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Orkhon Valley Trails

Overview

The Orkhon Valley is an extensive area of pasture land which stretches c. 80km in length and 15km in width between the banks of the Orkhon river. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, it's considered the cradle of nomadic Mongolia and many families still perpetuate the traditional way…

Highlights

  • Riding with traditional Mongolian horsemen
  • Flying across the open steppes on your little horse
  • Camping in beautiful, remote locations
  • Visiting families and sampling yak's milk vodka
  • Hearing your support crew sing around the campfire

Essential Facts

  • 1 itinerary available
  • Max 10 riders per group
  • Average of 3 - 5 hours riding per day
  • Weight limit: 95kg / 210 lbs / 15st

Description

The Orkhon Valley is an extensive area of pasture land which stretches c. 80km in length and 15km in width between the banks of the Orkhon river. Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, it's considered the cradle of nomadic Mongolia and many families still perpetuate the traditional way of life. Yurts nestle alongside the rivers and herds of horses, yaks, sheep and goats graze the grasslands.

The well-known Orkhon Falls are actually the Ulaan Tsutgalan River Falls - as the river falls into a spectacular canyon created after an earthquake and volcanic eruption more than 20,000 years ago, they form a cascade of water which is 20m high and 10m wide. The white foam from the falls is contrasted by the black rock which forms the canyon walls - yet deep within the walls of the canyon there are trees and flowers which benefit from the abundance of water.

With your nomadic Mongolian guides you can discover this beautiful region on horseback. The hardy and tough little Mongolian horses are perfect for traversing the wide open spaces of the grasslands as well as the surrounding mountains. This is the Mongolia of your dreams with the steppes stretching out in front of you and the yurts and herds dotted all around.

Riding in Mongolia is always an adventure and a cultural experience, but it is your choice as to how rustic you wish to be. Trails are available which offer the comfort of traditional yurts every night, together with the luxury of showers! Or you can spend your nights camping in really remote areas where there are no ger camps - Mongolia is one of the last countries where you can literally camp wherever you wish. Your belongings are transported by vehicles so that you are unencumbered and can enjoy exhilarating canters.

The itinerary also includes visits to the Bayan Gobi, where the desert sand-dunes contrast against the lush grasslands. Visits to Karakorum - the ancient capital of the Mongolian Empire - and Hustai National Park - home of the Przewalski's wild horses - are also included together with visits to monasteries that you discover along your journey.

Horses & Riding

Tack

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.

Horses

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.

Riding

There is 1 itinerary:

  • Orkhon Valley Comfort Ride is a trail ride

Ages

16+ years recommended. Children aged 12 and over may be accepted provided they are experienced regular riders.

Health

You must be in good health and with good physical fitness.

Weight

95kg / 210 lbs / 15st

Food & Accommodation

Food

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.

Accommodation

This tour is designed as a comfort option for those who do not want to camp. First and last nights will be at comfortable hotels in Ulaanbaatar. On the trail you will stay in traditional Mongolian accommodation; yurts or gers. These are circular structures with a lattice framework which contain 2-5 beds. Some nights will be in simple guest gers set up near your Nomadic hosts familys camp or in specialist tourist yurt camps which have purpose built wash block.

Itineraries

Orkhon Valley Comfort Ride Tented / Standard accommodation.

Other Activities

There are some non-riding visits included, such as to monasteries and special sites, but the trails are predominantly riding tours and non-riders cannot be accepted.

However, the Nomadic Life Experience ride can accommodate non-riders and a vehicle is on-hand to show you the sites. These rides are also suitable for children.

All of the rides include lots of cultural interactions with nomadic families which delight both riders and non-riders.

Travel

There is a choice of airlines flying to Mongolia but none are direct. The dates and transfers have been chosen to coincide with Turkish Airlines (through Istanbul) as they have proven to be the most reliable over the last couple of years. Alternative options include Air China (through Beijing) and MIAT airlines (national Mongolian carrier) with flight links through Frankfurt, Beijing, Tokyo and Istanbul (to name a few).

Airport transfers are included provided you arrive/depart at set times, which coincide with the arrival/departure of the Turkish Airlines flight. If you choose to arrive later or depart earlier, then you will have to take a taxi, which costs c. 50 USD each way. Turkish Airlines change their flight schedules throughout the season, but if you book the Turkish Airlines flight then your transfer is definitely included!

Testimonials

Johanna F., July 19, 2023

The countryside was vast and beautiful. The horses strong and hard-working. The climate offered you everything you can think of – sometimes within one day. People were somewhat shy but when you got to know them extremely nice and funny. I was really pleased with the little horses. Half wild but at the same time so obedient and honest when being ridden. Also very strong, yet fairly sensitive in the mouth. Always eager to gallop.


