Into the Taiga:
Horse Trekking through Northern Mongolia
September 5 - 17, 2018
“We Mongols respect horse as our companion of night and day. The horse is the source of joy and pride of a Mongolian herder. And we are nothing without our horses."
Since 2013, the Ranquilco team has visited Mongolia on three separate occasions to lead horse pack trips in partnership with fantastic local guides. Guides and guests alike have loved it every time - these trips are really quite mind blowing. We're excited to announce that we're returning again this September, 2018.
For the third time, we'll be traveling to Lake Khovsgol National Park in the Horidol Saridag Mountains of Northern Mongolia. This region is a vast expanse of wide-open horse country, with epic mountain ranges providing the backdrop to rolling grasslands, mossy taiga forests, and alpine valleys. The habitats surrounding the lake are varied, and home to a diverse array of wildlife. The wet meadows and lagoons are teeming with waterfowl, wild boar, and five species of deer. Moose move between the flanks of the Siberian larch forest and flower-rich mountain meadows. Predators also roam Khovsgol - wolf and snow leopard, foxes and bears.
Unique amongst most national parks, Khovsgol is home to many nomadic herding families, including the Tsaatan reindeer people who have lived there for thousands of years. The people of Khovsgol are deeply tied to the natural world within which they live and follow ancient herding traditions. We'll have the opportunity to witness this way of life firsthand through close interactions facilitated by our local guides. We’ve developed dear friendships with a couple of these families on our previous trips, and look forward to visiting with them again.
Join us for the adventure of a lifetime!
Day 1 (Sept 5): Arrive in Ulaanbaatar and meet for dinner and lodging at the Oasis Guesthouse. Accommodation is a traditional Ger (yurt) or shared room.
Day 2: After breakfast we’ll head to the open-air street market, Narantuul. Here we can gear up for the trip with yak sweaters and dels - the warm robes worn by the locals - a must-have for cozy riding in the chilly north. In the evening, following a Mongolian dinner, we'll see a traditional musical ensemble featuring incredible Tuvan throat singing.
Day 3: Board an hour and a half flight to Murun, capital of the Khovsgol province. From there, we’ll drive three hours along one of the typical Mongolian rough roads to Lake Khovsgol where we’ll spend the night at a ger camp on the shores of the lake.
Days 4-10: Leave the vehicles behind and begin our 7-day loop through the mountains and across the steppe. The first two days we'll ride north along the crystal clear waters of the massive Lake Khovsgol. We’ll then cross over the Horidal Saridag Mountains to the Darkhad Valley, a vast and ancient lakebed surrounded by snowy peaks. We'll spend several days crossing the valley, stopping in the evenings to stay with our herdsmen's families at their gers. Upon reaching the edge of the valley, we'll ride deep into the taiga forest bordering Russia to seek out the Tsaatan reindeer herders. Our last night is spent at a ger camp near Tsaagaan Nur Lake.
Day 11: All day van ride through gorgeous mountains and valleys, mostly on minimal 2 track "roads". We'll spend that night at a riverside ger camp near Murun.
Day 12: Drive to Murun, eat lunch, and board our flight back to Ulaanbaatar. Final celebratory dinner on the town and lodging at the Oasis Guesthouse.
Day 13 (Sept 17): Breakfast at the Oasis followed by farewells!
Nowhere are horses more central to daily life than in Mongolia. Mongolia is known as the land of the horse, and Mongols have a reputation for being the best horsemen on Earth. Even in the 21st century, Mongolia remains a horse-based culture and retains its pastoral traditions. Many of its 2.4 million people are semi-nomadic and primarily support themselves by breeding five domestic species: horses, cattle (including yaks), camels, sheep, and goats. The horse, which is used for travel, herding, hunting, and sport, is the most prized. In the words of a herder who lives outside the capital city Ulaanbaatar, “We Mongols respect horse as our companion of night and day. The horse is the source of joy and pride of a Mongolian herder. And we are nothing without our horses”.
Most Mongolian horses are ponies by European standards (less than 1.5m shoulder height), but these animals are really tough. They have tremendous reserves of energy and can carry heavy loads for long periods. Accordingly, Genghis Khan’s cavalry was the most powerful in the world at one time. During the winter, Mongolian horses are not given any supplementary food and must therefore rely solely on their summer reserves and forage for what they can find under the snow. Nomadic horses are semi-wild; they are allowed to roam freely.