Orkhon Valley Horseback Adventure

About the Experience

After a day of riding through the jaw-dropping green steppe of the Orkhon valley, you feel as though you have stepped into another world. It isn’t just this place – this land of such raw, expansive beauty, with its violent Genghi Khan history, and immaculate Tibetan temples – it’s the way you are moving through this space: with your hands tangled in the rough mane of a majestic Mongolian horse.

Over the course of 13 days, you saddle up and play explorer. You wander to hot springs, where you pause for a curative soak. You clomp through paths of edelweiss, into the heart of a forest thick with pine. You pause beside the thundering waterfalls of Naiman Nuur National Park. And you laugh with Nomadic children, as they teach you how to hold the smooth game pieces for a round of knucklebones.

Later, you feast upon Mongolian barbecue, while your head swims with the hypnotic sound of Khoomi song. And at night, ready for rest, you slip into your yurt beneath a dizzying display of stars.

You can feel the contradictions of this place taking root within you. It brings to life the quiet, contemplative space in your heart – the glorious scenery, and sacred temples inviting you to seek inward. But what you find inside isn’t still.

Rather, it is vibrant and loud, and as you cross large swaths of black lava, you feel your own inner rumblings, as alive as the volcanic earth upon which you ride. Someone has come upon their trusty steed to save you. And it is you.

Click here to see the full itinerary!
Orkhon Valley Horseback Adventure

About the Experience

After a day of riding through the jaw-dropping green steppe of the Orkhon valley, you feel as though you have stepped into another world. It isn’t just this place – this land of such raw, expansive beauty, with its violent Genghi Khan history, and immaculate Tibetan temples – it’s the way you are moving through this space: with your hands tangled in the rough mane of a majestic Mongolian horse.

Over the course of 13 days, you saddle up and play explorer. You wander to hot springs, where you pause for a curative soak. You clomp through paths of edelweiss, into the heart of a forest thick with pine. You pause beside the thundering waterfalls of Naiman Nuur National Park. And you laugh with Nomadic children, as they teach you how to hold the smooth game pieces for a round of knucklebones.

Later, you feast upon Mongolian barbecue, while your head swims with the hypnotic sound of Khoomi song. And at night, ready for rest, you slip into your yurt beneath a dizzying display of stars.

You can feel the contradictions of this place taking root within you. It brings to life the quiet, contemplative space in your heart – the glorious scenery, and sacred temples inviting you to seek inward. But what you find inside isn’t still.

Rather, it is vibrant and loud, and as you cross large swaths of black lava, you feel your own inner rumblings, as alive as the volcanic earth upon which you ride. Someone has come upon their trusty steed to save you. And it is you.

Day 1: Arrival in Ulaanbaatar

A driver will meet you at the airport upon arrival in Mongolia. Once you arrive at your hotel you will have a chance to settle in, and rest before lunch. Meet your guide and group at noon and head out for lunch. 

After lunch we will head to the National History Museum to immerse ourselves into the heart of  Mongolian history.   The museum holds three floors of a rich, glorious, violent and noble past, from prehistory to the Soviet period, including the creation of the great Mongolian Empire by Genghis Khan. Upon leaving the museum we will explore the centre of Ulaanbaatar with highlights being the Genghis Khan Square and the House of Parliament.

Relax over dinner at a traditional Mongolian restaurant and then experience a Mongolian traditional show at Tumen Ekh. We will enjoy the beautiful folkloric dances, contortionists, and of course listen to the mesmerizing sounds of khoomi. Khoomi is a replacement of musical instruments with all aspects of vocal organs. To hear it for the first time is a wonder. It is said that there is no other nation in the world that can combine such human physical capacity in place of musical instruments, definitely an invaluable contribution to the rest of the world.

Day 2: Ride in Khustai National Park

We load up the vehicles and travel from Ulaanbaatar to Khustai National Park, visiting Gandantegchinlen Monastery and the Mongolian Buddhist Centre along the way. The national park covers an area of 500 square kilometres (193 square miles), and the conservation efforts in the park include the reintegration of the Przewalski’s horse, ”Takhi” and to protect the forest steppe ecosystem. “Takhi” means “spirit” or “spiritual” in Mongolian and the species is a symbol of the Mongolian national heritage. In 1945 there were only 12 breeding takhi in the world. Takhi is considered the world’s only genuine wild horse, how amazing is this?!

