Before I set off for Mongolia, I watched a few TV programmes that centred on the way of life of the Mongolian's as well as showing the beauty of the country. It may be an idea to check them out before you set off so as to get some idea as to what to expect.
Firstly, one of the best for showing the landscapes is Long Way Round which stars film star Ewan McGregor (of the recent Star Wars trilogy fame) and Charley Boorman. Both of them are keen motorcyclists and they completed a trip around the world on two bikes from London to New York in which they passed through Mongolia.
Secondly, a TV programme called Tribe (series 1) which features Bruce Parry who spends a month living and interacting with the Darhad people of northern Mongolia. He helps them to pack up and leave their ger in the autumn plains and take a 3-day journey through the mountains to their winter camp.
And lastly, a TV programme called Ray Mear's World of Survival which features Ray Mear's studying and living with Mongolian people.
You can sort it out when you're there. They usually need only 2 days to organise everything. It's best though to have a clear idea of your itinerary in advance.
We booked with Tserentours, they charged lumpsum fee of $130 per day for 2 persons in a jeep with guide/driver all in (based on camping & excl. special requests).
Then you can go wherever you like (as long reasonable road conditions and not more then ca. 300km per day), but they need to have it decided in advance.
Bargaining is not so common, but at least try to negotiate more inclusions, such as cost for a day horse-/cameltrek, canoeing, bathhouse use and such things.
If you want to sleep one night in a hotel/guesthouse as a nice treat halfway the trip or so, try to include that in the lump sum price as well.
Also make sure you include special food wishes in the contract.
F.e. food was included but our guide rarely wanted to buy meat - likely to save on the budget. So if you want to eat decent meat every day make sure that's agreed!
You can also just rent car/driver excl. petrol; you then need to shop/cook for yourself and the driver. driver normally speaks no English. should cost lumpsum around $55,-- a day in UB, a bit cheaper in the provincial towns (like Tsetserleg).
We used their services just a month ago (Blue Lake trek) with overall positive opinion.
a few comments for consideration:
* Ger-to-Ger says 85% of the price goes to the families where you stay with and that guide you. That's good to know, also to avoid abuse of Mongolian hospitality. F.e. most regualar agencies employ a local guide for the whole trip (usually student in early 20's)that are supplied with a lumpsum to feed the (tourist-)guests. Then along the way they regularly visit familis in remote ger's that usually generously present food and tea as a custom, although they have very little. Unfortunately we have seen & heard about guides /operator who accept these invitations but do nothing for these families in return while saving a on their own budget. We found this very shamefull practise and with Ger-to-Ger at least you ensured - as they say - that the money goes to those who deserve it.
* Great also is very close living together with the families. Although other agencies that go with guides from UB also may claim something similar, I doubt (from own experience)that they arrange such a close encounter with different families & their lifestyles for extended periods.
* Disadvantage is that you're just dropped at a family and from then on no one speaks English or German so we could not communicate a single word apart from dictionary and a few greetings.
* be aware, the trek did not always work out the way the fancy brochure/website advertised it. f.e.:
- Itinerary map showed a nice trekking circuit but in reality there was 2+ days of back tracking - that was a disappointment.
- Activities with families as per program didn't always happen.
- Also the distances per day as printed were not always followed by the local guides, so some days were too easy, on others we were totally destroyed.
As for the back office, good & friendly organisation. But they charge a compulsary $25 p.p. for an introduction in local customs & itinerary, this is a bit of a waste while the office girls obviously didn't know much of the reality (we were misinformed on our detailed questions regarding the trekking aspects), and the necessary info on customs came directly from a booklet that you got anyways - and also can be read during a 10 hour bus journey to the region where the trek starts.
But overall, it was a great & more genuine local experience than the jeep tour with guide/driver that we did afterwards with another agency.
if you need to know more pls let me know!!
You are able to get visa issued at Mongolian border when you arrive Ulanbator.
I am 100% sure, i have helped few travellers before and one of them was Canadian.
You need invitation letter from your host in Mongolia sent to the Airport customs before your arrival and, you should hold the copy in your hand.
The letter should have clear information about your host's contact details etc.
Favorite thing: Not many historical figures are bigger than their country but Genghis Khan (1162-1227) was certainly one of them. In the west he's always been perceived as a great statesman and warrior of the Mongol empire who knew of no limits or boundaries. He came to power by uniting many of the nomadic tribes of northeast Asia and he pursued an aggressive foreign policy by starting the Mongol invasions of East and Central Asia. During his life, the Mongol Empire eventually occupied most of Asia and his descendants went on to stretch the Mongol Empire across most of Eurasia by conquering all of modern-day China, Korea, Caucasus, Central Asian countries and substantial portions of modern Russia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. It's no wonder, then, that he is revered among Mongolians. For example, it is not uncommon for Mongolians to refer to Mongolia as "Genghis Khan's Mongolia," to themselves as "Genghis Khan's children," and to Genghis Khan as the "father of the Mongols" especially among the younger generation. His name and likeness are endorsed on products such as beer, vodka and biscuits; streets, buildings such as hotels and even the airport, and other places. His face can be found on everyday commodities, from liquors to the largest denominations of banknote. Put simply, he's the biggest name in Mongolia and his image is widely used for the tourist industry and on souvenirs. You simply won't be able to avoid him!
