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“Beautiful Gobi Desert”
Review of Gobi Desert

Gobi Desert
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All-Inclusive Private Day Tour to Harbin Volga...
Ranked #14 of 111 things to do in Mongolia
Certificate of Excellence
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Reviewed October 28, 2014

We did a 7 day tour from UB, with 4 days or so in the Gobi Desert.

We went to the flaming cliffs, singing sand dunes and eagle valley (or Bayanzag, Khongoryn Els and Yolyn Am). Each one is different, and all spectacular. We also did a horse/pony ride in Yolyn Am and a camel ride at Khongoryn Els.

We stayed in family gers along the way, food was included and whilst we were told it would be basic, it was plentiful and very good - we didn't go hungry and came home with most of the packs of noodles we left with. There were opportunities to stock up on water, soft drink and other snacks along the way as well.

Our driver was also out guide, no doubt part of the 'budget' experience we chose. Generally our days were spent driving in the morning, and activities in the afternoon. Some of the days we arrived earlier in the day, and had a few hours where we were left to amuse ourselves, wasn't too much of an issue as there were landscapes to explore.

The gers didn't have heating in the Gobi, I didn't find it too cold though. The gers tended to include a blanket and small pillow of sorts, but you needed to provide your own blanket. We also had mattresses at each location, of varying hardness, but we spoke to some people who did not have the luxury of a mattress so I won't complain about the lumpiness or hardness.

Overall I enjoyed the experience in the Gobi. The tour delivered on what we asked, it was a private budget tour because we wanted to experience the local way of life and I am happy we chose this.
On the tour itself, we went with Travel Gobi Mongolia (which I would give 3 stars, but I don't want that to impact on how I rate the Gobi Desert itself).
The car required some mechanical attention on day 2, our guide/driver managed this, while we were watching from within a diner/cafe. Once fixed, the car (land cruiser) was comfortable and we didn't have any issues. The food was good, we weren't hungry and it was included in the tour.
Ganzo very prompt to return emails, the driver called to let me know he was on the way to the hostel in the morning (good sign) and a pickup at the UB airport took us to our hostel at the end. There were some breakdowns in communication, with the tour schedule changing and basically the first day of the tour was dropped out, which was disappointing - we didn't know this until the driver told us our destination for the day. Our driver/guide was more driver than guide, we had a similar experience where he spent most of the time talking among friends/families, and he spent most of the time talking on his mobile when we were driving which wasn't very engaging. There wasn't much interaction with us, but then we weren't looking for heaps, but we did feel like he was just transporting us from one spot to the next. One night he didn't return to the camp, we woke to find no car and no driver, nice thing to wake up to. After a couple of hours (we were fed breakfast which was nice) he appeared. He also dropped us off at the ger in Dalanzadgad on the last night and then said he was heading back to UB but had made arrangements for a friend to take us to the airport the next morning....shame our flight was postponed and the poor lady we were staying with didn't speak english and had to call her sister to pass the message on to me. She was lovely, but we felt bad imposing on her for another day.

There were a few other small issues, but I can't complain that our budget tour meant we were well fed, had a bed each night and took us to the landmarks we wanted to go to. I'm not sure if the standard tours provide significant differences other than more comfortable beds/lodging, and if the guides provide more information or interest in their customers
But thats the tour experience, the landmarks within the Gobi were amazing.

Date of experience: September 2014
7  Thank Julie N
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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48 - 52 of 135 reviews

Reviewed October 9, 2014 via mobile

I am writing this here as there is not an option to review tour companies and it's an obvious place to start when looking for tours to the Gobi.

The score of average is for the tour company not the Gobi desert which is a great experience.

Let me start with the reasons why we booked a tour with Ganzo at Travel Gobi Mongolia (TGM). We had only planned to spend 7 days in Mongolia while passing through on the Trans Siberian and given our time was limited I wanted to have a tour booked before we left the UK rather than spend time in Ulaan Baatar trying to piece something together. TGM's website was very informative if a little busy. Ganzo was the first person to respond to us and answered our questions promptly. Although, we did find him a little pushy when it came to paying!

