Mongolia adventure vacation, off the beaten track

“This active journey, primarily overland, will introduce you to the way of life in Mongolia's mountainous central heartland and the alpine northern regions including sacred Khovsgol Nuur.”

Highlights

Ulaanbaatar urban walking tour | Walking ger to ger Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur | Suman River homestay | Explore Khovsgol Nuur National Park | Biking options and horse treks

Travel Team

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Map

Check dates

2021: 15 May
2022: 7 May, 14 May
Our top tip:
Even late spring can be chilly in Mongoliat so buying local kit or packing lots of layers is essential for a good night's rest.
Trip type:
Small group, 2-6 people. This trip can also be tailor made.
Activity level:
Active
Accomm:
Family homestays and family run ger camps.
Included:
Walking tour of Ulaanbaatar, use of bike and all food and accommodation.
Meals:
All meals included.
Solos:
Single travelers welcome. No single supplement
Accessible tourism overview:
Mongolia is one of the largest and most remote countries in the world with a limited infrastructure in place. However, we work solely in Mongolia so have local knowledge and can provide support and guidance. Our trips can be organised with your own driver/guide and we can adjust our trips specifically to your individual needs but this is also dependent on the budget available. We are more than happy to take individual requests into consideration.
Limited mobility:
We have had guests with Parkinson’s, MS and also Prader Willi syndrome on both our small group and tailor made trips. However, we request clear guidelines in advance as to your needs and requirements before we accept the booking. Depending on the level of limited mobility, we might advise that you travel with a companion.
Blind or limited vision:
We are more than happy to cater for people who are blind or have limited vision - both our small group trips and tailor made trips are available to book if traveling with a sighted person. Our tailor made programmes can be adapted for ease of travel and to suit your needs. All pre departure information before the trip is provided in a written format but I am more than happy to go over these verbally by phone. Information in braille is not available in Mongolia which means all the information during the trip will be delivered verbally.
Deaf or limited hearing:
We are more than happy to cater for people who are deaf or who have limited hearing - both our small group trips and tailor made trips are available to book if traveling with a hearing person. Our tailor made programmes can be adapted for ease of travel and to suit your needs. Our guides are not trained in sign language however, hence why it would be useful to have a traveling companion who can sign.
Cognitive conditions:
We have had guests with Parkinson’s, MS and also Prader Willi syndrome on both our small group and tailor made trips. However, we request clear guidelines in advance as to your needs and requirements before we accept the booking. Depending on the severity of the condition, we might advise that you travel with a companion.
Free from food:
We can cater for vegetarians, vegans, gluten free and other specialist diets. However, travelers book knowing that their will be limitations in place due to what is available in Mongolia. We provide clear guidelines as to what style and type of meals we can provide so travelers know in advance what to expect.
LGBT:
We welcome everyone. Our teams of guides and drivers are open and welcoming people. We make you aware in advance of any challenges you may face in Mongolian culture which is still a traditional society.
Vouchers
Accepted

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your vacation will help support conservation and local people.

Environment
Always a tricky one this. We can promise you the world but how do we prove it? Responsible, sustainable or ethical travel - in recent years, it has developed many labels and is now a widely-used selling tool in the tourism industry. But, what does it mean? Although there is no real clear definition, it has to be more than ensuring that we collect all of our rubbish, asking before taking a photograph or being aware of the cultural norms. That’s what we should be automatically doing anyway.

Below are some of the elements of our responsible travel philosophy for our Spring Journey experience where we can show real evidence of our practice:

Tourism Declares A Climate Emergency

We focus solely on Mongolia and over the past 15 years we have seen the impact of the climate emergency on this vast country. Annual precipitation has decreased (the (previously reliable) seasonal rainfall pattern has become erratic) but localised severe weather events have increased. There’s also an increase in desertification and a loss of biodiversity. This is combined with Mongolia’s annual mean air temperature increasing by 2.24°C from 1940 to 2015 – triple the global average.

We are aware that tourism is part of the problem and as a business working in tourism we feel we have a responsibility to help combat problems including those created by tourism itself. We already work responsibly on a local level – we’re a  registered Mongolian company and social travel enterprise, focusing on creating positive social change in Mongolia.  We believe that travel can and should be a positive experience for both the visitor and for the destination country itself – its natural environment, people, culture and traditions. We can provide evidence of our work. However …

Although we believe travel has to be beneficial to all concerned we also understand that it is not currently beneficial to our planet. But we can’t solve this alone.  The problem surrounding climate change can only be solved by working together. This is not about cancelling international travel but it is about traveling better – traveling in a more conscious way. As an industry, we need to come together and act to make our sector more sustainable.

