Mongolia is a country full of rich and vibrant history, historically known for its imperial ancestry that transformed this nomadic civilization into a country of kings and queens with monasteries that flowed across this nation. Ongiin Monastery is one of over 900 monasteries that were established during Mongolia’s flourishing and is today a historically significant location of early Mongol history. This is a great overland experience for those soft adventure travelers that wish to learn more about the Gobi Desert's "Middle Gobi" Region as well as truly take in a spectacular and a wonderful location for desert trekking and relaxation.
It’s a claasic! I am sure that Roy Chapman Andrews and other early explorers of Mongolia would be proud of GertoGer’s attempt to bring back those early day adventures.
Difficulty of trip: Moderate
Community Fee: $209 USD for 4 days/ 3 nights
Additional In-Country Travel Expenses
UB to Mandalgovi Bus Fee (approx.): $8 USD
Rural jeep (two way) (approx.): $278 USD
Note: Jeep cost can be divided by number of persons
Booking & travel orientation w/ handbook: $25 USD
Day One - Overland Desert Travel to Middle Gobi’s Gurvansaihan Village (L,D – Overnight at Guesthouse): You will depart Ulaanbaatar City by rural bus and will start your southern overland journey to Mandagovi (the Provincial Center of the Middle Gobi) and as you travel you will witness the transforming power of the Gobi Desert. Before departing Mandalgovi on your overland jeep ride to Saihan Ovoo village, you will have your afternoon lunch. As you travel across the Middle Gobi you will experience vast distances where you will have very little human contact for hours at a given time. Upon arrival at Zambagiin tal guest house Mr. Enkhbayar’s family will prepare and serve you with a hot dinner and tea followed by an evening spent with his mother, Mrs. Tsendsuren, who will guide you through the village so you may experience a bit of their community life as well as visit the sea-buckthorn garden before returning back to the guesthouse.
Day Two - Trekking to the Ancient Ruins of Ongiin Monastery (B,L,D – Overnight at Ger Camp): After breakfast, you will start your nine kilometer overland jeep journey to Mr. Undral’s Ger where you will visit the locally famous pierced rock called ‘Senjit’; where Chinggis Khan used to tie his horses too. Upon arrival at Mr. Undral’s Ger, they will begin to prepare and serve you with a hot nomadic lunch and traditional Mongolian tea. Afterwards, you will begin your ten kilometer trekking excursion to the ancient ruins of Ongiin Monastery. Along the way, you will visit Zambaga Khairkhan that is a locally worshipped mountain and the historically significant cave that once served as refuge to Mongolia’s “Robin Hoods” from local authorities. After a brilliant day of trekking in these remote desert landscapes, redden by the desert sun, you will begin your journey back to Tsagaan Ovoo Ger Camp where you will have dinner and overnight.
Day Three - Ongiin Monastery, Gobi Desert’s Largest Archeological Ruins Site (B,L,D – Overnight in Tent): Today is the day! After breakfast you are in walking distance of Ongiin Monastery, historically it was established 300 years ago and was the Gobi Desert’s largest monastery throughout the Gobi Desert Region. During the repression of 1930s, the monastery was completely destroyed and around 300 monks were persecuted by revolutionists – today its one of Mongolia’s most important gateways in between the central pastoral region and the internationally famous Khongor Sand Dunes in the deep southern region of Mongolia. After a wonderful afternoon of trekking around this amazing historical site, you will begin your ten kilometer horseback journey to the next nomadic family. Upon arrival at Mr. Munkhbayar’s Ger, his family will begin to prepare and serve you with a hot nomadic lunch and traditional Mongolian tea. After lunch, you will have opportunity to learn how Mongolian nomads milk animals and make dairy products with his wife. Afterwards, you will continue by horse-cart for seven kilometers to your overnight destination at Mr. Jenkhuu’s Ger. Upon arrival you will have a wonderful opportunity to learn a Mongolian traditional game called ‘Dembee’, which does involve the drinking of mare’s milk and most likely some singing! If you survive (a little joke), you will have a great dinner before retiring for the night.
