This progressive trail offers a great opportunity to ride through the stunning landscapes of the World Heritgae Site of the Orkhon Valley to the south-west of Ulanbaatar, viewing a wide variety of scenery and gaining an insight into the nomadic way of life. It has a unique combination of tradition and comfort with specially adapted yurts to make your visit more relaxing.
From the city of Ulan Bator, with it's monuments and historical architecture, we drive out into the rural areas of Mongolia on to begin the trail. You will ride out through the Hustai National Park, famous as the home of the Przewalski's wild horses and you will learn about the conservation project that is in place to increase their numbers. The ride will continue out into the steppe and the Orkhon Valley, guided by local nomads and an English-speaking translator. Much of the riding is alongside the Orkhon River and there are chances to see magical natural highlights such as the Orkhon falls. You also ride along the edge of the Gobi desert.
Accommodation throughout the riding part of the itinerary is in traditional Mongolian Yurt camps, with comfortable beds and stoves for overnight heating. Many of the yurt camps also have full shower and bathroom facilities, meaning you will be able to start each day's adventure feeling fresh and well rested. On one night you will stay with a Nomadic family in the Orkhon Valley, a fantastic opportunity to learn about the traditional way of life.
The horses on this trail are traditional Mongolian breeds, sturdy and reliable over the difficult terrain, many of them are bred by the nomadic families in the area. There is opportunity for plenty of canters over the wide open steppe, making this the perfect trail for experienced and adventurous 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 GM of Buxton on 24/09/2019
An English-speaking translator will meet you at Ulan Bator airport at 11.30am (please book a flight arriving before 11.05am). You will be transferred to your hotel (Hotel Nine) for a warm shower and a moment to relax. If you are not arriving before this time you will need to meet your guide at the hotel at 14.00. Meeting time is 14:30 in the hotel lobby, ready for the afternoon activities. In the afternoon we will visit the Gandantegchinlin Monastery. This is a Tibetan-style Buddhist monastery built in 1809 and located in Ulan Bator. Its name of Tibetan origin can be translated as "Great site full of Joy". Several hundred monks currently reside there. Next we will visit of the National Museum of Mongolian History, before returning to the hotel for dinner.
After breakfast we will begin our transfer by vehicle to Khogno Khan Park (5 hours drive - strongly dependent on the condition of the roads). En-route we will stop for a picnic lunch. In the afternoon we'll enjoy our first short horse ride in the Bayan Gobi, the "rich desert" where we will ride to the Ovgon Khiid Monastery, set in dramatic scenery. Bayan Gobi region is the only opportunity to ride horses in typical Gobi desert landscape in Mongolia, as there are no horses further south in the Gobi Desert. Dinner and night at the yurt camp.
After breakfast, departure for a spectacular day on horseback. We will ride from the cliffs of Khogno Khan, through Bayan Gobi semi-desert steppes. At midday, we reach an area of golden sand dunes called Elsentasarhaï, where our horses will show their remarkable endurance. Picnic lunch brought by our vehicles, this allows us to carry nothing on the horses, so we can enjoy many canters! In the afternoon we keep on riding in these amazing landscapes. The contrast between the desert dunes and the marshland that borders them is spectacular! We pass suddenly from the desert to the Garden of Eden. Nomads often gather their herds in this vast wet plain, a wonderful vision. We arrive on horseback at the yurt camp, located in a semi-desert environment. Dinner and night at the yurt camp.
After breakfast, we drive through the Orkhon Valley to visit the family of nomads who will guide us on the trail (4 hours drive - strongly dependent on the condition of the roads). After getting to know one another over lunch it is time for the first ride in the Valley. The rest of the day is devoted to learning about the traditional lifestyle of the nomads of Mongolia, and you will be able to join in with some of the day to day tasks that the families must do. In the evening our hosts will prepare a traditional specialty, the Khorkhog, or "Mongolian barbecue". This night we will sleep in a "guest-yurt", close to our nomad family's yurts. This accommodation is different to the yurt camps as there are no showers, but you will experience the real nomadic way of life.
After breakfast with our nomadic family, we start out on our trail riding adventure in Mongolia. We ride in the upstream part of the Valley where the landscape becomes wilder and wilder. This volcanic region has black ancient lava flows which contrast with the white running water of the Orkhon River. We have a picnic lunch brought by the back up vehicles, there is no luggage to carry on the horses, so we can enjoy many canters! After lunch we reach the forest with the impressive Naiman Nuur mountains in front of us. Dinner and overnight at a very remote yurt camp in the forest.
