Type of horses:
Nature of horses:
Strong, tough, docile. All are unshod and live wild on the plains.
Height of horses:
12 - 14 hh
95kg / 15st / 209lbs
A hybrid of a Russian treed saddle which has been adapted for visitors. English/Western saddles are too long for the horses short backs. These saddles have a deep seat and a comfortable cushion strapped to the top. They are simple but functional.
Winter rides in Mongolia are not for the faint-hearted! The weather in Mongolia from November to March is very cold, but also very dry, so you will experience the wonder of the steppes glittering under a forever blue sky. Discover on horseback the magic landscapes of the Orkhon Valley, the dunes of Bayan Gobi desert and the wild Przewalski's horses in Hustai national park, all in a wintry white wonderland that few tourists will witness.
The Mongolian horses, whilst small in stature are huge in strength and resilience. They live out all year in harsh conditions in almost wild herds, but are still docile and obedient when caught for riding. They do still retain an element of "wildness" however and these rides are for competent riders only. Nothing beats cantering across the endless steppes on your Mongolian horse, alongside your nomad hosts and guide.
As most of the tourist ger camps are shut during the winter months, you will spend most of your nights with a Mongolian Nomadic family, sharing their lifestyle and discovering how they survive the harsh winters. This is a unique experience to interact with nomads and their livestock - horses, yaks and sheep.
Another highlight of these trails is the chance to ride in Hustai national park, where the Przewalski's horses can still be found. These rare and endangered wild horses have never been domesticated and remain the only truly wild horse in the world. It was once believed that Przewalski's horses were ancestors of the domestic horse, but recent DNA tests have shown that they are in fact a unique species!
One date in particular each winter is set around the Tsagaan Sar or Mongolian New Year, which is set according to the lunar calendar. Tsaagan Sar means "white month" and begins with the rising of the new moon. A trip to Mongolia during Tsagaan Sar is always colourful as everybody dresses in their newest and finest clothes and celebrates with their family. A special celebration cake is offered which consists of an odd number of large layered biscuits (two layers of happiness to frame a layer of evil!) covered with sweets. It is important to honour it if offered, by touching the base with your left hand and using your right hand to take a sweet (not a biscuit!).
You sleep in heated yurts or guesthouses whilst out on the trail, and in a hotel in Ulaanbaatar (first and last night).
For most of the trail you will be in a mixture of Guest yurt camps and Nomadic family camps. Many yurt camps shut in the winter months and so a highlight is spending time with nomadic families.
In Guest yurt camps, each yurt contains a number of single beds (2-5), small tables and a stove. Showers, washbasins and toilets are in separate buildings.
In Nomadic Family gers, the accommodation is more basic but you still have single beds and stoves. A shower tent is usually provided and dry toilets are available.
It is not possible to request a single yurt/ger and you should be prepared to share.
Mongolian food is essentially based on animal products - meat (red food) and dairy (white food). Traditionally these are eaten at different times of year with summer months being dedicated to white food and winter months the red food. During the summer months the females are breeding and therefore lactating, producing milk for cheese, butter, yoghurt etc. The nomads' energy requirements are lower during the summer months as well, as the temperatures are stable. During the winter months they consume a lot of meat as they require much larger quantities of calories to bear the extreme cold.
On these trails the traditional Mongolian diet has been adapted to accommodate western tastes, but there is still likely to be a lot of meat on these winter trails, particularly when staying with the nomadic families.
There are some non-riding visits included, such as to monastery's and special sites, but this is predominantly a riding tour and non-riders cannot be accepted.
Health requirements: You must be in good health and with good physical fitness. Temperatures can drop as low as -20c in Dec/Jan so you should be prepared for this.
Age limit: 16+
Included: Accommodation, riding, full board (except in Ulaanbaatar), tours/visits as described in itinerary
Not included: Flights, drinks (except water, tea and coffee), lunch on day one and dinner on day ten, insurance, visa, tips
There is a choice of airlines flying to Mongolia but none are direct. Popular choices include Air China (through Beijing) and Turkish Airlines (through Istanbul) and we recommend the Turkish Airlines flight simply because the airport transfers are set to coincide with this flight. However, if you wish to arrive early/stay longer, then any flights are ok.
Airport transfers are included provided to arrive/depart at set times:
Arrival: You must arrive by 11:05am for the transfer which departs at 11:30am
Departure: Your flight must depart after 08:00am to allow time for the transfer (everyone is transferred together so if you book a late flight you will have a long wait).
Airport: Genghis Khan International Airport (Ulaanbaatar)
Discover the unique experience of riding in Mongolia in winter, when the famous sites are deserted except for traditional Mongolian nomads. Ride through the World heritage site of the Orkhon Valley, the sand dunes of the Bayan Gobi Desert and, with luck on your side, view the wild Przewalski horses in Hustai national park. Riding in Mongolia in winter is a personal challenge of extremes.
You will be met at Ulaanbaatar airport at 11:30 and transferred to your 2 star hotel in the city (Dream hotel or similar). Lunch is to your own account today. During the afternoon you will be taken to visit the Gandantegchinlin Monastery and the Naran Tuul market where you can buy some last minute supplies - fur hats are very popular here!
