Adventures / Sub Zero

Winter Hiking, Camel Trekking and Stargazing in Mongolia

Experience winter life with nomadic families, sleeping in traditional gers under star-blanketed skies

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Trip Ref #10414

Adventures / Sub Zero

Winter Hiking, Camel Trekking and Stargazing in Mongolia

Experience winter life with nomadic families, sleeping in traditional gers under star-blanketed skies

DURATION

7 nights

LOCATION

Mongolia

ANNUAL LEAVE

5 days off work

SEASON

Dec-Feb

GROUP SIZE

Up to 8 people

MEETING POINT

Chinggis Khan International Airport

ACCOMMODATION

Hotel · Ger

DIFFICULTY

Challenging

This isn't a physical trip, however, the temperatures, remoteness and nomadic experience will require a strong sense of adventure

Explore vast and remote winter landscapes with pioneering female guides, and witness some of the best stargazing on Earth

Celebrate Mongolian culture and tradition on a two-day camel trek through sand dunes, guided by a nomadic herding family

Keep warm and cosy inside a traditional ger (Mongolian yurt) each night, the ultimate insight into real Mongolian life

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 and female guide

Accommodation

2 nights in a hotel, 5 in a Mongolian ger

Meals

7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, 5 dinners

Transfers

Airport transfers and everything in between

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 8

Transfers

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 – Day 6

Ger · Mixed dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 7

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 8

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. Due to the remote locations and the lack of facilities, there will occasionally be limitations in place on what food is available, however, if you don't eat meat please let your host know in advance as vegans and vegetarians can be catered for on this trip. Your host 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 and vegans are well represented in Ulaanbataar, with a surprising number of meat-free, vegan restaurants.

What is the accommodation like?

Mongolian Ger

You'll spend five nights sleeping in gers; a type of traditional Mongolian yurt. Your stays will be hosted by a modern-day nomadic herder family, spending time with the Bathuluun family based in the foothills of the Khustain Nuruu National Park, and the Davaasuren family who live amongst the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes. You'll share a ger with between 2-4 other adventurers, depending on the group size. 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.

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, and due to the temperatures during winter it is not possible to solo camp instead of sharing a ger with other adventurers.

Day 1

Arrive at Ulaanbaatar

Catch your first glimpse of the vast empty plains as you 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 wrap up and 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 during the winter months. Head out in the evening to a local restaurant with the rest of the group to take in UB at night time.

Day 2

Road trip to Khustain Nuruu National Park

Driving

3hrs · 130km

Settle into your Russian expedition vehicle for a ride through Mongolian wilderness, heading for Khustain Nuruu National Park - one of Mongolia’s conservation success stories noted for its successful reintroduction of the endemic wild horses known as Takhi. Drive through the national park to the home of Batchuluun - your host family. Settle in for your first glimpse of traditional nomadic life in the depth of a Mongolian winter, sharing stories and food in the ger, safe from the freezing temperatures outside.

Day 3

Winter hiking in the national park

Hiking

4-5hrs · 8-10km · 400m up · 400m down

Spend the day hiking through the national park, reaching various look-out points spotting red deer, corsac foxes, Siberian marmots, black vultures, eagles and falcons. The stars of the show are the Takhi wild horses that roam freely through the hills and mountains of the national park. As the light fades early this time of year, head back to the ger for a cosy refuge from the falling temperatures.

Day 4

Stargazing in Khogno Khan Nature Reserve

Driving

5-6hrs · 250km

Hiking

3hrs · 4-5km · 300m up · 300m down

Hit the road again for a drive to the spectacular Khogno Khan - a sacred mountain in an area of secluded valleys, freshwater springs, open steppe and the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes. Head out on a hike to explore the hidden interiors of the mountain, passing the working temple of Erdene Khambiin Khid and the ruined Ovgon Khiid Monastery before reaching a summit for spectacular panoramas of the reserve. Cap off a remarkable day by wrapping up and heading out at night for some of the best stargazing found anywhere in the world.

Day 5

Camel trekking

Head off for a two-day camel trek along the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes. Your host Davaasuren is at his happiest while showing off his home landscapes of Khogno Khan on the back of a camel. Davaasuren a bit of an entertainer, and his camel treks can include sand sculpting, impromptu wrestling matches and singing! A winter camel trek is an adventure true to local traditions for centuries. This is a slow and steady pace of travel, exploring the diverse landscapes of the sand dunes, sacred granite mountains, rolling hills and wide-open steppe.

