When I began to plan my trip to Mongolia, I reached out to the few friends I knew who had lived in this sparsely populated country. They all had different ideas on what to do. All, however, suggested the same place to stay: the Ayanchin Four Seasons Lodge.
Cozy rooms: they’re GEReat
“Ayanchin” has a double meaning in Mongolian: it can mean hunter or endless travels. Yet during my recent stay at the lodge, the cozy rooms gave me the urge to stay still. When I called to make a reservation, Ukhu, Ayanchin’s very capable boss, suggested we stay in the “Gertech” building as we planned to travel with baby. This brand-new round building features a ger roof, multi-room suites for families and great views of the park. The rooms feature fluffy white pillows and bedspreads and L’Occitane bath amenities. From the window of my room, I could survey the landscape with a cup of milk tea and my feet on the radiator.
Ayanchin has suites and multi-bed rooms to comfortably host families.
The scene was like looking at a landscape painting with moving parts: Off in the distance lay a ger with a red door and a herd of cows grazing in front of the structure. Mongolian horses, smaller than your average quarter horse, cantered across the plain. A dog ran across the dirt track suggestion of a road in front a man dressed in black riding a bike. This all took place against the backdrop of an ominous looking rock with two spines, with a peak not unlike a saddlehorn. Were it not for the gers, I would have felt like an olden day settler sitting on my porch in the American West.
Stay in a Ger
Ayanchin has 8 gers, which feature single beds, wood stoves, and a coat rack. Bathrooms and showers are located nearby in the lodge.
Many locals and tour operators insist you can’t leave Mongolia without staying in one of these round structures, a quintessential symbol of Mongol society. Chinggis Khan is known to have said that a Mongol is one who lives in a ger. Mongolians have lived in gers for nearly 25 centuries, making them one of the oldest continually-used style of homes in the world. Gers provide superb protection against the elements and can withstand winds of more than 100 miles per hour. They are easily transportable, making them easy to handle for the 3-6 moves a year that Mongolia’s nomadic herdsmen and women may make.
Food: Order the dumplings!
Ayanchin’s restaurant features authentic Mongolian and western food. Many Mongolian couples and families make the 1.5 hour trip from the capital to sample the pizza and khushuur, a large fried dumpling. We did and could agree with them. The fried dough reminded me of a Cornish pasty and was stuffed with flavorful beef and shredded cabbage.
Some of our other favorites on the menu include tsuivan, a stir fry made of homemade noodles, with beef, carrots and cabbage, and the buuz, steamed dumplings stuffed with beef and cabbage–you can start to see a theme in the ingredients, no?
After a long hike, we also enjoyed the vegetable soup–with beef, of course.
After a day of hiking, my friend and I washed these hearty entrees down with milk tea, which baby was interested in. Later on in the evening we enjoyed local Kharkorum lager. Ayanchin also stocks a large selection of liquors and wine.
Options for kiddos abound
Ayanchin has a number of pieces of playground equipment in the backyard. In the basement of the main lodge there is a playroom for little kids, as a well as karaoke, table tennis and pool.
And you can also walk out the door and the wide open spaces allow lots of room for kids to play. Ayanchin’s “protected area” is quite large–over 100 acres–and has a perimeter fence designed to keep livestock out, and the natural grass and flowers growing. It is easy to walk outside the gate, and visit horses, cows, and sometimes sheep and goats and yaks grazing outside the property. Note: yaks can get grumpy, and always exercise caution around animals.
We’ve got activities!
Mongolia may be known for its harsh winters, yet you can enjoy yourself year round.
360 Degrees of Hiking Options
Ayanchin has 360 degrees of hiking options. The lodge’s location in a national park ensures that nearly all walks offer stunning views of Terelj-Gorkhii National Park’s interesting rock formations. Right outside of the lodge–or from your window–you can see a number of gers during the grazing season, along with herded animals. If you decide to go for an all-day hike, the lodge can pack you a lunch. According to Ayanchin manager John Karlsen, who has lived in Mongolia for more than 18 years, the best hiking can be found by heading west over the hill behind the lodge. Turtle Rock, an animal shape formation, is around a 16 kilometer round trip.
Ayanchin can also arrange for golf-there is a course 3 KM away, fishing, and horseback riding trips, at the very affordable price of around $10 per hour.
During the winter there is sledding, dogsledding and mountain and snow biking. The lodge has a 1.5 km bike track for all levels and the lodge maintains 15 bikes for use.
Guests can arrange for outings in a six-passenger Polaris Ranger that can handle the rocky terrain and river crossings. With prior coordination, Ayanchin can organize a pack lunch and provide a guide who speaks English, Mongolian, Japanese and/or Russian.
How to make a reservation
We found it easy to make a reservation via Ayanchin’s Facebook page. You can also email the lodge.
Baby and I can’t wait to go back.