Maddie R., July 19, 2023

This was an amazing holiday - would highly recommend. I loved the riding (it was very hard to say goodbye to my Mongolian pony who I’d named Ron) but it was also so interesting from a cultural aspect. I really liked that everyday we rode through different, spectacular scenery and camped in a new location. Waking up to a herd of horses and foals outside your tent or a yak cantering past was pretty cool.


Simone, Oct. 28, 2019

What an amazing adventure. The horses, the landscapes, the culture and the people made for a perfect Mongolian experience.


Natasha G., Sept. 7, 2017

An amazing holiday. Good group of fellow riders. A great team of Mongolian staff. Guide, horsemen, drivers and chef did a fantastic job of looking after us at all times - very attentive. Other than the guide, none of them spoke English but that didn't stop us having a good time with them all. Good tents, lovely warm Gers and decent hotel. The chef was great and kept us well fed and managed to prepare 2 birthday cakes with basic, mobile cooking equipment! Even though we were warned that they (horses) were semi wild, they were all extremely well behaved. Saddles were comfortable. English speaking guide did a fantastic job of translating between us and the Mongolians and providing info on Mongolia. Horsemen looked after horses and riders very well and were always aware.
(Favourite memory?) Hard to say as lots of them - lovely long gallops, camp fire, singing horsemen, beautiful landscapes, welcoming nomads...


Itinerary & Pricing

Day 1

Riding: No riding.

You will be met at Ulaanbaatar airport and transferred to your 3 star hotel in the city.

After lunch you will walk through the Yurt District to visit the Gandantegchinlin Monastery for some cultural experiences before a show with traditional dances, music and songs from Mongolia, especially the amazing Khoomei. Dinner is not included this evening so that you can choose from the many dining opportunities available in the city.

Day 2 - Ulaanbaatar - Khogno Khan Park

Riding: 1 - 2 hours

After breakfast you will be transferred c. 5 hours (depending on road conditions) to Khogno Khan Park. Lunch is taken en-route.

In the afternoon you will have your first short ride in the Bayan Gobi - this is your only opportunity to ride in the typical Gobi desert landscape as your hosts have no horses further south in the Gobi desert. Ride to the small Ovgon Khiid Monastery which is set within dramatic scenery.

This evening you will spend your first night in a touristic yurt/ger camp - each ger sleeps up to five people in single beds and there are showers in a separate building.

Day 3 - Khogno Khan

Riding: 4 - 6 hours

After breakfast set off for a full day of riding through the Bayan Gobi's semi-desert steppes. The dramatic scenery offers the high dunes of Elsentasarhai against black cliffs and the winding river adding a stripe of green. Your picnic lunch is brought to you by your support vehicle and so you carry nothing on horseback which allows you plenty of chances to canter!

In the afternoon you continue riding through this amazing landscape, where the contrast between the desert dunes and the marshlands which border them is spectacular. You will pass suddenly from the desert to the garden of eden where nomads gather with their herds on the vast wet plains - a wonderful sight.

Arrive at your ger camp which is located in a semi-desert environment - the yurts here sleep 2 - 4 people in single beds.

Day 4 - Khogno Khan - Orkhon Valley

Riding: 1 - 2 hours

After breakfast you are transferred to the Orkhon Valley (4-5 hours drive) where you meet the nomads who will be guiding you through the valley. After a late lunch, the horses are allocated and you set out on your first ride into the valley - this is a short ride to give you time to get acquainted with your horse - there are different horses if you are not happy with the initial choice.

The rest of the day is free to spend time with the nomadic family - you can get involved in their daily tasks and get to know different members of the family. You spend the night in guest yurts which are close to the nomadic family yurts - these yurts are more simple than the ones in the tourist camps but are more authentic.

Day 5 - Orkhon Valley

Riding: 4 - 6 hours

Today you set off on your first full day of riding within the Orkhon Valley. Ride upstream into a landscape which gets wilder and wilder. This is a volcanic region and the ancient black lava flows contrast with the foaming white water of the Orkhon River. After a picnic lunch brought by the support vehicle, you continue riding until reaching a forest at the base of the Naiman Nuur mountains. Here you spend the night in a remote ger camp in the forest, with 2-4 riders in each yurt.

Day 6 - Orkhon Falls

Riding: 4 - 6 hours

Continue riding upstream until reaching the impressive Orkhon Falls. A picnic lunch is enjoyed en-route and you eventually reach your ger camp which is situated not far from the falls.

