Mongolia’s geography, known to locals throughout the country, has many special energy sources that are significant for everything from healing one’s ailments to enriching one’s spirit. Uush Sand Dunes are extremely significant to locals as well as handful of Mongolians from different regions that its revered for its mystical healing properties that are used to treat the back, rheumatic fever, kidneys, etc. This region of Mongolia provides a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a historic mindscape and transport yourself to the days of early explorers. On this soft overland adventure, you will have a great opportunity to do some ‘off the path’ desert trekking, sun bathe on the desert sand dune as well as learn a bit about desert nomadic lifestyle and experience alternative healing methodologies.
Difficulty of trip: Moderately challenging
Route's method of travel: Jeep expedition from Mandalgovi to the Sand Dunes with some camel riding and camping with local nomads at the location
Community Fee: $137 USD for 4 days/ 3 nights
Additional In-Country Travel Expenses
UB to Mandalgovi Bus Fee (approx.): $8 USD
Rural jeep to first ger and pickup (approx.): $260 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 in Tent): 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. This afternoon, you will continue your overland travel across the Middle Gobi’s Desert by local jeep to Mr. Khadbaatar’s Ger where his his wife, Mrs. Alimaa, will welcome you a hot nomadic lunch and traditional Mongolian tea. Soon afterwards, you will have a great opportunity to learn about community life with his son Mungunshagai who will guide you around his native village. In the evening you can enjoy a game of Basketball or even “teveg” (traditional hacky sack) and even try your hand at a traditional Mongolian game that uses the ankle bones of sheep called “Shagai” with the locals before returning for you evening dinner with the family and retiring for the night.
Day Two - Visit Gandanchoinhorlin Monestary and Learn the Art of Making Sheep Wool Ropes (B,L,D – Overnight in Tent): After breakfast, Mr. Mungunshagai will guide you through the village to the head Monk of Gandanchoinhorlin Monastery, Mr. Ravjir’s home, where he has been working at monastery for many years. Upon your visit he will show you a monument located at the top of an ovoo to which afterwards the local driver will pick you up and you will continue your journey to continue to next nomadic family. Once you reach Mr. Ayush’s Ger his wife, Mrs. Testsegee, will begin to prepare and serve you with a hot nomadic lunch. Afterwards, his son will begin to explain how nomads use sheep’s wool to make rope before explaining the techniques of milking camels - to which you can give it a try yourself. In the late afternoon, you will continue your journey to Mr. Batbekh’s Ger where you will have your evening dinner with the family. Tonight you can have a great evening playing “Shagai” (traditional Mongolian game that uses sheep’s ankle bones) or even a game of chess before retiring for the night.
Day Three - Traditional Long Song, Horse Head Fiddle and Some Fun in the Sun (B,L,D – Overnight in Tent): After breakfast today, Mr. Batbekh will guide you to Uush Sand Dunes and Zag Mod by his motorbike – which is an adventure by itself. Uush Sand Dunes are medicinal and used for treating back, rheumatic fever, kidneys etc., domestic inhabitants annually go to Uush Sanatorium which is located near the sand dunes. Afterwards, you will continue your four kilometer desert journey to the ruins of Hutul Monastery and then onwards for another kilometer of trekking to “Tagtaa Amni Agui” (local cave). From this location you will have a 75 kilometer overland journey to Ulziit village, home to famous Mongolian Horse Head Fiddle Players, where upon arrival Mrs. Uigarmaa’s family they will prepare and serve you with a wonderful afternoon lunch and tea before you start your late afternoon six kilometer journey to Ban Cliffs. This is going to be a truly special evening as the sunsets you will greatly enjoy the atmosphere while a traditional long song will be played to the melodies of the horse head fiddle. Upon returning to Mrs. Ulzii’s home, they will prepare and serve you with a hot dinner before retiring for the night for a much deserve rest and homely rest. Apart from the above you can use other paid services – hot shower, laundry, telephone and medical shop etc.
Day Four - Departure (B): After breakfast, around 11AM, you begin your overland desert journey back to Mandalgovi or to Saikhan Ovoo for those that are continuing their journey onwards (Great Gobi Nomadic Quest or trip extensions to Ungiin Monastery’s Pilgrim’s Route).
Visiting nomadic families
All nomadic breakfast, lunch and dinner which are stated on itinerary
One overnight at family’s home according to itinerary
Herder guide service on route
Cultural activities (learn to make fermented camel’s milk beverage, play ankle bone game etc)
Small cultural show in Ulziit village
Boiled water on route
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.