Gorkhi-Terelj Park, Mongolia
One of the best things about Mongolia is that even when you’re in Ulaanbaatar, its dusty, chaotic capital, the countryside is never too far away. Gorkhi-Terelj Park is two hours from the city and ideal if you don’t have the time or are unable to travel further to see the Mongolian countryside.
Leaving Ulaanbaatar’s city boundaries can take as long as one hour. Believe me when I say that traffic in UB is a nightmare, and that’s just because of the drivers. Countryside roads are full of potholes, so be prepared for a really bumpy ride whenever you’re headed out of the city.
Once you’re out of UB, though, the scenery starts to get interesting. This is your first look at the Mongolian steppe.
We stopped for a while to meet an ethnic Kazakh eagle hunter and his birds. He said his Kazakh ie. Muslim name was Ahmed Dalel but that he also had a Mongolian name, which I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve forgotten. He had a falcon, two eagles and two condors.
These sheep and goats belong to someone but have been left to roam and graze by themselves. Herders usually come back every few days to check up on their herds.
The trees were slowly turning yellow, though nowhere as brilliant and in as many shades as the colours I saw in Russia.
This is called Turtle Rock, which come to think of it, really does look like a giant turtle. This is a large hunk of rock- if you look closely at the crevice between the head and what appears to be the shell, you’ll see some tiny people there who were crazy enough to climb all the way up. You can also see people in the bottom right of the photo.
The highlight of my trip to Gorkhi-Terelj, though, was the horse-riding. I’m not athletic but I like trips where I can get to do things and when I started researching Mongolia, I knew that it would be a great place to ride a horse.
Who wouldn’t want to ride in a place like this?
This is my horse Flecks, who was lovely to ride. Mongolian horses are perfect for people like me because although they’re very sturdy, they’re not too tall. See how my legs don’t have to stretch at all to reach the stirrup??
We rode for about two hours and saw views like this along the way. This is a tributary of the Tuul River, one of Mongolia’s longest.
Getting to Gorkhi-Terelj:
A lot of hotels and hostels in Ulaanbaatar arrange tours to the park, either in the form of a day visit or an overnight trip. A day trip won’t really allow you much time to visit a nomad camp or to really enjoy the place, so I would recommend you stay overnight for least one night. Better still if you can incorporate one night in Gorkhi-Terelj with a second night with a nomad family. Expect to pay around US$200 for a two-night trip to the countryside, inclusive of transport, accommodation, fuel and most meals. Prices, however, will vary so my estimate is just a guide.
If you want something more…
If you’re interested in something a little more challenging, for instance horse-trekking (horse-riding and camping along the way), have a look here, here and here. Most of these tours run for more than a week in West Mongolia, a particularly scenic part of the country, so if you have time and money to spare, have a look those links.
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