Horseback Riding in Terelj National Park, Mongolia
After leaving from Russia along my Trans-Siberian journey to Beijing, the next stop was Ulan Bator, Mongolia. And with the five friends I’d met in the city that I was now traveling with, we realized a couple of the days in the city was enough for us and we were ready to get out to see the ‘real’ Mongolia. We decided on a two night, three day tour in Terelj National Park.
We booked the tour through our hostel, the UB Gueshouse, which made things really convenient and the cost was very inexpensive. The tour cost only $45 and since we only had about a week total in Mongolia, this short 2-3 day tour was ideal for us as opposed to a trip to the Gobi desert which typically takes a week at minimum.
We left out early the following morning and got picked up in what I call a ‘Mongolian Shuttle Bus’. Basically, it was like a small camper van but fit the six of us plus the driver just fine.
Horses & camels in Mongolia
The drive out there was just as great as the days we spent in Terelj National Park. The scenery was amazing and we passed (and drove through) hundreds of horses as well as camels on the drive out there.
When we arrived, we met our ‘host’ family that would be taking care of us for our meals during our horseback riding vacation, as well as our accommodation… This lovely Ger Tent below which slept all six of us!
Ger tent in Mongolia
It was a bit primitive but did have one small light bulb overhead and luckily had an oven for heat which we used at night. However half the fun is staying in a get tent… such a unique experience!
The first day we spent hiking through the surrounding mountains, doing a bit of self-exploring on foot and later that afternoon, we were supposed to ride for a couple hours but the family asked if we would rather ride for a full four hours the following day instead of two shorter ride times over two days. Since we were having so much fun just being there, we told them that it be fine so the horseback riding occurred on our second day.
Horseback riding vacation in Mongolian mountains
Shortly after breakfast we were led by our ‘tour guide’… a ten year old boy from our host family. Our destination was ‘Turtle Rock’ which was a few mountain passes away from our campsite. We were taken down to the valley where both father and son were getting the saddles set up on seven horses. I could tell some of the horses weren’t too happy about it either but after about twenty minutes, it was time to mount up and begin our horseback riding vacation.
Horseback riding to Turtle Rock
I was last to get on and unfortunately, I ended up with the ‘crazy’ horse for the day. Within the first 10 minutes of heading out on our way to Turtle Rock, my horse suddenly sped off. My hat came flying off into the brush and we had left the group in the dust. By the time I got the horse settled down and looked back, I was a good half kilometer from the group!
Horseback riding holiday in Mongolia
Now I know that this was my own fault but as a novice equestrian, I didn’t yet know how to control and lead the horse. Eventually our ten-year-old tour guide came to my rescue and got me back in line with the group and we continued on with our horseback riding vacation.
About an hour and half later, we reached Turtle Rock and just like the rest of Mongolia, it was impressive. We hiked and climbed about halfway up into the rock and took some wonderful panorama shots overlooking the mountain range and valley that surrounded us.
Turtle Rock in Mongolia
Afterwards, we visited some locals selling handmade goods and souvenirs in the ger tents below and shortly after, we got saddled back up on our horses to continue riding.
I did make a concerted effort to ‘secretly’ switch horses but apparently my entire group knew exactly the one I was riding and no one wanted to go through the same experience I had on the way there. Fair enough… I was thinking our return trip would be a bit more relaxing anyway. However, my thinking on that was bit off…
Horses headed home in Mongolia
Our group of equestrians started off OK until our tour guide stopped to talk to a local while en route back to the campsite. We kept on riding thinking he would soon catch up to us. Ten minutes later as we turned around to look for him, we could barely see him in the distance. As soon as we realized our situation, my horse took off again, pulling away from the group! My friends thought this was hilarious. Of course, I had no idea what to do at this point. They were headed off in one direction (home) and I was heading off to China! Eventually I jumped off the horse and walked him back in the right direction before getting on again though I was still quite far off from the group.
Racing on horseback to camp
A short while later, our fearless leader caught up, got me back on track (again) and we made it back to the group who were all laughs at this point. However, the laughing quickly turned to sheer adrenalin packed excitement when our guide decided to pick up the pace. I don’t know if he was just plain hungry and wanted to get back to eat dinner as quickly as possible or wanting to give us more adventure during our horseback ride. Whatever the case, we found ourselves being herded back to camp at lighting speed. The horses were galloping at full speed and we were doing all that we could to stay on our horses! Needless to say, it hurt to sit (and walk) for the next 36 hours!
I was glad to finally make it back. We left the following afternoon but I thoroughly enjoyed this horseback riding experience overall. I would recommend this horseback riding trip to anyone looking to go to Mongolia, even if you end up with my crazy horse!
Horseback riding in Terelj National Park
And when you’re out in Terelj National Park, you’ll quickly realize just how beautiful the countryside is with its clean air, clear blue skies and smiling faces from the local Mongolians. You can also expect to see thousands of stars filling the night sky as soon as that sun dips below the horizon. Horseback riding in Mongolia will forever be a cherished memory for me that I don’t think I’ll ever forget….
This is a guest post by Rory Cummins. If you want to read more into the experience, you can find the post on his travel blog, Traveling Round the World.
If You Go:
UB Guesthouse & Tours
Cost: $45 (covers transport, accommodation, all meals, horse riding)