Introducing Mongolia in Photos

Mongolia Altai

For the first time in my entire life a journey has left me speechless.

It’s not often I find myself without words, if you know what I mean. A chatterbox since as far back as I can remember, not being able to express myself had never been an issue, until now.

I’ve been back home in Wanaka for days after a week long horse expedition with Zavkhan Trekking in Mongolia, and I don’t know how to begin to describe my experience.

“It was awesome…the coolest thing I’ve ever done…it changed my life…” and yet I feel like I can’t even begin to verbalize what Mongolia meant to me. I’ve been reduced to a stutter saying things like “it was totally awesome” while in my head thinking that there was absolutely no way I could begin to describe my experience that would do justice to how special it was and what precisely it meant to me.

How could anyone understand what I meant when I would describe it.

Mongolia Altai

I am not exaggerating or joking, it actually changed my life. It changed the way I view the world, how I travel, and most importantly, how I view myself. But more on that later, I am not ready to share that just yet.

It was almost so special that I didn’t even want to begin sharing photos and stories from the trip, instead wanting to hoard them away and savor them for just myself.

Have you ever had an experience in your life where you felt that way?

Mongolia Altai

So while I am trying to process the experience, internalize what happened, and really begin to figure out someway to share my stories from the most epic adventure of my entire life, I thought I would start with some of my favorite snaps from Mongolia, and let the photos speak for themselves.

I swear this is not a cop out, and I promise heaps of several thousand word novels are forthcoming, but in the meantime I didn’t want to leave y’all hanging.

So here is my introduction to the Eurasian steppe and thirty of my best shots of the Altai region of Mongolia. 

Have you ever been on a big trip or challenging journey? Would you like to visit Mongolia one day? To find out more about the cameras I used on my trip, check out my post What’s In My Camera Bag.

Mongolia Altai

On our first day we left Ulaanbaatar, the capital, and flew hours west to Bayan-Olgii and then drove for 5 hours through the wilderness in our Russian Furgons to the first camp

Mongolia Altai

Meet the Zavkhan team! 10 of us explorers, our Kazakh wranglers and support team, Ian our guide and Anar our Mongolian interpreter

Mongolia Altai

My ride for most of the trip – I named him Chewy, even though the Kazakhs don’t name horses. I picked Chewy because he was pretty slow and lazy and to get him going, the Kazakhs say “tcho tcho” to encourage him

Mongolia Altai

Our main wrangler and owner of the horses Khadaran taking a rest and overlooking his family’s gers

Mongolia Altai

Some of Khadaran’s family, generations living and working together

Mongolia Altai

Sunset tea at one of our camps

Mongolia Altai

Amangul our trip manager who made everything run smoothly playing the traditional dombra and singing.

Mongolia Altai

My tent and the camp before we entered a national park on the border with China

Mongolia Altai

Some pre-Mongolian man stones in the middle of nowhere in the Altai. These are dotted all over the country and considered to be ancient gravestones of fallen warriors and leaders

Mongolia Altai

One of the many river crossings we encountered in the Altai – I hated them all.

Mongolia Altai

Putting up the ger – gers are the Mongolian versions of yurts

Mongolia Altai

One of my first attempts at astrophotography, shooting the Milky Way over our camp

Mongolia Altai

Exploring the Altai from one of our camps – in this park there is a lot of forest and dense wood, very different from the rest of Mongolia (Want to take photos like this? Learn how in this brilliant video tutorial course by Elia Locardi!)

Mongolia Altai

In the ger having dinner – please notice our sheep hanging from the ceiling

Mongolia Altai

We also drank a lot of vodka – the Kazakhs love it

Mongolia Altai

The last row of mountains is China

Mongolia Altai

Near the end of the trip Chewy went lame and I had to switch horses, luckily this big guy was faster and I finally got to gallop! Also featuring my beautiful new ONA Camps Bay camera bag

Mongolia Altai

More dreaded river crossings

Mongolia Altai

I love riding through the tall grasses, even though they are sometimes littered with marmot holes that can trip up the horses

Mongolia Altai

Inkarbek, Amangul’s oldest son and a wrangler in training showing off his horse skills. He can pick up a stone off the ground at a run, even wearing my GoPro

Mongolia Altai

The Milky Way over my tent – getting night skies like this every single day made the freezing night conditions bearable – edit by Emiliano Bechi Gabrielli

Mongolia Altai

Looking down the Pass of Death, one of the steepest mountain passes we encountered

Mongolia Altai

Showing some love to the foals

Mongolia Altai

 Coming down a mountain pass, leading the horses

Mongolia Altai

One of the traditional Kazakh eagle hunters

Mongolia Altai

On our last day we held the Kazakh games, playing some of the traditional horse games of the Altai including tug of war – the Kazakhs are such talented riders – neither of these guys fell off the horse

Mongolia Altai

Me and Moetkhan – my favorite wrangler and one of the guys who taught me how to ride. He was always laughing and smiling even on the toughest days

Many thanks to Zavkhan Trekking for hosting me in Mongolia, aand some of the links on this page are affiliate links (I gotta pay the bills!). Like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect less from me.

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97 Comments on “Introducing Mongolia in Photos

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  1. Mongolia, together with Iceland and New Zealand is one of the destinations that is high on my bucket list. I love rugged landscapes. A friend of mine spent a year living and working there! Out of all places she chose Mongolia and loved it.

    One of the experiences that changed me was visiting Lauca NP in northern Chile. Even some of the chilieans I met didn’t know where it was and others didn’t understand why I would go there! It was a big pain in the butt getting there too. Bus, hitchhiking, trekking, than hitchhiking again, but the views!!! I have not seen anything like this before and apart from our hostel owner and my friend who came along with me, I have not seen a single other soul for 2 days.

    I am really looking forward to your posts from Mongolia and am glad to hear that it was such a life changing experience for you.

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