My Family Adventure: Magical Mongolia

Colourful national costumes, Mongolia
Colourful national costumes

 

Guest post and photos by Susan Touchton

 

 

Making friends in Mongolia, Ulaan Baatar & women in national dress.
Making friends in Mongolia, Ulaan Baatar & women in national dress.

 

We spent 11 days exploring amazing Mongolia and discovered an incredible country that we all fell in love with. This is a short recount of our organised family holiday to Mongolia. If you’re wondering how to travel to Mongolia without a tour then this post will help.

 

Mongolia with Kids

Mongolian wrestling & archery
Mongolian wrestling & archery

 

We arrived in Ulaan Baatar, the capital city, just in time for two big events, Mongolia’s Presidential Inauguration and the Naadam Festival, their national games, which includes the “manly” sports of horse racing, wrestling, and archery. We arrived just after the conclusion of the inauguration, but Sukhbaatar Square – the National Mall of Mongolia – was still very festive.  Thousands of people, including hundreds of dancers in their traditional dress.

 

The kids with our guides and the T Rex skeleton. Mongolia
The kids with our guides and the T Rex skeleton.

 

The horse racing was very well attended. We did get to see a race, and it was very exciting.  If the jockeys look young, it’s because they are – some were as young as four-years-old! The Naadam wrestling tournament is the Super Bowl of Mongolian sport:  512 competitors, single elimination, one winner. Jack is considering dressing up like a Mongolian wrestler for Halloween… The archers also wore beautiful traditional costumes and both men and women were hitting targets from 75 to 100 yards.

Also while in Ulaan Baatar we got to see the complete T. Rex skeleton that was auctioned off illegally in the U.S. (for USD $1 million!) and was only returned to Mongolia a couple of months ago.

 

Mongolia, lots of open space!
Mongolia, lots of open space!

 

After a few days in Ulaan Baatar, we set out with for the Gobi desert. We got to see some amazing views along the way. I expected Mongolia to have wide, open spaces, and it sure does! But there are also lots of mountains. Most nights we stayed in gers, or yurts, owned by local families, but also spent a few nights in tents. Our guide was a wonderful British woman who runs a travel company focused exclusively in Mongolia.  Her #1 driver and partner is Turuu.  Both were amazing – if anyone is looking for a unique travel adventure, this is the place, and this is the team!

 

Camping in Mongolia
Camping in Mongolia

 

One of the revelations of our trip was that Ryan is quite the little adventurer.  He was always up for another hike or another climb. Catherine loved the wide open spaces too and so did Jack, but Jack didn’t like the enclosed spaces.  Here’s Ryan trying to talk him into his first trip to the outhouse.

 

Not too happy about going to the outhouse! Mongolia Family Holiday
Not too happy about going to the outhouse!

 

Catherine met an adorable Mongolian girl at one of our stops. They became fast friends, even though they couldn’t understand each other. It’s really cool how much kids can communicate and play even in different languages. Our last stop in Mongolia was at Khongoryn Els in the Gobi Desert. The sand dunes are stunning! It was a gruelling climb to the top of the highest dune just before sunset…but the view was worth the effort.

 

At the top of the dunes, looking back at the Gobi. Mongolia
At the top of the dunes, looking back at the Gobi.

 

We can’t write a blog post about Mongolia without including a camel picture.  We’ll spare you from the pictures of the camel ride!

 

Mongolian camels!
Mongolian camels!

 

Our favourite part of Mongolia

Catherine loved the wide open spaces. Mongolia
Catherine loved the wide open spaces.

 

The best part about Mongolia was seeing the wide open spaces, in particular the majestic sand dunes in the Gobi Desert at Khongoryn Els. Climbing to the top of the dunes is difficult, but doable, and the payoff is incredible. The view from the top is of the sand dunes that constantly change depending on the wind.

 

Spending time as a family. Mongolia
Spending time as a family.

 

Three things you should definitely do

Spending time with a local family. Mongolia
Spending time with a local family.

 

1. Climb to the top of the sand dunes at Khongoryn Els and sit at the top to take in the view. You can even hike along the top of the ridge. After you’ve taken in the view, take off your shoes and “skate” down to the bottom. You will fall down in the sand, laughing as you go.

2. Spend some time getting to know a local family by helping them prepare dinner (maybe mutton pancakes – delicious!) or by helping them water the goats and camels with water from a well.

3. Hike through the unusual granite rock formations in Baga Gazriin Chuluu. The views of Mongolia’s wide open spaces are stunning. Visit the local monastery and contribute rocks to the ovoos (rock pile shrines located all over Mongolia).

 

For more information on this holiday, please see our travel partner, Eternal Landscapes.

 

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6 thoughts on “My Family Adventure: Magical Mongolia”

  1. Thanks for sharing your story about traveling to this cool country. Some dear family family friends are moving to Mongolia later this year. It would be fun to visit them sometime and tick off some of the items from your list.

  2. I had the wonderful privilege of living in Mongolia and it’s one of the most spectacular places on earth.
    Which was the tour company you used?

    1. Hi Liv, what an incredible experience to live in Mongolia! We work with a wonderful partner agent who specialises only in Mongolia travel and they organised this trip. They’re called Eternal Landscapes.

    1. This was a guest post and I’ve been dreaming of Mongolia ever since – hopefully soon!

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