Nick and I boarded the Trans-Mongolian Train in Beijing, China, bound for Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. This was the moment we had been waiting for, and while we were ecstatic about the upcoming travels, we hoped our travel planning was sufficient for the adventure we were about to embark on.
We had planned the trip six months earlier in our apartment in China, with Google Maps open on a laptop, as we tried to create our own trekking route and search for a river to trek beside. We both know how to fish, had been on a few trekking trips, and love camping.
The river we were hoping to find needed to have a sum (town) at the beginning and end of our trek, it needed to travel through flat terrain, and have plenty of fish, so we could fly fish for fun, and for dinner (we would carry backup food in case we weren't successful with our rods). We wanted to be far enough away from the much-visited sites, yet be close enough to local nomads, in case of an emergency.
Eventually, we found “our” river and route. We decided to trek 75mi (120km), between Chuluut Sum and Tariat, across the steppe (large area of flat grassland), along the Chuluut River, completing it in eight days, camping and fishing along the way.
We trekked in August, in the Arkhangai Aimag area, which is known for its pretty landscapes, rushing rivers, and pastures filled with livestock, with Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur (White Lake), our final destination. Following the
Each morning we would wake to the sound of dogs barking at a nearby ger, or from the sun beating onto the tent, and breakfasted on cereal bars and nuts. We’d break camp at around 8.30am and walk until the afternoon, covering around 12mi (20km) a day.
We’d set up camp near the river, as it was our source of food, drink,
Each evening we were asleep by 7:30pm, tired from a day of trekking. It was just the two of us, with the occasional ger and a few yaks in the distance.
One of the best parts of our trek was meeting local herders and nomads along the way. When camping out on the steppe, we met Mongolians every day who would ride their horses to our camp to meet the strange foreigners who chose to walk rather than ride a horse. Each time they brought us gifts of cheese, yogurt, biscuits, meat or wood for the fire.
We were invited into a traditional
If you travel as part of a tour you will get to stay in a ger, with nomads as your roommates or neighbors. The Orkhon Valley in Central
Another option is to stay in a tourist ger camp, where you get to enjoy the luxuries of a shower and flushing toilet. There are camps at White Lake, Terelj National Park, Altai Tavan Bogd National Park and the Gobi Desert, among others.
While trekking on horseback is a good option if you’re not overly fit (make sure that the saddles are Russian, as Mongolian saddles are incredibly hard, with
Mongolians are proud of their strong, stocky horses, and Mongols are born to ride. Horses are a huge part of Mongolian
Do your research before committing to a tour; find out how the horses are treated and whether the company is highly rated by other travelers. Stepperiders offers multi-day horse treks, plus a solo trekking program where visitors spend a week learning about horses, horse-riding
The weather in Mongolia is freezing in winter (it can reach -40°C at night) and warm in the summer (temperatures can reach as high
Always dress for the weather, and have warm clothes packed just in case.
Plan an exit strategy in case of emergency. Figure out if your phone will work where you’re going, and maybe choose a trekking route that has a road nearby. Carry a topographical map, GPS,
The Altai in western Mongolia is unlike any other part of the country; rather than the usual vibrant, green steppe, you’ll find snow-capped, jagged mountain ranges. The trekking here is for those who are in good physical
There are numerous trekking options here. While the lake itself is a popular tourist destination, not many people opt to trek around the lake, or to follow one of the rivers which
This is an easier area for
A picturesque area in Central Mongolia. This is a great spot for intermediate hikers, with trails are listed as “moderate”. The area has eight lakes and numerous
Note: if you’re carrying everything on your back, make sure the items you purchase are lightweight.
The best treks, the art of throat singing, why Ulaanbaatar is one of the most polluted cities in the world, and the dangers of accepting drinks from strangers.
Mariana from MIR Corp tells us the things she wishes she'd known before traveling to the Mongolian hinterland.
Preparing for a trekking adventure? Find out what gear you need and how to take good care of it all.