7 adventure travel experiences in Mongolia

7 adventure travel experiences in Mongolia

7 adventure travel experiences in Mongolia

Renowned for its nomadic culture and untouched remoteness, Mongolia is one of the greatest adventure travel destinations in the world. The first-time visitors often describe Mongolia as two different countries under one flag. Its capital Ulaanbaatar, where half of the country’s population resides, is under constant development due to the ‘gold rush’ derived from the discovery of some of the world’s largest gold deposits in the Gobi Desert. Yet, if you drive just a few kilometers out of the city, you will find yourself taking a journey through time, where herders are living in harmony with nature. From its unpredictable climate to its unique culture and diverse landscapes, Mongolia offers a variety of adventures. So, here are the 7 most adventurous things that you can try in Mongolia.

1. Riding with the Eagle Hunters

Central Asian nomads have been training birds of prey as a partner in hunting, for some 6000 years. Although, falconry is still popular in many countries, including the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, hunting with golden eagles is exclusively a Kazakh practice. Kazakh hunters and their eagles truly communicate with each other during the hunt, that the smallest shift in claw pressure on a hunter’s arm would signal him that the bird has caught a scent. The hunts mainly take place during the cold winter months when it is easier to spot the target against the white of the snow. It is also the time when the birds are at their slimmest and hungriest. Kazakhs reside in the Altai Mountains, one of the most secluded places in the world, covering an area of over 16,000 kilometers. These mountains are often described as an impregnable barrier against globalization, with its permanently snow-covered peaks that rise above 4,500m. The best way to learn about the ancient custom of hunting with the Golden Eagles, as well as Kazakh culture, is to stay with an eagle hunter family in Western Mongolia. You can take a ride with the hunters in the Altai mountains and get a firsthand experience of eagle training.

Hunting with Golden Eagles - Adventure travel in Mongolia

2. Experience Mongolian winter and nomadic culture

Those who see cold as an adventure can get a chance to explore the winter landscape that few outsiders ever get to see. The remote Taiga that you can only reach on horseback in summertime, is reachable by 4WD in winter. Here travelers can meet with the Tsaatan people, who are one of the last groups of nomadic reindeer herders in the world. Genetically related to the Tozhu people in the neighboring Tuva Republic of Russia, the reindeer herders used to travel back and forth across the unmarked high-mountain border between Russia and Mongolia in search of grazing land. When Tuva became part of the Soviet Union in 1944, the border closed. The Tsaatan, afraid of losing their domestic animals to the Soviet Union, decided to permanently stay in Mongolia. As of today, only about 70 families, with about 1,000 reindeer, continue the tradition. The reindeer herders migrate every five weeks, from their high-elevation winter camps to low-elevation summer camps, with fall and spring camps in between. Although they reside in the coldest part of Mongolia, the Tsaatan live in tepees made primarily of birch bark, covered by a canvas tarp. On a trip to the Mongolia taiga, you will get an opportunity to get close with a herd of reindeer and ride them if you desire. You can observe the daily life of Tsaatan people and participate in it. Accommodation would be in a family’s teepee, where a stove is the main source of heat. Outside the teepee, it will be cold! Therefore, clothing must be thoroughly prepared. It is recommended to start with the base layer, add a fleece and outer layer that’s warm plus windproof. Under any circumstances, do not forget to bring a winter hat and gloves. Jeans are not an appropriate choice as they easily get wet in snow. Another noteworthy adventure of winter is to travel with the nomadic family when they move from their autumn camp to the more permanent shelter of their winter home. This usually takes place in late November, when the days are short, and the light is dramatic. Although many nomads are using vehicles for migration these days, families in the secluded mountainous areas are still using camels and yaks. Photographing or assisting the herders' migration is truly once in a lifetime experience.

Experience Mongolian winter and nomadic culture - Adventure travel in Mongolia

3. Self-drive adventure

Mongolia should be on the bucket list of every off-road enthusiast, as the country offers such a multitude of different geographical zones that no other country in the world does. Mongolia is a huge country and there is a lot to see outside the main tourist routes. Our self-drive trips gives freedom and flexibility to explore areas at your own pace and preference. Mongolia has more than 110000 km road network, and only around 8 percent of those are asphalt paved road, connecting the 21 provincial centers to the capital city. The rest of the roads are rough dirt trails, usually connecting smaller towns and villages. These roads have no indicators and often split in numerous smaller tracks, leading to family homes. It can be quite confusing to find the right path even with GPS. There are also many challenges that come with diverse terrains, including sand, rocks, boulders, and swamps. If you wish to trot the vast countryside while maintaining safety and back-up, it is often better to travel with an experienced tour operator. We provide support team, consisting of a guide and a driver who will help you with any obstacle you face. The driver will ensure regular maintenance and give possible repairs. When the roads can get muddy after rain, they would be ready to help in case you get stuck. The guide will help you to find a way and to connect with locals for any problems.

