This tour will appeal to everyone who wants to experience the ancient culture of Mongolia’s nomadic population and to see the beauty and variety of the country’s natural features and vast landscape. It is particularly suitable for families travelling with children because a special guide is provided for them. Sarantoya (age 12) has been brought up in two cultures and speaks English and Mongolian. When visiting local families, she will be the link between the local and tourist children, so that they can all play together and the exchange of cultures will be absolutely genuine. The visiting children will be able to see and experience the life of Mongolian children, whilst the adults will be shown other aspects of this fascinating lifestyle like food preparation and distillation of vodka from milk products.
Visits to local families are spontaneous, not artificially created experiences packaged for tourism. This is a nomadic population and we do not know beforehand where families will be. If possible, earlier in the day before the group arrives, we send one of our staff ahead to check that the family is happy to receive foreign visitors and not too busy. For example, whilst the group are eating breakfast, the tour leader might go to one of the gers in the area to speak with the family. The tradition of hospitality and sharing of news by passing travellers is such that a visit like this is quite normal within the culture and not viewed by the hosts as an imposition. In fact it is quite likely that they would invite our group into their home anyway, without us asking.
We suggest to our clients that they bring photographs of their own homes to show and small gifts such as souvenirs from their own town. According to the situation, we may give a suitable amount of money to the host family. This would be done by the tour leader only and is taken to be a gift rather than payment for services given.
Our group sizes are small, normally not more than 12 people. This reduces the impact we have socially and environmentally.
Accommodation during the tour is at ger camps, authentic ger tents set up for tourists and furnished with beds and a stove, with toilet and washing facilities on the site. The ger camps are owned, and have been developed by, local entrepreneurs and the staff are all people from the vicinity or students from town, who benefit greatly from the opportunity to get a modest cash income during the short tourist season. Some of the ger camps use solar power to heat water for hot showers, but at the Tsenkher hot springs the mineral water comes directly from the mountain. Each ger has a wood-burning stove which staff will light if requested. We encourage our clients not to use this facility if it is not very cold because the fuel used is trees cut down in the nearby forests.
The ger camps are set up for the summer season and dismantled during the winter. They are located in places of particular beauty and importance. Each place we stay at is quite different from the rest and we will enjoy mountain, steppe, forest and desert scenery. During the summer the wild flowers are beautiful, especially in the mountains. The birds and other wildlife are also interesting, as are the domesticated herds of Mongolia’s five animals: horses, camels, cows and yaks, sheep and goats. There will be opportunities to ride the horses, camels and yaks during the trip, so you can experience travel as the locals do.
When passing through Tsetserleg town we visit a felt making project with demonstrations of how felt is made on a small scale and can buy felt products made for the tourist market. This project has been set up to create employment for local people, to educate tourists on this traditional craft, and to increase the income from tourism. The restaurant that we use in this town is the result of another successful project intended specifically to provide employment in a town where many people do not have jobs.
When passing through certain areas of Mongolia we are obliged to pay a “Protected Areas Service Fee” on behalf of each tourist (already included in price of tour). The fee contributes towards the following services: (i) introduction of the activities of the information centre and eco-ger and provision of information on legislation and security activities of the protected areas, (ii) regulation of camping places in these areas, (iii) to provide tourists with information, brochures, booklets and warnings, (iv) garbage disposal.
At Tsenkher Jiguur hot springs, a fee is paid (already included in the tour cost) to bathe in the outdoor hot mineral baths. This goes towards the cost of paying local staff to maintain the pools. Similarly, when we visit Erdene Zuu monastery at Kharkhorin, an entrance fee is paid (included in tour price) to go towards the cost of local staff.
The company is owned and run by Mongolians with small offices in Mongolia, UK and Germany. The itinerary for this trip, and indeed the whole brochure, can be downloaded from our website, reducing the need for printing in most cases. Upon booking a tour, clients are given a Tour Dossier which includes a section on attitudes and behaviour. We explain some of the most important issues so that tourists will not be embarrassed nor locals offended. During the tour, the leader or interpreter will educate the group on the more important points of Mongolian etiquette so that everyone feels more comfortable when we enter a local home or temple.