Just an easy, warm up ride today. You get to meet the hearty Mongolian horses and get paired with your horse. We then ride out to discover the the sand dunes of Moltsog.

At twilight, we gather to observe the Przewalski horses (takhi). We’ll walk to the river where they drink, and observe them in their natural habitat.  Stay tonight in fully furnished yurts with  Khustai National Park as the backdrop.

  • Riding Time: 2 hrs
  • Driving Time: about 3 hr

 

Day 3: Visit Kharkhorin

Journey to Kharkhorin, the former capital of Mongolia. The legendary city of Genghis Khan was founded in 1220 and was one of the destinations along the silk road. The Mongolian Empire was governed from this city, until Kubilai Khan set up the capital in Beijing. Today, there are only a few vestiges left of the former capital.  We will enjoy lunch in a local Mongolian restaurant.

Next we visit the Erdene Zuu Monastery, built in 1586 by a nomad prince. The Chinese and Tibetan-inspired buildings are surrounded with 108 sacred stupas. Visit of the Museum of Kharkhorin and the local market.

Outside Kharkhorin, you will stay in a family run yurt camp. The yurts are decorated in a perfect blend between traditional elements and modernity. 

  • Driving Time: about 4.5 hrs

 

Day 4: Riding Into Orkhon Valley

This morning we take a short drive outside Kharkhorin to meet the mighty Mongolian horses and local horse guides. On this adventure, you will likely ride the same horse everyday, unless it’s not a good match or the horse needs a rest.  The Mongolian riding style varies greatly from Western and English styles in the sense that they leave the horse a great amount of freedom in a given situation while they perform other tasks.  They do not expect to completely control the horse but trust it to do its job and find the best way through. Most Mongolian horses have five gaits instead of four (the fifth being a running walk variously called tölt, single-footing, or racking) and most seem to prefer cantering in any given situation. 

We go riding along the Orkhon River, in the Orkhon Valley that is inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List. Orkhon Valley is a land of nomadism where many breeders settle down their summer camp, when we are there we will get the unique opportunity to attend the daily nomadic life. We then ride on to Khujirt to enjoy the famous hot springs that have curative properties. 

This evening, settle into comfortable yurts set up on the oriental bank of the Orkhon River. Relax and enjoy a unique hair washing experience followed by some stargazing.

  • Riding Time: 5-6 hours
  • Riding Distance: 42km

 

Day 5-6: Orkhon Valley and Tovkhon Monastery

We go on riding in the green steppe. Here, herds of yaks, sheep, goats and horses graze in total freedom outside our dumbfounded eyes. A picturesque Mongolia stretches in all directions and we go from surprise to surprise. We go to the place called “bend of Uurt” at the foothills of the Khangai Mounts.

From our camp in Uurt, we ride through mountains and forests until Tovkhon Monastery, where Zanabazar, the first religious leader of Mongolia, created the Soyombo alphabet. The monastery is located 2312 metres (1,44 mile) above the sea level and from that place we’ll have a wonderful view on the whole Khangai range. We’ll picnic in exceptional surroundings, facing Orkhon Valley.

Overnight in yurts in the heart of Orkhon Valley. The camp is located on an exceptional site near the place called Uurt’s bend, at the foot of the Khangai mountains, and midway between Khujirt and Bat Olzii.

  • Riding Time: 5 hours both days
  • Riding Distance: 35km both days

 

Day 7: Mogoit Hot Springs

We leave the enchanting Uurt’s bend to ride South towards the mountain range that lines the valley. While we cross entire areas of black lava, we become wholeheartedly aware of the volcanic aspect of the place. Then we climb into a neighbouring valley.

As soon as we go higher, we find again the forests of larches and climb on this undulating valley until Mogoit hot springs where we can see in the hot water flowing out of the ground. You can enjoy the hot springs all evening in the two pools fed by the hot springs.

We camp in yurts nearby so you can relax in the hot water all evening.

