Adventures / Wild Hikes

Adventure Hiking with Nomadic Herders in Mongolia

A unique trek in the Central Heartlands through the Orkhon River Valley, guided by modern day nomadic herders

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Trip Ref #10413

Adventures / Wild Hikes

Adventure Hiking with Nomadic Herders in Mongolia

A unique trek in the Central Heartlands through the Orkhon River Valley, guided by modern day nomadic herders

DURATION

9 nights

LOCATION

Mongolia

ANNUAL LEAVE

6 days off work

SEASON

May-Sep

GROUP SIZE

Up to 8 people

MEETING POINT

Chinggis Khan International Airport

ACCOMMODATION

Hotel · Ger · Wild camping

DIFFICULTY

Moderate

A remote and rural adventure for anyone with average fitness looking for a proper hike with a difference

Tackle a five-day trek like no other, hiking from ger to ger on an unplanned route guided by a Mongolian herder family and pioneering local female tour leaders

Wild camp beneath huge skies among the high open steppe, wildflower meadows and rolling hills of Khangai Nuruu National Park

Experience daily life with real nomad communities, sleep in traditional gers and join in Mongolian singalongs around the campfire

This trip is brand new

We’re still waiting to collect any reviews from other travellers on this trip. However, all our hosts go through an extensive vetting process to ensure that your adventure is awesome.

Included

Guides

Local team of driver & female guide, plus herder guide on the trek

Accommodation

2 nights in a hotel, 4 wild camping and 3 in a Mongolian Ger

Meals

11 breakfasts, 10 lunches, 8 dinners

Transfers

Airport transfers and everything in between

Equipment

All camping equipment

Not Included

Flights to and from the meeting point

Travel insurance

Personal expenses

Tips for your guides

Some meals as described

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Chinggis Khan International Airport

Anytime on Day 1

Ends

Chinggis Khan International Airport

Anytime on Day 10

Transfers

Transfers are included for arrivals at any time on any day but if you are arriving before Day 1 or departing after Day 10, please let your host know in advance. You can join the tour at any time on Day 1 and depart at any time on Day 10. Your host will meet you on arrival at Buyant-Ukhaa International Airport in Mongolia's capital city, Ulaanbaatar, and transfer you to your hotel. On Day 10 your host will drop you back off at the airport in time for your return flight home.

Travel options

The main airlines flying into Ulaanbaatar are MIAT (the Mongolian National Airline), Aeroflot, Air China, Korean Air and Turkish Airlines. From Europe flights usually go via Moscow or Istanbul.

Adventurers with time on their hands looking for the ultimate overland experience to connect to this trip can take the Trans Mongolian Railway to Ulaanbaatar. It'll take you just shy of 100 hours travel time, following the Trans Siberian Express route with stop-off options such as Lake Baikal to break up the journey. Pretty much everything you could possibly need to know about the Trans Siberian & Mongolian railways has been written by The Man in Seat 61.

Day 1

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2

Ger · Mixed dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 3 – Day 5

Wild camping · Twin tent

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 6 – Day 8

Ger · Mixed dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 9

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 10

Departure day

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

Outside of Ulaanbaatar, meals will be prepared and provided by the local team, with one or two meals to enjoy in local restaurants. The majority of Mongolians eat meat and for Mongolia’s herders, it is an essential part of their diet. You'll enjoy a celebratory traditional Mongolian barbecue on Day 8 (veggie options available). Due to the remote locations and the lack of facilities, there will occasionally be limitations in place on what food is available, however, you can count on meals that will be tasty and filling. The team purchases local seasonal produce to help support each community that you pass through. In Ulaanbaatar, there is a wide range of local Mongolian restaurants and international options such as Japanese, Italian, Indian, Ukrainian, French, Mexican, American and even North Korean to name a few. Vegetarians are well represented, too, with a surprising number of meat-free, vegan restaurants.

Your host will make every effort to cater to dietary requirements - please request at the time of booking.

What is the accommodation like?

