrow! Camp overnight.
We will be accompanied by nomadic herders and horses for this ride, beginning after breakfast. The riding tour will start in the Orkhon Valley's northern mountains, a World Heritage site. You will ride in a very open area full of wild peonies, going down along to the foot of the falls. You will be able to enjoy many canters, breaking in the middle of the day for picnic lunch brought by the vehicles. The ride will end by setting up camp in the wilderness for dinner and overnight.
Today you will ride in the Khangai Mountains. A picnic lunch will again be carried by the vehicles so that the horses can move freely. Afternoon activities will include climbing to the Tovkhon Monastery. Tovkhon Monastery was built in 1654 by Zanabazar and can only be accessed by climbing through a mountain forest. This monastery consists of two caves and the surrounding view is usually foggy because of its high altitude of 2400m. After the tour, we will set up camp in the wilderness for dinner and stay overnight.
You will be going down the mountains to access Orkhon Valley, with views of excellent scenery with the large valley and wooded mountains in the background. After a picnic lunch you will then ride through the Orkhon Falls, the water from Ulaan River falls from a height of 24m and flows into Orkhon River. Overnight in camp.
The ride continues after breakfast in the upstream part of the valley. The trail here gets tougher and tougher as this is the volcanic region, with black ancient lava flows contrasting with the white running water of the Orkhon River. You will then reach the forest with a view of the Naiman Nuur Mountains in front of you. Overnight in camp.
This day will be the start of a totally different pace because you will be accessing different remote landscapes: the Naiman Nuur Natural Park, which also means "The 8 Lakes Park". This beautiful destination is isolated, meaning it is not be accessible to vehicles so all of your personal belongings and camping equipment will be packed on the yaks. We will then start the steep ride to the mountains and you will have picnic lunch en-route. After our ride we will set up camp on the lake shore and camp overnight. Since the destination is not accessible to vehicles, you will be staying in the same camp site for 2 nights for easier packing and this will also lead to a quicker riding pace as we won't need to use the yaks tomorrow.
For this day, you will explore the wonderful scenery of the forested mountain and amazing lakes of the park. Dinner and overnight at the same camping site.
This will be your last day at Naiman Nuur Natural Park and you will be heading back to the beautiful Orkhon Valley. You will ride through the steep mountains and will appreciate your footed horses and the amazing yak drivers. You will then set up a camp close to the yak breeder's yurt and have dinner and rest in the tents.
This will be our last day in Orkhon Valley and what better way to spend it than with the family of the nomad who guided you throughout the entire ride? You will be able to experience the cultural differences by meeting family members and learning about the way they live in their yurts with their herds. You will still be able to spend a few hours on the saddle where you can help the family round up their herds, or just explore the region. For your dinner, the family will prepare a traditional meal for you which is the Khorkhog. You will spend the night in a "guest-yurt" which is close to the nomad family's yurts. The accommodation for this night is very simple, but you will be able to live the life of a real nomad which is something that you don't want to miss out.
Breakfast and transfer to Khogno Khan Park with a picnic lunch en-route. Khogno Khan Park is located about 280 km from the capital and it is known for it's amazing rock formations, cliffs shaped by erosion reminiscent of the Wadi Rum in Jordan. Another monastery is located in this park, called Ovgon Khiid Monastery, built during the 17th century. This park is also home to huge sand dunes, which is why the region earned its nickname "Mini Gobi", you will also have the chance to go for a short hike in the Elsentasarhaï sand dunes. For your last night in the steppe, you will stay in a touristic ger camp (yurt camp) close to the amazing cliffs. This yurt will have Mongolian furniture and hot showers which will help you relax during your stay. Last dinner in the steppe, at the ger camp restaurant.
Breakfast and early departure to Ulan Bator where you arrive in the afternoon (5 hour drive, depending on the road conditions). You will then have the time to go shopping in the stores downtown where traditional clothing and daily necessities are sold. You will then finish the day by watching a Mongolian show that includes traditional dancing, music and songs. Dinner (not included) and overnight at the Dream Hotel or similar (2*).
Coffee and light snacks will be available at the hotel and transfer to the airport (included for flights departing after 08.00).
Transfers: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. A single tent can be requested before departure at no extra cost for the camping portion of a trip.
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 a particularly developed forequarters, a short and massive neck. Compared to its size, the Mongolian horse is very strong, and very tough. 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 signs such as zebra stripes. Mongolian nomads do not have a name for 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, 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, tacking up etc. Must be fit enough for long hours in the saddle. The minimum age for this ride 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.
Accommodation in Ulanbaatar will be in twin or triple shared rooms, each with a private bathroom, at a 2* hotel (usually Dream Hotel). The majority or 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 the family's yurt, surrounded by the free-roaming horses, yacks, 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. 1 night wil be spent at a touristic yurt/ger camp. 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 rural 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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 available every Saturday between May and September.
2019: 4 May; 29 June; 20 July; 3, 10 August; 14 September.
Single rooms are only available for 2 nights on this ride, at the hotel in Ulan Bator on night 1 and 12
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2019||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||289|
|2019||13d/12n||8||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||74|
|2019||13d/12n||8||extra night single room in Ulan Bator||74|
|2019||13d/12n||8||extra night double pp in Ulan Bator||46|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2019||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||315|
|2019||13d/12n||8||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||80|
|2019||13d/12n||8||extra night single room in Ulan Bator||80|
|2019||13d/12n||8||extra night double pp in Ulan Bator||50|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2019||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||369|
|2019||13d/12n||8||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||95|
|2019||13d/12n||8||extra night single room in Ulan Bator||95|
|2019||13d/12n||8||extra night double pp in Ulan Bator||60|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2019||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||3,445|
|2019||13d/12n||8||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||885|
|2019||13d/12n||8||extra night single room in Ulan Bator||885|
|2019||13d/12n||8||extra night double pp in Ulan Bator||555|
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 and parents.
- Learn simple magic tricks before leaving, your success is guaranteed, 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.