Beyond the capital of Ulaanbaatar, the western regions of Mongolia conjure images of fenceless summer pastures teeming with wildflowers; herds of yaks, goats and camels closing over the high rise; and alpine lakes and forests set against a backdrop of vast steppes.
It is also home to generation-old communities that live a laborious yet fulfilling nomadic life.
For adventurer and author, Tim Cope, it is the hospitality and ancient nomadic traditions that have drawn him time and time again to return to the mystical and ancient regions of western Mongolia.
In 2004, Tim set off on a journey to travel 10,000 kilometres by horse in the spirit of nomads — from Mongolia to the Danube River in Hungary, and across the great Eurasian steppe.
It was an odyssey that would take the young Australian more than three years to complete, and which Australian Geographic would herald as ‘one one of the greatest journeys of modern times.’ His book about the journey On the Trail of Genghis Khan has become an Australian best seller and an award winning ABC TV documentary series.
Since 2008, Tim Cope has been innovating and leading trips with World Expeditions in remote Western Mongolia with a focus on deeply immersing one's self in the landscapes, history, and culture of nomads.
Here we list his four unique expeditions, exclusive to World Expeditions, that are all unique in nature, and designed to tie in with the Mongolia’s seasons and nomadic traditions.
Five Gods River and Trek Expedition
Tim's river and trek expedition takes you down the headwaters of Khovd River. Photo: Tim Cope.
Journey summit to steppe on an epic 24-day expedition by foot, horse, and canoe from Mongolia’s highest peaks. Tim Cope's itinerary take you through a kaleidoscope of nomadic cultures and landscapes, ranging from ice, to forest, lakes, and down West Mongolia’s longest river. While this trek is graded six: moderate to challenging, as the itinerary maximises the intrepid traveller's experience through a range of land and water activities.
Timed to run in late summer/early autumn when the nomads are migrating down from the mountains to riverbanks and lake shores. Find out more >
Gobi Altai Trek
Integral to the Gobi Altai trek is travelling with Oirat nomads and their horses and camels. Photo: Tim Cope.
If canoeing is not for you, you can still trek or ride through the remote glacier capped peaks of the Gobi Altai — a rarely frequented corner of Mongolia where traditional nomad life carries on. This trek is also graded six as part of the exploratory-style journey, and you have the opportunity to camp on the steppe among nomad communities.
This is timed in early summer to coincide with the Naadam Festival, which feature wrestling and horse racing. Part of the itinerary includes viewing blooming wildflowers at its best, and travelling during the summer migration of nomads to alpine pastures. Find out more >
Capture spectacular views of bactrian camels grazing in the Altai Mountains. This photo is from one of our travellers, Allan Kirk.
For those after a more manageable trek while still visiting some of the most isolate, yet vibrant towns in Central Asia, this expedition is ideal for you. Witness the spectacle of the Eagle Hunting Festival, and learn about the ancient culture of horseback nomads, dating back almost six thousand years. This trek is graded four: introductory to moderate, with three days of trekking, and largely adventure touring through unique cultural encounters.
This trip, timed in late autumn, combines; nomad assisted trekking in the Altai and camel riding through the world’s most northern desert on Siberia’s doorstep. Find out more >
In the Footsteps of Nomads
Trekkers have the chance to understand the nomadic culture of Western Mongolia. Pictured above are three young nomads (L-R) Otga, Nana and Choinum, sitting by the Shivreen River. Photo: SCMP/Tessa Chan
A classic trek through high summer meadows to alpine lakes and soaring mountain ridges in the remote northwest Kharkhiraa-Turgen massif. This trek is supported by a caravan of nomads with their animals in a region where mechanised transport has not yet altered the way of life nomads. Despite being a moderate to challenging expedition, with many full day treks, this is a popular pick among travellers.
The itinerary is timed in mid-summer when nomads enjoy the clean, cool air of the high mountains and its rich pastures. Find out more >
While each trip follows a similar philosophy and approach, they each uniquely showcase the beauty of Western Mongolia through unorthodox walking routes to allow travellers the opportunity to learn about nomad life for a culturally enriching experience.
READ MORE: Summer in Mongolia: travelling among nomads
When was the last time you went on an expedition by foot? Let us know in the comments below.