Travel period: August 09-15, 2018
To visit the Gobi desert without a car or a tour is challenging. Unfortunately, either a tour or a car is not a cheap solution. In order to save a certain amount of money we bought a bus ticket to Dalanzadgad city south of Mongolia (Ömnögovi Aimag) and then we planned to figure out what to do there. Luckily, before boarding the bus, we exchanged a few words with an Italian couple. They had already booked a car with a driver and a guide and were happy to share it if we split the cost. It started well, and Maria & Claudio were an excellent company for us. We get off the bus even before Dalanzadgad to meet our driver with his Mitsubishi Delica. The car is very popular in Mongolia. You can see hundreds or thousands of them aside with old Russian UAZ Furgon which is unexpectedly still in production. When we were in Kharkhorin, we got a contact from Gaya to a guy in Dalanzadgad who has a small ger camp and a car for tours. Who speaks Polish since he used to live there for a while. And guess what. Yes, the driver was that guy. As locals say, in Mongolia, everyone knows everyone, and this just proved that.
Our plan in the Gobi area
The itinerary was to spend six nights with the group and visit the main sightseeing points in the desert and around. Each night we spent in a ger camp surrounded only by nature. Our young lady guide Bude took care of us and was preparing everything from breakfast to dinner. We paid something around 1 million MNT for two people and six days. It sounds horrible, but it is around 420 USD and covers practically all costs.
Read more: Crystal waters of the Lake Khövsgöl
Travelling in the Gobi is a real headache, even with a 4×4 van. Apart from one main paved road, there are no roads at all, and get from one site to another takes ages and a requires good stomach, even for a short distance. We were lucky enough that it was not raining. Some people who visited this area week ahead us got stuck a few times for hours and hours in a mud.
What we did and saw
Our first stop was Tsagaan Suvarga (White Stupa) former seabed with rocky and sand formations which look like cliffs, colourful especially in the sun.
The day after we went to Bayanzag (Flaming cliffs). It is similar, but this site is famous for its fossil findings (first discovery of dinosaur eggs). On the way there, our driver took us to the “secret” place, where are prehistoric paintings on the rocks.
The main highlight of the trip were sand dunes (however not typical for the Gobi) surrounded by mountains and stripes of super green grass with horses on it. Really picture-perfect place. True is that we had a lot of fun on the dunes. We even did very tourist stuff like camel riding. I was surprised at how friendly and kind animals the camels are. Luckily they are unleashed in the evening and for the night to pasture. We climbed the highest dune and Bude borrowed from some Mongolian guy a sledge. The sand is truly quick.
Last two days we spent around Yol valley, it was nice but not impressive compared to other places in Mongolia. We hiked to the small waterfall and tried a ritual for good luck (you have to three times go around the pile and throw the stones on it). The night before departure, we slept in the driver’s ger. We witnessed a sheep butchering. It is part of the culture, while Mongolians eat mutton meat every day. The children were 2 meters away from the slaughter spot in the playground. To our surprise, the execution with a knife took literally 2 seconds without a drop of blood.
Back to China
And the last part of our journey? We needed to get again to Zamiin Uud to cross the border back to China. Since both Dalanzadgad and Zamiin Uud are in the South of the country and within Gobi border, it is “logical” that you have to go 10 hours by bus back to the north to Ulaanbaatar first and then take 13 hours train to the south again…