In the footsteps of Genghis Khan
The green grasses of the Great Steppe reach far and wide, up to the horizon. A closer look will easily reveal heards of horses, cattle and sheep walking close to gerts, typical Mongolian yurts. Not far in the West monumental peaks of the Khangai Mountains rise into the sky, casting shade on the mysterious taiga. Our horses snort calmly, eager to go. We came from Karakorum and there’a long way ahead of us – to the Mongolian Sands, also know as the Small Gobi Desert.
Saddle up, let’s ride!
Days overall13 daysDays in saddle9
StandardComfy Khan: hotels, comfy yurts, one night tentingLuggageno limit kgFoodlocal cuisine, vegetarian meals available
Skillswalk, trot, gallop
Mongolia, a land shrouded in legend lays ahead of us! It was here where Genghis Khan, one of the most outstanding leaders in World’s history, ruled a waged wars. The land, where riders seem to be born in saddles and horses seem to be born to gallop through vast grasslands.
Our tour is much more than just a trail ride. It’s an experience of a unique culture of the peoples of the Great Steppe, who have survived in the wild Mongolian land until this very day. It’s also an adventure into the footsteps of a great nomadic empire that has greately influenced the history of Asia and Europe. We will see the famous Karakorum, visit Buddhist temples as well as stay with local inhabitants. The breathtaking nature is also a crucial part of our trip: the Great Steppe, pastures, mountains, canyons, lakes, rivers, waterfalls and a desert – it’s all there.
This is our first run of this kind in Mongolia – we’re scouting this trail, so be prepared for anything! The accomodation standard during our adventure is relatively high: we spend most of the nights in gers – large, tent-like constructions, that we would usually call “yurts”. Regular tents will be used for one night only, when we venture deep into the wilderness, where no human settlements are available.
During this trip we ride lightweight, without any luggage on our horses. For most of the trail a car will assist us and during Days 8-10 we be accompanied by pack yaks.
Local horses are relatively small-frame, so the maximum rider weight shouldn’t exceed 95 kg. Daily parts of the trail are 30-50 km long, but the landscape allows for relatively fast riding. We spend 5-7 hours a day in the saddle, plus breaks.
- 2 nights in a hotel in Ulaanbaatar
- 8 nights in gers (yurt-like tents/camps)
- 1 night in eco tipis
- 1 night in tents
- Full alimentation (except for Ulaanbaatar), alcohol not included
- Transfer from and to the airport in Ulaanbaatar (first and last day of the trip)
- All car transfers included in the programme (4×4 cars)
- Entry fees to all attractions mentioned in the programme
- Entry to the traditional dance and throat singing show
- Visit and bath in hot springs
- Company of the local guide
- Polish- and English-speaking pilot
- A horse with a full tack
- Assisting car to transport your luggage
- Pack yaks on days 8-10 when cars are unable to assist
- A tourist insurance covering high-risk sports
- Flight ticket to and from Ulaanbaatar (ca. 820 Euro)
- Visa to Mongolia (ca. 60 Euro)
- Meals in Ulaanbaatar
- Minor expenses (souvenirs, extra snacks, alcohol, etc.)
- Optional: short Bactrian camel ride (20 Euro) and Mongolian archery lesson (5 Euro)
The group arrives in Ulaanbaatar in the morning. We go straight to the hotel to rest for a couple of hours. In the afternoon we meet our local guide and head out to a restaurant. After a meal we visit The National Museum of Mongolia. The exhibition covers all periods, from prehistory to USSR, with a major part focusing on the Mongolian Empire and Genghis Khan.
In the evening we will take a walk around the city and get to see and hear a show of traditional dance and overtone singing (also called ”throat singing”). We will also have dine in the city and stay for the night at a hotel.
After breakfast we will get in cars and travel for about 5 hours. On the way we’ll stop for lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon we will reach Karakorum, the capital city of the Mongolian Empire. Established around year 1220 by Genghis Khan as a war camp Karakorum is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will spend some time sightseeing there and then visit Erdene Zuu, probably the earliest surviving Buddhist monastery in Mongolia, erected in late 16th century. The temple area is surrounded by 108 holy stupas that symbolize enlightenment.
Our accomodation for that night is near Karakorum, in a very comfortable Uyanga-style gers. We have beds, hot showers, toilets and even a… washing machine available there. The camp is surrounded by a garden, which is a part of an eco project that aims to protect local species of plants, both edible and decorative.