That’s why we have signed up to Tourism Declares, an initiative that supports tourism businesses, organisations and individuals in declaring a climate emergency and taking purposeful action to reduce their carbon emissions.

Managing Our Carbon Footprint

It is well documented that the tourism industry is a major contributor to global carbon emissions which are a major part of the climate emergency. As a tourism business – especially one working in Mongolia, a country where a majority of our guests have no option but to fly to – we have a moral responsibility to make sure the way we work is as sustainable as possible. It’s a long road with no definitive answers but below are the achievable steps we are taking to reduce our emissions.

1) We’re creating an environmental management plan and climate action plan with the help of postgraduate students on the Responsible Tourism Management Postgraduate Course of Leeds Beckett University in the UK – the only responsible tourism management MSc certified by the UNWTO.

2) We will be working with C-Level to measure our carbon footprint. Carbon offsetting is not the answer to fixing the climate emergency. But, offsetting is part of our wider environmental management and climate action plans and helps us to take responsibility for our current carbon footprint. Using C-Level we will be balancing our CO2 emissions by investing in Plan Vivo Certificates – environmental service certificates, each representing the reduction or avoidance of one metric tonne of carbon dioxide. The Mongolian Nomad Project we invest in through our carbon offsetting is of Plan Vivo Standard – based on ethical principles intended to deliver long-term climate, livelihoods and biodiversity benefits. 

3) We’re looking at ways we can incorporate the work of local grassroots projects working on protecting Mongolia’s environment into our experience. One such project is Combatting Cooperative Ar Arvijin Delgerekh. As part of this trip you will stay with rural families who are part of this Cooperative based in the Khangai Mountains. Much of Mongolia’s tourism sector depends in the long term on the preservation of the country’s cultural and physical landscapes. But, by visiting Mongolia, you are making your own impact on the country.
The Cooperative is a local people-led project that is committed to working at a grassroots level towards long term preservation. It focuses on working with herders producing spun yak wool, providing them with an alternative to diversify and increase their income and helping them to protect the land which provides them with their way of life (mainly because they are not so reliant on the money brought in from cashmere combed from their goat herds. Large goat herds can be very destructive on the environment).

4) We plant trees. As part of some of our trips including our Spring Journey we stay with the Radnaarbazar family in Mandalgobi. They are owners of the Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project. This is a small, family run, non-profit conservation project that has been operating since 1975 in Mandalgobi, Dundgobi Province. Their main conservation work is the planting of seedlings and nurturing them into trees. Part of your tour payment goes as a donation towards the Gobi Oasis project. You will also visit the tree nursery and learn more about their conservation practises. Each group typically plants a tree at the nursery - our team and our guests have now planted over 120 of our own trees which represents around 3% of the total number of trees planted at Gobi Oasis. A single young tree can absorb 26 pounds of CO2 per year so we’re (very) slowly doing out bit towards managing carbon emissions as well as contributing towards the battle with desertification.

Water

Because of Mongolia’s geographical location and climate, it faces a strain on its freshwater supply which the impact of tourism will only exacerbate. We’re creating looking at how we can limit our own impact on Mongolia’s future freshwater shortage which looks at the accommodation we use, the way our team uses water as part of each trip and also how we provide drinking water to our guests. Two examples of this are:

1) We do not provide bottled drinking water as apart from in the capital city, there is just no way to recycle the bottles. Instead, we take fresh drinking water from local water supply points. We provide two 20 litre water containers in each tour vehicle and provide a Lifesaver carbon filter or an Adventurer Steripen in each vehicle. In addition, we have formed a partnership with Water-To-Go. Our travelers are now able to purchase a Water-To-Go reusable filtered water bottle and receive a 15% discount. From each purchase an additional 15% is put towards buying Plan Vivo Foundation carbon certificates which are used to support the Plan Vivo Mongolian Nomad Project - working in partnership with the Mongolian Society of Range Management.

2) Also, for a majority of all of our trips we do not use the typical tourist ger camps that often have very bad eco-credentials. Instead, we use a mix of accommodation and use the locally provided town shower houses. This is where a majority of Mongolia's rural population come to shower including the families that will host you on our Spring Journey experience. The shower houses are small business enterprises operated for the local communities and a great way to support local, meet the locals and do as the locals do themselves. It also helps us to manage our own environmental footprint.

Waste

The disposal of rubbish is a major issue in Mongolia - especially plastic. As part of our Sustainable Tourism Strategy, we are working on limiting our general use of plastic and as part of this, we have created our Mini Plastic Free Mongolia Challenge which we invite our guests to be part of - as well as our team members.

As part of our Responsible Travel ethos, we work with a local Mongolian NGO (Mongolian Quilting Centre) to make fabric tote bags for our guests which we hand out for free as a welcome pack at the start of each trip. This is a souvenir for our guests but it also helps to support the project and helps us to cut down on the waste we produce. As part of your Spring Journey experience, you will also receive such a tote bag.