Mongolian Ger

You'll spend three nights sleeping in gers; a type of traditional Mongolian yurt. You'll share the ger camp with a modern-day nomadic herder family, spending time with the Tumee family. You'll sleep in a ger with between 2-4 adventurers, depending on the group size (the families stay in their own gers, separate from guests on the trip). Toilets at the ger camps are basic outside squat toilets and there are no showers - you'll be provided with bowls of warm water for washing. Gers are very simply furnished with single beds (with a mattress), a central table and stools.

Wild Camping

You'll stay at spots along the unplanned route selected by your herder guide. On occasions, this will be camping in a remote spot alone as a group, on other occasions you'll camp alongside a ger camp, giving you more time to hang out with families along the trek. You'll stay in solo or twin tents, whichever you have a preference for.

Ulaanbaatar

In the capital you'll stay in Hotel Nine, one of a small chain of local Mongolian hotels, situated right in the heart of the city a stone's throw from Sukhbaatar Square, the Opera House and the Central Culture Palace. You'll stay in same-sex twin share rooms.

Upgrades

For solo travellers looking for their own space in Ulaanbaatar, an optional private room can be booked for an extra charge. See Optional Extras for the price. Please request this at the time of booking. It is not possible to pay extra for your own private ger. Solo tents are available at no extra charge for the wild camping.

Day 1

Arrive at Ulaanbaatar

Touch down in Mongolia's capital city, meet your host at the airport and head to your hotel. If you've arrived in the morning or early afternoon you can join your host on a welcome stroll around the city for a local's insight into 'UB'. This is NOT a city tour! You'll be exploring the local side of this great city, home to 45% of the population. Head out in the evening to a local restaurant with the rest of the group to take in UB at night.

Day 2

Road trip to the Orkhon River Valley

Driving

7-8hrs · 350km

Time for a proper road trip. Settle into your expedition van and ride into the Mongolian wilderness towards the Orkhon River Valley - a UNESCO World Heritage Site considered the cradle of Mongolian civilisation. After a full day of driving - broken up by a picnic lunch - you'll reach the banks of the Orkhon River and the home of Tumee and Jargaa, a herding family who will be your hosts tonight. Get your first glimpse of a Mongolian ger, grab a dip in the river, climb a hill for sunset and settle in for the evening with your host family, tucking into traditional food and talking through the trek to come.

Day 3

The trek begins

Hiking

4-6hrs · 10-20km

Tumee will lead the way, exploring the area closest to the Orkhon River that Tumee and Jargaa's family call home during the summer months. The route is flexible and left in the hands of your herder guides - a ger to ger trek is dependant on where the nomadic families have set up their camps - a real glimpse of rural Mongolian life on foot. Tonight you'll get your first taste of wild camping in remote Mongolia.

Day 4

Orkhon River

Hiking

4-6hrs · 10-20km

Tuck into breakfast at your wild camp before continuing along the banks of the Orkhon River, following migratory routes that nomadic herders have used for centuries. There will be opportunities for wild swimming along the way. Eventually, the trek will veer away from the river and towards the Khangai hills, where you'll camp and hear stories of local life around a campfire, and possibly a Mongolian singalong!

Day 5

Stargazing in the Khangai

Hiking

4-6hrs · 10-20km

The Orkhon River Valley forms part of the immense Khangai Nuruu National Park - a diverse ecoregion with long flat river valleys, lava stone fields, rounded mountain tops, high open Mongolian steppe, coniferous forests and sub-alpine meadows. You'll hike deeper into the Kanghai region and learn about the history of the area before finding another epic wild camp spot. With good chances of clear skies (Mongolia has 260 cloudless days a year), stay up for some of the best stargazing found anywhere in the world.

Day 6

Get stuck into rural Mongolian life

Hiking

4-6hrs · 10-20km

The trek pushes on through the hills of Khangai today, gaining some elevation as you aim for a camp spot - possibly alongside a family ger camp. During the trek, you might camp alongside families who have set up their gers during their migrations. Your time at each ger on the trek is an immersive experience, where you will learn about and get involved in rural Mongolian daily tasks. You'll drink tea with the herders, learn to make dumplings, you may even help to milk the yaks. This is a trek steeped in Mongolian tradition.

