Lost in the steppe: the semi-desert, Mongolia


How can I even describe what I’ve seen?


Long, rolling green hills. Mountains that change from orange to red to blue. White wild flowers and shrubs that make the steppe smell like thyme. Herds of goats, horses and camels grazing.


On one day, a sudden rainstorm that streaks the sky with grey and leaves behind a double-rainbow.


On another, the crispest, bluest, boundless sky.


Little girls that swipe journals as scratch paper. A man who takes us out riding and a woman who makes hangover soup.


Scraggly lone trees wrapped in bright blue prayer scarves. Silver rivers reflecting the light. Clouds gilded by the setting sun and a swarm of stars emerging at night.


And air, so crystal clear, that you can see for miles.


My friend and I have just gotten back from a stay out in the countryside, 5 hours west of Ulan Baatar. We spent a few days with a family who owns a ger camp in the semi-desert, with no internet, no phones, no running water and no clocks.


I’m not entirely sure how we passed the time, but I know we spent a lot of it riding horses, going for walks, and staring out at the steppe.


And seeing some of the most arresting nature I’ve ever encountered.


So tell me – why is Mongolia so undertouristed?

Getting there:
Nearly any guesthouse in Ulan Baatar can arrange a stay in the countryside. Whether you stay in an upscale tourist resort with heating and running water, or in a rural homestay where you’re put to work milking cows depends on you.

If I could give one piece of advice: come with time. Lots and lots of time. You might lose track of it out in the countryside, but once you’re back in the city – you’ll definitely wish you’d had more.

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17 Responses to Lost in the steppe: the semi-desert, Mongolia

  1. EDGYMIX 30 August, 2012 at 00:35 #

    Your photos remind me of my time in Mongolia, one of the stop of my Trans-Siberian journey!You capture the places really well. the first photo is amazing:)

    • na-o-mi 6 September, 2012 at 21:54 #

      You went too? It’s such an adventure! ^^

  2. Michelle 30 August, 2012 at 01:32 #

    This. Is. Incredible.

    • na-o-mi 6 September, 2012 at 21:54 #

      Yes. Yes, yes and yes. I’m torn between wanting everyone ever to see it for themselves, and wanting no one to visit it ever again ;)

  3. Ellie 30 August, 2012 at 11:12 #

    Your such a adventurous traveler! Love this, such a unique experience, what a badass! Thanks for sharing. hope your having an amazing time!

    • na-o-mi 6 September, 2012 at 21:53 #

      Thanks lady….CANNOT WAIT TO SEE YOU!!! ;)

  4. Alli Campbell 6 September, 2012 at 06:20 #

    Love these shots. The beauty and isolation takes your breath away, doesn’t it? Hope you are enjoying the train. Did you go for a dive in Baikal after all? :)

    • na-o-mi 6 September, 2012 at 21:41 #

      Actually, I didn’t go diving….it was way too chilly and I’m getting over a cold, so I had to miss it! Next time ;)

  5. Eunsuk Kim 6 September, 2012 at 08:38 #

    Hey lady! These photos are awesome!! Miss you lady!! Hope you enjoy the rest of your journey!! :D

    • na-o-mi 8 October, 2012 at 02:38 #

      It would be so much better with you!! ;)

  6. Audrey 8 October, 2012 at 14:02 #

    I love how remote this looks! That’s a pretty impressive view from your ger.

    • na-o-mi 12 October, 2012 at 17:49 #

      It was absolutely, unbelievably gorgeous…and that clear air (such a far cry from Seoul) meant you could see for ages!

  7. Colleen Brynn 8 April, 2013 at 06:53 #

    Wonderful post and stunning photos. I’m planning a trip to Mongolia this summer… can’t wait!

  8. Patrick Kelly 4 May, 2013 at 22:04 #

    I have just lived in Kibera the largest slum in Africa and I am looking for a another extreme environment to live in. Living with nomadic mongonials is at the top of my list. What advice do you have for me arranging this?
    Thank you

    • Naomi Alyssa 7 May, 2013 at 14:44 #

      It will be easier to organise a stay with a family once you’re in-country, but I highly recommend looking at Ger to Ger (http://www.gertoger.org/) for community-based tourism options to get an idea of what you can do. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, however, you could consider hiring a guide and buying a horse in-country, and just going around to different families and communities. More expensive, certainly, but much more of an adventure! Good luck :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Broken bones, insane travels and life-upheaval: 2012 in review | - | Thinkworth Magazine - Travelling, Eating, Living WELL | - - 31 January, 2013

    […] But thankfully, a massive distraction was coming my way – my one-way ticket from Seoul landed me and one of my closest friends in Beijing, where we were about to start the Trans-Siberian railway. After five days in the city (somehow, I still don’t feel as though I’ve really been to China…), we scrapped our way to Mongolia in a 2.5 day journey. I can’t even remember how long I’d wanted to go – it seemed so far away from everything I knew – and we were quick to get lost in the steppe. […]

  2. Traveler Spotlight: Naomi of “Anywhere But Home” | chimerachameleon - 22 March, 2013

    […] Couchsurfing up the Pacific Northwest – partying for 24 hours straight in Berlin – disconnecting from the world with a nomadic family in Mongolia – …and always being inspired to keep going for […]

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