Favorite thing: When you leave UB and the towns, the tarmaced roads will simply end in the middle of nowhere. This particular road, on the way to Ogii Lake was actually being worked on with several trucks delivering roads and such like for the road surface. It's good to see that roads in Mongolia are being built but it'll take them a long time to complete the whole country.
Favorite thing: Ever watched the film "Back to the Future" and the scene where the Doc returns from the future and visits Marty and Jennifer? Marty says to him "You don't have enough road to get up to 88mph". Doc replies, "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads". Well, it's kind of like that in Mongolia, minus doing 88mph and the time travelling, that is! When you leave UB and the towns, the tarmaced roads will simply end in the middle of nowhere. You'll just end up on dirt tracks that will roll over the steppe landscape like a highway in their own right as there'll sometimes be more than one carved out of the dirt.
Favorite thing: Umnogobi province is home to part of the Gobi desert and, of course, you'll see plenty of these guys walking around along the dirt tracks. These are Bactrian camels that normally have a fury neck during the winder but this is sheered for wool during the summer. Mongolian's capture wild camels and it takes a year for them to be obedient but well worth the time as a camel can transport up to 160kg in weight, 100 miles a day without food or water.
Favorite thing: Horses are everywhere in Mongolian but most of them belong to people and are not wild. The wild one's are caught and tamed but it takes a very skilled horseman to do this. It's no wonder that Mongolian's are said to be the best horseman in the world. Whenever we encountered them, on our tour, we would stop the car in order to take pictures of them as they are so beautiful.
Favorite thing: When you're outside Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia has some of the cleanest air I've ever encountered. When we travelled between Karakorum and Ongi Temple in the Gobi desert, I kept smelling this wonderful fragrance that I just couldn't put my finger on what it was or where it was coming from. We stopped where some other tourists had stopped and I got talking to an American woman about the smell. She picked something from the ground and let me smell it and that was it! Wild rosemary! Also in the ground was wild chives as well as wild mushrooms. I could've started a meal with all of this at my feet!
During the Naadam Festival in july the Stadion and 50 km from Ulanbaatar the racing on the hill. Many-many very friendly people around us with jurtas, children, horses.........it is amazing.
Fondest memory: The sky full of stars around me. Falling stars a lot, peace, silent, the wonderful pastel color of fields and montains......and early morning to wake up and to see sheeps and horses.....Marvellous
Have you even heard about Mongolian Blue Spot
All Mongolian kids have a blue spot looks like a bruise on the back when they born which is passes from mother to mother. When baby gets one year old it just fade and disappears, but in case it has stayed all these years through Century to Century...Simply to know when they born by this unbelievable mark of Great Chinggis Khan.
It has come again bringing the new love for the heart of lonely one, peace, quiet, solitude, nature, the sky, the clouds, the barren trees, the cold stare of winter's emptiness and soon it will bloom in an explosion of new life, speckled with garish colors, animals, birds, leaves, flowers and more flowers, running water gets free of it's ice kingdom.
Life came again for the land without time, a place of everlasting silence, I can’t find any other words which could be suit and explain difference between each seasons, the nature is formed by the “Extremes” of “Hot & Cold, Cool & warm” You will see different landscapes from all over the world maybe only in Mongolia which because of climate change.
Could you believe if I say four seasons change only in one day in Mongolia. I just remember about that Spring day when I was small.
I woke up early in the morning and saw beautiful sun is shinning sharply to the window and cried out!
Spring has come! Spring has come!
Spring my Joy
New bunds, new life
No more cold no more storm
Then hurried to go out to greet the new Spring morning, yes the sun is warm enough to get off my pullover, and run with my t-shirt happily to my school, smiling faces are all around, I love how spring is a bright and how could I imagine sun will be hurry to hide over the clouds in few hours, huge dark cloud covered all the sky as well as all my happiness and passion of new love, strong wind just woke up and taking all the dust and turning to storm, Oh the sky starts crying bringing the tears to my eyes & now’s raining
Blooming flowers hiding their bud
Sunny windy & rainy now
My spring turns to autumn in second
No more sun and no more warm today
Fondest memory: ............Continuation
Walking in a drizzle reminds me sad memories and now it’s getting dark in outside seems telling me forget all this things, just after this cold long winter tested the endurance of the human and nature, meeting this warm sunny spring day life is coming back and cheers up everything and I was happy,
Oh the rain drops turning to the snow flakes brining back the freezing cold winter! With a light of the street snows are flying freely and falling down on my hand.
Snow flakes fall upon the ground
Soon they melt and turn to water
Those snow flakes fall without sound
This spring day ends with this snow
I remember my old Grand dad told me never believe sunny morning in early spring days, He was right and now I’m cold with my summer t-shirt.
