Smithsonian Journeys Dispatches

My Mongolia Adventure

A friend asked me why I wanted to visit Mongolia, and my response was, “why not?” A fair question, but Mongolia is one of those places where you have to visit and experience in order to provide a better explanation. For starters, the country is full of rich history, culture, and unique customs. Also, there are no shortages of adventure opportunities in Mongolia. But any expectations I had of Mongolia prior to visiting were blown away after I got there.

After arrival, our group headed north to our ger camp located on the shores of pristine Lake Hovsgol. In the days that followed, we enjoyed kayaking and horseback riding. Our horse wranglers would whistle old Mongolian folk songs as we trekked on horseback through the beautiful, peaceful scenery. They taught us how to ride the horses the Mongolian way, which wasn’t easy, but it was certainly an adventure!

Then we headed back to Ulaanbaatar to fly to the Gobi Desert. Our first ger camp boasted a breathtaking view of the singing sand dunes in the distance. After settling into our gers, our group had the extraordinary experience of a sunset ride on the backs of Bactrian camels. It was fun trying to get on the camels, and when they finally stood up, you realized how high up you were! The following morning, we challenged ourselves with a climb to the top of the highest dune. Our efforts were rewarded with a remarkable view of the vast land that is the Gobi Desert.

Then it was on to the Three Camel Lodge, a beautiful, luxury ger camp in the Gobi Desert. Every piece of canvas, every rope, and every painted piece of wood was made by local people. I can’t comment enough on what fantastic food we ate while at the Three Camel Lodge! The staff was so welcoming and friendly and made sure to take care of our every need.

It was at Three Camel Lodge that I experienced my favorite moment in Mongolia. After a full day of activities, our group stepped out of the main lodge and saw a light far in the distance. We were perplexed because it wasn’t a village and it wasn’t a car. Finally, one of the staff mentioned that it was the moonrise. I honestly have never experienced something as majestic as this! We stood there quietly as we patiently waited for the moon to rise above the vast desert in front of us and illuminate the entire ger camp. I was fortunate enough to share this experience with the new friends I made and we will never forget that moment.

Have you ever experienced a moonrise? Tell us about it below.

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