Day 6

The camel trek continues

Your camel trek pushes on through another area of the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes, taking in the wild landscapes which Davaasuren and his family know intimately, being based at the foot of the sand dunes all year round. Return to the ger tonight for more local life, drinking tea with the family and learn how to make dumplings before tucking into dinner. More stargazing tonight for those keen to wrap up and head out again for another celestial cinema screening.

Day 7

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 8

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 (best to bring your own if you want guaranteed comfort rating)
  • Felt boots

What do I need to bring?

BAGS
Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
Daypack (20+ litres)
Waterproof liner for kitbag or rucksack / drybags

CLOTHES
Windproof and waterproof thermal outer layer jacket (like a ski jacket)
Fleece or similar mid layers
Thermal base layers - not cotton. Merino wool is best
Warm wool or fleece hat x 2
Thick, warm and waterproof gloves x 2
Buff or neck scarf
T-shirts
Waterproof hiking trousers x 2
Underwear
Thick woollen socks - multiple pairs
Sunglasses
Something to sleep in - ideally a spare pair of thermals
Winter hiking boots with room for winter socks (worn-in)
Sandals or light shoes for the gers

SLEEPING
Cotton or silk sleeping bag liner
Sleeping bag (4 seasons)
Travel pillow or pillowcase
Thermarest - if you want extra support on the beds at the ger

OTHER
Universal travel plug adapter
Power bank or solar charger
Passports (and visas)
Travel Insurance documents
Earplugs
Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
Dry shampoo
Quick-dry towel
Alcohol hand-gel
Headtorch or torch
Reusable water bottle (x1 litre) Biodegradable wet-wipes
Energy bars and snacks

Single room

Payable Before Departure

Single room

Twin/Double room

Payable Before Departure

Twin/Double room

Optional Private Room Upgrade - Ulaanbataar only

Payable Before Departure

Optional Private Room Upgrade - Ulaanbataar only

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 198kg 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.

This trip isn't a big physical challenge. The hike on Day 3 and the camel trekking don't involve anything strenuous. The challenge on this trip is the cold and the experience living amongst nomadic herders in rural Mongolia in winter. The temperatures are scary on paper, however with the right clothes they are no less manageable than your average day at a ski resort. The remoteness combined with the cold will mean that a fondness for true adventure, way off the beaten track and guided by real people will stand you in the best stead for this trip. The gers are a comfortable sanctuary away from the temperatures outside, and your host and the families that you will stay with are on hand to make your experience as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. Facilities in Mongolia are very basic, so you'll need to be prepared for these - see the next FAQ 'What is a ger and what are they like to stay in?

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 the 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.

A winter camel trek is an adventure true to local traditions as for centuries, up until the 1920s, the Gobi was traversed by camel trains – typically travelling in the winter months – allowing the camels the summer months to recuperate when grazing is best. You’ll travel on Bactrian (two-hump) camels with their traditional camel saddle of just a woollen carpet but their fantastic winter wool coat will also provide you with insulation as well. It’s a slow and steady pace of travel where you explore the diverse landscapes of the sand dunes, sacred granite mountains, rolling hills and wide-open steppe. The camel trek will be vehicle supported.

The camels are chosen specifically by the Davaasuren family who guide the trek - they also own the camels, so the welfare and treatment of the animals are all under the care of this long term rural tourism partnership. The animals are not overworked, the family ensure that the camels only carry people and never luggage, while guests are matched up to camels based on weight. In Mongolia, rural families have a very practical relationship with their animals. These are working animals, and they play an important role in sustaining rural cultures and preventing forced urban migration which can be a disaster for rural Mongolians to succumb to. The Davaasuren family operate a small number of camel treks each year to sustain their income to a level that protects their way of life. This is a long, long way from mass tourism, and the camels are only ridden a certain number of times a year.

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.

Winter is a quintessential Mongolian season. It is cold, freezing in fact, but the cold is an integral part of what makes Mongolia and its landscapes extraordinary at this time of year. Although the temperatures can scare at first sight, it is a very dry cold and with the right clothes, -25°C in Mongolia could be compared with -5°C in Europe. The coldest months are December to February where high temperatures will peak out at -12°C, and reach as low as -30°C. The rewards for adventurous souls heading to Mongolia in winter are some of the world's best stargazing conditions, a dearth of other tourists and a unique insight into Mongolian life.

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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