Mongolia adventure holiday, off the beaten track

“Spend time with families and herdsmen as you observe their traditional practices and unearth the landscapes of the Gobi Desert and central highlands of Mongolia.”

Highlights

Ulaanbaatar | a day’s herding with the Bataa family | Gobi Oasis tree planting project | sand dunes at Khongoryn Els | a day with Maam and his camels | Orkhon waterfall | stay with Tumee and Jargaa in Orkhon River Valley | explore Mongolia’s oldest monastery | optional treks and horse riding |

Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.

01273 823 700

Check dates

2017: 13 May, 20 May
Our top tip:
Even late spring can be chilly in the Gobi Desert so buying local kit or packing lots of layers is essential for a good night's rest.
Trip type:
Small group, 2-8 people. This trip can also be tailor made.
Activity level:
Leisurely.
Accomm:
Local hotels and family homes.
Included:
Day at tree planting project, walking tour of Ulaanbaatar and all food and accommodation.
Meals:
All meals included.
Solos:
Single travellers welcome.
Vouchers
Accepted

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Mongolia adventure holiday, off the beaten track

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 my responsible travel philosophy for our Spring Journey itinerary where we can show real evidence of our practise.


Combatting Desertification - Community Project

As part of this trip you will 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, learn more about their conservation practises and even get to plant your own tree.

Waste

The disposal of rubbish is a major issue in Mongolia - especially with plastic. As part of my Responsible Travel ethos I pay 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 own three-day rubbish collection in a national park in Mongolia. Arranged through the local community and protected area rangers, we have been arranging this for the previous two years.

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 I say small group travel this is what I mean. Our group size on this trip has been kept small - a maximum of six. This means that experiences during this itinerary become more personal and authentic for you - especially your stay with Tumee and Jargaa and their family at the Orkhon River or Naraa and Bujee at Gorkhi Terelj. We are not an overwhelming presence - on the local communities or the local environment.

Our itineraries and departures

My philosophy is to have a limited amount 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.

Yes on this trip we visit Gorkhi Terelj where tourism has become more concentrated in Mongolia but we’re visiting before the main tourism season kicks into gear. However, as part of the itinerary we also focus on areas that are not necessarily considered ‘highlights’ by other tour companies or the guidebooks such as Dalanzagad on this itinerary. Wherever we visit, supporting local is at the heart of what we do and at the centre of each experience we offer. By not focusing on one specific area, it also means that we help to support communities that might not otherwise benefit from the tourism industry. That’s why this itinerary includes a stay in Dalanzagad. Again not considered a highlight, it is the provincial capital of the southern Gobi. It is also the home of a small group of extremely talented local musicians who will come and give a small private performance for you.

Our trips also 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. Tumee and Jargaa have a mobile phone. It doesn’t mean their way of life is dying out and that they’ll be shortly moving into the city - just that their way of life is adapting.

The people we work with are ‘real’ people. Not tourism professionals. You’ll meet people from Ulaanbaatar, you’ll meet herders, you’ll meet Mongolians that live in the provincial centres as well as the smaller town and rural communities. They are all Mongolians. Take time out to meet them. For this trip, that’s Mongolians such as Basaan at Khongoryn Els. He might come across as being a bit rough around the edges at times but he’s a great friend of ours and the location of his small ger camp cannot be beaten - a short walk from the foot of the highest dunes in the Gobi.

Community

Cultural Impact

My company is not a ‘world specialist’; we concentrate on the country we know and love – Mongolia. We research, design and operate each itinerary ourselves and do not source our itineraries from other agents.

Supporting local is at the heart of what we do. Part of this philosophy is that we used ger accommodation provided by the Mongolian families. At no point have we ever rocked up and demanded accommodation. Our relationships with the families we work with are genuine - forged over time and with plenty of tea.

Families offer ger accommodation to help supplement their income. Most are small rural businesses providing extra accommodation. Some accommodation is offered by herders, some is offered by ‘retired’ herders who no longer migrate, some by families that live in small town communities and some by families that own small ger camp businesses. By using this form of accommodation it provides you with a more genuine insight in to the real way of life in Mongolia and it benefits the local communities through which we are travelling.

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 below!). 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 holiday for you and a more respectful and enjoyable experience for the locals as well.

One example of this is our use of the local town shower houses. Very few families have access to running water from a tap. We do as the locals do and use the local town shower houses such as the one in Mandalgobi. They’re a great way to meet members of the local community but it also means we do not put too much pressure on local resources. In the words of author Jack Weatherford in Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World – ‘Compared to the difficulty of daily life for the herders, living permanently in those areas, ours were only the smallest of irritations.’

Festival

From my perspective, non-Mongolians often get very caught up in notions of authenticity when it comes to Mongolian events including festivals such as the Yak Festival which you will experience on this trip.  Many westerners would understandably argue that the fairly newly introduced Yak festival is not an authentic Mongolian festival, as opposed to a Naadam (the traditional sports festival), and dismiss it.  However, all traditions were invented and these festivals are a really positive way to encourage local and cottage industries in Mongolia. These rural festivals are a celebration of local community, networking and collaboration to ensure a better future for the region and its herding community.

Photography

We have a photography philosophy that we employ on all our trips. At the back of every ger is the family khoimor – the family altar. Very few families have a camera. Some have cameras on their phones but no way to print off the images and therefore few families have photographs. I have a rule that if you promise a photo then you must send the photo. I make it easy for you - email the image of the photo to me once you get home and I will print if off and will make sure the photos are delivered. We have given photo albums to the Batar, Zorgio and Tomorbat families - all families you will stay with on this trip. They often bring them out to show you!

Reviews of Mongolia adventure holiday, off the beaten track

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 14 May 2016 by

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


The landscapes of Mongolia and the night sky.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


There are quite a few "warnings" about the holiday - 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 holiday 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 holiday 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 holiday?


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 travellers booking this holiday?


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 holiday 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 holiday 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 holiday?


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 travellers booking this holiday?


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

3. Did you feel that your holiday 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 holiday 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 holiday?


Travelling 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 travellers booking this holiday?


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 holiday 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 holiday 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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