Imagine trekking in prehistoric ocean canyons that are over 65 million years old and the ancient stomping grounds to herds of TREXs. Yes, this is the desert trekking route that cannot be missed if you are an avid explorer with the taste for adventure and an active imagination. These ancient ocean canyons span the distance of 65 kilometers long and 45 kilometers wide and is truly a geologist and boulders paradise as its densely packed rock formations literally takes you back in time. On this truly stunning Gobi Desert Adventure, unlike any other in Mongolia, you will travel overland to the Provincial Center of Dundgovi where you will 4x4 through vast and awe inspiring desert landscapes to experience the lifestyle of desert nomads. Along their route, you will travel between families by horses, camels as well as have opportunities for trekking and even some bouldering for the more experienced. Ih Gazriin Chuluu (Strictly Protected Area) is truly an unparalleled location in Mongolia by its own right and is considered to be a MUST visit location at our highest recommendation. It exceeds any preconceived notions, do make sure that you have your camera ready with plenty of batteries as upon arrival in the Noble Rock Fortress (seeing is believing) this paradise is a photographers dream come true, travelers will enjoy hours of trekking and brilliant opportunities for creative photography as you will discover via your lens that these monolithic rock formations even take on formations of animals, people and even Chingis Khan himself!
In addition to being a spectacular geographic wonder of the Gobi Desert, it is also consider to be the origin of Mongolia’s traditional long song and the birth place of Mrs. Norovbanzad, one of Mongolia's most notable Long Song singers. So in theme with regions musical importance, our nomadic families will also teach you some traditional Mongolian songs and how to play traditional instrument such as the horse head fiddle, etc.
Difficulty of trip: Moderate
Method of travel: Trekking with some horseback and camel-cart riding opportunities, and camping with local nomads
Community Fee: $244 USD for 5 days/ 4 nights
Additional In-Country Travel Expenses
UB to Mandalgovi Bus Fee (approx.): $8 USD
Rural jeep to first ger and pickup (approx.): $144 USD
Note: Jeep cost can be divided by number of persons
Booking & travel orientation w/ handbook: $25 USD.
Day One - Travel to Mongolia’s Desert Region to Learn Local Folk Songs (L,D – Overnight in Tent): You will depart Ulaanbaatar City by rural bus and will start your southern journey overland to Mandagovi (the Provincial Center of the Middle Gobi) and as you travel you will witness the transforming power of the Gobi Desert. From Mandalgovi you will begin the 46 kilometer desert jeep ride to Mr. Sogaar’s Ger where his wife, Ms. Uuganbold, will prepare and serve you with a hot nomadic lunch and tea. Afterwards, you will be entertained by her homely traditional Mongolian songs and her artistic abilities with traditional embroideries.
In the early evening you will continue a short desert journey for 13 kilometers to Mr. Munh Od’s Ger where you will be greeted with a hot dinner before overnighting in your tent. During your stay with Mr. Munh Od, you will have a chance to learn a national Mongolian game called “Shagai”; it is a lot like the game “marbles” that children play but with the ankle bones of sheep however there are many variations of games that Mongolians enjoy i.e. horse race, archery, etc.
Day Two - Desert Trekking and “Shagai” (B,L,D – Overnight in Tent): After breakfast, you will have a great morning of desert trekking for two kilometers to next nomadic family and during this leg of the journey, your nomad guide will take your luggage by his motorbike. This is a great opportunity to absorb the wondrous environment of the Gobi Desert, enjoy the silence and marvel at pristine desert ecology that has significant historical roots dating back 65 million years ago; to which this will become even more evident, day by day, as you make your way to the truly monolithic Ih Gazriin Chuluu Strictly Protected Area.
Upon your arrival at Mr. Nyamsuren's Ger, you have a chance to show off some of your mastery “Shagai” and even have opportunity to compete with him or his son Nyamsuren. Later his mother, Mrs. Dashzeveg, will show you how to make traditional ropes using sheep wool before they prepare and serve you with an early nomadic lunch prior to departure. Around lunchtime, you will have opportunity to enjoy the melodies of the horse fiddle melodies and even try your hand at it. After lunch Mr. Nyamsuren will guide you for ten kilometers by camel cart across truly picturesque desert landscapes to Mr. Gundambuu’s Ger. Though traveling by camel carts touches the romantic senses in most people, please note that it is definitely an experience and a humorous one in most cases too! But experiencing is believing.
Once you arrive at Mr. Gundsambuu, they will begin to prepare and serve you with hot nomadic tea and ‘boortsog’ a staple nomadic snack like is similar to fried donut holes. While you are having your tea, this is a great chance to relax and spend some quality time with your nomadic hosts and try to get to know the family. Afterwards, Mr. Gundsambuu will show you how to make Mongolian traditional wooden carvings before they prepare and serve you with your evening dinner. Before you retire to your tent for the night, and if you brought a ball along, this is a great opportunity to play some volleyball or even go out for a light trek and take some wonderful landscape shots with the kids as they are playing or evening singing songs.
