Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country in the world, a vast untamed expanse of mountain, forest, desert and plateau. In this nomadic land where more than thirty per cent of the population are still herdsmen and there are scarcely any roads, riding is the normal means of getting around. Mongolians have an almost symbiotic relationship with their horses - calm, surefooted ponies that easily handle the rough terrain unshod.
An expedition by horse to the Orkhon Valley will open your eyes to a way of life that is utterly unfamiliar. The Orkhon is the cradle of Central Asian nomadic societies, a World Heritage Cultural Landscape where the inhabitants live in harmony with nature, continuing pastoral traditions and shamanic religious practices that have remamed unchanged for some two millenia.
As you ride through the wildflower pastures by the River Orkhon, the only signs of human life are the scattered gers (yurt tents) of nomad families. A camping trek of some 200 km (125 mi) along the river valley and up into the Khangai Mountains, through verdant, volcanic plains and forested gorges to the dramatic cascade of the Orkhon waterfall is a liberating escape from the complexities of the post-modern age. Here there is just you, your horse and nature in the raw.
Incredible as it may seem, you are travelling through the heart of the largest empire in the history of the world. At its height in the 13th century, the Mongol Empire stretched across Central Asia from Beijing to the borders of Hungary. Ghengis Khan held sway over more than a 100 million people from his capital city of Kharkhorum in the Orkhon Valley. The remnants can be seen today - ruins standing as testaments that this remote valley was once the centre of the world.
WHEN TO GO
May to October
TIME IT TAKES
Galloping across the steppe.
Staying in a traditional ger camp.
Ruins of Kharakhorum - Ghengis Khan's capital.
Erdene Zuu Monastery - most ancient Buddhist monastery in Mongolia.
Drinking fermented mare's milk.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
You should be a reasonably competent horse rider to go on this trek. Alternative means of transport are yak cart, mountain bike or 4x4.