Staying in a yurt, or ger, as it’s called in Mongolia, is the prime reason to make the trip to the middle of nowhere. While not quite as romantic as daydreams can make it seem, the whole stay is an incredible way to finally write that novel, or even better, to learn how to shear sheep.
Yurts are bent stemmed structures that some Asian families or nomads live in in Asia. They are collapsible! There are plenty of home-stay options that you can find through travel agents or hotels in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, and you can choose if you’d like to go to the grasslands or desert. One eco-company called Ger To Ger offers tons of specialized trips and is run by an Alaskan, but has mixed-to-negative reviews online and I haven’t gone through them. Depending on your hosts, it’s possible that you’ll be able to help out with daily tasks and go horseback riding.
The first, rather obvious thing to know is that it’s freezing at night – don’t let fire go out even in summer. If you’re not sharing a ger with the host family, you’ll have to arrange a schedule or just wake in a panic to stoke the fire. Gers are very cozy and well decorated, and usually hold a minimum of four comfortable beds.
Your hosts will provide three square meals a day, but you’d be wise to pack a lot of food that will travel well. Fresh fruit and veg are non-existent, and Mongolian food is fatty meat- and carbs-based. Also in terms of packing, stock up on microfiber clothing, especially if you’re always cold. You’ll need this to soak in the night sky, which totally lives up to its romantic reputation. When there’s a full moon, you probably won’t need a flashlight to find the outhouse, but bring one just in case. How the days go is entirely up to you. Bring a solar-powered charger if you need electronics, but just enjoying the surroundings is an entirely absorbing experience as well.
As for plumbing – there isn’t any. Stock up on dry shampoo and baby wipes, or just take a long walk against the wind, because you won’t be showering during your stay. Outhouses are situated pretty far (well, it feels far in the middle of the night) from the ger; bring a flashlight to find your way along with toilet paper. Toilets are of the squat variety, but thanks to the somewhat rickety construction and crosswinds, the smell is barely noticeable compared to most other places. Again, there are no sinks, so bring some sort of antibacterial hand gel.
Overall, this kind of holiday is largely safe and peaceful, with little bother or stress. However, I’ve read accounts of people staying in the family’s ger that were surprised to wake up to a female member of the family climbing into bed with them to give them a massage. The accounts sounded like it was a wildly left-field way of making sure they were comfortable and warm rather than an unwelcome come-on. I haven’t heard or experienced this firsthand, but just thought I’d put that out there!
What was your ger experience like?