Day Four - Departure Back to Mandalgovi (B, L – Overnight at Hotel, Independent): After breakfast you will have the opportunity to learn how Mongolian nomads tie a halter and hobble for a horse by leather strap. After lunch, our local driver will pick you up and you will begin your 220 kilometer journey by Russian jeep back to Mandalgovi. Once you reach Mandalgovi, you will have one additional overnight at the local hotel to catch the 8AM morning bus to Ulaanbaatar.
Visiting nomadic families
All nomadic breakfast, lunch and dinner which are stated on itinerary
One overnight at tourist camp according to itinerary
One overnight at Ger hostel in Saihanovoo according to itinerary
Herder guide service on route
Horse riding according to itinerary
Camel riding according to itinerary
Pack animals on route
Cultural activities (make dairy products, learn dembee game etc)
Boiled water on route
Entrance of Ongi monastery
Two ways bus tickets reservation between UB and Mandalgovi
Local jeep arrangement by facilitator
Guest house and hotel reservation by facilitator in Mandalgovi
Mongolian Cultural Travel Tips & Information
Horseback Riding in Mongolia
Mongolia's Gobi Desert Camels
Mongolians and horses have historically co-exist since the early times and It’s impossible to imagine Mongolians without horses. There are many horse related folk legends, stories about horses, epic literature and songs written about horses. Mongolians prohibit the cursing of horses, beating horses and whipping of horses on their heads and chests. Mongolia’s horse culture according to their traditions teaches to show to respect to the horse during its life and honorifically place the horse’s head on an Ovoo or other sacred place to show their respect to the nobility of their horse’s life. The head of a horse is often decorated with white stones or horse dung. Heads of especially fast racing horses are usually wrapped in a blue scarf. The Mongolian traditional horse head fiddle further glorifies the station of the horse by its artistic design and traditional sounds. The culture of the Mongolian horse even spreads to embroidery, handicraft, wooden carving, metal and silver crafts – Mongolia’s respect of the horse can be found everywhere throughout the country.
The world’s rare two-humped Mongolian Bactrian Camel is considered to be the tolerant and noble animal among five animals (horse, cow, sheep, goat and camel) and is sand colored herbivores mainly found in the Gobi Desert region of Mongolia. Mongolia leads the number of Bactrian camels in the world and Mongolian camels were domesticated in olden days and are traditionally used as nomadic transport. When Mongolian camels are used for nomadic transportation their noses are pegged and they are outfitted with a leading rein, halter, saddle, saddle cloth and stairs. Mongolian camels weight is between 400-800kg and camel meat is low in fat and lean. Mongolian camel milk is a staple food for Gobi Desert nomads and is more rich in fat and protein than cow’s milk. A female camel produces about 3 to 4 liters of milk a day; camel milk can readily be made into airag (fermented beverage), hoormog (yogurt diluted with milk) and dried curds. Mongolian camel wool is produced as a natural insulation against the cold and easily sheds in the heat. Mongolian camel wool has unique characteristics of silky softness and strength.
Riding Mongolian Camels
Mongolian nomads say that it’s much closer to the sun from the top of the tallest animal of desert - so while you are riding a Mongolian camel you will always have a panoramic view of the Gobi Desert. Generally, Mongolia’s camel guides are Mongolian nomads that are born and live in the Gobi Desert. Mongolians often start to ride camels at a very early age and have plenty of experience to share with you about how to saddle, groom and command to lay down a camel to mount and dismount. During your camel trek, you can help the Mongolian nomad by looking after your camel; learn how to groom it, saddle and unsaddle it as well as bring water and feed it. Kind attention between the camel and the rider always contributes towards establishing a close. Almost any traveler can ride a camel (in reasonable physical condition) and learn how to control it quickly – though its highly recommended to review the camel riding tips that can be found in the Ger to Ger Travelers’ Handbook. Its good to apply your knowledge and practice on a camel with a Mongolian nomad around their Ger (traditional dwelling) before starting a long trek. A camel trek could cover between 5 to 25kms a day between nomadic families or even for a short roundtrip for sightseeing.