We are backpacking for six months so we were keen to keep the cost down. Looking at the prices of other tour companies, advertised online, TGM's price seemed competitive.

We booked the South Gobi 4D3N budget (backpacker) arrangement. The standard arrangement where you stay in tourist camps rather than with herder families is not available towards the end of September when the main tourist season closes.

We booked our flights between Ulaan Baatar and Dalanzadgad independently with Hunnu Air as this worked out cheaper compared to what TGM were charging. The flight was on time and a very pleasant trip.

We visited Bayan Zag (Flaming Cliffs), the Khongor Sands and Yol Am Valley over the three days. A highlight for us was Khongor Sands, a difficult climb up the dunes but so worth it when you get to the top for sunset. We also just enjoyed travelling across the vast plains (or steppe) with nothing in site. The camel ride at the Khongor Sands was a fun experience but two hours is too long (see if you can bargain for a shorter and cheaper ride).
With this package a horse ride through Yol Am valley is included. This is a bit of a catch 22, the ponies (not horses) don't look very well cared for and are left all day with their front legs tied together but by riding the ponies you are giving money to a family who needs it. We chose not to ride and to walk instead, no mention was made of the money to pay for the pony ride and I'm sure our guide happily pocketed it.

On the backpacker arrangement, you stay with herder families in their traditional gers (yurts). They cook lunch and dinner for you and you pay for this separately (arranged through your guide). We took oats for breakfast and were given a flask of boiling water. The experience is rustic but interesting. There are no showers and the toilet is a little tin shack with hole in the ground.

With regards to meals. If you are vegetarian, or fussy and not prepared to take your own cooking equipment and food then the backpacker arrangement is not suitable for you. The food is basic and mostly consists of gristly meat (mutton, goat or horse) and noodles/dumplings.

The positives of our trip with TGM:
• Our transfer between U.B. And the airport was on time both leaving and arriving.
• Our guide and driver were waiting when we arrived in Dalanzadgad.
• Everything seemed to run quite smoothly.
• We always had a ger to ourselves unlike other tour groups who sometimes shared with the family or driver.
• Our driver was pleasant and very helpful.

The negatives
• While our guide was pleasant and her English was basic but understandable, she was not very knowledgeable. She spent a lot of time gossiping with the families and we felt like we were in the way.
• As mentioned above, food is not included in the backpacker arrangement and your guide organises meals with the families. You pay for this separately. The guide and driver should pay for their own food. This worked out to be quite expensive and we felt that we were paying for all the guide and driver's meals as well. Eg. Bowl of noodle soup cost us 9,000 tugriks / c. $5 US which is double what you'd expect to pay (hence the guide insisted we pay her directly and we guess we paid double to cover her and the driver)
• The cost of this package is not comparable to other backpacker groups doing similar trips. We chatted to a few other backpackers we met en route who were paying half of what we did, doing the same thing and had food included!

We finished the tour pleased we'd experienced genuine Gobi desert but feeling like we'd been ripped off. So a few tips.

• If you do book the same trip, make sure you insist on a fixed price for meals in advance (around 4000 and 6000 Tugriks per meal) with Ganzo, not the local guide.
• If you're not interested in riding any of the animals, negotiate with Ganzo to have this charge taken off your fee.
• If you have time (a spare day) in UB organise the trip from there. In September it is reasonably quiet and tours are available. Plus you'll meet other people happy to share the trip and make it cheaper. The average price other backpackers we spoke to were paying was between $55 and $88 per day depending on the length of the trip with meals included. Sun Path, Zaya's hostel and Mongolia Sun? were some of the companies we came across. Most hostels arrange tours.

Lastly take warm clothes and a good sleeping bag. We weren't provided with blankets but fortunately had our own sleeping bags. If you're a coffee drinker, take your own coffee. Buy lots of water in Dalanzadgad before you head out and take wet wipes!