Self Drive adventure - Mongolia adventure travel

4. Camel trekking through the Gobi Desert

The Gobi Desert, stretching across over one-third of Mongolia’s territory, creates one of the most dramatic environments on the planet. Anyone would easily be enchanted by its rolling dunes, rocky hills, arid plateaus, and clay cliffs. Despite its desert status, the Gobi is filled with life, including millions of livestock as well as various wild species such as the wild Bactrian camel, Mongolian wild ass, Gobi bear, ibex, and black-tailed gazelle. For centuries, domesticated Bactrian camels have been used for migration and became a symbolic animal of the steppe nomads. With its tolerance for cold and the ability to endure long periods of travel without water, Bactrian camels enabled the travel of caravans on the Silk Road. Its population of two million makes up only 5 percent of the global camel population. If you are visiting the Mongolian Gobi, there is no better way to explore the desert than on the back of an animal that has for eons adapted to its harsh conditions. Atop of the majestic camel, you can watch the famous red sunset of the Gobi. Interestingly, it is more comfortable to ride camels than horses as their walking gait is slow and gentle. You will be well supported between its two humps.

Camel Trekking in the Gobi Desert - Adventure travel in Mongolia

5. Hiking and trekking in nature

Mongolia is definitely one of the best-hiking/trekking destinations for those who want to get away from city life and wander in the wilderness. In Mongolia, wherever you are, you can enjoy occasional hikes without any disturbances. However, if you want to challenge yourself in areas that only a few people had visited before.

- The Kharkhiraa Mountains in Western Mongolia present perhaps the most dramatic scenery of this country, featuring snow-capped peaks, glaciers, mountaintop lakes, and waterfalls.

- The highlight of Northern Mongolia is the Lake Khuvsgul, the second-most voluminous freshwater lake in Asia. It is a perfect hiking destination for adventure travelers as it goes through a land that is completely unreachable by vehicles and off-limits to nomadic families.

- The Eight Lakes Nature Reserve lies high in the Khangai Mountains, Mongolia’s second largest mountain range, in Central Mongolia. Barely accessible to vehicles, the nature reserve is being kept in a pristine condition, allowing the few visitors that do make the effort to climb up there to enjoy Mongolian nature at its best.

As for accommodations, these destinations are not along the main tourist routes, so there are no hotels or resorts for travelers to stay. Thus, overnight stops will be in tents. On such trips, tour companies usually provide all camping equipment, apart from sleeping bags and mattresses. Travelers only carry drinking water, camera, and personal items during the day as the luggage and equipment are carried by pack animals (yaks or horses). Please do not forget to bring waterproofs and spare pair of hiking shoes, as even the best Gortex shoes might surrender to the rough terrain.

Trekking and hiking in Mongolia - Adventure travel in Mongolia

6. Horseback riding

Horses play a major role in Mongolian culture and lifestyle. The country boasts more than 5 million horses, an equine population that nearly doubles its human population. The children in the countryside learn to ride at 3 years old and become jockeys by the age of 7. If you wish to feel the spirit of this nation, you should certainly take a riding tour. It can be a one-hour riding excursion or even a two-week horse trek. If you are new to horseback riding and worrying about falling from your horse, the local guide and horseman will gladly teach you the basic rules. The horses will take you where your own two feet cannot. Especially, in the summer, the ground is so wet in some places that the only way to get through is by horse. Taiga is one of those places. Here you can meet one of the world’s last remaining tribes of reindeer herders in their summer camps. As summer is the milking season of livestock, it is possible to taste reindeer milk tea and cheese, and even try your hand at milking and riding a reindeer.

Horseback riding in Mongolia - Adventure travel in Mongolia

7. Cycling together with an up-close encounter with the local nomads

Mongolia, a country of abandoned dirt roads, high mountains and vast lakes, invites you to join a unique mountain-cycling expedition to explore one of the country’s most amazing regions, along Mongolia’s second highest mountain range, the Khangai Mountains. Whether you are an expert, looking for wild single treks, or an amateur looking forward to explore the country at a relaxed pace, this route offers it all. Our cycling tour combines the best of both worlds, a great cycling tour together with an up-close encounter with the local nomads, and get to see parts of the country that can be revealed only when being explored on 2 wheels.

Cycling in Mongolia - Adventure travel in Mongolia

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