Experience the contrasts of Mongolia on this horseback trail that combines riding in the green plains of the Orkhon Valley, alongside pack yacks in the Naiman Nuur National Park and in the dunes of the Bayan Gobi Desert.
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
Welcome to Mongolia!
Your English speaking translator is waiting for you at Ulan Bator airport at the arrival of Turkish Airlines flight for a grouped transfer. You can book any flight landing before Turkish Airlines flight. If you are already in Ulan Bator, you can join the group at 14:00 in the lobby of the hotel. Lunch in Ulan Bator. A short walk through the surprising yurt (ger) district takes you to Gandantegchinlin Monastery. Back to the hotel after admiring the impressive golden Buddha Statue, you can relax in your room or enjoy the swimming pool, spa and gym at the hotel (extra fee to be paid locally).
Dinner and overnight at a 4* hotel (twin room).
Breakfast and drive to Karakorum, Mongolia'ancient capital. Picnic lunch en route. 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! Visit of Erdene Zuu Monastery. After the visit, we set up camp in the wilderness at the entrance of the Orkhon Valley for dinner and overnight.
After breakfast, meet the nomadic herders and horses who will be your companions during this horseback ride in Central Mongolia. We begin our equestrian adventure in the northern mountains of the famous Orkhon Valley. Picnic lunch brought by our support vehicules, nothing to carry on the horses, so we can enjoy many canters! After the ride, we set up camp in the wilderness for dinner and overnight.
After breakfast, we continue our horse ride in the Khangai Mountains. Picnic lunch brought by our support vehicules. After the ride, we set up camp in the wilderness for dinner and overnight.
After breakfast, we ride to Tovkhon Monastery, one of the major Buddhist sites in Mongolia. We reach the monastery with our horses at 2400m. Picnic lunch. We ride down the mountains to the Orkhon Valley. The views are astonishing ont the large valley with wooden mountains in the background. This regions is known as the cradle of the nomadic way of life in Mongolia. After the ride, we set up camp in the wilderness for dinner and overnight.
After breakfast, we ride to the famous Orkhon Falls. We continue our horse riding tour in the upstream part of the Valley where the landscape becomes wilder and wilder. This region has black ancient lava flows which contrast with the white running water of the Orkhon River and remind us Mongolia's volcanic past. Picnic lunch. We reach on horseback the larch forests with the impressive Naiman Nuur mountains in front of us. After the ride, we set up camp in the wilderness for dinner and overnight.
For the next 3 days, our horse ride will have a totally different pace: after the wide open spaces, we now ride in very wild and remote landscapes: the Naiman Nuur Natural Park, which means "the 8 Lakes Park". Pack yacks carry the equipment and your personal belongings for these three days as this beautiful and isolated area is not accessible to vehicles. We pack the luggage and camping equipment on the yacks and start our steep ride to the mountains. Picnic lunch. We will stay for 2 nights in guest yurts (up to 5 persons per yurt) with a nomadic family living in this very remote park. They are yack breeders.
Today, we ride in beautiful forested mountains, discovering the wonderful scenic lakes of the Naiman Nuur Park, one of the most beautiful sites in Mongolia. Dinner and overnight at the guest yurts.
Today, we leave the Naiman Nuur Park with our pack yaks, to go back to the Orkhon Valley. We ride through steep mountains, and will appreciate our sure footed horses and the ability of our yak drivers! Dinner and night in a "guest-yurt" close to a nomadic family.
Breakfast and departure with our 4x4 vehicle to the Bayan Gobi Desert, the "rich Gobi." We meet the nomadic herder who will be our equestrian guide for the next two days of horse riding in the wilderness of Bayan Gobi, between dunes and steppes. After a first afternoon ride, we set up our first camp in the desert, in a sparsely populated area on the southern edge of the Bayan Gobi Desert. Dinner and overnight in tents.
Full day on horseback in the Bayan Gobi Desert. This equestrian tour in the Bayan Gobi Desert is the only opportunity of 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. It is indeed the Mongolia's geographical center. 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. In the afternoon we reach the Khogno Khan cliffs, where we visit Ovgon Khiid monastery, set in a dramatic scenery. Dinner and night in a "guest-yurt" close to a nomadic family.
Breakfast and early departure to Ulan Bator where we arrive in the afternoon. Lunch en route. The rest of the afternoon is dedicated to shopping in stores downtown 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. No dinner included, to let you choose among the varied dining opportunities offered by Ulan Bator. Night at Nine hotel or similar (3* - twin room).
Day 13Breakfast and transfer to airport on time for Turkish Airlines flights.
Group transfer from Ulan Bator Airport on arrival of Turkish Airlines flight (usually around 09:00 am depending on the season). You can book any flight landing before Turkish Airlines flight.
If you are already in Ulan Bator, the meeting point is in the lobby of the hotel at 14:00.
On the last day group transfer to Ulan Bator airport on time for Turkish Airlines flights.
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 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 in a 4*/3* 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.
Some nights 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.
NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures
Your passport should be valid for six months from the date you arrive.
You will need a visa to enter or travel through Mongolia as a visitor. You should contact the nearest Mongolian Embassy for the most up-to-date advice on entry requirements and visas. Arriving passengers should follow instructions given by the authorities on arrival. Arrival requirements into Mongolia are subject to regular change.
Passport and Visa 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 should you need a visa.
In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/mongolia
In the US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Mongolia.html
In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/mongolia
Ulan Bator (Ulaanbaatar) has a continental climate with dry winters and short cool summers.
COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.
The standard of healthcare is variable in Mongolia. Ensure you have sufficient travel insurance to cover any emergencies. If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial +976 103 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company as soon as possible to inform them of what has happened.
You should always bring any regular prescription drugs you may need with you, and spare, just in case.
Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Mongolia and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.
Please ensure take along sun cream and anti-allergy medicine for possible insect bites.
Mongolia is a relatively healthy country, with no vaccines needed other than the usual ones for travelling in the developing world (typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A, polio). We suggest taking a small personal medical kit as above. A comprehensive group medical kit will be carried at all times.
Drink only bottled water and avoid raw fruits and vegetables.
It is important to be physically fit to undertake a trip to Mongolia, because some areas are very remote.
Always take your usual medications in sufficient quantities and place them in your hand luggage to be sure to have them in case of lost luggage.
In Mongolia the supply voltage is 230V. If the appliance is a single voltage rated appliance, it will need to operate at the same voltage as the supply voltage of the country i.e. 230V. If this is not the case it should be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly.
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 on Tuesdays between May and September.
2023: 16, 30 May; 13, 27 Jun; 11*, 25 Jul; 8, 22 Aug; 5 Sept.
(* Naadam Festival)
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||£|
|2022||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||219|
|2022||13d/12n||8||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||71|
|2023||13d/12n||9||supplement for group of 2-3||245|
|2023||13d/12n||9||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||135|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2022||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||249|
|2022||13d/12n||8||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||80|
|2023||13d/12n||9||supplement for group of 2-3||279|
|2023||13d/12n||9||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||149|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2022||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||265|
|2022||13d/12n||8||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||89|
|2023||13d/12n||9||supplement for group of 2-3||309|
|2023||13d/12n||9||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||165|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2022||13d/12n||8||supplement for group of 2-3||2,765|
|2022||13d/12n||8||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||885|
|2023||13d/12n||9||supplement for group of 2-3||3,099|
|2023||13d/12n||9||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||1,659|
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.