Paul, our Mongolian expert, joined Steppes Travel in 1994 and has visited Mongolia numerous times. His most recent adventure was with his son when they experienced a yak trek, staying in yurts as they travelled, as well as visiting a nature reserve where they found eagles and argali sheep. Justin, our MD, recently travelled to Mongolia, spending time riding and hunting alongside the Kazakh Eagle Hunters, an experience he describes as "one of the best travel experiences of my life".
Why we like Mongolia
Firstly, the sense of space: with just over two million inhabitants, Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country in the world. Secondly, the sense of tradition: freed from its Soviet chains, Buddhism is slowly reasserting itself as is the nomadic lifestyle so alien to the socialist model. Even in Ulaanbaatar half the population still live in gers, the traditional circular Mongolian tent. Thirdly, the laughter of the people.
What to expect on your Mongolian holiday
Mongolia is not the exclusive preserve of the horseman, but if you want to experience the true essence of the country, going on horseback certainly helps. Over 70% of the population remain nomadic and as you ride across the flat open steppe you will still encounter isolated family ger (yurt) encampments whose occupants will inevitably offer you hospitality. The wiry little thirteen-hand ponies will seem a little small but their stamina is legendary and they carried Genghis Khan across Asia. They will be able to manage you for a few days!
The further west you travel and the more remote Mongolia becomes. The Altai Mountains in the far west are particularly beautiful in spring when a profusion of flowers appear, but one of the real spectacles remains the Kazakh eagle hunters who hunt on horseback in the winter.
Some ideas for a Mongolian holiday
- Visit the reindeer herders around Lake Hovsgol north of Ulaanbaatar.
- Spend a few days in the saddle riding out across the steppe staying in comfortable gers.
- Plan your holiday to coincide with the Nadaam festival in early July when nomads congregate in their home town.
- Przehwalskii horses, once close to extinction, now run wild in the Hustai National Park.
- Drive south into the dramatic and arid Gobi Desert.
- Combine your time in Mongolia by travelling to China or Russia by train
Beyond the ordinary
Hunting with the Kazakh eagle hunters.