Information About Mongolian Gers
Information About Mongolian Gers
★ No trip to Mongolia is complete without a stay in the traditional nomadic accommodation of the country – the Ger – and such a stay is considered by many to be a highlight of a trip along the Trans-Siberian.
★ Gers are hugely practical constructions able to withstand the worst that a Mongolian winter can throw at them yet are cool and airy in the height of summer. They can be put up or dismantled in a matter of hours and are made of materials and in sections that can be easily transported by horse or yaks.
★ All ger stays we offer are in camps specifically designed for tourists although there are usually opportunities to visit the gers of local nomadic families to see exactly how life is lived on the steppe. Although people often ask about staying with a family you will appreciate the practicality, comfort and facilities of the tourist ger camps versus a lived in ger.
★ The ger camps designed for tourists are comfortable and will have additional facilities separate the the ger itself such as dining areas, basic toilets and sometimes even showers.
★ Most camps will offer activities such as horse riding and archery in addition to the chance to stay in areas of spectacular scenery.
★ In the Mongolian countryside gers are usually the only accommodation option as hotels are few and far between and often of very poor standard.
★ The ger camps we use are all of a similar standard with the local scenery providing the main difference from camp to camp.
Set Up of Mongolian Gers
★ We use gers that are specifically designed for tourists and which offer a good level of comfort. Most gers are set up in the same way regardless of location.
★ Gers have one, low entrance door (mind your head!) which takes you into a simple round space that will contain either two or four beds. In the centre of the ger is a stove which is used for heating (often needed at night even in the summer months). The stove has a chimney which goes through the roof. In a nomadic family’s ger the stove is used for cooking as well as heating. Most gers will also have low tables and drawers for storage.
★ The beds are almost always single, made of wood and beautifully painted. If you are tall you may find them a little short in length but otherwise they are quite comfortable and with all the fresh air and exercise you get on the steppe you will find you sleep well.
★ During the summer the covering of the ger usually has a small gap at the floor level to let air in and keep the ger cool during the day. In the winter the gers get wrapped up in layers of felt and with the stove burning away they are remarkably warm and cosy.
★ All gers have a wooden floor but this is usually covered with carpets. There are a couple of wooden pillars to hold up the ceiling and most of the interior of the ger is tall enough to stand in.
★ Washing, toilet and dining facilities are almost always separate to the ger you sleep in.
★ Security is rarely an issue out on the steppe but gers will have a simple padlock if you wish to lock the door.
Facilities at Mongolian Ger Camps
★ Over the last 10 years the facilities at ger camps throughout Mongolia have improved dramatically making for a good balance between a unique experience and comfort. Do bare in mind though that gers are not hotels and are often in truly remote areas.
★ Toilet and washing facilities are almost always separate to the ger you sleep in. Considering the locations the facilities are often of a high standard with many camps now offering hot water for washing or even showers in areas where water supply is not a problem.
★ Note that if you take a trip out of season (October through to early May) toilet and washing blocks are usually shut down to prevent pipes freezing. During this period much more basic “hole in the ground” toilets are used and warm water for washing is supplied directly to your ger. This isn’t the hardship it might sound as ger stays in winter are limited to the areas close to Ulaanbaatar and are usually only for 1 or 2 nights.
★ Ger camps will usually have a designated “dining ger” or purpose built block for dining. Food standards are often surprisingly good and all camps will include all meals whilst you are there. You can also buy drinks in most camps including beer and even wine has made it on to the steppe in recent years.
★ Almost all camps will offer horse riding but additional activities can include archery, wrestling, ger building and you will often find a football to kick around – space is not usually in short supply!
★ Most camps will also have nomadic families based nearby (often the nomads work in the camps) that you can visit. Perhaps the most popular pursuit is just walking off into the vastness of the scenery.
Food at Mongolian Gers Camps
★ Not so long back the concept of “Mongolian Cuisine” made for a good joke with stories of “mutton, mutton and more mutton” being the norm. Nowadays the situation has changed dramatically and many ger camps offer food that will be a welcome change after days on a train!
★ Ger camps will include all meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner (a packed lunch if you have an activity which keeps you away from the camp during the day).
★ Menus will vary from camp to camp but you can expect a mixture of local Mongolian and Mongolian takes on international dishes. Local food will include soups, buuz (Mongolian dumplings and a staple food) and mutton dishes. Noodles, whether Italian or Chinese style, are also common. Portions are good as appetites are large in the fresh air of the grasslands.
★ In recent years the concept of vegetarianism has become more understood in the tourism sector in Mongolia so providing we know in advance catering for vegetarians and most other dietary requirements should not be a problem.
★ Mineral water is included with meals and you can also buy beer and sometimes wine. Mongolian vodka makes for a good after dinner tipple. Soft drinks such as Coca Cola will also be available. Prices for drinks can be quite high reflecting the effort and costs involved in getting them to the camps.
★ Hygiene standards are good and upset stomaches are rare when eating in the ger camps but if you choose to try the famous fermented mares milk during a nomadic family visit you can expect to have problems as it takes some getting used to. We have also never quite understood salted tea!
Mongolian Ger Construction
★ Gers are a marvel of efficient and sustainable design and construction refined over thousands of years. They are designed to be put up in about 2 hours and transported easily by horse, camel or yak.
★ Gers consist of an expanding wooden circular frame carrying a felt cover. The felt is made from the wool of the flocks of sheep that accompany the nomads. The timber to make the external structure is not to be found on the treeless steppes, and must be obtained by trade in the valleys below.
★ The frame consists of one or more expanding lattice wall-sections, a door-frame, bent roof poles and a crown. There are usually two wooden columns to support the crown and straight roof poles. The self-supporting wood frame is covered with pieces of felt and this is usually covered with canvas for extra water proofing and durability. The frame is held together with one or more ropes or ribbons. The structure is kept under compression by the weight of the covers, sometimes supplemented by a heavy weight hung from the centre of the roof.
★ The design has developed from its ancient simple forms to actively integrate with Buddhist culture. The crown has adopted the shape of Dharmachakra. Also the shapes, colours and ornaments of the wooden elements are in accordance with the artistic style found in the Buddhist monasteries of Mongolia. Such gers are called “uyangiin ger” literally meaning “home of lyrics” or “home of melodies.”
★ The gers you stay in as a tourist on a Mongolian tour follow pretty much the same design as pictured here. In the warmer summers the felt is taken off and just canvas is used with a gap left between the ground and the side cover to allow air to flow through the ger.