After breakfast we continue to ride in the upstream part of the Valley, returning to the Orkhon Falls via a different route. We enjoy a picnic lunch and arrive in the afternoon at our yurt camp, not far from the famous Orkhon Falls. The site of the falls is beautiful, with a stunning contrast created between the white foam of the waterfall and the black rock that forms the canyon walls. you will walk down along the walls to the foot of the fall, where you will discover trees and flowers (wild peonies) that take advantage of the abundance of water to grow. Dinner and night at the yurt camp
Today we will ride to one of the most famous sites of the Orkhon Valley: Uurt Canyon. Picnic lunch brought by our back up vehicles. We are now in the downstream section of the Valley, the landscapes open out as we ride between two towering mountain ranges, and we meet many nomadic families with their herds who take advantage of the rich grass of the valley. Today's yurt camp is located on a superb site, bordering the canyon of the Orkhon River. Dinner and night at the yurt camp.
Today we ride in the surrounding mountains, to get a higher view on the Orkhon Valley. We return to the same ger camp in the evening. Dinner and night at the yurt camp.
Today we continue our horse riding tour to the southern mountains bordering the Orkhon Valley, in Khujirt region. Khujirt is famous for its water, which is bottled and sent all over Mongolia. The view is spectacular on the river which is now much wider and lazy among wavy grassy hills. This is the Mongolia of your dreams. After a picnic lunch we arrive in the afternoon at a unique environment friendly yurt camp. The view from the camp of the huge valley is incredible. This camp is "eco-friendly", there are no "real" showers, but wet warm towels are brought to your yurt twice a day - quite surprising but efficient! Dinner and night at the yurt camp.
Today is our last day on horseback in the Orkhon Valley. In the last miles before Karakorum - the former capital of Mongolian Empire - the Valley is narrower, offering wonderful views from the mountain slopes on the Orkhon river. This part of the Orkhon Valley is one of the nicest, as the river is very calm, the water reflects the sky as a mirror. The dark blue water contrasts with the lush green of the grass and the white yurts around. Many herds roam in the steppe around and you will take many pictures of ‘typical’ Mongolia today. It is time to say goodbye to our horses and to our wonderful nomadic friends. Dinner and night at the yurt camp.
After breakfast we visit Erdene Zuu Monastery, then drive to Hustai National Park, home of the wild Przewalski's horses also called Takhi (4 hours drive - strongly dependent on the condition of the roads). In the afternoon, we go on a drive in the Park to try and find the Takhi. 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 with a picnic lunch en-route (2.5 hours driving depending on the driving conditions). The rest of the afternoon is dedicated to shopping in the downtown area, or at the Narantuul "black market" where you will find traditional clothing and items. In the late afternoon you will attend a show with traditional dancing, music and songs from Mongolia, including Khoomei throat singing. Dinner in the city (not included) and overnight at Hotel Nine (3*) or similar.
Transfer to airport (included for flights departing after 08.00) - the hotel will provide food to take away if pre-arranged.
Please note: Rides departing on 30 July will have a slightly amended itinerary for Day 11 and Day 12 to include Naadam Festival.
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.
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. 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.
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 unique 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. The remaining nights on the trail will be spent at touristic yurts/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.
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 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. One departure in July (usually early July) includes a visit to the Naadam Festival. Please see the website for more details.
2019: 15 Jun; 13 Jul; 10, 24 Aug; 7 Sep
2020: Runs every Monday from May 25 to 14 Sept (subject to availability, please speak to your travel advisor)
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||9||supplement for group of 2-3||229|
|2019||13d/12n||9||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||71|
|2020||13d/12n||9||supplement for group of 2-3||229|
|2020||13d/12n||9||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||109|
|2020||13d/12n||9||Extra night in Ulan Bator double room||86|
|2020||13d/12n||9||Extra night in Ulan Bator single room||129|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2019||13d/12n||9||supplement for group of 2-3||249|
|2019||13d/12n||9||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||80|
|2020||13d/12n||9||supplement for group of 2-3||249|
|2020||13d/12n||9||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||119|
|2020||13d/12n||9||Extra night in Ulan Bator double room||95|
|2020||13d/12n||9||Extra night in Ulan Bator single room||139|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2019||13d/12n||9||supplement for group of 2-3||285|
|2019||13d/12n||9||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||95|
|2020||13d/12n||9||supplement for group of 2-3||285|
|2020||13d/12n||9||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||145|
|2020||13d/12n||9||Extra night in Ulan Bator double room||115|
|2020||13d/12n||9||Extra night in Ulan Bator single room||165|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2019||13d/12n||9||supplement for group of 2-3||2,789|
|2019||13d/12n||9||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||895|
|2020||13d/12n||9||supplement for group of 2-3||2,789|
|2020||13d/12n||9||single supplement for 2 nights in Ulan Bator||1,339|
|2020||13d/12n||9||Extra night in Ulan Bator double room||1,059|
|2020||13d/12n||9||Extra night in Ulan Bator single room||1,565|
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.