16  Thank RJessie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 13, 2014

Mongolia! Not for the faint of heart!...experienced travelers only!...beautiful with wide open spaces...mountains...nomads...yaks...rain deer..double hump camels!...we spent 14 days touring lake khousgal ...mount khogno khan..ulan batar..gobi desert...lake khousgal was just gorgeous! At night u felt like reaching out and touching the stars!...be sure to take horse back ride side of lake...the gers were fabulous! Never slept better...shared bathrooms..they were clean and great! ( (they almost are done with new cabins with attached bath rooms)... Mt khogno khan...the scenery was just beautiful..everything about this place we loved it!.. There were 10 in our group and 10 more from other places ..all of us had gate1 travel company who put together this trip...the experience of all the travelers on this tour made this trip the most enjoyable!..our guide Gamba was very accommodating and good natured!
Now for the gobi desert...very vast...seemed like the scenery never changed...long rides in the vehicles...very hard on the body...the nights made up for it...gorgeous sunrises and sun sets..attached bathrooms with gers...great food!... Very we'll mannered Mongolians..gentle and sweet..then off to sand dunes...long ride in vans...stayed at erdene camp for the night..newly constructed cabins..very nice!... Watch out for the beds though!.. They were hard!.. Camel ride lasted about an hour...everyone in my group enjoyed except me:(... A little hard on my bottom...next day we were back at dream gobi camp! Amazing place...all in all I have to say we had a great time!.. All my friends made this to be a wonderful experience!.. Gate1 did a great job! Our guide was the best! Our group average age was around 60-65.. They were amazing companions...no one complained!..If you are planning on this trip..my advice is do it a little earlier in 50s..it's easier on the body:). ..

Date of experience: September 2014
6  Thank Ranik2670
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 28, 2014

My girlfriend and I made a 6 days trip to Gobi Desert from 17-22 August, 2014 via internet booking with a local guide - Travel Gobi.

The local guide is quick to response which is desirable but gather they may need to improve their papers documentation to assist the tourist for accounting/ insurance claims purpose. We have to request several times and seem still have difficulties to get things in order. No receipt for our paid travel will given.

Before our trip, our connecting flight via Beijing to Ulaanbaatar (UB) was cancelled and the airline scheduled us to much later flight. We have to reschedule all our plans and dates then on, all our flights delayed from 1 to 3 hours either for domestic or international flights. And this seems to be a common event, so be well prepared.

For this trip, we have a guide and a driver in a van and it seems the same for other group travelers that we met on the road (if lucky as there are more animals than humans on the desert!). We have chosen the "Standard package" for this trip but do not expect hot shower on daily basis or all tourist camps have the same standard. We stayed in the traditional ger which are decorated differently in each camp and have shared shower, toiletries facilities.

During the trip, we have to change our tourist camp daily as we need to travel long distance to get to the next destination and thus need to pack light. It is common to re-wear the clothes, so don't worry as all smell the same! Each driving may takes 1-3 hours or more on the roads, so one has to be prepared to relieve oneself in the vast nature. In additional, the weather temperature during our trip range from 8 to 33 deg basis. The trip can be pretty dusty and those who has allergy, do remember to take some medication in case needed.

Despite the remoteness of the places we went, it would seem quite safe for anyone to travel with a good guide and driver with good driving (land may seem flat but there are many terrains to overcome), navigational skills (as there is no sign board in the desert!)

Food wise was a bit disappointment as most tourist camps are now catered towards the taste bud of the tourists (western food geared towards Russian style) instead of presenting the local cuisines. Fortunately, we managed to taste authentic food served in local restaurant on our 1st day. The meat is good and sweet as they are fed with grasses in the nature and not animal feeds. And there are no fruits in the desert! So finish up your salad if being served in the tourist camp!

Otherwise, the vast unobstructed sky above the steppes, lush greenery, plots of potatoes harvest with bright glowing yellow color against the blue sky with clouds, wild bushes, cliffs, hills, terrains and untamed animals in the wild, roaming for their food, laze under the sky, gather to share the small puddle of waters, the enormous number of stars shining bright and the moonlight in the night have created a scenic memorable image that will imprint in your mind for long.

The 6 days trip to Gobi Desert is just a touch and go experience but was good for at least once in a lifetime! I would love to go back to Mongolia again if there is opportunity and next time, I will want to stay longer in each destination to experience the scenery and peacefulness rendered by the vast nature! Back to basics!