Also, you can book knowing that we finance our annual community two-day rubbish collection in Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park in Mongolia. Arranged through the local community and protected area rangers, we have been arranging this since 2014 - even in 2020 despite a lack of income due to the Covid pandemic.

Group Size

Unlike a majority of the larger tour companies, where small group travel can mean being in a group of up to 12-18 people when we say small group travel this is what we mean. Our group size on this trip has been kept small - a maximum of six. This means that the family experiences during the trip become more personal and authentic for you and more respectful towards the local people you will meet and the local families you stay with. We are not an overwhelming presence - on the local communities or the local environment.

Transport

At the moment our vehicles are driver owned as it gives each driver more flexibility in the low season months. We use Russian 4x4 Furgon vans (diesel & petrol) as these are the most suitable vehicles for handling Mongolia’s rugged terrain. However, we are always looking at ways to manage our overall impact including the impact made by our tour vehicles and this includes providing cycling and trekking experiences as well as using the Trans-Mongolian railway for transport throughout the country. We also have a limited number of departures for each of our itineraries. We also do not concentrate specifically on one area. Mongolia is a country of incredibly diverse yet fragile ecosystems. By limiting our presence in certain areas, we help to preserve and protect and help to avoid the area changing environmentally due to repeated and extended exposure to tourism.

City Nomads Folding Bike

Each of the tour vehicles we send out have a city nomads folding bike. We provide this service for free. Why? It allows our guests to explore further into each region but without relying further on the tour vehicle. It also allows for informal interaction between the local community and our guests as we let the locals use the bikes as well.
Community

The Impacts of this Trip

Our company is not a world or a multi-destination specialist. We concentrate on the country we know, live in and love – Mongolia. We research, design and operate each itinerary ourselves and do not source our itineraries from other agents. That means we’re part of the community that we work to support.

A Fair Deal

As a registered social travel enterprise, we look to make sure we work responsibly within tourism and to make sure our work benefits local projects, people and communities as much as it benefits our guests and us as a business. We’re a little different in we believe everyone is equal. That means our guests are equal to our team who are equal to the Mongolians we work with on a more general scale. Respect is at the core of what we believe in.

We focus on creating local community partnerships that offer long-term support to local people, families and Mongolian projects – encouraging their own sense of enterprise. We also look at ways we can continue to work with each family even when their personal circumstances change. We want to continue strengthening these partnerships whilst making sure that they have a positive impact. As part of our philosophy, we don’t stop working with families just because their circumstances change … instead, we look at alternative ways in which we can work with them.

All of our team are Mongolian (apart from Jess) but we don’t source the ‘best’ guides that work the tourism circuit and that already have guaranteed work with other companies. Instead, we provide free long-term training, development and employment opportunities to Mongolian women that want the opportunity to work in tourism (whether that be for a professional reason, for development of personal skills or for economic empowerment) but that other companies won't take as they don't fit the stereotype. Our female Mongolian trip assistants are dynamic women who are searching for an opportunity to train and develop and we provide that long-term opportunity.

Volunteering & Charity

The local projects that we actively support are typically grassroots level projects that provide greater opportunities and benefits for local communities within Mongolia. One example is that as part of our free city walking tour of Ulaanbaatar - Mongolia's capital city - we take our guests to visit a local project called Nogoon Nuur. We make a donation per person we take to the project which is used by the project for maintenance on their community center. Another example is our work with the Mongolian Quilting Centre which we pay to make fabric tote bags for our guests which we hand out for free as a welcome pack at the start of each trip. This is a souvenir for our guests but it also helps to support the project working with disadvantaged Mongolian women.

Traveling With Respect 

Our trips focus on 21st Century Mongolia - yes, you’ll get to experience the traditional way of life but at the same time gain an overview as what it means to be Mongolian in 21st Century Mongolia. The people we work with are ‘real’ people that we form long-term local community partnerships with. They are not tourism professionals. You’ll meet people from Ulaanbaatar, you’ll meet herders, you’ll meet Mongolians that live in the provincial centers as well as the smaller town and rural communities. However, these are real people with real lives to lead and at no point do we ask the families to change their way of life for our/your own benefit or comfort. If they don’t have a shower, neither will you! (Don’t panic! … see Water in the Environment section!) We ask our guests to try and embrace and enjoy any differences that they come across in Mongolia. Experiencing the differences is all part of any trip and makes it a more authentic and positive vacation for you and a more respectful and enjoyable experience for the locals as well.

