Mongolia … Bhutan … Tibet … Siberia – these are not places wandering souls usually go without some expertise clearing the way. Nomadic Expeditions is more often than not the expert source that makes such far flung journeys possible. After all, how much fun could it be to wander under the endless skies of the Gobi Desert alone?
The wild steppes of Mongolia, the magnificent cliff monasteries of Bhutan, the top of the world meditation retreats of Tibet and even the untamed frontiers of Siberia are best managed with a few knowing friends and guides. Nomadic Expeditions offers itineraries to these hard to reach spots and makes them comfortable, fun, bragworthy and adventurous.
In Mongolia, travelers stay in the decked-out luxury yurts of Three Camel Lodge. They can join a small group of aspiring photographers with tours lead by award-winning travel photographer Alison Wright. They can join the legendary Golden Eagle Festival held each autumn in the western province of Bayan-Ölgii, or head out on a horse trek across through the beautiful Khoridal Saridag Mountains to Lake Hovsgol, the alpine lake known as Mongolia’s “dark blue pearl”. They can grab a two-humped camel and cross the haunting Gobi, finding hidden mountain springs, isolated forests of saxaul bushes, and canyons hiding ibex and prehistoric rock paintings along the way.
Bhutan can be equally as glorious and as remote as Mongolia. The landlocked mountain kingdom, located in the Eastern Himalayas, is bordered by Tibet in the north, Sikkim and Assam on its other frontiers. Now a Buddhist state lead by a constitutional monarchy, the land only opened to tourism in 1974 and as recently as 1999 welcomed television broadcasts from the West and the Internet. What travelers will find there is a land of peace and natural beauty packed into an area the size of Switzerland and with a population of less than 800,000.
Snow-capped peaks and deep valleys have kept invaders at bay. Bhutan has escaped colonization throughout its history. Such isolation has helped preserve the endangered snow leopard and the golden langur monkey, both still roaming free in the mountain forests. Nomadic Expeditions brings those fortunate enough to reach this sparsely-visited country through timeless villages and picturesque valleys, visiting fortress monasteries along high mountain passes, rare museums and awe-inspiring dzongs, and citadels featuring beautifully painted wooden architecture.
A 12-day departure timed to coincide with the Jambay Lhakhang Festival, one of Bhutan’s most colorful Buddhist celebrations held each October, celebrates the birthday of Guru Rimpoch, who is acknowledged as the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. The days are marked by the brilliance of teschu masks and sword dances. Nomadic Expeditions also wraps Bhutan into greater itineraries that include Tibet and Nepal.
Similarly, Siberia may not be a viable destination for novice travelers or adventure-seeking tourists unaccustomed to traveling off the grid, but it is a magnificent take-in for travelers willing to go the distance to a still undiscovered place with plenty of history. Nomadic Expeditions adds Siberia to a greater exploration of the Gobi as Siberia sits along Mongolia’s northern border of Russia.
Mongolia and Siberia harbor some of the world’s most incredible national parks and natural wonders, including Siberia’s magnificent Lake Baikal. It remains the deepest lake in the world and is home a rare species of freshwater seal, all at the heart of one of Russia’s most scenic regions. The visit includes an exploration of Irkutsk, considered the “Paris of Siberia,” as well as travel on the iconic Trans-Siberia Railway.
At the helm of Nomadic Expeditions is Jalsa Urubshurow, founder and CEO, an environmental conservation warrior whose parents left their ancestral homeland during Russia’s Stalin years. The land’s language and lore were not lost on Jalsa, and once Mongolia transitioned to a democracy his dream of visiting his father’s homeland became a reality. Jalsa was tabbed by the nation’s first prime minister to advise on opening up the country to westerners and creating a sustainable vision for tourism. Nomadic Expeditions was born and continues to lead the way with small group tours into some of the world’s most hidden places of treasure.
Among those treasures are the famed Gandan Monastery and a chance to meet Hamba Lama, the highest Buddhist lama as well as sightings of such animals as the Przewalski’s horse, the world’s last wild equine species that resides in Hustain Nuruu National Park, and lammergeiers or bearded vultures, which call the foothills of the Altai Mountains home.
Why Go to Mongolia?
· Look to the land: It does not get more open than this: Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world, with only 4.3 people per square mile.
· Look up: Mongolia is known as the “Land of Blue Sky” because it has 260 days of sun a year.
· Look around: Mongolia counts 13 times more horses than humans. And when it comes to sheep? 35 to 1.
· Look outside: Mongolia is home to one of the world’s last surviving nomadic people, and they still live in traditional tents known as gers or yurts. These often spacious and circular mobile shelters are protected with animal skins or felt to keep the warmth.
· Look beyond: Mongolia is perhaps best known for its steppes. These are endless expanses of grasslands that go on forever with nary a tree.
· Look for comfort: Dressing warm (or in layers that can be discarded in the heat of summer), wearing protection from the sun and wind – these caveats go without saying. But if woolen clothing is on your list for things to buy, Gobi cashmere is soft, warm, plentiful in the capital, relatively inexepensive and prized as a worthy souvenir.
As for dining, although Nomadic Expeditions offers gourmet meals under the sun and stars at Three Camel Lodge, the adventurous palette will seek out local flavors in the mostly sheep-focused delicacies presented in the villages.
Mongolia’s villagers live on sheep’s milk, sheep’s cheese, and mutton, especially a dish called buuz consisting of fried mutton and buttery dumplings. Camels, yaks, goats, and horses also figure into the Gobi diet, which is reliant on proteins and starchy carbs to sustain through winter’s wrath. Hearty mutton stews like tsuivan, or noodle dishes bring in some of the taste influence from neighboring China. Vegetables, especially fresh vegetables, are a delicacy when not traveling with an outfitted tour operator.
Travel to Mongolia or Bhutan and the remote lands that tuck into the foothills of Himalayas are at your fingertips through trusted travel companies like Nomadic Expeditions. Whether travelers are taking their chances and going it alone through the steppes and mountains, or prefer to travel with like-minded spirits in small groups that make these lonely lands a little less so, Nomadic Expeditions should be the first call to make and will offer the right advice to take.
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