When a friend asked if anyone was interested in travelling to Mongolia, I was immediately intrigued for Mongolia was always a casual joke where I’d say I want to go to ride horses.
It didn’t take long for me to be sold on the idea of staying one week in the desert with no showers, no bathrooms, no internet, and being able to experience a part of the nomadic life.
Highly recommended by her friend, we went with Sunpath Hostel who made all the necessary arrangements for us.
To sum it up, the Gobi experience brings you to different sites throughout Gobi Desert where you’ll become best friends with a Russian van after all that off-road driving. You’ll stay at a different ger camp every night and have a li’l taste of what it’s like to be a nomad. I worried about starving in the desert but we were surprisingly well fed. I must say that our guide (Zaya) and driver (Bataa) took really good care of us!
Day 1: Tsagaan Suvarga (White Stupa)
After being acquainted with everyone, we set off to a supermarket for one last proper grocery run before starting the loooooong drive to our first destination.
Day 2: Yol Valley (Ice Valley)
The daily routine was pretty much lots of eating and napping – so much for thinking I’d starve/ lose weight.
Day 3: Khongor Sand Dunes (Singing Sand Dunes)
This site is the coolest and toughest to see. We had to climb up the sand dune which is about 200m high. It takes an average of 45 minutes to reach the top.
Bless your soul if you ever do it but I have to say that it’s well worth the climb. Just make sure you stay at the top for more than 45 minutes so all that climbing won’t be in vain.
Dubbed the Singing Sand Dunes, when the wind moves the sand, the particles rub against one another and emits a sound. You can even feel the slight vibrations.
Day 4: Bayanzag (Flaming Cliffs)
After dinner, we headed to Flaming Cliffs to catch the sunset. It’s where the first dinosaur egg was discovered.
Day 5: Ruins of Ongi Monastery
Back on the road to the ruins of Ongi Monastery.
Day 6: Erdene Zuu Monastery
After having lunch at a nice restaurant, we went to Erdene Zuu Monastery. I’m not big on museums and historical sites so I have to admit that I was a bit distracted the whole time. But I did enjoy shopping at the souvenir street right outside the monastery!
Day 7: Back to Ulaanbaatar
Sadly, our last day. It drizzled the night before so we were lucky to have clear skies before we went horseback riding.
I didn’t know what to expect when I agreed to this. All I knew was there are no showers or proper bathrooms which stressed me out quite a bit when I was trying to strategically pack for this trip. It doesn’t help that the desert can get really cold at night.
How many clothes was I supposed to bring? How thick should my sweater be? I overthought everything (I was being cautious) and overpacked. In the end I only used a pair of leggings and tights. I wore one of my sports bra for 5 days, one of my tops for 6 days. What an achievement.
Additional things to bring/ buy in Mongolia:
- Lip balm
- Wet wipes
- Toilet paper
- Dry shampoo
- Torchlight/ headlamp
- Hiking/ trekking/ sports shoes
- Personal medication (Charcoal pills, motion sickness pills, etc)
- Portable chargers/ extra batteries (You can charge your stuff using USB in the van but the one in ours wasn’t working so it’s better to be well prepared. I brought 2 portable chargers + 4 GoPro batteries which was enough! I used the batteries 8x total.)
- Deck of cards (to bond with your new mates!)
- Facial wipes (too troublesome to wash your face; wet wipes are fine)
- Hat/ bandana (didn’t use my visor; used my bandana for fun)
- Music/ book (to accompany you through the hours of driving but the roads can be pretty bumpy so I don’t think you can get much reading done)
For the nights: A thick sweater + tights/ long pants + thick socks was enough to keep me warm in the ger (if you stay outside too long you might freeze). A sleeping bag was provided by Sunpath Hostel and in some camps, blankets are too. If you’re afraid of the cold, bring more layers. Better safe than sorry.
TL;DR: Not showering and peeing/ pooping anywhere you want is DOPE. If you’re the adventurous sort, you have to put Gobi Desert in your travel list.
There’s still so much to uncover in Mongolia. I’ve made it a point to head to the North before I hit 30. (Here’s how I spent the rest of my time in Ulanbaataar.)
It’s going to be awhile before I travel again, so till then!