Winter In Mongolia

Winter community events at the Nogoon Nuur Community Project in the ger districts of Ulaanbaatar. Once a quarry. Then a waste dump. Now a thriving space for families and children of the ger districts. The vision of Mongolian philanthropist Ulzii.
A Christmas Message From Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
December 24, 2017
Mongolia experiences four very distinct seasons. Each has its positives and challenges. Winter is one of the most challenging for Mongolia's herders. But, one of the most rewarding as a visitor.

Mongolia experiences four very distinct seasons. Each has its positives and challenges. Winter is one of the most challenging for Mongolia's herders. But, one of the most rewarding as a visitor.

Winter in Mongolia has a bit of a reputation. Temperatures as low as -40. Lack of infrastructure. Limited domestic flights. Outside toilets. Roads often impassable. So just why would you choose to visit Mongolia in the winter?  Well …
For me, winter is a quintessential Mongolian season. It is cold, freezing in fact, but the cold is an integral part of what makes Mongolia and its landscapes extraordinary at this time of year.
The Altai Nuruu Mountains in western Mongolia in winter

As the sun dips ever lower during the shorter days of winter, the landscapes of Mongolia seem to stretch further than ever. Such as the immensity of the Altai Nuruu Mountains seen here that stretch across western Mongolia

The Mongolian Lunar New Year falls in January or February with visitors being welcomed to celebrate one of the most important times of the year in the Mongolian calendar. Although the temperatures can scare, at first sight, it is a very dry cold and with the right clothes -25 ° C in Mongolia could be compared with – 5 ° C in Europe. However, the concept of cold is very subjective! Just make sure to pack the thermals.
The frozen ice of Khovsgol Lake in northern Mongolia

This is the winter surface of Khovsgol Nuur in northern Mongolia. Khovsgol is Mongolia’s largest fresh water lake and although it is over 130km in length and up to 264m in depth in places, it freezes in winter – freezes enough for vehicles to drive on it

A major part of the philosophy that drives EL is promoting ‘low-season’ travel for the benefit of our Mongolian team and the rural families and Mongolian businesses we work with – to make tourism less concentrated around peak season (July) and to help the income of the people we work with be more evenly distributed.

A sacred ovoo (stone shrine) on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar in the winter

The edge of Ulaanbaatar in winter seen from an ovoo (a sacred stone shrine). Yes, it is cold but look at that sky! There’s a reason why Mongolia is called the ‘Land of the Blue Sky’ you know!

Why?

Most importantly, it’s a more sustainable approach.

Along with mining and agriculture, tourism is one of the main sources of income for the country, and with a peak tourist season of barely three months, many Mongolians struggle to make ends meet. Many others involved in tourism – particularly the drivers – have little other work. Huge numbers of drivers are required in July and August, and there is simply not enough work for the rest of the year to keep them all employed.

Also, as the temperature drops, local Mongolians need to buy serious clothing, as well as food and coal, which is expensive. Herders do battle with the weather – including the unique cyclical weather phenomenon called a dzud.  Hosting visitors can really ease the stresses of winter, and takes the pressure off earning a year’s worth of money in the short summer season.

 

Gers in winter in Mongolia

No matter the outside temperature, herders must continue their daily tasks of looking after their livestock. That includes the children when they are at home – there is a short school holiday in January and then a longer one for the Mongolian Lunar New Year – Tsagaan Sar

Mongolian gers - the home of a herding family - in the winter

Families add one or two additional layers of felt to their ger in winter. With the central stove and this additional felt, it makes the nucleus of the ger a very warm and comfortable environment to be in

Travelling off-peak in Mongolia may seem like a brave prospect but come in the low season and you’ll be doing a good thing. Not only will you be rewarded with cheaper international airfares, but you’ll be helping to sustain the local economy and as the sun dips ever lower, the landscapes seem to stretch further than ever. And for those of you that do it, we offer a 15% discount as a thank you.

We’ll look after you. For all of our winter trips, we provide traditional felt boots, hand-made goat skin blankets and can provide winter deels as well.  You’ll spend most nights in a ger – warming yourself by the stove. The night skies more than make up for the challenge of the temperatures. Winter in Mongolia is a remarkable experience – it will show you how good Mongolians are at adaptation and how they work in relation to their changing (and challenging) environment. And of course, you’ll receive the warmest of hospitality as the local Mongolians you meet will be very proud to welcome foreign visitors that deal with the challenges of their wintertime.

 And if you’re still in doubt. This is our most recent review from Richard who travelled with us this December (2017). I’ll leave you with his words:
‘Sledding on the frozen river, galloping across the Gobi, and playing games with the nomadic families who were all so welcoming and had a great sense of humour. Your ethics, the people, and the experience. All fantastic.’
If you’re interested (remember that 15% discount), explore our January, February and March 2018 Mongolia winter tours. Thank you for reading Jess @ Eternal Landscapes

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