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RIDE HORSEBACK THROUGH MONGOLIA
The trip: You're thundering under cerulean skies across the Darhad Valley, reins loosely flapping in your hands and a Mongolian wind tugging at your hat as the small, strong horse surges beneath you. Untouched mountainsides spill down to steppes and pastures; the only signs of civilization are a few yurts in the distance. On a horse trek through Mongolia, adventurers don't even have to close their eyes to pretend they're Genghis Khanor Alec in The Black Stallion. After exploring the capital, Ulaanbaatar, and boating the 100-mile Lake Khovsgol at the Siberian border, travelers meet their horses for ten days of riding through the Darhad, the sun-baked valley of Mongolian herdsmen, wild lakes, and jagged peaks. They'll also meet the nomadic "Reindeer people," whose ranks are disappearing as modernization encroaches, and will sleep in tents and at ger (yurt) camps. The trek coincides with the Naadam Festival, a mini-Olympics and big party for Mongolian horse racers, wrestlers, and archers. Sorry, only kids can race the horses.
Why go? When it comes to true horse country, Kentucky and Montana have nothing on Mongolia, where infants are taught to ride before they can walk.
What to pack: Advil. You'll be riding up to 20 miles per day on a traditional Russian cavalry saddle with precious little padding.
Difficulty: 5 out of 10. Riding experience is a must, as the horses are often less broken than you'd like. And be prepared to handle the cold, hunger, and discomfort that sometimes comes with camping in the wilderness with little privacy.
Your guides: Boojum Expeditions, which has been trekking in Inner Mongolia by horseback since 1984. The company is also one of the few outside entities to maintain close ties with the remote Reindeer people.
Tel: 406 587 0125
19-day Khovsgol Horse Trek with Nadaam Festival (including three nights in hotels and the rest camping or in a ger), plus all meals, $3,415 per person