Orkhon River bends
We saddle up in the morning and leave Karakorum heading towards the Orkhon Valley, a natural wonder and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We have 42 km to cover on horses, which should take around 6,5 hours. We will ride along the river, enjoy the view at vast, green pastures and shepherds’ camps. In th middle of the day we will stop for a break and have the opportunity to see local inhabitants busy with their daily routines. In the afernoon the group will reach Khujirt, known for its hot springs. There are numerous Buddhist monasteries in the area, those lands were also the capital of the Uyghur Khaganate in 8th and 9th century.
We will spend the night in comfortable gers, with beds and an eco toilet (a clean outhouse) available. There isn’t a shower available there – instead everyone will receive hot, aromatic towels to wash the day off.
After breakfast we’ll saddle up – about 35 kilometers and 5 hours of riding ahead of us. We will ride to Uurt, located at the foothills of the majestic Khangai Mountains. Our trail runs through fertile steppe, so it’s easy to encounter herds of horses, yaks, sheep and goats along the way. There is no such thing as fences there, all animals roam freely in the open. We’ll have a break along the way to rest a bit and then keep riding until we reach Uurt. We’ll spend the night in gers, with beds, toilets, showers and a washing machine available.
Footsteps of Zanabazar
In the morning we will have breakfast and then ride out into taiga. The trail will take us along the mountain chain until we reach Tövkhön – a Buddhist monastery dating back to the 17th century. At this exact location Öndör Gegeen Zanabazar, one of the major spiritual leaders and the supreme spiritual authority of Tibetan Buddhism in Outer Mongolia, created the Soyombo script, a writing system used for Mongolian, Tibetan and Sanskrit. According to the legend Zanabazar saw glowing signs in the sky that he wrote down and turned into an alphabet.
The building of the monastery are located at 2312 meters, with some amazing views on Khangai. We will return to Uurt in the evening. A short Mongolian archery lesson will be available for those who’d like to take part in it.
After an early breakfast we will ride out again. Today is the longest daily part of the trail, 50 kilometers, that will take us about 7 hours to cover. We’ll have a break on the way, of course. Our target destination that day is a shepherd settlement in the Orkhon Valley. We will join a local family there in their daily activities: milking animals, making cheese, collecting and chopping wood. We can fool around with local kids and learn a Mongolian game called Shagain, that uses… talus bones as dice.
We stay for the night at family gers that accomodate 4 people each, with access to an outhouse and a portable, tourist shower. We’ll have a traditonal dinner prepared by and with the hosting family.
The Eight Lakes
Today the trail of about 37 kilometers and 5,5 hours in the saddle will lead us to some amazing natural spots. First one is the charming Ulaan Tsutgalaan waterfall. According to scientists this particular waterfall was created by a volcano eruption and an earthquake some 20 000 years ago. The water falls down 16 meters to crash against black rocks. If the day is sunny one can often notice small rainbows at the bottom of the waterfall.
Next we will ride to Naiman Nuur National Park, also know as Eight Lakes. Many Europeans amaze at local flora, as in some places one can spot really surprising plants, such as edelweiss – a national symbol of Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Switzerland and a symbol of alpinism in general.
We’ll stay for the night in a relatively comfortable gers at the brink of taiga, with toilets and shower available. We will also visit local hot springs in the evening for a relaxing bath.
Horses and yaks
After breakfast we leave gers behind and ride into Khangai, with 30 kilometers to cover that day, which should take 5-6 hours. This morning our assisting car will leave and we will be joined by pack yaks. We can pack into smaller, waterproof bags for the next 3 days, leave the rest of our redundant belonging with the car team and get it back after we meet with them again.
The area is hard to access by car, as it becomes more mountainous. Our trail will lead through copses of large pines and larches, while the ridges are home to mountain flowers, wild rose bushes, gooseberry, juniper and wild onions.
We stay for the night in gers, hosted by a local family. There’s a simple outhouse and a portable tourist shower available.
On that day we will make a loop and reach the blue Shireet lake again, this time on it’s other shore. We’ll have a break in the forest and then ride along another two mountain lakes, until we reach precipitous Bayarag pass. On the other side we will have a beautiful view to the mountains. We’ll ride down to Shuranga river bank, where we’ll stop for the night. We will tent out and use sleeping bags. A touristic shower will be available.
Back to the steppe
After breakfast in the nature we’ll hop on our horses and ride along the river. It’s the last full day on our horses and the last one with our assisting yaks. The path is 35 kilometer long and we should ride it in about 6 hours. We’ll encounter another mountain lake, called Bayan. Its shore is home to a number of birds, including wild ducks and cranes. After a break we will ride down from the mountains back to the endless steppe, dotted with white gers here and there. In the late afternoon we will reach a local family to stay with them for the night in gerts, with an outhouse and portable shower available. For dinner we will have Khorkhog, a traditional Mongolian dish.
