One of the countries that I’ve always dreamt of visiting is this vast landlocked country in Asia– Mongolia. I am particularly drawn to the beautiful landscape, vast deserts, their nomadic way of lifestyle, their rich culture and whatnot.
A few months ago, this dream came true with the help of Degii from Vast Steppe. I am very much used to go backpacking on my own and I totally enjoy doing it but I ruled out my trip around Central and Eastern Asia as an exception. This time, I wanted to support small travel companies who are just starting on their businesses and the people behind it who are big dreamers. I also wanted to make the most out of my 7-day stay in this country. Another thing is I want to spend more time immersing myself in their culture rather than finding my way from place to place and potentially getting lost in the middle of nowhere at that.
So I told Degii about what I wanted for my trip and he also suggested things that I shouldn’t miss. We met halfway and he came up with a fabulous itinerary for me– a Nomadic Family and Gobi Desert Tour for 7 Days which I would love to share with all of you in this post 🙂
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A PERFECT 7-DAY TRIP TO MONGOLIA
DAY 1: PICK UP FROM AIRPORT, FRESHEN UP AT A GUESTHOUSE AND PROCEED WITH CITY TOUR
It was 5:30 AM when I arrived in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital where half of the population lives. After being questioned by the Immigration Officer about where I’m staying and my itinerary, he stamped my passport and reality hit me that my dream is coming true today, I will indeed be traveling around my dream trip to Mongolia for the next 7 days.
I came out of the arrival area and a familiar face was there waiting for me, it was Degii from Vast Steppe Mongolia who I’ve been planning my itinerary with a couple of months before my trip. He welcomed me with such a big smile that I forgot how tired I was on my trip. After assuring that everything is well with me, he then drove me to a local guesthouse and allowed me to freshen up and take a nap. At 10 AM, a guide then picked me up from the guesthouse. I was fully refreshed from my nap and a good breakfast. I was beyond ready to embark on this journey. We drove to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park which is less than a 2-hour drive from the capital for my first day of adventure.
We’ve seen a lot of Ovoo / Oboo (a sacred pyramid-shaped collection of stones and woods used as altars or shrines of nomadic Mongols to honor local spirits and Mother Earth). We also stopped at the Turtle Rock, a monumental rock organically carved by nature. We then went on a hike to the Ariyabal Meditation Temple which monumental hike is believed to cleanse you of your sins. I hate hiking but this is one thing you can’t miss in Mongolia.
The highlight of this day was our visit to a nomadic family in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park where I went horseback riding to the river and a hike to the mountain rock with their eldest son. We crossed the river with the strong water current and it was an awesome experience with beautiful scenery. When we returned the family was about to milk their cows and they invited me to join them so I was able to milk the cow while wearing their traditional clothes! 😋
YES, this is only the first day!
Accommodation: Gorkhi Eco Family Resort
DAY 2: DRIVE 300 KILOMETERS TO ELSEN TASARKHAI SAND DUNES AND STAY WITH A LOCAL FAMILY
After a heavy breakfast, we proceeded on our journey to the Tasarkhai Sand Dunes, an 80 km. long and 5 km. wide desert located in Burd Soum in Uvurkhangai Aimag. A trip to a desert wouldn’t be complete without riding a camel and this time, it was a Bactrian Camel with 2 humps on its back. They’re completely different from the camels I’ve encountered in the UAE, Kuwait, and Morocco.
After traversing the vast desert riding the camel and meeting some locals along the way, I then met with the nomadic family (a grandma and grandpa) who’s going to host me for the night. They welcomed me with such a beautiful smile and they even prepared my bed to make sure I’m warm for the night.
Day 3 started at 5 AM where all the locals from the camp started to tend their herds, my host family included. I just sat there watching the sunrise and how beautiful the world is from a nomad’s perspective. I offered to help tend their cows and sheep and I even witnessed how they remove their furs to prepare them for the winter to come.
