Do-it-yourself trip to Mongolia

Traveling alone in the land of nomads also for women of all ages
Do-it-yourself trip to Mongolia

I told you that years ago I traveled the Trans-Siberian alone, an experience that was certainly unique and full of emotions. My trip was built from the beginning to allow me to stay in Mongolia long enough to be able to explore it and experience its essence. Of course, it is a huge country and not very easy to visit, I chose to spend 21 days there because I wanted to be able to organize jeep tours in peace.

Most of the people who arrive in Ulaanbatar spend a couple of days in the capital, one night, maximum 2 in a gher, i.e. a typical round tent, just outside the capital and return running to brick hotels with bathrooms and hot water. My suggestion is to get involved for a few more days, visit a country like Mongolia, the only one in the world where almost all the people are still nomads, means trying to see the world at least a little from their point of view. For all of us who love organizing trips independently, we know that on-the-road is in many circumstances the best solution to feel free to see a country with its own limitations, but in Mongolia it can't be done, there are very few roads paved and it would be really dangerous to drive independently, what is usually done is to rely on a guide with a jeep who also takes care of the food and organizes overnight stays in the local gher or in tents.

How to organize a trip to Mongolia

If you have very limited days available or prefer to know in advance how your days will be organised, I suggest you rely on a tour operator already in Italy, so as not to have any surprises once you arrive and you won't have to worry about organisation.

If, however, you have a more adventurous spirit, my advice is to study the country first, even by simply reading a guide to understand which places you would really like to visit, then ask in the place where you sleep or search on the Internet for a list of the best tours local operators. Dedicate a day to going to the various agencies, asking for quotes, conditions, itineraries and departure dates, so that you can choose the itinerary that best suits your needs.

I was alone so I had to wait a couple of days for a small group to form before leaving, but it wasn't difficult, after 2 days in the capital I was leaving.

Do-it-yourself trip to Mongolia

What to bring for a trip to Mongolia:

For me, Mongolia is backpacking, it is much more comfortable and you have to dedicate some time to organizing what you will need, because you will always sleep in a tent and the climate can oscillate between very cold and very hot in the desert. A piece of advice that a friend of mine gave me before leaving, which certainly helped me, was to buy an inflatable camping mattress, because in Mongolia you sleep on wood and it can actually be quite painful for several days. You can also rent sleeping bags on site if you prefer, but the sleeping bag is essential for hygiene.

Bring technical clothes, thermal shirts, thin trousers and if necessary a technical underwear, fleece, very heavy windbreaker, a light scarf that can help you with the sand of the Gobi desert. Think about dressing like a bow at most times, but keep in mind that it gets really cold at night. Good trekking shoes, preferably high at the ankle, are the best choice. Microfibre towels and travel beauty cases are essential, most days you will wash in rivers or rarely in public bathrooms, also bring a pack of wet wipes. One of the things that could be more difficult is the little variety of food you will encounter during the days in the jeep, so if possible, bring some fruit with you or perhaps some bars that you like.

Traveling alone in Mongolia as a woman:

As I was telling you, in Mongolia you will hardly be alone because you always, or almost always, need a guide, it is a safe journey, from the "female safety" point of view, what might bother you is the very macho attitude of many men, especially of rather adult guides who find themselves alone and independent women. It bothered me a lot, but I certainly never felt in danger.

Do-it-yourself trip to Mongolia

Suggestions for places to see in Mongolia:


the capital is certainly an interesting place, there are still several monuments of Soviet influence, truly fascinating Buddhist temples and many places that still mark the fundamental presence of Genghis Khan in their history. A full day dedicated to the monuments is more than enough.

The Gobi Desert:

it is certainly the most requested place by us Italians, it is definitely iconic, because it is the second largest desert in the world. It has wonderful landscapes, endless sand dunes, canyons, you will have the opportunity to walk on camel back and enjoy dream sunrises and sunsets. Each Gobi tour generally lasts 7 days, it is possible to shorten it by taking public transport independently to return to the capital, the stages are almost always the same.

It starts from Gurvan National Park, stopping two nights in the area Yolyn An, one in a tent among the gorges which are frozen in winter and one in a gher, near what are called the white cliffs, then you enter what is the main attraction of the Gobi le Kohngoryn Thes, that is, near the iconic dunes, you stay for 2 nights in a gehr, you enjoy the view, you go for walks, one day you arrive at the dunes by camel and one afternoon you go to the Singings Dunes to see the sunset, there are also those who go at dawn. They are the highest dunes reachable by van, they are about 60 meters high, the climb is exhausting, but the landscape from up there is much better than I imagined. Know that nearby there is the possibility of taking a hot shower for a fee... take advantage of it. Next stop Flaming Cliff, that is, a flaming canyon where the famous dinosaur remains of Mongolia were found. The landscapes are varied, it is the easiest excursion to organize because almost everyone wants to go and groups leave all the time.

Do-it-yourself trip to Mongolia

Central Mongolia and 8 Lakes

Personally, it is the area that I loved the most, having more days I was able to do both tours, without returning to UB, although I understand that those who have to choose only one of the two tend to choose the Gobi because it is more iconic.

Central Mongolia is the photograph of how we imagine Mongolia, as for us it is in a film or book about the Khan.

We start from the national park of Khogno Khan Uul, a very arid and very hot area. Continuing you arrive at Karakorum the ancient capital founded by Gengins Khan, although obviously they were staying in gher at the time too. A beautiful monastery remains which was destroyed in the socialist era and many of the monks killed or deported. The capital was moved to UB with the advent of communism to distance the people from religion. Tibetan Buddhism is practiced in Mongolia. There is also a small historical museum.

After a long day's drive we arrive at Orkhon Khurkhree waterfalls where you can swim. The night we stay with a family on the slopes of the Orkhon River, for me the most beautiful place of all. Imagine the river slightly shifted downwards, as in a canyon, on the upper bank, 3 gher, a family of shepherds with hundreds of goats and dozens of horses. The women in typical costume milking the mares to make the famous tea, the heat of the stove in the gher, the children fetching water from the river, in short, not bad. Then on a beautiful walk along the river you reach a point where there is a thousand-year-old lava flow that makes the floor completely black, in contrast with the view of the pastures. The next day we go on horseback towards 8 Lakes the walk is something wonderful, it feels like being in a movie, you have lunch along a wonderful river and in the evening you arrive in the lake area, you camp near the water and fall asleep. This area was very cold for me especially at night in the tent. The entire lake area can only be explored on foot or on horseback, I did it on horseback for 2 days, the length of the journey depends on how long you choose to stay. Even if you always sleep in a tent, during the journey you will be able to find some gher where you can stock up on food supplies, obviously we are still talking about a rather intense journey. Our tour included a day at Tsenkher Baths, a series of campsites that use 80C thermal water. After such a trip it is really pleasant.

Do-it-yourself trip to Mongolia

Lago Khovsgol

One of the few places in Mongolia where you can also get there by public bus, in about 12 hours you can reach the city of Moron, where it is a good idea to obtain a permit to enter Khovsgo Lake National ParkL. You can find a ride to get to Khatgal, the last town (or almost) on the shore of the lake and from there go trekking on the western shore, preferably equipped with a tent and food for self-sufficiency. On the western side there are several gher that act as guest houses, so it is possible to ask for hospitality and even food. From here it is possible to leave for an expedition towards the land of the reindeer men, but with a local guide and 6 days of walking are required.

I hope my story has fascinated you, Mongolia is still one of the few truly adventurous journeys, it requires a considerable spirit of adaptation and a lot of curiosity.

Do-it-yourself trip to Mongolia

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