Mongolia tour, food of the Nomads
Description of Mongolia tour, food of the Nomads
The guests who enjoy our trips to Mongolia and the rural families we work with suggested a holiday to explore the food of the nomads, so we put together this 14-day tour. It's the chance to experience life on the high steppe of Mongolia’s beautiful middle Gobi, the central heartland and Khangai Mountains, learning alongside locals about their life and the traditional, delicious cuisine the cook and enjoy.
Mongolia food gets a bad press, but it’s not all boiled mutton! Simple ingredients are processed using a surprising variety of methods, and combined with vegetables, handmade noodles and other flour-based foods, to create fresh homemade meals. You’ll learn about tsagaan idee or white food. These are the various dairy products that Mongolians enjoy, including airag (fermented mare’s milk) and shimiin arikh (yak’s milk vodka).
This is an interactive trip, involving shopping at bustling local markets for the ingredients for a menu of traditional Mongolian meals that we have designed. You will learn how to prepare these dishes side by side with your host family in a relaxed, informal and fun setting. Cookery classes take place in the morning or evening, leaving lots of time for you to go out and discover the local area for yourself. You will also have the chance to take a day-hike or go horse or camel trekking.
Classic Mongolia dishes that you will prepare include tsuivan (stir fried flour noodles), khuurshuuur (mutton pancakes) and buuz (Mongolian dumplings). It’s not problem if you are a vegetarian, as nearly all Mongolian national dishes can be made as a vegetarian version. Feast your eyes on the images shown here – all taken by guests on this trip. This is the Mongolia that you will also experience!
Your accommodation for most of the trip will be with rural families. Some are retired herders, some still live as herders and migrate twice a year, while others make their home in the central grasslands. This combination gives you a really deep insight into rural and small town life in Mongolia.
We are a very small holiday provider and supporting local life is at the core of our philosophy. It’s also central to each experience we offer. Supporting the rural communities through which we travel, working directly with them and accessing their local knowledge leads to a more personal style of holiday for you. We make sure the itineraries provide variety, are flexible and will help you to get under the skin of this wonderful country, to experience the real local Mongolia.
Our team has been working together in Mongolia for over 11 years now, and consists entirely of Mongolians with just one westerner. We research, design and operate every detail of the holidays we offer, working independently. We don’t follow the typical stereotypes of a tour company either. We have nothing to do with big groups, must sees or all-inclusive packages.
1 Reviews of Mongolia tour, food of the Nomads
Reviewed on 16 Mar 2019 by Cryn Horn
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Standing outside my ger watching the morning star while surrounded by goats and sheep and a guard dog finally able to snooze
as daylight sweeps into the valley.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Invest in a pair of warm boots.
Perhaps be prepared to wear the same clothes for several days at a time - this will also help to keep the weight of your baggage
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Definitely benefitted local people, and directly and/or indirectly supported conservation.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
The holiday was brilliant in many respects even though it was not what I had in mind.
Final comment? I cannot wait to go again!
PlanetAlways 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 Food of the Nomads 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 travelling better – travelling 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).
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 travellers 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 Foods of the Nomads 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.
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 Food of the Nomads 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. This is an area you will visit as part of your Food of the Nomads experience. Arranged through the local community (including Batbold and Jargaa who will host you during our Food of the Nomads experience) and protected area rangers, we have been arranging this since 2014 - even in 2020 despite a lack of income due to the Covid pandemic.
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.
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.
PeopleOur 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 centre. 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.
Travelling 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 centres 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 holiday for you and a more respectful and enjoyable experience for the locals as well.
An example of our philosophy is that for our Food of the Nomads 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 travelling.
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.
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