There aren’t many countries left in the world – if any – where nearly a third of the rural population still ride horses as their primary means of transport. Then again, there aren’t many places like Mongolia. This land of sweeping vistas, towering mountains, and remote deserts is also home to the largest unfenced grasslands on the planet. Horses are venerated by the nomadic pastoralists who live in yurts (known as gers) and honor the animal in traditional songs, artwork, and carved wooden instruments such as the horsehead fiddle. The last and only true wild horses remaining on earth – the takhi – roam freely in Khustain Nuruu National Park (a two-hour drive from the capital city of Ulaanbaatar) and are just one of the many highlights on a trip to Mongolia with Nomadic Expeditions.
Horses also play a prominent role in the annual Golden Eagle Festival, which takes place in the country’s western Altai Mountains region. In 2018, Nomadic Expeditions will lead a seven-day tour (Departure: October 3) to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the event, brainchild of the company’s founder and CEO, Jalsa Urubshurow. Created to preserve Mongolia’s age-old tradition of hunting with eagles on horseback, the festival draws travelers from around the world to watch hunters release their birds of prey from a high cliff in feats of speed and agility in pursuit of a decoy pulled on a rope by a fellow hunter far below. The entire event is a celebration of Mongolian culture, including music, dance, and, of course, displays of horseback-riding expertise dating back to the time of Genghis Khan.
Many Nomadic Expeditions tours include a stay at the company’s Three Camel Lodge in the Gobi, constructed using traditional Mongolian techniques and sustainable materials. Through a conservation partnership, the tour provider also helps protect an eight-square-mile area bordering Gurvan Saikhan National Park – Mongolia’s largest national preserve – that’s home to rare wildlife, including snow leopards and Bactrian camels.