Travelling to Mongolia? Say goodbye to your apartment or house and hello to the open steppe. You also need to prepare to say goodbye to sleeping inside four solid walls. At Goyo Travel we believe that swapping a generic bedroom for a cosy ger is one of the very best things about travel in this unique country. It is in gers, particularly when staying with the locals at homestays, where you will have your most memorable insights in to nomadic life and enjoy some truly magical locations. From being a guest of 75-year-old herder Bor who will share snuff with you from his elaborate bottle, to staying at the home of a celebrity eagle hunter in Altai, here are our five favourite ger homestays in Mongolia.
An ever-popular homestay at a family of herders near Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes, also called ‘Mini Gobi’ in central Mongolia. Head of the family, Bor, is a 75-year old true-bred nomad and is proud to have each of the revered ‘5 animals’ of Mongolia in his livestock (sheep, goat, cows, camels and horses).
Stay overnight in a hilltop guest ger next to the family and the following morning head off on one of Bor’s Bactrian camels across the outcrops of sand dunes nearby. There are also opportunities to tend to, herd and milk some of the animals and to try your hand at making airag fermented mare’s milk – or homemade vodka. Bor, a cheerful and welcoming host, is always delighted to share snuff from his elaborate bottle with travellers and show off his skills in horse riding – which, despite his mature age, he is a master of.
2. Gobi Oasis
Byamba Tseyen’s home of a wooden house and two well-appointed guest gers also contains a small tree-planting nursery which she established in Mandalgovi, the Gobi Desert in 1975. For over 40 years, she has been leading this conservation project by growing small seeds & branches, nurturing them in harsh conditions, before replanting them in areas in desperate need for defence against desertification.
Today, the project forms a small but vital role in the global fight to protect the natural environment which we all share. You can visit and help at Gobi Oasis during summer months, plus stay with Byamba and her family, as part of selected trips with Goyo Travel. Get involved in daily activities and duties to run the nursery from watering trees, keeping weeds off, to making plant beds, or removing sand.
If you are looking for a truly unique homestay you can probably find no better place than at Saliau’s remote Altai home. Staying at Saliau’s, who is one of the most celebrated eagle hunters in Western Mongolia and was featured in the BBC’s Human Planet series, will provide you with a unique opportunity to see the lifestyle of authentic eagle hunters. He and his son Berik, who also continues the family tradition, live in a 3 room wooden house and have a private ger set up next to the family home for you to stay in.
Apart from the idyllic location, the highlight is seeing how Sailau and/or Berik tend to and train their eagles. Depending on the season, you may even have the chance to accompany them on a hunt, plus there are plenty of opportunities for horse riding and hikes in the area.
Galaa’s encampment is situated right on the one of the best pieces of real estate in Mongolia, in the middle of the protected Khangai Nuruu National Park, surrounded by magnificent Khangai hills and a stone throw away from the Orkhon Waterfall. Galaa, his wife and three joyful children are very popular with our guests who love the hospitality of the hosts.
Galaa is also an expert horse guide in the 8 Lakes area down south and in the Khangai hills, to where he often takes his guests. He is also an accomplished singer with a charming voice – guests can often admire his short performances during the evening meals.
Galaa’s family are yak headers by trade, and the milk you are offered in the morning when staying there will probably have come from one of these beautiful beasts. Those who are interested can cook Buuz (steamed dumplings) or Huushuur (fried meat pastries) together with Galaa’s wife – a unique Mongolian cooking lesson.
Sanjaa lives with his wife Byamba and their three children in the strictly protected Hustai Reserve – the home of wild takhi horses, deer, foxes, wolves and other Mongolian wildlife. With Sanjaa’s ancestors having lived in the area for many generations, they are one of the very few families allowed to settle in Hustai, which is off limits to other nomads due to the Park’s protected status.
Sanjaa works as a park ranger and is more than happy to share enchanting stories of his exploits as a ranger over dinner; he may even share the insider tips on the location where wild animals are most likely to be seen whilst venturing around the park. After such hikes and excitement you’ll be ready for some delicious food, good job that Byamba is an excellent cook.