Granite and sand
In the morning we will part with the shepherd family and go East. We have 240 kilometers to go, most of the distance will be done by cars. We will stop near Khogno Khan to visit unique granite formations. The Khogno Khan mountain has been considered sacred already in prehistoric times and sacrificial ceremonies take place there still today. At mid-day we will have lunch in a local restaurant. Next we’ll go to Erdene Khambiin Khiid, where Zanabazar erected a monastery in 17th century to comemorate his teacher, monk Erdene. Today the monastery is locked down, but the place is definitely worth a visit.
This is also the place where we will mount Mongolian horses for the last time. It’s going to be a short ride of about 2 hours to Elsen Tasarkhai, called ”The Small Gobi”. It’s a chain of sandy dunes that stretch across 80 kilometers. If the group will be up for it, we can also make a short ride on Bactrian camels.
We wil stay for the night nearby, in a very picturesque spot. This time we will not sleep in gers, but in… ecological, wooden tipis. Toilets and showers will be available at this spot.
Farewell to the Great Steppe
After breakfast we will take the last look at the green steppe and then travel by cars back to Ulaanbaatar. The drive will take about 4,5 hours. We will stop for lunch on the way and consume the food taken from the tipi camp. After reaching Ulaanbaatar we will check in the hotel and hit the city for a walk, souvenir hunt and a dinner at a restaurant. Night at the hotel.
The group leaves Mongolia and heads home.
This adventure is organized in a comfy and diverse manner – as for Mongolia. We spend most of the nights in places where toilets and showers (sometimes: makeshift, but still) are available. In Ulaanbaatar we stay in a hotel. Outside the city we sleep mainly in gers – Mongolian yurt camps. On five nights those gers are eco-tourism ones, comfy and of nice standard. We will spend another three nights in family-run gers, in which conditions are definitely more basic, but – on the other hand – we will have the chance to see and take part in the lifes of authentic Mongolian shepherds. We will spend one night tenting out, as our trail will take us away from any human settlements. The last night before returnig to civilization will be hosted in ecological, wooded tipis (toilets and showers available).
You can read through the detailed day-by-day plan in the Itinerary section.
Depending on the particular day meals will be prepared by our guides, local families or cooks at restaurants. Typical Mongolian cuisine is relatively fatty and heavy. It’s based mostly on animal products – meat, milk, cheese, as all shepherd diets around the World, although vegetarian meals are also available if required.
Saddles in Mongolia vary: there are English and Russian saddle available, as well as local, steppe saddles. As far as possible we will choose saddles to meet riders’ preferences, although the main priority is to match horses according to riders’ height and weight. We use bits.
Riders’ outfits should be relatively versatile to fit the Great Steppe’s climate. Temperatures during the day might reach 25 degrees Celsius, but occasional local showers, storms or fog might occur. In the evening temperatures will noticeably drop. We recommend a set of clothes that will allow for layering up, so you could put on or take off some clothes in case of changing temperature and conditions. Waterproof outerwear will also be a must. Instead of regular jodhpur boots we recommed trekking boots, also waterproof. A scarf or bandana to protect against dust and sand on dry days would be a good idea, too.
What you should take with you
For the most of the trip a 4×4 car will support the group, although for 3 of 9 day of riding (Days 8-10) a car won’t be able to go where we go, so our belonging will be transported by yaks. There is no luggage weight limit, but we recommend keeping it as lightweight as possible. Remember to pack you stuff in waterproof sacks or backpacks. During the day we ride lightweight taking only those things we need while on horses.
- cash, preferably USD or EUR
- clothes – to layer up
- swimsuit (for a bath in hot springs) and flip-flops
- trekking boots
- electronics, e.g. camera
- small bags or a handy backpack (for documents, wallet, bottle of water)
- a canteen or any other handy water container (e.g. a plastic water bottle)
- flashlight, a headlight usually works best
- headcover against the sun, scarf/bandana against dust
- waterproof trekking boots
- knife (swiss army knife works good, too)
- optionally: your own sleeping bag / inner layer for sleeping bags
A sleeping bag will be needed for just one night that we spend tenting out. Typical sleeping bags and mongolian army sleeping bags are available on the spot, fresh and clean, always washed before the tour. If you don’t want to bring your own sleeping bag – it’s a perfect option, just let us know you need one.