I decided that the summer of 2015 was the summer I needed to go horseback riding in Mongolia. So I did. But I took an unconventional way of getting there…
I decided to first spend a few days in Beijing, with a day trip to the Great Wall. Have you ever been to Beijing? I loved it and I’d recommend you visit. I found the city very easy to get around on by foot and metro, very safe, and quite friendly. I didn’t do many of the super touristy things, but I did line up with the masses at Mao’s mausoleum and I did marvel at all the beautiful clothing in the many boutiques. Yes, you can buy shlock in Beijing, but you can also buy quality goods.
The Great Wall was indeed grand! Make sure you wear good walking shoes and bring water, especially in summer. It was very hot.
I then took the Trans-Siberian train from Beijing to the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar. The train ride was 27 hours, and it crossed a variety of landscapes, including the Gobi Desert. I loved the experience!
I arrived in Ulaanbaatar and immediately fell for the city. It’s quite a contrast of old and new. It’s vibrant, hip, inexpensive, and full of crazy drivers, so look out! But Ulaanbaatar was just another distraction from the real goal of my trip: horseback riding.
I spent the next two weeks riding across the steppes, the mountains, the rivers, the marshes, and the dunes of Zavkhan province. I rode with a group made up of seven nationalities; we camped in tents next to a river every night. We traveled with Mongolian wranglers, a Mongolian cook, and a translator. It was a brilliant experience. The horses are strong, fearless, and fast! I was so impressed with them.
One of the best comments I heard on the trip came from a wrangler when one of the riders asked him how long it would take to get from A to B: he told the person to look at their watch before we left, and then look at it again when we arrived. That, he said, would be how long it took us. Sage advice!
If you have a sense of adventure, patience, and a willingness to bathe in cold rivers, I’d recommend a horse riding adventure in Mongolia. And I’d recommend you get there by train from Beijing.