Why the Mongolian Expedition in Winter Isn't Everyone's Ideal Adventure

With flushed pink cheeks and a cold nose, imagine looking at a vista enveloped in a virgin white sheet of snow. Now, add to that, the pride of driving a trusty Toyota Land Cruiser through tricky terrain—from frozen rivers to wild dirt roads, all during the majestic Mongolian expedition. The cool breeze tries its best to freeze you. But you stand steadfast, busy freezing the gorgeous frame in front of your eyes.

It’s not uncommon for one to ask, ‘Is Mongolia worth visiting in the winter?’

Attempting to depict the enchantment of Mongolia in winter through words is one thing, but the true essence of the experience can only be fully grasped when lived firsthand. The Cold Steppes beckon travellers to unpeel the layers of Mongolia’s rich history and explore the sights, sensations, and essence of Nomadic Road’s expedition across the desert in Mongolia. 

Spread across 2,600 kilometres, travellers journey into Northern Mongolia—a wild Winterland characterised by extreme temperatures and ever-changing landscapes. Even in Mongolia’s unpredictable weather conditions, the sun smiles down on its people for an average of 220 to 260 days yearly.

Nonetheless, the formidable natural conditions can swiftly escalate, paving the way for unexpected hailstorms and sandstorms. Throughout this 12-day Mongolian expedition, you are bound to experience the entire scale of winter temperatures, plummeting to a minimum of -25°C.

In this context, should you really visit Mongolia in winter?

The short answer is yes.

Plenty of reasons prove Mongolia is a place worth visiting, but the ever-changing landscape is the cherry on top. The Mongolia in winter expedition takes the convoy through dirt roads, tarmac, and frozen rivers alike. It also introduces travellers to captivating lakes like Durgun, Khyargas, Khar, and Khar-Us, each offering a unique rendezvous.

Day one of the winter expedition welcomes you to the coldest capital in the world - Ulaanbaatar. The largest city of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, shines exquisitely brighter in winter. It emanates royalty with princely residences and monasteries. Travellers’ first day of the off-road expedition is light as they are briefed about the inclusions of the Mongolian expedition. Ulaanbaatar is the country’s heart and soul, known for its commercial and industrial prowess. There could be no better place to give you a sneak peek into the impending Mongolian adventure.

Gear up for a fun-filled day two to say hello to the wild Przewalski Horses, known natively as takhi, at the Hustain Nuruu National Park. Spent mostly in the Kharkhorkin region, the second day of the Mongolian winter expedition demands high spirits as travellers must drive over 390 kilometres. 

On the following day, covering an additional 200 kilometres, the caravan arrives at Tsetserleg and proceeds westward. Here, travellers take a break to stretch their legs, inhale the crisp air, and discover a natural hot spring nestled along the snow-adorned dirt road.

On the exquisite expedition across the desert in Mongolia, diverse landscapes and boundless skies become the canvas for an epic adventure painted in the hues of nomadic tales. Here, the winds carry secrets passed down through generations of nomads, the true stewards of this untamed realm, guiding you through the spirits of the mountains.

As the northern chills of Siberia make their way south, Mongolia stands as the unyielding frontier facing its relentless cold. Subsequently, temperatures drop, lakes freeze, and residents prepare to brave the cold. Even the native animals of Mongolia, flourishing in a sparsely populated environment, have evolved to withstand the cold over generations. A contributing factor to the prevalence of wildlife over humans in the Mongolian wilderness is the strict prohibition on hunting and poaching.

The elusive snow leopard, with its magnificent spotted coat, stealthily roams the rugged terrain, embodying the mystical aura of this ancient land. Majestic Mongolia wild horses—sturdy and sure-footed, are the nomads’ trusted companions in traversing the formidable landscapes. Golden eagles, revered partners in traditional Kazakh falconry, soar above, their keen eyes focused on the untamed spirit of the desert.

