Winter in Mongolia
The temperature is -40°C, the winds are bracing, the ground hard with ice, yet the sun shines, reflecting off snow-capped mountains and sparkling on frozen rivers. It is bleak but it is beautiful. This is winter in Mongolia. Traditionally, it is a quiet season for tourists. In a country still largely undeveloped, and with a rudimentary infrastructure, many parts of Mongolia are difficult to negotiate in the winter. The extreme cold dissuades visitors further. But this is exactly how we like it.
For visitors who do brave the winter, the rewards are infinite. The landscape takes on an extraordinary beauty in its winter raiment. With no other tourists in evidence, it is easy to feel that you have the country to yourself. This is the time that people come together, that challenges are faced as one, that unique experiences become everyday occurrences. This is the time that the legendary Mongolian hospitality comes into its own.
We’ve told you about the spectacular festivals our guests on our Winter Festivals Journey have visited over the last 7 years – the Ice festival at Lake Khovsgol, the 1000 Camel festival in the Gobi, and the Eagle festival in the Altai mountains. Two other festivals appeared on the 2013 calendar, considerately placed near to the capital, Ulaanbaatar – Camel Polo and a Saker Falcon Festival in the shadow of the Spectacular Chinggis monument. However, their appearance since has been as sporadic as predicted!
Another celebration with great significance, particularly to the Kazakh people, is the festival of Nauritz. It marks the New Year, the coming of spring, rebirth and new life and when Mongolians turn their face to the future. Each March, our man in the West celebrates this festival with his family. Here’s what he had to say about it:
Nauritz is a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. In 2010, the UN’s Assembly recognized March 21 as the International Day of Nauritz. Spring cleaning or ‘a complete cleaning of the house’ is commonly performed before Nauritz, and then Kazakhs get together with family and friends. A colourful parade, horse racing and different traditional shows are organized in the central square. People and children demonstrate traditional costumes and it is a kind of big spring fashion show! The streets are full of people who say “ Ulis on bolsin, akh mol bolsin” to each other. The main dish is “Nauritz Koje”, which includes seven ingredients – water, meat, salt, fat, flour, cereal and milk – symbolising joy, luck, wisdom, health, wealth, speedy growth and heavenly protection.
My friends and I had such a wonderful time in Mongolia and I found it difficult to return home and back to the usual routine. First of all, Boloroo was fantastic as a guide/translator and all of us really loved her cheerful and upbeat disposition. We also appreciated the fact that she had to sacrifice her Tsagaan Sar holidays for our trip. She was dedicated to making sure that there was always something for us to do – we had a really fulfilling trip filled with activities.
In the North of Mongolia, the Tsaatan reindeer people have their own ways of dealing with winter conditions. This ancient race developed the ski as a more efficient way of herding their reindeer in deep snow. Harry planned a skiing trip to the Taiga for PJ guests; imagine skiing on virgin terrain, living with the mysterious Tsaatan, learning the craft of traditional ski-making… now that would be an adventure.
The Mongolian winter is not just a good time to escape other tourists and attend some of the world’s quirkiest festivals. With the changing seasons, the nomads are on the move. Panoramic Journeys can arrange for you to go with them. Ride through the snow and help a family move between their winter and spring pastures.
Winter in Mongolia is a special time. The camels look resplendent in their winter coats and the skies darken with thousands of migrating birds. There is much to see and do, and with the right kit and preparation, the cold is merely an inconvenience, the travelling; a snowy adventure. It offers a unique opportunity to get up close to a land stripped bare and wonderful in all its chilly majesty.
We at PJ can arrange trips which incorporate one or many of the following activities when designing a handcrafted journey to Mongolia in winter:
- Dog Sledding
- Hunting with Golden Eagles
- Photographic Journeys
- Moving with Nomads
- Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian New Year) with Nomadic Family
- Nauritz Festival (Kazakh New Year) with Eagle Hunter
- Ice Festival
- Camel Festival
- Camel Polo
- Winter Horse Trek
- Skiing with the tsaatan
Winter group trips also include:
- Winter Festivals
- Eagle Festival Close Up
- Gobi and Altai with Eagle Festival