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Trans-Siberian Railway


Into the Gobi – Bayangobi

You’ve probably never travelled by train to a desert before – as holiday experiences go, this is as unique as it gets. Before the Trans-Mongolian railway was completed, the Gobi desert was completely isolated: untouched apart from the indigenous nomads. Move on to present day, the railway well established…and the Gobi is pretty much unchanged, one of the world’s last remaining wildernesses.

The Gobi typifies and almost defines Mongolia. Expectations of deserts tend to rely on cliches that are not really true, or are true of some but not others – let’s lay these on the table. The Gobi isn’t made up of sand – it’s primarily a scrub desert. There’s some limited vegetation in the Gobi – some scrubby grasses, and saxaul. Nor is it short of wildlife – gazelles, sandplovers, polecats and wolves might be seen by the lucky and observant. You’ll also see omnipresent camels, horses and goats, which are commercially herded by the Gobi nomads – for their wool. Where did you think cashmere came from? One major Gobi destination is the Erdenezuu Monastery – once the site of Genghis Khan’s great kuriltai (”gathering of the clans”)… the tortoise statue is the only Genghis relic.

The Gobi herdsmen’s nomadic existence is widely misunderstood – they don’t wander randomly. Herdsmen have an established winter base, where the animals are penned in bad weather and fodder is stored. They move to different known pastures during the summer months.

Staying with Gobi nomads is quite possible. Remember that their hygiene standards differ from yours. There are no showers, no running water, no toilets, no fridges. They don’t live like that for your benefit, so please don’t write to tell us – we already know! If your idea of a holiday is the luxury of a 5 star hotel then it’s safe to say that staying with nomads in the Gobi is not going to be your thing. If, however, you’re open to new experiences, embracing different cultures, seeing a changing view from your train window every day – then choosing a Flower Travel holiday travelling on the Trans-Siberian Express may be the best decision you’ve made for a long time.