The eagle hunters of the Altai
Riding and camping in the Altai Mountains | 15 days
The Altai, Mongolia’s highest mountain range, stretches south from Russia down the far west of the country into the Gobi Desert. Remote, barren and dramatic, this landscape of craggy peaks and deep valleys cries out to be explored on horseback. The riding route follows traditional nomadic stock routes where you’ll hope to see the Eagle Hunters, ethnic Kazakhs who hunt with majestic golden eagles in winter. There are wonderful opportunities to camp, fish, walk and bird-watch in this timeless region.
Day 1: Fly to Ulaanbaatar
Day 2: Explore Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital city
Day 3: Fly to Khovd
Days 4-9: Gentle riding in the Altai mountains
Day 10: Drive to Achit Lake
Day 11: Drive to Uureg Lake
Day 12: Enjoy bird watching and fishing at Uureg Lake
Day 13: Drive to Uvs Lake
Day 14: Drive to Ulaan Gom and fly to Ulaanbaatar
Day 15: Fly to London
guide price £5,875 per person
Fiona’s travel tipsWHAT TO EXPECT: It is not uncommon for drivers to stop at 'gers' — they are not lost but like to get local and seasonal information on travelling through regions with no roads.
DON’T MISS: An absolute highlight is the annual Naadam Festival in mid-July, which celebrates the traditional sports of riding, wrestling and archery.
TAKE WITH YOU: Everything from T-shirts to thermals. The weather changes constantly, especially in the mountains and you can expect everything from hail to sunshine. For riders a sheepskin ‘seat-saver’ will do just that!
INTERESTING FACT: Mongolia is the world’s second-largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. Around 30 per cent of its population are nomadic or semi-nomadic and the predominant religion is Tibetan Buddhism.
BEST TIME TO GO: We suggest travelling any time between May and October to get the best of the weather.
JOURNEY TIME: 10 hours (indirect)
“A tremendous success, ‘South Zeal’s’ detailed planning and choice of local agent paying off, as ever. Though I’ve travelled extensively in remote areas I still found Mongolia one of the most challenging lands to have visited, physically and, sometimes, culturally – but also one of the most rewarding and special. One needs stamina and, specifically on the cross-country driving, anyone with back problems or whose body might not withstand hours of being wrenched and shaken up should look elsewhere.
However the rewards are enormous in the beauty of the scenery; the flora and (now and again) the fauna and the insights into nomadic life and ancient cultures. My guides and drivers were excellent. You gave ample advice about the uncertain standards of accommodation and food and with few exceptions I was very content with both. I was really glad that I had included some non or only local travel days at each of the camps to balance the long drives and take in the surroundings. The secret is to be selective, and not try to do too much.”
“Inspiring landscape that can be harsh and completely unforgiving but so, so beautiful. Nomadic peoples living hard simple lives and happy with their freedom. Freedom and a nature which they know and love.”
Mrs Gretta Robertson, Mongolia
“ It was great. Fiona was really helpful, making modifications to suit my budget and inclinations, and listened to what I wanted. The camp was terrific, the food wonderful…My guide thought it was very funny that I thought there was too much food put it in front of me, and I tend to eat it. When I told her I didn’t want to get fat, she looked amazed....not getting fat is something which hasn’t really caught on in Mongolia yet! Mostly I was the only tourist at the camp, and I was an object of some curiosity, as single females travelling are rare. The camp staff adopted me a bit, and were just lovely. I was treated like family.”
Sue Murray-Jones, Mongolia, June 2011