Day 7 - Uurt Canyon

Riding: 4 - 6 hours

Ride to one of the most famous sites in the Orkhon Valley - Uurt Canyon. Lunch will be a picnic brought by the vehicles. You are now in the downstream section of the valley with more open landscapes dominated by two mountain ranges. You'll meet lots of nomadic families with their herds who take advantage of the rich grass in the valley.

Your beautiful ger camp is located in a superb spot bordering the canyon of the Orkhon river. You spend two nights here (2-4 riders per yurt, showers in a separate building).

Day 8 - Uurt

Riding: 4 - 6 hours

Today's ride takes you into the surrounding mountains to get a higher view of the Orkhon Valley. You return to the same ger camp for a second night.

Day 9 - Khujirt

Riding: 4 - 6 hours

After breakfast set off riding to the southern mountains which border the Orkhon Valley in the Khujirt region. Khujirt is famous for it's pure water which is bottled and distributed throughout Mongolia. There are spectacular views of the river which is now much wider as it weaves through the grassy hills - this is the Mongolia of your dreams.

In the afternoon you reach a unique and environmentally friendly ger camp which has spectacular views of the whole valley. As the camp is eco-friendly there are no showers but warm, wet towels are brought to you twice a day - surprisingly effective! You can also request a unique "yurt coiffeur" if you need your hair washing! The gers here sleep 2-3 riders.

Day 10 - Karakorum

Riding: 4 - 6 hours

Today is your last day of riding within the Orkhon Valley and takes you through some of the most beautiful areas of the park. The river is very calm here and the water reflects the sky like a mirror; the dark blue water contrasts with the lush green grass and the many white yurts. Many herds roam the steppes and you can take numerous photographs which typify Mongolia. In the last few miles before reaching Karakorum - the former capital of the Mongolian empire - the valley narrows offering wonderful views of the river from the mountain slopes.

After saying goodbye to your horses and nomadic friends you spend the night in a yurt camp (2-4 riders per yurt).

Day 11 - Karakorum - Hustai National Park

Riding: No riding.

After breakfast you visit Erdene Zuu Monastery before being transferred to Hustai National Park, home to the wild Przewalski horses. The drive takes c. 4 hours depending on road conditions. In the afternoon you set out into the park in vehicles to try and view the wild horses, known locally as Takhi. Dinner and overnight in a ger camp (2-4 riders per yurt).

Day 12 - Hustai - Ulaanbaatar

Riding: No riding.

After a leisurely breakfast today, your driver will take you on a last 4x4 safari in the Hustai National Park, searching for the Przewalski's horses in case you did not find them the day before. You may also spot deer and marmots which abound in this protected area.

In the late afternoon, you will return to Ulaanbaatar and can enjoy some free time for shopping at the Department Store.
A final farewell dinner will be organised with the group.

Overnight at the 3 star Nine hotel or similar.

Day 13

Riding: No riding.

After breakfast you are transferred to the airport for your flight home.

Accommodation

9 nights in ger camps - each ger contains single beds (2-5) and a central stove. Showers are usually available in separate buildings and restaurant tents provided comfortable eating facilities.

1 night in a nomadic family guest yurt - these are simpler but more authentic with single beds but no showers, although water can be boiled over a fire for washing.

2 nights in a 3* hotel in Ulaanbaatar with twin or triple rooms and private bathrooms.

Experience Experienced

You need to be an experienced rider who is capable and confident at all paces in the outdoors. The terrain allows for long canters.

Minimum group size 2
Maximum group size 10
Departure windows

July 2, 2024 - July 14, 2024

July 30, 2024 - Aug. 11, 2024

Sept. 17, 2024 - Sept. 29, 2024

May 27, 2025 - June 8, 2025

July 15, 2025 - July 27, 2025

Sept. 2, 2025 - Sept. 14, 2025

Pricing

2024
Rider; Sharing
£2145 $2780 €2550
2025
Rider; Sharing
£2335 $3035 €2780
Included 12 nights accommodation, all meals from dinner on arrival day to breakfast on departure day (except dinner on the first night in Ulaanbaatar), tea, coffee and water, tours/visits as described, riding, set-time transfers
Not included Flights, dinner on first night in Ulaanbaatar, drinks, visa, insurance, tips & other personal expenses.

Extras

2024 - Single Supplement £126 $164 €150
Paid to Far and Ride
Single rooms are possible in Ulaanbaatar only and the single supplement is payable for those who request a single room - there is no supplement if willing to share. You must be prepared to share whilst on the ride.
2024/2025 - Small Group Supplement £250 $325 €300
Paid to Far and Ride
To confirm with only 2, 3 or 4 riders in the group. This is removed/refunded when the group reaches 5 riders.
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.