Adventure vacations in Mongolia

Gobi Steppe Ride


It is an overwhelming visual experience of emptiness and vastness to ride across the silent treeless steppe, completely devoid of fences, paved roads, power lines or permanent structures, stretching away into the distance with no trace of human activity except the pastoralists themselves, and their herds.

This well-designed trek while horse riding in Mongolia introduces a concept of practical and desirable travel. You will live with the horses and the camel carts in the great outdoors, choosing the life of the nomad. It is an active holiday calling for some effort, but with plenty of relaxation and pleasure.

You will drive south from Ulaanbaatar some 120-150 km over the treeless steppe. The head horseman will select some good riding horses among the hundreds available. Your gear will be moved from camp to camp on traditional wooden carts pulled by bactrian camels. Along the way you will pass nomadic herdsmen families. The human features of this open and vast landscape are perhaps the most interesting, since all families in the area are nomadic herdsmen. In the summer they move with their herds in search of green pastures. Our hosts in the area are themselves keen horse breeders, and compete in the different Naadam competitions. The Mongolian equestrian tradition is a living cultural heritage since the time of the Huns and Genghis Khan.

Accommodations on the first and last nights are in a hotel in Ulaanbaatar, clean and comfortable, but not luxurious. While on trek, nights are spent in Tentipi Safir tepee tents or gers (felt tents) with foldable cots, with two nights in a permanent ger tent with additional facilities.

Food is prepared by the camp cooks, who are adept at western, vegetarian and Mongolian meals.

  • Overview:
    Sturdy Mongolian horses and English type tack is used.
  • Horse Breeds:
  • Trip Pace:
    Walk, trot and canter
  • Tack:
    Russian style English
  • Weight limit:
    190 lb (riders between 190-220 lb /85-100 kg can participate with an additional supplement)

Chinggis Khan international airport in Ulaanbaatar

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive and transfer to your hotel. Tour briefing after dinner.

Day 2

After breakfast, visit the Gandan Monastery, the centerpiece for the revival of the Buddhist Lamaism in Mongolia. With luck you can catch the prayer times. Then drive south out of the city and enjoy a picnic lunch on the grasslands. Continue across the steppe to a remote location called Tseel. Your nomad hosts will meet you at Tseel with their horses and Bactrian camels. You will select your riding horses and there will be a briefing and a short trial ride. Overnight here for two nights.

Naadam Itinerary

On the Naadam itinerary you spend Days 2 and 3 in Ulanbaatar at the festival, traveling to Tseel on Day 4. The rest of the itinerary follows the progression below.

Day 3

Today you will start your ride going west to the mountains of Hoyd Onjuul. In the surrounding area it is usually possible to spot herds of the Mongolian Gazelles also known as the white-tailed Gazelle (Procapra gutturosa). You may even glimpse the black-tailed goitred Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), which is better adapted to arid environments, indicating that you are riding in the transition zone of grasslands and desert steppes. In the mountain area you may be able to spot Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), which Americans call Elk or Wapiti. Certainly Wolves (Canis lupus) are around, but seldom seen.

Day 4

Following breakfast you’ll break camp and load all the gers, equipment and provisions onto the camel carts caravan. You will ride for the full day south to the area of Bayan Hills, where high-altitude fauna such as the Siberian Ibex (Capra siberica) and Argali Sheep (Ovis ammon), the largest sheep in the world, sometimes are seen. Pitch camp and Suman. Usually there are many nomadic families in the immediate area, as there is a water source nearby.

Day 5

Today you will turn east and ride to the rock wall-like mountains of Zorgol Hairkhan (Sacred Zorgol), which can be seen in the distance all day. It is a striking feature on the otherwise undulating and flat steppe. Zorgol Hairkhan is mentioned in The Secret History of the Mongols, the oldest surviving Mongolian language literary work, which chronicles the life and genealogy of Genghis Khan. The Khan himself is said to have wintered here while in conflict with a competing leader. There are more nomads and livestock emerging now, and you will be able to meet some during the ride. At Zorgol there is also a breeding population of the Cinereous Vulture (Aegypus monachus), the largest Eurasian vulture – its size on par with the Condor of the Americas. The nests are quite low on rocks and small trees. The camp tonight will be at the larger massif, called Ikh Zorgol Hairkhan Uul.

Day 6

Continue riding east, passing a small Gobi lake, Hariin Nuur, with perhaps some interesting birds. The distance is 25 km to the smaller – but still impressive – Baga Zorgol Hairhan Mountains and rock formations. The lakes act as “islands” for waterfowl flying across a “sea of grass”. Pitch camp here and scan the ridges of this spectacular rock wall for Siberian ibex.

Day 7

The Gobi steppe in this area is quite variable since you ride through the transition zone of the Gobi, meaning there is true steppe, semi-arid steppe, sand dunes and also giant rock formations. On the day’s ride you will have an opportunity to pass archeological grave sites dating back to the Hunnu empire before the Christian era. You will ride for 25-30 km across populated steppe and for the full day we can see the Zorgol Hairhan giant rock formations in the distance. They are several hundred meters high, and are the central feature in the middle of the steppe.

Day 8

Today’s ride turns north, a shorter distance to the Shine Hudagn, meaning “new well.” Water sources are important in the Gobi Grasslands. As with each day, this morning your camp is loaded onto the camel caravan and sometimes you will ride alongside but often will stray away from its straight course to explore interesting landscape features or great views.

Day 9

A full day ride, for 25-30km to Arburd Sands. Today you will pass several nomadic herder families. The human occupants of this open and vast landscape are perhaps the most interesting, since all families in the area are nomadic herdsmen. The sand dunes of Arburd extend for about 20 km. They are a hideout for wolves and often we can see tracks here. It is a Sahara-like landscape in the middle of the grasslands, and the caravan will take a route around we you ride over the dunes. Overnight at Arburd Sands Ger Camp.

Day 10

Stay at the ger camp another night, allowing the opportunity today to ride out and visit some nearby families. No mads here have large herds of cattle, and especially cashmere goats. You may also choose to stay back at camp and just relax and enjoy the scenery. Overnight at Arburd Sands Ger Camp.

Day 11

Morning return drive of about three hours to Ulaanbaatar, where you will be checked into the hotel and have a free day in the city. Distances are short and nearly all points of interst can be reached on foot. You guide will be standing by to assist you in your shopping or sightseeing choices. Have a dinner all together as a group in a local restaurant followed by folk music entertainment.

Day 12

Transfer to the airport or your next destination.

Itinerary Addendum

The Naadam Itinerary includes two extra days at the festival in Ulaanbaatar at the start of the trip. This is a suggested itinerary only. Changes to the itinerary and camp locations may occur due to weather and other unforeseeable circumstances. The trip may be done in reverse.

Trip Map

Trip Dates & Pricing

The July 9-22 trip includes a visit to the Naadam festival in Ulaanbaatar, the additional 2 days have a supplement of $810.

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Preferred Trip Dates

Gobi Steppe Ride
June 22, 2024
January 1, 1970
January 1, 1970

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The Spirit of the Reindeer Herders Ride was our 5th Equitours trip overseas and they have all been amazing! This year in Mongolia was so far our most exotic adventure and once again far exceeded our expectations. Equitours does a great job of contracting with excellent tour companies and makes it so... Read more  

Jeannie Bunt, 2012