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Five Extraordinary Experiences in Mongolia

Head to one of the world’s last great frontiers and discover vast open spaces, wonderful nomadic people and the chance of a true adventure. here is our round up of some of the most extraordinary private experiences to be had along the way.

1. DISCOVER BACTRIAN CAMELS AND DINOSAURS IN THE GOBI

The vast gobi dominates southern Mongolia. Our private expedition takes you into some of the 33 different types of gobi that make up the desert steppe, and dinosaur country.

Setting out from the capital of Ulan Bator you will head into the rocky wilderness inhabited by nomads, their flocks of goats and small herds of domesticated Bactrian camels, the main source of milk and transport here. Along the way you may meet with local over a steaming cup of boiled salty tea and learn more about their way of life in this harsh environment. From your private mobile ger camp hike among the giant dunes of Hongor Sands standing up to 80m high and 100m wide – or reaching 20km in others – and climb to the top for far reaching views and spectacular sunsets.

With your private guide you are likely to spot some native wildlife including Goitered Gazelle, fox, argali and pika. Bird-watching is rewarding with Bearded Vulture, or Lammergeier soaring high above, and rare Wallcreepers. Travelling through a glacial canyon and the Saxaul ‘forests’ of Banyanzag you will reach the Flaming Cliffs, made famous by American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews, who discovered the first fossilized dinosaur eggs here in the early 1920s.

2. FLOAT THROUGH THE CANYONS OF NORTHERN MONGOLIA WITH A PRIVATE GER CAMP

Work your way through picturesque valleys and canyons and enjoy far-reaching views of the stunning landscape.

This unique river trip takes you through the Hövsgöl Canyons, Mongolia’s most scenic river valley. Staying in a string of comfortable ger camps along the river you float from camp to camp over three or four mornings, often passing nomads living in gers along the steppe, with optional afternoon hikes above the limestone and granite canyons; it’s a brilliant addition to any Mongolian adventure in one of the remotest areas of the country.

In the company of professional river guides and equipped with safety gear you can choose to participate in paddling your raft or sit back and enjoy the ride, plus the thrill of some Grade II and III rapids. Remote and difficult to access, the river is prime habitat for an endangered giant trout, the Taimen, and we work with the surrounding communities in conservation partnership. Lunch is served stream side so you can re-energise and enjoy the peace of this pristine wilderness.

Each night is spent in a private camp with views over pristine landscape at 2000 meters above sea level close to the border with Tuva Republic of Russia. Your traditional Mongolian ger is simply but comfortably furnished with proper beds and colourful wall hangings and dining is in a separate tent with cuisine created from traditional recipes.

3. EXPERIENCE THE EAGLE FESTIVAL OF THE ALTAI MOUNTAINS

In the far west of Mongolia ethnic Kazakh nomads continue to practice their ancient tradition of hunting with eagles.

The Altai Eagle Festival is an incredible opportunity to join them as they showcase their age-old skills, flying domesticated female golden eagles; it’s one of the last great nomadic spectacles. Our private expedition uses comfortable Land Cruisers to cross the dry steppe where Saiga antelope and Takhi wild horses roam free beneath towering mountains home to snow leopard. On the way you are likely to encounter eagle hunters making their way to the festival with their eagles on horseback, motorbike and truck.

Your base for the festival is a private camp with cosy heated ger complete with proper beds and separate dining tent located in the vast unspoilt landscape. The festival begins with opening ceremonies and eagle hunters on horseback riding in parade, followed by displays of expert horsemanship including Kok Boru, a tug-of-war on horseback. The highlight is the Golden Eagle competitions and the opportunity for numerous photos. Lunch is brought to at the festival grounds so there’s no need to miss out on any of the action.

4. SLEEP UNDER A MILLION STARS IN A PRIVATE TRADITIONAL GER CAMP

Mongolia’s massive wide-open spaces and endless unfenced landscapes lend themselves to limitless exploration.

The best way to experience this incredible freedom and enjoy flexible, slow, off-grid travel is to live like a nomad with your own private mobile camp.

Step inside your traditional ger (yurt) via an intricately patterned wooden door – conventionally facing south to receive the sun – and you’ll find a comfortable and spacious living space. Ivory canvas pulled taut over a wooden latticework frame and luminous orange roof poles forms the basis of your tented home. Beds are made up with crisp linen and fluffy blankets, there’s a wash basin and pail, and plump cushioned chairs from which to soak up the panoramic views.

Wholesome three course meals are served in a cosy mess tent lined with colourful wall hangings or al fresco beneath the Milky Way; Mongolia’s star gazing opportunities are spectacular. By morning, after breakfast, camp is deftly dismantled and packed up; Mongols are experts at moving and any sign that you were there quickly disappear in the sea of grass.

5. JOURNEY THROUGH WILD MONGOLIA IN SEARCH OF THE PRZEWALSKI HORSE

Named after a Russian explorer who is credited with discovering them in the 1800s, the iconic wild horse roams the plains of Mongolia.

Head to the steppes of Mongolia in search of the world’s last true wild horses in Hustai National Park. The Przewalski horse, or ‘takhi’ in Mongolian meaning ‘spirit’ or ‘worthy of worship’, has been brought back from the brink of extinction in recent years and remains critically endangered. Stay in a traditional ger (yurt) moved between your private camps by woolly Bactrian camels.

Alex Edwards
About the Author

Alex Edwards

St Paul had his epiphany on the road to Damascus. Mine was on the road to Ruaha in the middle of an African night in ‘93.

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