Posted by Selena Travel / 03 02, 2024
We tried to travel to the Orkhon waterfall that first summer I visited Mongolia. It seemed a short distance from Karakorum and we asked about swapping out the customary visit to the Erdene Zuu Monastery for a day trip to the waterfall. However, our guide and driver were quick to say that this was not a possibility as the road to the waterfall was, in their words, “a very bad road.”
My father rolled his eyes and I shrugged my shoulders with acceptance that we wouldn’t make it. We had a fine time in Karakorum--visiting the museum (one of the best ones I’ve visited in Mongolia!), the monastery, and the site of what was Chinggis Khan’s ancient and imperial city (I’ve visited it a few times now; there has been considerable growth in its development).
Photo by Selena Travel
I made it to the Orkhon waterfall two summers later in the first week of August. The road was--very rough--just as they had indicated! This is why I wrote in a previous piece about listening to your driver/guide. They know these landscapes and roads. Also, they use a unique “GPS” system to find their destinations as there are no signs in the countryside. GPS--or Ger Positioning System--is what drivers do when they want to check or verify they are on the correct two-track countryside road. They will pull up to a ger in the countryside and confer with its inhabitants about their placement and their desired destination. Sometimes this happens once, sometimes multiple times. But they always get you where you want to go!
Photo by Caroline Pang
On my trip to the Orkhon waterfall we traveled in a Russian van (UAZ 452), also called a purgon. It is notorious as being THE vehicle that can go anywhere in Mongolia. I think that’s absolutely true. I’ve been through many a creek, traversed what looked like a rocky lava field, and climbed up mountains and covered many kilometers of steppe. While it can take you anywhere you need to go, it isn’t the most comfortable ride in Mongolia. If you want comfort, be sure to ask for a Land Cruiser (they can go almost anywhere).
Photo by Heather Caveney
There are plenty of ger camps in the area. It’s common to pack a picnic and eat a meal in the area around the waterfall. There are spaces to sit at the top of the falls, and there is a hiking trail that will take you down to the base of the falls. When I visited this required some climbing over rocks and under fallen trees all of which made the experience more enjoyable. The trees that line the river at the base are majestic and tall. Fish can be seen in the river if the water is running clear (ie not running with sediment from a recent rain).
Photo by Heather Caveney
I know a number of people that have traveled to the waterfall on horseback as Uvurkhangai is a popular aimag for horse treks. I didn’t have the opportunity to do that myself, but have heard it is a great way to experience the area and feel closer to the land, its animals, and its people. There is plenty of space for good hiking in the area as well. Happy travels!