Day Three - Intellectual Games and The Art of Wood Carvings (B,L,D – Overnight in Tent): This morning you will wake up to a hot cup of milk tea and fried bootsog – when fresh they are truly delicious! Before departing, Mr. Gundsambuu will show you how to make Mongolian traditional wooden carvings and his children will share some Mongolian songs with you before you start your 12 kilometer horseback journey to Mr. Tsogtsaikhan’s Ger where you will have your afternoon tea.
Upon arrival, Mr. Tsogtsaikhan’s family will prepare and serve you with a nomadic lunch and tea. This afternoon you will have an opportunity to test your intellect with some Mongolia wood puzzles before Mrs. Altai will shows you how to make ‘uya’ a homemade nomadic rope that is used for constructing Mongolian Gers. In the early evening or late afternoon, you will journey for 11 kilometers by horse cart with Mr. Tsogtsaikhan to Mr. Chimiddorj’s family where upon arrival they will prepare and serve you with dinner. Along this portion of the travel, you will begin to see Ih Gazriin Chuluu immerge in the distant horizon, it’s an amazing site and exceeds all expectations; from this point onwards you are nearing one of Mongolia’s truly unique ‘off the path’ destinations. If you made good travel time, this is the point to capture some brilliant wide angle or fish eye lens shots of Ih Gazriin Chuluu as you will be travel adjacent to it as the soft sunset rays will provide a brilliant luminance for some truly classic evening landscape shots.
Day Four - Nomadic Art of Felt Making and Trekking through Mongolia’s Monolithic Ih Gazriin Chuluu (B,L,D – Overnight in Tent): Today is the day that you have been eagerly been anticipating, after your breakfast Mr. Chimiddorj will share how Mongolian nomads produce the all necessary felt for their gers with you. In the afternoon, you will now start you unforgettable 13 kilometer trek through Ih Gazriin Chuluu and be truly over taken by the massiveness of this location. Like a National Geographic documentary, let your imagination free, 65 million years ago these were ocean canyons and before that it was the stomping grounds of herds of TREXs. South East of Ih Gazriin Chuluu it herds of TREXs have been reported to be found. As you trek, you will have opportunities to capture some of the most amazing rock formations i.e. Tangad rock, Chinggis Khan Rock, Khur khartsag’s memorial place and monument as well as visit the Open Air Theatre that is home to the annual horse head fiddle and long song concert. Imagine this location filled with Mongolian performers located not only at the stage but also all around on the rocks providing a natural surround sound acoustics that rivals any home theatre systems. This is truly the time to make sure that you have your camera completely charged with back up batteries as from personal experience, from morning till late at night, you will be shooting and capture some of the most remote and truly spectacular images that are unique to Mongolia. This afternoon you will have a picnic lunch here and let the location add that extra element which will fuel your desire to keep on exploring.
In the early evening you will arrive at Mr. Tsembeldorj’s family to which upon arrival they will begin to prepare and serve you a hot nomadic dinner and traditional Mongolian tea. Now Mr. Tsembeldorj is an icon to the region, professionally he has been the National Park Ranger for 37 years and knows Ih Gazriin Chuluu like nobody else. So this is a great opportunity to not only marvel at his incredible knowledge of the locality but if you see his blue motorbike – take a snap shot of it with him. That bike has been his pride and joy for 30 something years, he often boasts about how well he has taken care of it and it’s a true classic – the history associated to the both of them in the region have made them truly unique and even local legends. After dinner, you are going to have a great opportunity to try your hand at construct a Mongolian Ger (a small home made model) which will provide you the stepping stones of knowledge of how Mongolian nomads construct and deconstruct their nomadic dwellings several times a year during the traditional migrations seasons.
Day Five - More Desert Trekking, Learn How to Build a Mongolian Ger and Afternoon Departure (B): Being your last day, before breakfast it a great time to go out for a light trek in the area and capture some brilliant early light silhouettes. After breakfast, you will have more opportunities for trekking and evening a little bouldering (for the more advanced) around the location and visit the surrounding caves as well as the monument erected in memory of Mongolia’s most famous long singer, Mrs. Norovbanzad. On the way you will stop at the local “Ovoo” (stone mound of Shamanistic culture, it believes that local deities listens to the people’s wishes and fulfills them) and put small stones. Around 11AM our local driver will arrive and you will begin your 85 kilometer journey back to Mandalgovi by Russian jeep. Once you reach Mandalgovi, you will need to overnight at the local hotel in additional to catch a bus next morning at 8AM to Ulaanbaatar.
Visiting nomadic families
All nomadic breakfast, lunch and dinner which are stated on itinerary
Herder guide service on route
Horse riding according to itinerary
Traveling by camel cart according to itinerary
Pack animals on route
Cultural activities (make a felt, play ankle bone game etc)
Boiled water on route
Ikh Gazriin chuluu national park fee
Two ways bus tickets reservation service between UB and Mandalgovi
Local jeep arrangement service by facilitator
Guest house and hotel reservation service 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.