Accommodation: Yurt with a local family
DAY 3 : DRIVE 150 KILOMETERS TO IKH GAZRIIN CHULUU AND HIKE THROUGH CAVES (GOBI DESERT)
Gobi Desert is undeniably one of the things you can’t miss in Mongolia. It is a vast wilderness extending up to the Northeastern part of China.
A 6-hour drive from Ulaanbaatar is the Ikh Gazriin Chuluu, a mountain of granite rock in the Gobi Desert with a peak of 1706m high. This is believed to be the hiding place of people during ancient times. There are over 40 caves in the area which you can explore and one of them, named Olgii used to contain mysterious books and scriptures.
Accommodation: Yurt with a local family
DAY 4: HIKE GOING TO THE TSAGAAN SUVARGA CLIFF AND SEE THE BRONZE AGE PAINTING (GOBI DESERT)
Hiking is not my thing but as suggested by Degii, this is the only way I can see these works of art carved by nature in this side of the world, especially in the Gobi Desert. I was hesitant at first but eventually, I said bring it on and I’m glad I did!
We went hiking under the hot sun to witness our nature’s creation, the Tsagaan Suvarga Cliff (white stupa) which is a natural rock formation of cliffs carved by the environment for millions of years. In between the hike, we also stopped by the bronze age painting made by the nomads and even by a natural spring which is said to be good for the eyes.
Accommodation: Gobi Caravanserai
DAY 5: HIKE THROUGH THE KHONGOR SAND DUNES (GOBI DESERT)
Another day, another hike. This time, we went to the most famous sand mass in the Gobi Desert, the Khongor Sand Dunes. From this point, you’ll get to see how vast this desert is and it reaches as far as your eyes can see. One special thing about this aside from the different colors of the sand is the sound that the wind makes every time it blows the sand up into the ground. It’s truly a spectacle of lights, colors, and sounds.
We also went to Bayanzag, also known as the flaming cliffs due to its red color.
Accommodation: Gobi Caravanserai
DAY 6: DRIVE 180 KMS. TO YOLIN AM VALLEY
Now that we’ve had seen enough of the desert, it’s now time to see a different landscape and the best place is the Yolin Am Valley located in the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park which happens to be one of Mongolia’s most beautiful spots.
After seeing too much sand the past few days, it’s just refreshing to see the greens of this valley and I’ve heard it’s even more beautiful in the winter as it is notable for its deep ice field. I can’t wait to see this with Jonathan in the near future! :p
DAY 7: DRIVE 560 KMS. TO ULAANBAATAR
Today is a long day as we drive 560 kilometers to Ulaanbaatar to end my trip. We had lunch on the way and I just looked out my window taking all of the beauty that Mongolia has to offer. I am indeed blessed to have experienced this trip.
My driver dropped me off to my hotel and I was glad to have some free time to explore the city on my own. Ulaanbaatar has 5-star hotels, restaurants, proper roads, and shopping malls. I even had the chance to get a hair treatment, shop for face masks, and eat Japanese food. Yum! I slept rather early to catch an early flight the next day.
MONGOLIA VISA REQUIREMENT FOR FILIPINOS
Filipinos can visit Mongolia for 21 days visa-free! However, expect to be asked questions by the Immigration Officers so always be ready with a copy of your itinerary, flight bookings, and reservation for your accommodation.
WHY I THINK THIS IS THE PERFECT ITINERARY
Degii arranged the perfect itinerary for me mainly because he took into consideration what I wanted– a cultural immersion and a trip which would let me explore more rather than watching the view from the car window. Communication with him was easy and he also incorporated the things that I can’t miss.
True enough, with this itinerary, I spent less time inside the car and spent it outside with local families and nomads, immersing myself in their way of life. I saw beautiful parts of Mongolia not through the car window but while riding a horse and a camel and meeting friendly locals along the way. I’ve seen beautiful sunrise and sunsets not alone but with the company of locals who are busy to get going with their daily lives. I hate hiking but it was made sure that the hikes I did were completely doable and I enjoyed every single minute of it.
Once again, thank you Degii of Vast Steppe Mongolia. I’ve been dreaming of coming back ever since the moment I left. I’d totally recommend them to anyone who’d like to visit this beautiful country ♡
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