Deciding if our trips are right for you, choosing between Zavkhan and the Altai, the weather, group size, and a range of general questions.
Not really. But you do need to have a well-developed sense of adventure, and be prepared to rough it when necessary. And a sense of humour always helps. You will be driving off-road, riding over rugged terrain, camping every night and going places few westerners have ever been. If this sounds like you then lets go. If not, we can suggest a couple of other operators who will give you an excellent tour, if a little less adventurous than travelling with us.
No, our treks are suitable for both beginners and experienced riders. In fact we've had the odd person who had never been on a horse before, and they loved it! We have horses that are very forgiving of inexperienced riders, and we will make sure you are matched to a suitable horse. Once you gain more confidence, or for those with more experience, you will be amazed just how fast they can go. You will be challenging the locals to races in no time.
We teach you the local riding techniques, and how to ride safely, such as never approaching your horse from the right (i.e. the wrong!) side.
For experienced riders we have horses that you will be wanting to take home with you at the end of the trip.
We take the attitude that horses are a much better (and more environmentally friendly) way to experience Mongolia than looking out the window of a jeep. The locals live and breathe horses and will respect you for choosing to ride rather than drive. We can also get to more places on horseback, but ultimately it’s just damn good fun!
Read more about the experience levels of a 'typical' Zavkhan Trekking rider.
If you are like most people, a major concern is that you are joining the right sort of trip. We aim to convey through our website exactly what our trips are like, so you know what you are getting yourself in to. We do not promise a luxury holiday, complete with hot showers and flushing toilets. What we do offer is a truly authentic experience of Mongolia, and to do that you need to get well off the tourist trail. You do need to 'rough it' at times.
Please ask us more about our trip style, if you have any doubts.
The riding in the Altai does tend to be slightly more hard-core, with some steep mountain trails, but also plenty of opportunities for fast riding. Toward the end of the season you may encounter snow storms in the mountains, so you do need to be prepared for inclement weather. Both regions still have the wonderful Mongolian tradition of hospitality, but if you really want to experience the local culture, the Altai definitely has the edge. Wildlife can still be seen in the Altai (ibex, elk, wolves etc), but are less common in Zavkhan.
Zavkhan is more geographically diverse, with classic open steppe, desert lakes and forested mountains. You also get to experience the Great Mongolian Road Trip if driving from UB to Zavkhan. And don't forget the abandoned hot spa we usually visit in the mountains of Zavkhan - perfect after a few days hard riding!
Realistically anyone who is fit and active and has a good sense of adventure will be perfectly capable of participating in trips to either area.
We take no more than 10 people on our riding trips. We find this is a good size in terms of managing the horses, and socially. Also in terms of impacts on the local culture and environment. For hiking trips, we allow a few more, since people on the ground are easier to manage than riders!
No. We specifically aim to take you to the places other people don't go. Mongolia is not really a country with discreet 'tourist attractions'. It's more about getting out into the countryside, amongst the local people. Surprisingly (and luckily for us), the majority of visitors to Mongolia end up in the same handful of 'tourist' spots, so it is still possible for us to get off the beaten track. You do need to be prepared to be the subject of great interest by the local people. A bunch of funny-looking foreign people riding by makes an irresistible break from herding yaks!
All our trips tend to be exploratory to some extent. We don't like to ride the same old routes, when there are so many unexplored passes to cross and valleys to ride through. However on an exploratory trip we consider that you have given us permission to push the boundaries a bit more, to go places that may prove challenging, to ride harder, longer and higher. If you are prepared to keep going, even when you wanted to stop an hour ago, in order to reach somewhere suitable for the horses to graze and us to camp, then consider joining us on an exploratory trip.
July/August is the height of summer so you can expect warm days at this time of year. Sometimes hot enough to throw yourself in the nearest river at the end of the day, but usually just a pleasant riding temperature. The evenings can be cool, so you do need warm clothes for sitting around the camp fire. It can get down to below zero Celsius even in summer. In Zavkhan, summer does tend to be the rainy season although don't be thinking English rain, it's more the odd brief shower. Early summer is a good time to visit to see the spectacular wild flowers.
By September we are heading back in to autumn, so the days are crisp and sunny and there is always the chance of an early cold snap, particularly in the Altai. Autumn brings a touch of colour to the forests and perhaps a dusting of snow to the mountains, and nomadic herders are busy preparing for the coming winter. By late September-early October it is not uncommon to wake to a world of white, making for challenging but beautiful riding conditions.
Winter in Mongolia is long and harsh, but still lovely. We offered a winter trip in 2009-10, but didn't get enough interested people. We were a little surprised that the idea of -30C days would put people off! But if you think you've got what it takes, we will try again in 2010-11.
Spring comes in April-May, and is not a good time to see Mongolia at it's best – cold, grey and windy. At the end of a long winter, and before the grass has started to grow again, it is a tough time of year in the countryside.
The highest peak in Zavkhan near where we ride is just over 3000m. It's a hard old day walk to the top, but mostly we are camping and riding around 1500-2000m. In the Altai the mountains around us are up to almost 4000m on the Chinese border but we ride down around 2500m mostly. If you find yourself short of breath, you can blame the altitude rather than your fitness!
Do you have a question that we haven't answered above?
If so, please don't hesitate to contact us.