  • Riding Time: 5 hours
  • Riding Distance: 30km

 

Day 8: Homestay with a Nomadic Family

We ride fast this morning to reach the camp of our homestay family, perfectly located in the heart of the valley. We meet the family of our horse guides and discover the Nomadic breeders’ life: milking the animals, preparing dairy products, cutting wood, etc. We share the little moments of their daily life, such as playing thucklebones with the children. You can choose to attend the preparation of a Mongolian barbecue which means the slaughter of the goat or sheep – a great honour for guests.

We’ll enjoy a relaxing dinner with our hosts and spend the night in guest yurts at the family’s camp.

  • Riding Time: 5.5 hours
  • Riding Distance: 50km

 

Day 9: At the gates of Naiman Nuur National Park

After a warm send off from our Homestay family, we visit Ulan Tsutgalaan waterfall, a white flood flowing on the black stone, transformed in rainbow by a short sunray. This 16-metre (52,49 feet) waterfall is just magical! Formed 20,000 years ago, as a result of a unique combination of earthquakes and volcano eruptions it now contribute to the awe of the landscape.

We ride to the entrance of Naiman Nuur National Park. We’ll follow a path across the steppes scattered with edelweisses, then we’ll ride along the forests of larches and pines, before stopping for the night at Boorgiin Oroi, on the edge of a small wood, in front of the mountains of Naiman Nuur Park. Our family ran yurt camp tonight is surrounded with forests of larches and overlooked by the Khangai Mountains.

  • Riding Time: 6 hours
  • Riding Distance: 37km

 

Day 10: Discovery of Naiman Nuur National Park

We enter Naiman Nuur Park via Khangai Nuuru pass and the landscape completely changes. The green infinite steppes give way to a much more diversified landscapes: forests of larches and pines, wild roses and wild flowers, junipers, gooseberries, and wild onions. This rich alpine-styled vegetation that will delight botany lovers.

First we go to Lake Bugat, then we will ride across plains and forests to reach Lake Shireet, the largest lake of the park (10 square kilometres, 3,86 square miles) and the highest (2366 mètres, 1,47 mile). This wild lake is lined with forests, and Tengri, the blue sky, reflects in it – it will delight your senses. We ride into a family camp, where we again stay in their guest yurts.

  • Riding Time: 5.5 hours
  • Riding Distance: 30km

 

Day 11: Into the Mini-Gobi

We depart the family camp, saying goodbye to our horses. We travel by vehicle along gravel roads back towards Ulaanbaatar. After lunch we arrive at the splendid rocky formations of Khogno Khan.

The afternoon is spent discovering the park: semidesert steppes, taiga, stunning rocky formations, and  80-kilometres (49,71 miles) long sand dunes that are characteristic of this arid area nicknamed “Mini-Gobi”.

Tonights camp is in fully furnished tepees built in perfect harmony with the beauty of the place. Rest and relax this evening while enjoying the rocky formations of the Mini Gobi.

  • Drive Time: about 6.5 hours

 

Day 12: Horse riding around the sand dunes

This morning we take a short ride out to visit Erdene Khambiin Monastery. “Monk Erdene’s Monastery” dates from 17th century and was built in the mountain. Zanabazar built it in honour of his teacher, monk Erdene.

In the afternoon, we again ride from the camp, to see the beautiful sand dunes of Elsen Tasarakhai. We have time to explore and take photos, soaking in the splendor of the dunes.

The evening is spent back at the tepee camp reflecting on the time spent in the Mongolian landscape.

  • Riding Time: about 2.5 hours
  • Riding Distance: 12km

 

Day 13: Return to Ulaanbaatar

We depart our last camp, making our way to the city.  If we are lucky, we might catch a glimpse of the last herds of wild horses crossing the road. Watch the last yurts smoking far away pass by, enjoying views of the the steppe until the last moment.

Once in Ulaanbaatar, the rest of the day is free for you to relax or explore the city. Your guide can make recommendations for shopping in the centre of the city. Enjoy a group farewell dinner, sharing highlights from your Mongolian adventure.

  • Driving Time: about 4.5 hours

 

Day 14: Journey Home

Have breakfast at the hotel and relax until your transfer to the international airport. Airport transfers will be organized according to the schedule of your flight.

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