Days five and six pose the ultimate challenge to your driving skills. Unlike the thrill of revving your engine on dirt roads, navigating the crisp ice of the frozen Khuvsgul Lake demands a gentler approach.

As the convoy settles around a lively bonfire in the evening after a day of extensive travel, stories are shared, fears are unravelled, and travellers warmly welcome each other into their homes from around the globe.

With another sunrise comes another eight hours of driving. The road winds through the glorious Mongolian plateaus, offering many picture-perfect spots for your next Instagram post. While soaking in the landscape, envision the envy on your friends' faces as they witness you savouring the moments, fully immersed in the dream of travel. It's the realisation of your rightful claim to brag, a sentiment championed by Nomadic Road itself! 

Day eight invites you to explore the most extreme regions in the Mongolian expedition, including Khyargas, a salt lake that attracts various migratory birds from neighbouring areas.

Every Nomadic Road expedition is curated to awaken the nomad spirit within travellers. Considering the extremity of the locations, we trust only the most experienced experts to curate itineraries and ensure a well-rounded expedition for our earnest travellers. Our expedition leader guides and helps the convoy with every obstacle, no matter how big or small. 

Sometimes, even the most reliable vehicles break down unexpectedly. We entrust our machines only to the most dependable hands that have a knack for recognising faults and fixing cars in a jiff. In preparation for the worst, we’ve also got backup drivers and emergency procedures in place, hence leaving no stone unturned.

The penultimate location in the extreme expedition is Ulgii. Spending two days here, travellers delve into the rich tapestry of ethnic groups and connect with the locals of Mongolia, particularly the Kazakh eagle hunters. Their fascinating way of life and bewildering nomadic journey through Russia and Kazakhstan leave a lasting imprint on the travellers.

For centuries, the Kazakh eagle hunters have called this vast expanse home, cultivating a harmonious coexistence with the land. These communities aren't merely inhabitants; they serve as chroniclers, possessing a profound spiritual connection and understanding of the Mongolian environment.

The nomads of Mongolia are celebrated for their hospitality, welcoming weary travellers into their traditional yurts with open arms. Around crackling fires, they share tales that provide insight into a way of life intricately woven with the rhythms of seasons, livestock herding, and a deep reverence for the land. Their vibrant culture, reflected in colourful textiles, intricate crafts, and spirited celebrations, mirrors the kaleidoscopic beauty of Mongolia in winter, and otherwise.

In this land where nature and nomads intertwine, every step is a poetic ode to the wandering spirit. The rivers sing ancient ballads, and the yurts, like nomadic poems, dot the landscape, narrating stories of resilience and harmony with nature. 

As you breathe in the crisp air of Mongolia, you become part of a living, breathing epic—a wanderer embraced by the rugged beauty that cradles the heart of the nomadic soul. The off-road winter expedition unfolds like a verse written by the mountains themselves, inviting you to immerse in the lyrical magic of nature and the wild.

That said, the sheer experience of overlanding in extreme temperatures like these takes a lot of guts. Travellers have to withstand chilly mornings, numbing nights, unpredictable driving conditions and the looming possibility of falling sick. The human body may not adapt to such extreme conditions easily. It often becomes a battle between your tired body and your resilient mind, determined to live the dream.

Nonetheless, nothing comes close to the exhilarating feeling of exploring a remote land, compiling a myriad of pictures and stashing a box full of memories in your mind palace. Every pain, every discomfort, and every inconvenience becomes worth it the moment you feast your eyes on the breathtaking scene in front of you. 

On the eleventh day, concluding the expedition, the convoy flies back to Ulaanbaatar with a trove of memories and experiences to reflect upon.

The Mongolian off-road expedition is not merely a journey through landscapes. It's a pilgrimage through the living chapters of nomadic life, where every rustle of the wind tells a tale of resilience, coexistence, and the timeless dance between people, animals, and the earth. With this Nomadic Road winter expedition, your story will be etched in the desert in Mongolia, recounted every time another traveller dares to endure the extremity to satiate the nomad in them.