This eXperience brings you to the Gobi Steppe and a chance to ride a horse like Mongolian nomads on the small sand dunes of the Gobi Steppe across the Mongolian Gobi Desert, sand dunes and steppe lands, hosted by the Steppe Nomads themselves, the largest remaining pastoralist people on Earth.
Steppe habitats once made up 25% of the global land area. Today the Pampas, the Puszta, the Prairies and the Ukrainian steppes have largely been developed for agricultural output. Only the Mongolian steppes have survived.
The high elevation of Mongolia creates unusually clear air and starry nights the year round. It is an overwhelming visual eXperience of emptiness and vastness to ride into the great Mongolian void. The silent, treeless steppe, completely devoid of any fences.
Stretching away into the distance: no trace of human activity except for the pastoralists themselves and their herds.
Wolves may be heard vocalizing at any time in the summer, but usually, they are not seen.
eXperience a true nomadic lifestyle meeting and living like and with the local people and the local equestrian traditions, without vehicle support in wild terrain. Apart from the short drive to the starting point of your eXperience and back to the city you will not rely on any motor vehicle support. Instead traditional wooden carts, that mongolian families still use moving from one pasture to another, will travel with you.
A close encounter with nature always with a full respect for the horses and all the animals.
Stay in spacious Tentipis, with foldable bed-cots. You will travel accompanied by a Mongolian Ger (yurt) to serve as your mobile restaurant, as well as showers and compost toilets housed in traditional Mongolian marquee style tents. For two nights you will stay at a low-impact Ger camp at Arburd Sands. Two nights will be passed in Ulaanbaatar at a centrally located hotel.
12 days | 11 nights
2019: June 06 to 17 | July 09 to 22 | July 25 to August 05 | August 20 to 31
Upon your arrival in Ulaanbaatar you will be transferred to your hotel. There will be a briefing tour and dinner.
After breakfast you will visit the Gandan Monastery, the centerpiece for the revival of Buddhist Lamaism in Mongolia. With luck you will catch the prayer times. Then you will be driven south out of the city and you will enjoy a picnic lunch on the grasslands. You will continue across the steppe to a place in the middle of nowhere called Tseel. Your nomad hosts will meet you at Tseel with their horses and Bactrian camels. The area of Tseel has no or few nomads. You will have the chance to meet the horses. There will be a briefing and a short trial ride.
Today you will start your ride going west to the mountains of Hoyd Önjuul. In the surrounding area it is usually possible to spot herds of Mongolian Gazelles (Procapra Gutturosa) also known as White-tailed Gazelle. With luck you may even see the Black-tailed Goitred Gazelle (Gazella Subgutturosa) which is better adapted to arid environment indicating that you are riding in the transition zone of grasslands and desert steppes. In the mountain area you can sometimes see the Red Deer (Cervus Elaphus) which Americans calls Elk or Wapiti. Certainly Wolves (Canis Lupus) are around but seldom seen.
Following breakfast you will break camp and load all gers, equipment and provisions on to the camel carts caravan. You will ride for the full day south to the area Bayan Hills, where high-altitude fauna such as Siberian Ibex (Capra Sibirica) and Argali Sheep (Ovis Ammon) sometimes is seen. Argali is the largest wild sheep in the world. Pitch camp at Suman. Usually there are many nomadic families in the immediate area, as there is a water source (Hudag means “well” in Mongolian).
Today you will turn east and ride to the rock wall like mountains of Zorgol Hairkhan (Sacred Zorgol) which can be seen in the distance all day. It is a striking feature on the otherwise undulating and flat steppe. Zorgol Hairkhan is mentioned in The Secret History of the Mongols, the oldest surviving Mongolian language literary work, which chronicles the life and genealogy of Genghis Khan. The Khan himself is said to have wintered here while in conflict with a competing leader. There are more nomads and livestock emerging now. You will be able to meet some during the ride. At Zorgol there are also breeding population of Cinereous Vulture (Aegypus Monachus), the largest of the Eurasian vultures, its size on par with the Condor of the Americas. The nests are quite low, on rocks and small trees. Your camp will be at the larger massif, called Ikh Zorgol Hairkhan Uul.
You continue riding east, passing the small Gobi lake Hariin Nuur, with chances for spotting some interesting bird species. The lake acts as an “island” for waterfowl flying across this “sea of grass”. You cover about 25km to reach the smaller, but still impressive, Baga (small) Zorgol Hairkhan Mountains. Usually the pastures are excellent here, why you will encounter some nomadic families with their livestock around here. You pitch camp here and scan the ridges of these spectacular rock formations for Siberian Ibex and Lammergeiers. Gobi high altitude fauna such as Argali Sheep are present in the hills and rocks, and, if lucky, may be seen during the day.
The Gobi steppe in this area is quite variable since you ride through the transition zone of the Gobi, meaning there is true steppe, semi-arid steppe, sand dunes and also giant rock formations. Today you will have an opportunity to pass archaeological grave sites dating back to the Hunnu Empire, i.e. from the time before the Christian era. You will ride for 25-30km east across the populated steppe and for the full day you can see the Zorgol Hairkhan giant rock formations behind you in the distance. They are several hundred meters high, and are the central feature in the middle of the steppe.
Today’s ride turns north, a shorter distance to Shine Khudag, meaning New Well. Water sources are important in the Gobi grasslands. Your camp is loaded onto the camel caravan each day. Sometimes you will ride alongside the caravan, but often you will stray away from its straight course to explore interesting landscape features or for great views.
You ride full day for 25-30km to Arburd Sands, passing several nomadic herder families along the way. The human inhabitants of this open and vast landscape are perhaps the most interesting, since all families in the area are nomadic herders. The sand dunes of Arburd extend for about 20km. They are a hideout for wolves and often you can see wolf tracks here. It is a Sahara-like landscape in the middle of the Gobi grasslands. Your camel caravan will need to take a route around the sand dunes, while you can cross them on horseback. You stay at Arburd Sands Ger Camp for the night, which is located next to the dunes.
You will stay at the seasonal fully collapsible summer felted ger camp of Arburd Sands for another night, allowing for an opportunity to ride out and visit some nearby families over the day. Nomads here have large herds of cattle, especially cashmere goats. You may also choose to stay back and just relax at camp and enjoy the scenery.
The return drive to Ulaanbaatar is about three hours. In the afternoon, you may explore the small city center on your own. Distances are short and nearly all points of interest may by reached on foot. Your guide is standing by to assist you in your shopping or sightseeing activities. You will have a farewell dinner in local restaurant followed by folk music entertainment. Certainly there will be throat singers. Overnight at hotel.
Transfer out back to the airport or on to your next destination.
Own sleeping bag required
All transfers included | Airport Gateway ULN
Additional beverages and lunch in Ulaanbaatar are paid separately
The services of local herdsmen will be required along with their animals. The horsemen follow a traditional lifestyle in the areas where you will be riding
If the group consists of 4 riders or more, you will also have a Mongolian doctor come along as part of the crew