20 July 2017

Wilderness Trails - Trekking In Mongolia

My brief guide to trekking in Mongolia. If you prefer glamping (one of the current 'buzz' words in travel) then read no further.  There is no mention of scatter cushions or wood-burning stoves in this post. 

Mongolia is a trekking mecca – wild landscapes & endless horizons stretch before you in this sparsely populated land without boundaries. But, this is Mongolia. Trekking in Mongolia is not like trekking elsewhere. There are few ‘official’ trekking routes. OK. So it’s not great for boasting to your friends as they won’t have heard where you have been, but does that really matter? 

It is also vast - the size of Western Europe and as a result, your trekking region won’t necessarily have a large diversity of landscapes as you won’t be able to cover the distance to provide such variety. But you know what? That's OK. Slow down and savour your surroundings. 

Of course, there are always those that want to trek to the furthest, highest, remotest, or the most off the beaten track location. That's fine but that turns the experience into a competition. For me, it's the power of Mongolia’s ‘eternal landscapes’ that forms an integral part of any trekking journey here.

What I believe is that you should remove your watch and let each day unfold and enjoy the constantly changing shadows and light moving across the landscapes, the silence, meeting the locals, the stretching horizons and the joy of the great outdoors. And knowing that you are trekking in the least densely populated country in the world. 

Here's a brief summary of five trekking locations in Mongolia. But … don't get tied down into what is the most authentic or untouched region to visit. Instead, embrace the words of this Mongolian proverb: 

'Man's joy is in wide open and empty spaces.' 

As all journeys in Mongolia should go in  a clock-wise direction, so does this one:

Gorkhi-Terelj National Park

Yes, this is one of Mongolia's most visited destinations. It's bound to be as it's located just 60km from Ulaanbaatar, Yes, it is included in many general tour itineraries but it doesn't have to be about the 'must see' sights. The hinterland of Terelj is stunning to explore in its own right - especially if you're prepared to trek just that little bit further. With a little effort you can explore habitats as diverse as river valleys, barren mountain tops, high open Mongolian steppe, coniferous forests of Siberian Pine and Siberian Larch and sub-alpine meadows. The region features abundant streams and springs.

Horse and foot treks are both available. Great options for winter trekking as well. Just bring thermals! 

Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park 

This is Mongolia's largest national park located in the southern Gobi – a mountainous terrain rising out of the extensive desert plains and a region of incredible biological diversity. This mountainous region was formed by the same tectonic activity that created the Himalayas and is part of the Gobi Altai Range – the outer crumple zone of the Himalayan geological activity. 

Yes, you will have heard of places such as Yolyn Am (the Ice Canyon) but these are all popular regions. Instead, explore the further regions by camel (bring padded shorts) or on a foot trek.

Khangai Mountains

The Khangai dominate central Mongolia - extending northwest-southeast for about 500 miles. That's a glorious amount of trekking terrain. Popular locations would be Naiman Nuur, Terkhiin Tsagaaan Nuur, Otgon Tenger and anywhere surrounding Tsenkher Hot Springs. I can also highly recommend Tarvagtai National Park. 

Altai Tavan Bogd National Park 

Mongolia is one of the highest countries in the world. Did you know that? Over 80% of the country is over 1000m. So. A lot of the country provides epic views. But if you're looking for a view of views then you may want to head to western Mongolia. More specifically to Altai Tavan Bogd. 

The Altai Tavan Bogd Mountains are the highest mountains in Mongolia, with Khuiten Uul ('Cold Peak') at 4374m (14,201 ft) being the highest. These permanently snow capped mountains form a bowl around the Pontanii Glacier. The other peaks are Nairamdal ('Friendship', 4180m), Malchin ('herder, 4050m), B├╝rged ('Eagle', 4068m) and Olgii ('Cradle', 4050m).  

But, this is a common trail so why not do something a little different and head to the small community of Altai in Bayan Ulgii and start a trek from there.

Khovsgol Nuur National Park

So much variety in one location - everything from Mongolia's largest freshwater lake (Dalai Ej - Mother Sea), to the remarkable Khoridol Saridag mountain wilderness and also the Darkhad Depression.

Perfect for an extended horse or foot trek. Also works well as a winter escape (trust me!).

As promised, not a mention of scatter cushions. If you're interested in experiencing Mongolia on a trek then why not have a quick look at  our Mongolia trekking tours page? We have a small group trip (guaranteed departure) leaving on August 5th. Wherever you explore, as we say here in Mongolia - Sain Yavaarai - Journey Well. Jess