Date of experience: August 2014
5  Thank VastOcean
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed August 23, 2014

While travelling in Asia for eight weeks, on a private tour arranged by AsiaTranspacific Journeys and handled locally by Nomadic Expeditions, a friend and I arrived at Ulaanbaatar Airport on June 24 and departed same on June 30, 2014. We spent four days in the Gobi by flying into and out of Dalanzadgad Airport on Huunu Airlines. We stayed at the lux Three Camel Ger Camp for three nights in a lux ger tent and spent one night in the Khongoryn Els area, near the sand dunes, that run about 60 miles through the Gobi ,at the Erdene Ger Camp in a basic wooden “cottage”.

Our travels in the Gobi were one of the major highlights of the entire trip for me. Traveling across the steppes down to the Gobi Desert did not conjure up images of Genghis Khan but I came away with a better understanding and appreciation of how the locals live. I was fortunate to have interface with some of them, first on scheduled home (ger) visits at Khongoryn Els area where we rode on camels, and then quite serendipitously while traveling across the Gobi on our return to Dalanzadgad when our driver and guide decided to randomly stop at a ger and chat with the family while they were milking their goats. Very interesting.

On the way to the Three Camel Ger Camp we had a chance to spend three hours walking in the Yol Valley National Park. We saw a few horses, some cows and many Pikas there. We hiked to the ice and snow formations that often last until late July in the park. After arriving at the Three Camel Ger Camp, we took a ride across the steppes to visit a nearby area, about one thousand feet above the desert, to a place called Khavtsgait to see some petro glyphs carved some time in the past. Quite Interesting.

The following morning we drove to the Khongoryn Els area we each rode on a Bactrian camel (two humps instead of one) where I had flashbacks to an unpleasant one hump camel ride in Morocco. However, the camels in Mongolia walked much smoother and everything went well. I was completely surprised to learn that we would be required to wear a bike rider’s helmet for the duration of the camel back trip. I thought that we were going to ride for a few hundred yards and return to the owner’s ger. After several miles, we reached the “singing sands” that were totally quiet. No wind to make them sing but there were dark clouds coming up behind and I could see a flash flood in the making.

Because of the anticipated rain, which ultimately passed us by, we returned to the owner’s ger by 4X4 land cruiser and spent some time inside chatting with him and his wife. The cook stove was fueled by wood and a small box was filled with pieces of scrub bushes from the area. Their beds were rolled up in the corner. Their satellite phones sat on a dresser along with an iPad and numerous electronic gadgets, i.e., a television set, a radio, etc. Family pictures lined a large mirror. There was no indoor toilet and I didn’t ask about their accommodation for that function but presume there was an outdoor something somewhere nearby. All of their children were grown and living nearby. They graciously allowed me to photograph their ger’s interior and the pictures are attached to this story.

The next morning we drove to the nearby “Flaming Cliffs”. The sky was dull, and, unfortunately, we did not get to see the beauty of this area in full sunshine. On our drive back to the Three Camel Ger Camp, our driver stopped suddenly at a ger, near the road, where the owners were milking goats. The husband and wife graciously stopped their work to chat about their flock of goats and their lifestyle. Further down the road, we came upon a vehicle and trailer with a man and woman and two children in the cabin. Both the vehicle and trailer were fully loaded inside and on top with all of their worldly possessions and including the ger. Asked if they needed help, they responded that they were just taking a break to let their dog run around a bit before they moved along to their new home location. They, too, agreed to let me take photos of their vehicle, attached.

During our time spent at the Three Camel Ger Camp, during which we never saw a single camel, there were plenty of animals grazing their way across the steppes. A large herd of cows, several herds of horses and numerous herds of sheep and/or goats grazed peacefully in the area. One sunrise was spectacular, photos attached, and the sky was cloudy much of the time that we were at the Three Camel Ger Camp.

On our final day, we returned very early to Dalanzadgad for a quick city tour and a flight back to Ulaanbaatar with life memories of our travels and experiences in the Gobi. Our wives will be happy to learn of our travels but they are unlikely to be envious of our experiences, far, far away from their comfortable houses!

Date of experience: June 2014
5  Thank photoguy66degrees
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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