It was true that four Season changes in only one day in Mongolia “Morning begins by the sun and ends by the snow in the night” Also there is a way saying in Mongolia if some one is moody people call her “like a Spring Sky” the Sun shines then cloud covers up, thunder rolls, rain falls, then it clears up again in one Spring day……..
Darhad valley has to be the most tranquil place in the world cradled among rounded snow capped mountains, glaciers, fast flowing rivers, amazing rock formation, and crystal clear White lakes seem the place of my dream, the view of the surrounding area looks absolutely different from other part of Mongolia, because of Siberian cold wind the temperature drops so low in the night, even it is a middle of July it gets frozen during the night, Darkhad valley belongs to Khovsgol province far northwest of Mongolia. Home of the Reindeer people.
Tsagaan Nuur & Renchinlhumbe are the main town of Tsaatan people where they send their kids to school and where they get supplied, This fabulous village of Darkhad people remotes north corner of Mongolian just border of Russia, it’s possible to drive from *** to Tsagaan Nuur and Renchinlhumbe road goes through mountain pass and many small river crossings fortunately the new bridges were rebuilt recently.
On a way Quickly changing landscape from dark green valleys to high mountains fallen over the trees, moist in the air, to the higher elevation, and all of sudden we’re in a bumpy mountain road where the sun light tries to break through the trees, and the view of surrounding area is wide and stunning,
Normally this trip is organized from November when the reindeer people came closer to the town and camp foot of high mountain, On a way to reindeers camp we traveled through amazing rolling green grasslands and stopped many times visiting to the Nomadic Darkhad People’s home, and hospitality people offered us what ever they have, One special thing is that they had very delicious bread /Russian styled/, Approximately it took two nights and three days to get Reindeer’s camping area. After one night in vast grass land you will come closer to deep and dark forest of taiga which was long time forest you would keep away from,
Fondest memory: ----continue---when you get in that deep forest it was easy to understand about the unknown people, it made my imagination comes alive, all the mountain path is boggy and horses were almost falling down, all the questions about this people were coming by one to other to my mouth, here is the folk tale about Tsaatan people,
A poor man was hunting in a forest and found an animal which was completely became helpless and the hunter helped it to gain its freedom, From that time reindeer promised to serve to that man, providing a meat, hides and transporting to return the man’s care and help.
It was the beginning of the wild animal Reindeer’s domestication, basis of the relationship of man and animal today. Tsaatan people still live in a corn shaped tent covered by the reindeer skin and migrates more than 5 times a year for the need of the reindeers, looking for the better grazing to them, Reindeers eat the White Moss which grows only high on a mountains and also some more plants which is very rare and could be found only bank of the gravel bottomed mountain river, in the summer the camp far north very close the Russian border and in a winter they choose the best sheltering taiga forest.
Their life normally based on their only animal reindeer, they are very productive, even they gives only cup of milk per day the milk is very rich contains 16-18 % butter fat. Reindeer hides are soft and warm enough to make coat and boots. Few years ago they used to sell antlers for the medicinal purpose. Enduring the harsh winter, blizzard, very hard life, Frailties admire everybody how much strengths they have, Exclusive life style of Tsaatan people are still going on from Century to century
Staying with Tsaatan people left me unforgettable memory and took special little place in my heart,
This is celebrated around February depending on the traditional lunar calendar of that year . Tsagaan Sar is the finest holiday for elder people, It is more family occasion, everyone makes great efforts to visit to their relatives. The festival continues 3 days begins such a early in the morning and finish late in the evening,
In that time mongolians prepare a lot of food especially BUUZ dumplings , Superstition playes in great rule for most Mongolians and even when they make all those dumplings if the flour is left it means that next year they won’t have any lack of clothings, if the meat is more they’ll have enough food all during the year,,.UUTS .whole boiled sheep which is usually placed back up on a large tray middle of the table, is the most important , UL BOOV ( kind f strange shaped Pie) Mongolians say you can know the wealth of that family by the sheep tail, if that looks very big and white that means family is quite wealthy..so especially elder people choose the well-fed one .
When the first day comes everyone wakes up such a early before the sun rises and lady makes traditional milk tea with a salt then .offer the best to the heaven, in that time the father accompany the sons and go to the sacred peak and perform the SERGYEM and worship to insure whole family’s life next year
,three pieces of ice should be put outside roof of the GER which means protecting the family from the Evil , when they come back the morning ceremony starts
.the eldest person from that family sits in a heart of the GER and everyone greets one by one. with money or blue scarf HADAG with cup of milk on that. when they greet older person places their palms face down on younger one’s arm , and younger one supports the older one’s elbow. Older people wishes all the best and long happy life. Normally older people have a snuff and offer to others and they should receive wit their right hand and if you don’t use snuff just smell and and return.
Fondest memory: in Tsagaan sar most of the people wear Mongolian Traditional costume,and ride their well decorates saddles with the best looking horse.The nicest thing of Mongolians are they are really hospitality and welcome everyone and offer whatevet they have even they are strangers,
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