Day 7

The final stretch

Hiking

4-6hrs · 10-20km

Packing up your wild camp for the last time, you'll descend from your final spot in the Khangai hills and head back towards the Orkhon River. Hop in the van for the drive back to Tumee and Jargaa's ger camp in the late afternoon ready for an evening with now-familiar faces.

Day 8

Visit Kharkhorin and have a Mongolian barbecue

After 5 full days on your feet, spend a relaxed day from your base at the home of Tumee and Jargaa. Take a short drive to Kharkhorin - the ancient capital of Ogodei Khan and the Mongol Empire in the 13th Century. Here you can visit Erdene Zuu - Mongolia’s oldest monastery - and visit the Kharkhorin Museum to learn more about the Orkhon River Valley you have just trekked through, plus plenty of history on the Turkish and Mongol Empire. The afternoon and evening are spent in the company of your host family with the most traditional of celebrations - a Mongolian barbecue.

Day 9

Road trip back to Ulaanbataar

Driving

7-8hrs · 350km

Time to hit the road again, driving back through the central heartlands to Ulaanbaatar, reaching your hotel in the late afternoon. The evening is free to explore the urban side of Mongolian life in downtown Ulaanbaatar with some farewell drinks with your guide and driver.

Day 10

Farewell Mongolia

It's time to wave goodbye to Mongolia as your host drops you off at the airport in time for your flight home.

15% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What's included?

  • Sleeping bags (a sleeping bag will be provided but it is locally made and doesn't have a comfort rating so please bring your own if you want a guaranteed comfort rating)
  • Vango Hurricane or Nemesis tents
  • Kitchen tent and toilet tent
  • Sleeping mat

What do I need to bring?

BAGS
Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
Daypack (35+ litres)
Waterproof liner for kitbag or rucksack / drybags

CLOTHES
Synthetic or down jacket
Waterproof jacket
Waterproof trousers
Breathable wicking layers
Fleece jacket or similar
Thermals (merino wool is best)
Warm hat
Gloves
Buff or neck scarf
Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirts
T-shirts
Underwear & socks
Swimwear
Sunglasses
Sunhat
Something to sleep in
Hiking boots (worn-in)
Sandals for the gers

SLEEPING
Cotton or silk sleeping bag liner
Travel pillow or pillowcase
Thermarest or sleeping mat (if you wish to use your own rather than the hosts)

OTHER
Universal travel plug adapter
Power bank or solar charger
Passports (and visas)
Travel Insurance documents
Earplugs
Insect repellant
Suncream
Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
Toilet kit (toilet paper, biodegradable bags to carry paper out to dispose of)
Quick-dry towel
Alcohol hand-gel
Headtorch or torch
1-litre reusable water bottles x 1-2
Biodegradable wet-wipes
Energy bars and snacks
Water purification tablets/treatment system

Single/Double/Twin room

Payable Before Departure

Single/Double/Twin room

Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade

Payable Before Departure

Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade

Private airport transfer in Ulaanbataar - each way

Payable Before Departure

Private airport transfer in Ulaanbataar - each way

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 216kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

There isn’t a network of clearly defined trails on this trek. You have to be prepared for a mixture of terrain including some mountainous alpine routes with some river crossings. You'll only need to hike with a daypack carrying your water bottle, camera and an extra layer; your main luggage will be transported by the tour vehicle which will meet you at the end of each day. The approximate distance per day is 10-20km, some days will be shorter or longer depending on the conditions. Although your host sets the location in advance, the route is not set in stone as this allows flexibility around the weather and ground conditions as well as at the location of the herding families. The gradients will vary depending on the final route but expect to be hiking on some short sharp and longer steadier hillside inclines. You will be hiking at an average elevation of between 1500-1800 metres.