An example of our philosophy is that for our Spring Journey experience we used accommodation provided by Mongolian families. For this trip, that’s families we work with in the central heartland. Families offer accommodation to help supplement their income. Most are small rural businesses providing extra accommodation. Some accommodation is offered by herders, some are offered by ‘retired’ herders who no longer migrate and some by families that live in small-town communities. By using this form of accommodation it provides you with a more genuine insight into the real way of life in Mongolia and it benefits the local communities through which we are traveling.

In addition, although we sometimes visit areas where tourism has become more concentrated we also offer itineraries that stretch to areas that are not necessarily considered ‘highlights’ by other tour companies or the guidebooks. By not focusing on one area, it also means that we help to support communities that might not otherwise benefit from the tourism industry.

Climate

6 Reviews of Mongolia adventure vacation, off the beaten track

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 14 Jul 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The immensity of the plains. Redefining the middle of nowhere!! Like being in a Sea of green

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Nothing more I can add to your fantastic notes.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Certainly benefited locals although not so sure about environmental concerns.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Wonderful, just as advertised but more, so much more.

Reviewed on 25 Jul 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


I loved it all I'm glad that I took extra days for the city of Ulaanbaatar. You need to see both sides of the Mongolia. Like in all places of the world life has to move on.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be open. If you think of 10 things of why not too and you can't get that list down to 3 then don't do it.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Take a good water filler bottle with you so not to buy bottle water, you will see rubbish all over so don't add to it. My gifts were all from local people or the small shop in the towns we came across. use the town showers when you get there. Take books and pencils for the schools it will help.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I was a solo, so having to meet 3 other people then spend 15 days with them I was apprehensive, I would do it again. All that you read can never truly give you the beauty of the land and the charm of the people. Our tour operator helps you to see all this by using local people.

Reviewed on 14 May 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The landscapes of Mongolia and the night sky.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


There are quite a few "warnings" about the vacation - Mongolia is possibly not the best destination for everyone. But if, like me, you read the warnings, I think you will be pleasantly surprised! I think it would be different at different times of the year - I travelled in April and our group were the first tourists of the year in some places (which was nice), if you want to see the green hills of Mongolia then you would need to go later in the year.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes. The places we stayed were family gers - i.e. not the tourist camps that you saw in some places.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent. Very well organised (but not overly organised).

Reviewed on 22 May 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The scenery, the opportunity to meet people whose lives are so different ... it was all memorable and exciting!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Take a spare battery for your camera and even a spare camera perhaps as the sand gets everywhere. Don't bother with the universal sink plug (no basins) ! Warm bedding and clothes pretty essential in May.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes - I am sure the herding families we stayed with appreciated the cash and it might help them maintain their traditional lifestyle. Big efforts were made to source food and water locally and minimise waste and rubbish.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent. Very well organised. Guides knew their stuff and were always helpful and cheerful. It was a tremendous experience and I would love to go again - maybe to a different part of this huge and empty country.

Reviewed on 30 Aug 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The wonderful countryside, staying in family run gers, our amazing driver on
terrible roads, our charming tour guide girl cooking delicious meals on a one
ring stove and the surprising and varied "facilities"[toilets and showers]which
gave us some laughs and good stories.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Do pre tour exercises to strengthen the thigh muscles [toilets]and practise
bobbing under low doorways [ger entrances]

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


YES. staying in family run ger camps and local hotels, shopping at village
markets and impeccable care not to leave refuse any where.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Memorable, beautiful, with a bit of challenge [especially for a 75 year old, me]

Reviewed on 01 Jul 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Traveling across vast plains in the Gobi, with no roads no buildings no artificial light, and stopping to listen to the silence. The immense blue sky. The generosity and kindness of Mongolians. Thunder and lightening echoing around the mountains while we watched from our tents. The unexpected - the tour leader was flexible and a number of times we took unscheduled opportunities to see wildlife, talk to local people, find out about the election that was going on while we were there.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


This trip is for people who want to see Mongolia and get to know more about life for Mongolians rather than just visiting famous places. It is for people who care more about the environment than about luxury. The operator is a company that is small and personal , taking a lot of care to get to know what you are interested in and tailoring the trip in response.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes. It was clear that the operator takes great care to operate to the highest standards of fair trade, to benefit local people by taking trade directly to them, and employing people less likely to have other opportunities. Great care was taken to make sure that when we camped we left no trace of having been there, and even to collect additional rubbish when there was an opportunity to do so.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


I am very impressed with this operator. They are the most caring company I have ever travelled with.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Alison,

Thank you for taking the time to write such detailed feedback and for such positive comments.

It was an absolute pleasure to share our Mongolia with you.

I wish you Sain Yavaarai on your future journeys and and I very much look forward to welcoming you back one day to the 'Land of the Eternal Blue Sky'.

Again, a heartfelt thank you, Jess


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