Dinner with the group in the evening will be taken downtown before overnighting at your hotel.
Day Two: Ulaanbaatar - Hustai National Park
After breakfast you will be driven to Hustai National Park, where the wild Przewalski horses live - keep your fingers crossed! After lunch at Hustai yurt camp you have your first ride - this is an opportunity to get used to the saddles and all of your equipment before the longer rides later in the itinerary.
If you do not see the Przewalski horses whilst riding then you can head out in the truck in the later afternoon to look for them too.
Overnight at the Hustai yurt camp, which is quite modern and even in the heart of winter you can normally have a hot shower - make the most of it! Dinner and overnight in the ger camp where 2 to 4 people share a ger/yurt.
Day Three: Hustai National Park
After breakfast in the yurt camp, set out for a whole day of horseback riding in the Hustai steppes. Ride in the vast, white, undulating spaces and discover a valley with a river which will be frozen - the landscapes are truly breathtaking.
Lunch will be taken at the yurt camp so if you have got too hot/cold during the morning ride you can change your layers for the afternoon ride.
Dinner and overnight at the Hustai yurt camp again.
Day Four: Hustai - Karakorum
After breakfast you will be transferred by road to Karakorum (Kharkhorin), arriving in time for lunch. There will be time to visit the Erdene Zuu Monastery before transferring to your accommodation. Tonight you will either sleep in a yurt camp or with a nomadic family or in a guesthouse in Kharkhorin, depending on availability (most ger camps close in winter) - this will be confirmed to you before your departure.
Day Five: Karakorum - Orkhon Valley
After breakfast you are transferred by road to the Orkhon Valley - your journey is slow as you are on basic tracks through a wintery landscape. In winter the nomads move their yurts to winter sites which are protected from the winds - these are usually in the hollow of a valley or near a forest. An enclosure is erected to gather the herd together and enable them to keep warm.
You will be staying with a nomadic family and so the duration of your transfer will depend on their location, but you should arrive in time for lunch. There will be your first ride in the Orkhon Valley this afternoon before returning to the yurts for dinner and to overnight. The guest yurts are installed alongside the families and sleep up to five people.
Days Six, Seven and Eight: Orkhon Valley
During these three days you will discover the wonderful Orkhon Valley on horseback. Evert day you ride to a different part of the valley, viewing the famous Orkhon Falls which are frozen in the cold, or perhaps a pass from where you will get a fantastic view over the whole valley. The precise itinerary depends on the weather as the climate can be very challenging in winter and your safety is the number one priority.
As it is impossible to stop for a picnic lunch during the day, due to the cold temperatures, you do not stop during the day but return to the yurt camp for a late lunch.
These days are also a wonderful opportunity to discover the traditional way of life of Mongolian nomads and how the whole family cope with the extreme weather - how they protect their children, yaks, horses and sheep herds. This nomadic family will take great care of you and a fire will be kept burning in the stove even at night.
Day Nine: Orkhon Valley - Khogno Khan / Bayan Gobi Park
After breakfast you will have your final ride through the beautiful landscape of the Orkhon Valley. After lunch with your hosts and a sad farewell you are transferred to Khogno Khan / Bayan Gobi Park. Here you will visit Ovgon Khiid Monastery which is set amongst dramatic scenery.
Tonight you will either sleep in a yurt camp or with a nomadic family or
in a guesthouse, depending on availability (most ger
camps close in winter) - this will be confirmed to you before your
Day Ten: Bayan Gobi - Ulaanbaatar
In the morning you will experience a two hour horse ride in the dunes of the Bayan Gobi Desert, where you will get to ride through semi-desert steppes until reaching an area of golden sand dunes called Elsentasarhai. The contrast between the desert dunes and the frozen marshland which borders them is spectacular. It is difficult to imagine that this area is a Garden of Eden in summer with many nomads gathering their herds on the vast, wet plains.
Please note that this horse ride may be a camel ride, depending on the weather and how well the horses are coping with the winter.
After your ride, you are transferred back to Ulaanbaatar by road through this amazing frozen landscape. After lunch in Ulaanbaatar there is time to visit the National Museum of Mongolian History.
Dinner is to your own account tonight before spending the night in the 2 star Dream Hotel or similar.
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport.
|Minimum group size:||2|
|Maximum group size:||10|
|Ability description:||You need to be an experienced rider who is capable and confident at all paces in the outdoors. You need to be fit and prepared for the extreme conditions. Average daytime temperatures can drop as low as -20c (Dec/Jan), -10c (Feb) or -5c (Nov/Mar).|
|Type of ride:||Trail ride|
|Total riding time:||10 nights / 11 days / 7 days of horse riding (c. 2-5 hours each day)|
Dates to suit (minimum 2 riders) from October 2016 until April 2017 (arrival date is Saturday).
Special Tsagaan Sur ride (Mongolian/Lunar New Year): 22 February-4 March 2017 (CONFIRMED)
£1274 per person sharing
There is a small group supplement of £170 per person if there are only 2 or 3 riders in the group. This is removed/refunded when the group reaches 4 riders.
Single rooms are possible in Ulaanbaatar only and the single supplement is £51 for those who request a single room - there is no supplement if willing to share.