Your host in Mongolia always uses female tour leaders on their adventures. Doing so provides employment opportunities to Mongolian women and inspires younger girls within the rural communities of Mongolia to look to sustainable tourism as a way to earn money in the future while preserving rural lifestyles. The female tour leaders work alongside a male driver as a team of two for the full duration of the trip.

From day 3 to day 7, you'll be trekking on a route that differs each year depending on where the various nomadic families have set their ger camps up each summer. The hiking route is dependant on knowledge of the locations of the ger camps each season - knowledge that only a nomadic herder can have. Enter Tumee - a male nomadic herder who will co-guide the hiking section of the trip alongside your female tour leader. Tumee's knowledge ensures that the group can stop at ger camps along the route for a unique insight into rural Mongolian life while trekking through these incredible landscapes.

You can read more about how tourism is empowering local women in modern Mongolia by reading our article on this very topic.

A ger is a type of Mongolian yurt. The ger accommodations on this trip are provided by local rural families who use small scale tourism to supplement their income. This gives them extra financial security which means they are one step further away from having to consider urban migration. These are families that your host works with in a long-term local community partnership. Your host will NEVER turn up unannounced or show up at a herding family demanding accommodation.

The type of ger accommodation will change from family to family. Consider them as small rural businesses, not as rustic luxury homestays and be prepared for a variety of standards. Please remember that this is someone’s way of life and home and that they provide what they can in relation to their circumstances. You will have your own private ger to share as a group of 2-4 adventurers which may at times need to be mixed-sex. However, if you prefer privacy, your host can pitch a tent for you next to the family ger. Each ger typically has a number of beds, a central stove, a central table and a few stools. Beds will vary in comfort – most rural family members still traditionally sleep on the floor, so they don’t really understand the concept of double memory foam mattresses!

A majority of Mongolia’s population do not have access to running water so below are the details for showers and toilets at the ger accommodation:

Toilets: Some will be better than expected. Some will be worse than expected. Most will be outside long (or short) drop Asian style and if it is at a family home then the toilet will be shared by you and the family.

Showers: Most Mongolians visit the local town shower house. So this is what you do as well! It gives you an introduction to real daily life for a majority of Mongolians in both urban and rural areas as well as a hot shower. You get your own private cubicle with plenty of hot water. Queue with the locals and enjoy experiencing a little of their daily way of life. On other occasions where a local shower house is not available, you'll be provided with large buckets of hot water to shower with at the ger camp.

This trek is manageable by anyone with a reasonable amount of fitness, capable of walking for a whole day. There are no big ascent days or summit days, though there will be steady inclines and some alpine areas to trek through. You'll be in a remote region with basic facilities at times, and no 3G or 4G coverage (bliss!) so a big part of the adventure is visiting a place out of your comfort zone, learning local rural customs and spending time seeing how modern-day nomadic herders live life in rural Mongolia.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

Tips are not included in the trip cost. Each member of your host's team receives a fair salary and none have to rely on receiving gratuities to supplement their income. Of course, you are free to tip if you wish, and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service. Your guide will help with advice on how much to tip if you wish to do so.

Mongolia has limited infrastructure including access to drinking water. Because of this, Mongolia has a countrywide network of water supply stations that the locals use to access water. Your host uses these same water supply stations. Your expedition vehicle has two 20-litre water containers that are refilled en-route. Your host provides a Steripen Adventurer filter pen so that all guests can filter their drinking water. In rural areas in Mongolia, there is no running water. You will need to bring a reusable water bottle with you.

Mongolia is one of the highest countries in the world, with an average altitude of 1580m above sea level. Known as the ‘Land of the Blue Sky’ it is blessed with an average of 260 days of blue sky per year - but these do not all occur in the summer months! Mongolian weather is known for its sharp fluctuations. And, yes, it may well rain. See it as a blessing. Mongolian herders celebrate the rain since without it, fresh pasture cannot grow and they lose their livelihoods.

Yes. Excess luggage can be stored at your host's office in Ulaanbaatar at the start of the trip, collected at the end when you return to the capital.

We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

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