Posted by Selena Travel / 03 02, 2024
There was something in my father’s pictures that called me to Mongolia. The horizon in the distance, the openness of the steppe, the wildness of the nature. In 2010 we hatched a plan to travel to Mongolia together--it would be his second trip, my first. In 2014 we spent three weeks traveling around Mongolia (and I’ve since spent 3 years living and traveling in the country). While we journeyed many miles and visited numerous sites, it was our time spent in Khustai Nuruu National Park that made my initial dream--to put my hiking boots on the great Eurasian steppe--feel complete.
We arrived to the Park midday and enjoyed lunch in the restaurant before driving in with our guide. It was a green summer and we saw a good bit of wildlife in the park, marmots, argali sheep, cranes, and gazelles, in addition to the group of Przewalski horses we found and watched for an hour or more.
It should be noted that you can’t travel in the Park unaccompanied. The guides that the park employs are good at getting you out to see the horses but some hiking is usually necessary. I recommend you wear comfortable attire, have sunblock and a hat, and having binoculars on hand is also advantageous. Beyond the wildlife there are also historic sites (ie. Ungut complex) you can visit within the park.
Przewalski horses (called takhi by Mongolians) travel in groups--usually 8-11 horses--comprised of one stallion, a few mares, and depending on the time of year, perhaps a foal or two. They are a unique looking animal--stout and majestic. If you did your homework you already know that they are genetically different than other horses in the world--they carry an extra set of chromosomes! At the entrance to the park you can watch a movie that explains about the park and the history of the horse, as well as tour their recently expanded information center.
But the best part of the visit is observing the animals in their natural habitat! We spent a night at the ger camp at the park’s entrance and in the morning, before the rest of the visitors awoke, we hiked from the camp to the top of the steppe in the distance--probably about 40 minutes of leisurely hiking. Two stray dogs appeared and accompanied us on the hike. The sun was bright and lit up the dew nestled on the blades of grass at our feet. The sky was bright blue and dotted with only a few wispy white clouds. The cherry on top of that hike? We reached the summit of the steppe and looking down into the valley below we discovered a group of the horses grazing their way along. We found some rocks, sat down, and took in the beauty and silence of a glorious morning in Mongolia!
Photo credits to Heather Caveney
I’ve since been back to Khustai a few more times and have seen the horses every time. The park is not far out of the capital and a visit can be organized as a day trip from UB or incorporated into whatever other travel plans you may have.