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Winter in Mongolia

Overview

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…

Highlights

  • Ride through the wintery Orkhon Valley on horseback
  • Ride horses or camels through the Bayan Gobi desert
  • Search for the wild Przewalski horses in Hustai
  • Interact with local nomadic families
  • Huddle around the stove in your cosy yurt each night

Essential Facts

  • 1 itinerary available
  • Max 10 riders per group
  • Average of 2 - 4 hours riding per day
  • Weight limit: 95kg / 15st / 209lbs

Description

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.

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!).

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

Mongolian.
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, Gobi and Hustai is a trail ride

Ages

16+

Health

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.

Weight

95kg / 15st / 209lbs

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, but there is still likely to be a lot of meat on these winter trails, particularly when staying with the nomadic families.

Accommodation

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.

Itineraries

Orkhon Valley, Gobi and Hustai Standard accommodation.

Other Activities

There are some non-riding visits included, such as to monasteries and special sites, but this is predominantly a riding tour and non-riders cannot be accepted.

Travel

There is a choice of airlines flying to Mongolia but none are direct. Popular choices include Air China (through Beijing), Turkish Airlines (through Istanbul) and Aeroflot (via Moscow). We recommend the Aeroflot 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 7am for the transfer
Departure: Your flight must depart after 07:00am to allow time for the transfer (everyone is transferred together so if you book a late flight you will have a long wait).

Testimonials

Silvia, Jan. 10, 2018

It was a real adventure, one of the most unusual riding holidays and I loved it. It was a fascinating experience to see the life of the nomads and rise to the challenge of sharing their life in winter. Great rides on tough little ponies in stunning scenery. It was certainly far from a luxury trip, but the idea was to get to know life in Mongolia, and that we did!


Itinerary & Pricing

Day 1

Riding: No riding.

You will be met at Ulaanbaatar airport at 10:30 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 2 - Ulaanbaatar - Hustai National Park

Riding: No riding.

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 head out in the truck to look for them as well as the rich wildlife within the park.

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 3 - Hustai - Karakorum

Riding: No riding.

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 4 - Karakorum - Orkhon Valley

Riding: 2 - 3 hours

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 5 to 6 - Orkhon Valley

Riding: 2 - 5 hours

During these two days you will discover the wonderful Orkhon Valley on horseback. Every 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. If it is very cold then you may explore further afield by vehicle rather than on horseback.

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 7 - Orkhon Valley - Khogno Khan / Bayan Gobi Park

Riding: 1 - 3 hours

After breakfast you will have your final morning in 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.

Tonight you will have dinner and overnight in a guest yurt alongside your host family.

Day 8 - Ride in the Bayan Gobi

Riding: 2 hours

You will spend the whole day with your nomadic family amongst the dramatic scenery of the Bayan Gobi desert, between cliffs, sand dunes and wide open spaces. Today 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.

Depending on the weather conditions and how well the horses are coping with these, you may have the opportunity to take this ride on hardy camels instead.

There is also time to visit Ovgon Khiid Monastery which is set amongst dramatic scenery.

Dinner and overnight with the same host family as last night.

Day 9 - Ulaanbaatar

Riding: No riding.

After breakfast, you are transferred back to Ulaanbaatar by road through this amazing frozen landscape. After lunch in a small restaurant along the route, you will arrive in Ulaanbaatar in the afternoon. 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.

Day 10

Riding: No riding.

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport.

Accommodation

2 nights in a 2* hotel in Ulaanbaatar: twin or triple rooms with en-suite bathrooms.

1 night in a tourist yurt camp; the most comfortable accommodation on the steppes, with beds, small tables and stoves. There are showers, toilets and washbasins in a separate building and restaurants provide the meals.

6 nights in guest yurts with a nomadic family: each ger sleeps 4-5 people on single beds and has a central stove. Gers are simple and you eat in your host family's ger. Dry compost, short drop toilets are available.

Experience Experienced

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 (Oct/Nov/Mar).

Minimum group size 2
Maximum group size 10
Departure windows

At any time during: Sept. 26, 2021 - May 10, 2022  (Sunday arrivals)

Pricing

2021/2022
Sharing
£1320 $1835 €1550
Included 9 nights accommodation, all meals from dinner on arrival day to breakfast on departure day (except dinner on the final night in Ulaanbaatar), tea, coffee and water, riding, tours/visits as described, set-time transfers
Not included Flights, dinner on final night in Ulaabaatar, drinks, visa, insurance, tips & other personal expenses.

Extras

2021/2022 - Single Supplement £68 $95 €80
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.
2021/2022 - Small Group Supplement £171 $235 €200
Paid to Far and Ride
To confirm for only 2 or 3 riders in the group. This is removed/refunded when the group reaches 4 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.