Mongolia is a big country covering the Northeast Asian steppe and dessert lands. The place has successfully maintained its nomadic culture till date and offer great opportunity for real interaction and exposure to nomadic societies, that too travelling on horseback, the way they do. The horses are also the true traditional Mongolian ones.
Mongolia has a long tradition of nomadic lifestyle involving moving from one place to other with season along with their animals. This makes most of the Mongolian population rural and livestock forms the mainstay of Mongolian economy.
Though Mongolia do not have many of the historical sites to boast of, but it is a true paradise for the ones seeking to experience real untouched culture, virgin nature with flora and fauna the way it was always used to be. There are many tour operators who offer the horse riding tours in Mongolia, that include travelling through the country side on horseback and camping in the traditional gears, so it gives a chance to understand Mongolia by living their life for few days in true sense.
These horse riding tours are in a sense really sensational. During our last vacation I decided to get a taste of Mongolia through a 2 week horse riding tours. I and my friend Anna had long cherished to do it and this was really a dream come true.
We selected the 2 week tour of company Zavkhan Trekkers that included covering various parts of the vast Mongolian landscape. During the tour the horses were supposed to be our vehicles and the tour was to be conducted in company of a guide to tells us the ways of the locals and also the secrets of survival in the Mongolian wilderness. From the face of it the opportunity was definitely looking as a lifetime chance to get a close insight into the unique nomadic culture of Mongolians, who are known worldwide as one of the most tolerant and friendly people on face of earth.
There are many tours with different core plan to cover unique section of Mongolia, but what we selected was related to visiting peaks and lakes of Mongolia’s western part. It was in total a 14 day tour which had pure horse riding for almost 7 days to cover the western Mongolia which is basically covered with snow capped mountains, green pastures, beautiful lakes with crystal clear water and big cold desserts. This is the land of Ibes, Lynx and Snow Leopard.
The trip included riding to the Altai Mountains located on the western side of Mongolia. Some of the milestones of the journey were the Tavan Bogd Range, visiting alpine lakes on the way and horse riding across the beautiful green valleys along with the Tuvan Hunters. We were also supposed to meet the Kazakh Falconers who are known to rear Golden Eagles for hunting. The tour had plenty of rest days, good for us as we were new to such lifestyle. We were supposed to rest at night in the tents that were carried along with us.
We started our tour from Ulaanbaatar on day 1. On reaching there we were checked in a good hotel to take rest and prepare for the journey. Next day were allowed to get ready at our leisure and then went for the city tour with our guide Usmaan. We visited the Natural History Museum that showcased the dinosaur fossils and the artefacts related to the Mongolian tradition, history and lifestyle. After this visit we visited a good restaurant that served great Mongolian food accompanied with the traditional overtone singing performance.
Next day we were told to be ready to catch the flight to Western Mongolia. Our flight was as 0630 AM so we were all ready to reach the airport of time. It was a Fokker 30 aircraft that took about 2 hours to reach our destination. We arrived at Ulgy to meet our support team of cooks, guides, and drivers. They were ready with the first picnic lunch of the day. After our food the journey actually began.
We were taken to the Tavan Bogd range located on the north-western part of the country. It was a 2 hour drive from Ulgy across the dessert. On arrival at the Deer Stream green valley we installed out camp of tents. Once we were settled, few of the local inhabitants visited us to welcome and greet us. From the first of the interaction I could get a feeling why Mongolians are considered to be one of the friendliest races on the face of earth. We took our dinner late and then rested in the tens for the night.
Next day after getting ready early we drove to the Tavan Bogd national park. We reached there early afternoon, a remarkable place where the glacial green waters of the White River were looking heavenly in the backdrop of Protector Mountains. Here we again set up out tents.
This valley is populated (though sparsely) by the Tuvan Hunters who are supposed to be with us during the rest of the part of our journey on horseback. These Tuvan hunters are known to live in one of the harshest climate of earth and are considered to be very rugged and strong.
We took a good night sleep after an early dinner and got ready early in the morning. Next day we were supposed to reach the Tavan Bogd Peaks base camp by riding horses. After taking heavy breakfast we set out for the journey to Tavan Bogd Mt on Mongolian horses. The Mongolian horses are very strong animals and riding them is much different than riding there western brothers. One the way we passed through terrain of wetland and rocks, with frequent encounters with animals like marmots, hares and exotic birds as golden eagle, falcons and vultures.
Our luggage was carried on camels. In about 6-7 hours we reached to clear sight of the Potanin Glacier and there we camped for the night. Next day were told to be on our own to decide it we wanted to go and walk on the Potanin Glacier or to go for trekking on the nearby ridge from where one could get the views into the Northern Russia and other Tavan Bogd peaks. We decided for the trekking and it was great experience.
Next day we moved back to our camp in White River Valley and had an early dinner and then went to sleep. Our hosts that day served us one Mongolian delicacy called “besbarmak” a nice combination ad meat and vegetables, but very refreshing and nourishing.
From next day we started our linear horse riding tour for next 5 days. We started riding downstream of the White River. We were supposed to travel about 30 km every day and to cover areas with valleys, rivers, lakes and snow-covered mountains. Though we were travelling on horseback but there were vehicles to carry our luggage beforehand and set the camp at the next place well in advance so that things are ready by the time we reach there.
One the first day of liner trekking along White River we saw many old graveyards of local warriors with carved stones. Our guide explained their importance on the way in details. After about 6 hours of horse riding we camped in the valley of the river.
During next 4 days we rode to twin lakes of Khurgan and Khoton covering big grasslands, overlooking dome shaped mountains, crossing streams with icy water. Though the day time temperatures were pleasant but nights were quite cold and for most of the time we were travelling at height of 2000 above MSL.
We finally camped in the Khoton valley on the 12th day. The place is one of the largest petro glyph galleries with some very well preserved burial sites. We enjoyed swimming and trekking for almost 2 days. On the 14th days we said good bye to our Tuvan guides and then rode back to Ulgy. From Ulgy we took the return flight to Ulaanbaatar. We reached their late at night and were checked in the same hotel from where we started. That night our tour operators gave us the farewell dinner and next way we took flight back homes, filled with long lasting memories of the last 14 days and with desire to come back again.