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Trans-siberian blog Mongolia winter

Mongolia Gers Winter

Mongolian Ger Camps in Winter

One of the Highlights of many Trans-Siberian Tours is a stopover in Mongolia and a night or two out at a tourist ger camp on the open steppe. The uniqueness of the accommodation, wide open vistas of the grasslands and hospitality of the local people all make for an unforgettable experience. You may think that such an experience could only be possible, or at least worthwhile, in the short summer from June to late August? How about visiting Mongolian ger camps in winter?

Availability of Ger Stays in the Winter

During the winter months much of Mongolia becomes hard to visit and all across the country tourist Ger camps tend to close due to a lack of visitors. It also becomes difficult to supply the camps. However, this is not the case around the capital of Ulaanbaatar where many of the camps used on our Trans-Siberian holidays are located. Although some camps do close others remain open and available to the intrepid visitor – albeit with reduced facilities due to the winter weather conditions.

Gers - the Differences Between Summer and Winter

Ger camps in summer offer a wide range of facilities with many having showers blocks, flushing toilets (not in the gers though) and recreational facilities. The main difference of a winter visit is that the luxuries of showers and flushing toilets are not possible due to pipes freezing in the sub 30C temperatures commonly experienced. Instead long drop toilets are available and if you wish to wash the camp staff will provide a bowl of hot water to do so. However, these are small inconveniences when compared to the wonderful experience and stark beauty of the steppe in the depths of winter. Where you may have also eaten in a central dining area you will now eat in your ger around it’s warm stove instead making for a far more intimate experience.

Keeping Warm and Activities on Offer

Naturally the construction of a winter ger is different to a summer one. There are additional layers of felt and the ground is built up around the bottom to prevent drafts. The skylight at the top is sealed with only the chimney protruding. The insulation provided by the felt is exceptional and it is easy to put too much fuel in the stove and heat your ger up to an intolerable temperature – in this case you don’t worry about keeping warm but cooling down and we have experienced the seemingly ridiculous situation of having to open the door to let the freezing winter air in for a bit to cool things down! During winter there are less outdoor activities on offer. Horse riding is discouraged as the horses need all their strength to get though the winter. Walking on the ice encrusted steppe is possible but often only tolerable for short periods. Instead much of your time is spent in the ger relaxing, playing local games such as ankle bones or making visits to nearby nomadic families to see how they spend the winter.

We have visited Mongolia several times in the depth of winter and a night in a ger comes highly recommended and makes this already unique experience all the more special.

Article originally posted by Phil Stanley: 19th November 2013

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