Travel Review - Hustai National Park
by Miss Abroad
Mongolia… There is so much to see and do in this sizable Central Asian country with its stunning, diverse scenery and wildlife of mountains and deserts. But what if you only have limited time in the country?
If you are looking for a spot relatively close to Ulaanbaatar, where you can see some primitive and unspoiled terrain, Hustai National Park shouldn’t be missed.
What is so special about Hustai National Park?
Hustai National Park is located approximately 120 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar (about 2 hours drive). The reserve is one of the protected areas in Mongolia – a huge expanse of grassland steppes, surrounded by rounded hills and a gentle valley. In summer, the hills have an incredible intense green color! The absolute highlight of the park are the Przewalski’s wild horses – the Mongolians call it Takhi. They were reintroduced to the park in the 90’s and today there are over 220 takhi in the park. Hustai is the only place in the world where these horses live in the wild. However, Przewalski horses are not the only attraction of the park. And at the same time, you can watch other wildlife like red deer, gazelle, sheep, wolves and foxes and marmots (a lot of marmots!).
How did I travel to Hustai National Park?
My two-days trip to Hustai National Park was arranged by Escape to Mongolia in cooperation with SIXT – Rent A Car. This included the car, driver and the night at the camp. Escape to Mongolia is a destination marketing organization acting as a digital concierge to inspire and guide visitors through the country.
Their website offers comprehensive information about the different regions of Mongolia as well as tour bookings. The company partners with SIXT – Rent A Car, Aero Mongolia for domestic flights and the Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace in Ulaanbaatar.
How much time should you plan for the trip?
I’ll be honest – before my trip to Hustai I didn’t know much about it except that is was close to Ulaanbaatar, has some horses and a pretty landscape. Considering the relatively short distance from Ulaanbaatar, I thought I would be able to visit Hustai within one day. And while it is doable, I don’t recommend rushing through it within a day. Why? The best time to see the Przewalski’s horses is in the evening. The horses hide out high in the hills during the day, but in the evening they come down to the Tuul River which runs through the park. So, you are better off staying a night at the park.
Getting to Hustai National Park!
Be aware that many tour operators in Mongolia operate with old Russian vans that are in a very poor condition. I just remember the many stories I have heard about car break downs from other travelers. Not only this, I also heard that many drivers don’t hold back with alcohol consumption… You can imagine how relieved I was when I saw the Suzuki Jimny 4×4, SIXT rent a car had provided. It seemed in excellent shape, had comfortable seats, AC and seat belts. In addition, the driver was not only English speaking but also knew the area well. Priceless.
I just had to sit back, relax and watch the scenery. While I usually love road trips and prefer to go around independently, for a solo female traveler in Mongolia, having a driver was the right choice. The 2-hour drive from Ulaanbaatar to Hustai is a wonderful experience. Following the paved, yet bumpy road, you’ll come across some beautiful landscape, small villages and goat herds. Overall there are many great photo spots along the way. You definitely won’t get bored. Once reaching the Hustai National Park, the road quickly turns to rough dirt.
What to expect inside the park?
Once you reach the welcome sign of the Hustai National Park, it’s a good idea to take a break and visit the museum to learn more about the history of the park before you enter. You’ll also find a map of the area and the different trails which might be handy. There are basically 2 trails you can choose from:
Regardless of which trail you chose, you’ll be amazed by the landscape of green plains of the steppe. And the best thing is; you hardly see a soul. It feels like you have the entire scenery just to yourself. We drove around a lot and occasionally stopped and took a walk around to take some photos.
So, how to spot the famous Przewalski’s horses? If you show up at 5pm, you’ll have plenty of time to find them. Just look for a cluster of cars pulled over to the side of the road or a crowd of people with binoculars and cameras. We were lucky and it took us less than 10 minutes to find them. In the picture below, you can see them in the distance. I didn’t have the greatest lens, but I could still see them pretty clearly – an amazing experience!
Note: In the park you can’t drive off road or get closer than 300m to the wildlife. Activities that could be disturbing to wildlife like screaming and running are also prohibited.
Yes, you will want to document your visit, but remember that the welfare of the Takhi and the other wildlife are far more important than your photograph.
Where to spend the night?
I spent the night at a tourist camp and got to sleep in a traditional Mongolian home called “ger”, located right at the entrance of the park. Before my trip I was a bit worried about sleeping in a camp, but it turned out to be quite comfortable. The ger is well furnished, heated and has proper beds with blankets. Each ger is shared with up to 2 other people. Shared bathroom facilities are just around the corner – clean, equipped with hot showers and even hairdryer. What more do you need?
Dinner is served in the camp restaurant and I was happy to see that they also cater to vegetarians. The breakfast buffet is quite extensive and offered many choices. If you are more adventurous, you’ll be happy to hear that Escape to Mongolia includes an easy to set up tent in their tour package. It comes with cooking utensils so that you can prepare your own meal. Just bear in mind that camping inside Hustai National Park is prohibited. You’ll have to set up your tent somewhere outside.
Travel Review by Miss Abroad, July 2017.