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Orkhon valley

Orkhon valley (Mongolia)

Practical information about Orkhon valley

  • Family
  • Relaxation
  • Encounters with locals
  • Nature Reserve / Wildlife Observation / Safari
  • Hiking / Trekking
  • River
  • Waterfall
  • Horse
  • Place or Religious Monument
  • Archaeological Site
  • Sustainable Tourism
  • Unesco World Heritage
  • Essential
  • Off the beaten track
5 / 5 - 2 reviews
How to get there
Eight hours from Ulaanbaatar by bus
When to go
April/May and September/October
Minimum stay
5 to 7 days

Reviews of Orkhon valley

Marie Cavalié Travel writer
27 travel articles

TheOrkhon Valley is full of immense, silent open spaces edged by hills, rivers and steppes. It's a place that really makes you feel as if you have the world all to yourself.

My suggestion:
Live life at the Mongolian pace, even in situations requiring a sense of urgency. There's no point in rushing!

Once I got to Karakorum, which was the country's capital during the era of Genghis Khan, there was only one thing I wanted to do: head off out onto the steppes on horseback. There's no better way of exploring Mongolia than to do it at an exhilarating gallop. My fellow guesthouse guests and I therefore took a jeep and headed off to the yurt camp from where our trek would be setting out.

After a detour to a Buddhist temple perched up in the mountains along the way, we eventually arrived at our warm, comfortable yurt. The landscape and setting were absolutely wonderful. You get a strong sense of being out in the middle of nowhere and having left civilisation far behind. Every so often on the trek we came across grazing yaks, or the odd family in the process of dismantling their yurt and preparing to move on. 

However, be prepared to be as patient as the steppes are never-ending, because the way trips like this are organised can sometimes lead to unexpected situations, e.g. the horses being hard to find (they live freely, out in the open). Once you set off, the sensation of galloping across the steppes gives you an incredible sense of freedom, of a kind I'd personally never experienced before.

Setting up or dismantling a yurt
Travel writer
14 travel articles

It would be a real shame to restrict a trip to Orkhon Valley to just visits to the Erdene Zuu Monastery in Karakorum and the Orkhon waterfalls. In fact, could there be a more wonderful place than this for the traveller who wants to fully immerse themselves in the nomadic lifestyle?

My suggestion:
Leave your watches, calendars and GPS-equipped phones in Ulaanbaatar and let the wonderful river here act as your guide! Essential bivouac equipment, strong legs and feet, horses, a cycle or motorbike, and friendliness will be of much more use to you.

Hiking enthusiasts will simply adore this riverside trek.

There are a significant number of nomad campsdistributed throughout the Orkhon Valley. It's possible to buy meat and rice from the people at these camps, though they will actually try hard to simply give you these items.

Looking at first like tiny little white dots on the horizon, you'll almost always find the yurts open when you get to them and the welcome you'll receive there will be quite wonderful! However – and as with everywhere – it's always important to properly respect the Mongolian people's habits and customs, and their living environment. There's no need to overload yourself with water when doing this hike: as is the case with most rivers in Mongolia, it's OK to drink the natural water here. I didn't actually buy any at all, and I didn't fall ill.

Bat-Ölzii is the place to set out from when beginning the hike. The down-river route is also very beautiful, but it may prove too long for you if you're doing it on foot. This walk definitely offers the opportunity to really immerse yourself in and experience the Mongolian way of life. It's preferable to come here in spring or autumn. Not only are there fewer tourists at these times, but also fewer flies and mosquitoes too. This means you'll be able to enjoy and make the most of the nomadic lifestyle on offer at this UNESCO World Heritage site in complete peace and tranquillity.

Pausing in the shallows of the Orkhon River