The Ultimate Luxury Gers In Mongolia's Expansive Gobi Desert www.forbes.com
The best places in the world are often the hardest to get to. I’ve found this time and time again at places such as the Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge in Uganda, the Galapagos Safari Camp in Ecuador, Nihi Sumba in Indonesia, and the Explora resort in Patagonia. Now on my list is the Three Camel Lodge in Mongolia, a wildly obscure and pristine luxury ger camp set in Mongolia’s expansive Gobi Desert. I’ve long wanted to see Mongolia, and the Three Camel Lodge provides an unmatched way in which to experience it.
Most of Mongolia would be considered “remote,” and that’s an understatement. One can drive for hours on dirt roads (most of which Mongolia is) and never spot a person, road sign, cell tower, or ger. Half of Mongolia’s three million people live the centuries’ old nomadic lifestyle, and this way of life relies on felt padded ger “tents,” herds of animals, and the gifts of nature such as rain, wind, and river systems. To a Westerner tourist, this nomadic lifestyle is utterly romantic and unbelievable all at once, and Three Camel Lodge, despite its many comforts, does a good job at showcasing this simple, pristine way of life.
Three Camel Lodge rests in the flat “steppe” region of the Gobi-Altai Mountains of Gurvansaikhan National Park, about 300 miles from the capital, Ulaabaatar. The best way to get to the lodge is one hour by SUV from Dalanzadgad, a very small regional airport. Three Camel Lodge does a tremendous job in ensuring guests don’t get lost (no roads, as mentioned above), and each party is given a guide from the airport to manage each stay. Ours was lovely, spoke great English, and worked with our talented driver to spot eagles and herds of camels in the distance during our excursions. Every day, we had an adventure of riding two hump Bactrian camels in the sand dunes or hiking a mountain to view petroglyphs. My favorite sunset excursion was to the orange hued Flaming Cliffs, the legendary area also known as Bayanzag where dinosaur eggs were discovered nearly a century ago.
secretly enjoyed the lodge as much as the daily adventures. The property’s 40 gers, each meticulously handmade with wood, felt, and traditional colorful furniture, are surprisingly spacious. All the gers faces south, a Mongolian tradition, and my travel companion and I loved playing guitar and reading books while gazing out at the endless grasslands every afternoon.
This was a rare treat, and since there’s no wi-fi or cell service at the lodge, one can truly soak up the quiet, majestic beauty of the land at Three Camel Lodge. Also rare, given the extraordinary location of the resort, are the fantastic stone en-suite bathrooms complete with camel milk lotions, 24-hour electricity through the property, a luxury movie theater at the main lodge, and a full-service restaurant and bar lounge. There’s even a ger dedicated to Mongolian massage, a tradition practiced for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Although luxury is an attribute of Three Camel Lodge, the camp’s other notable asset is its dedication to sustainability, both environmentally and culturally. Jalsa Urubshurow, the founder and owner of Three Camel Lodge and a Mongolian-American, created Nomadic Expeditions, the sister company of Three Camel Lodge, in 1992. Nomadic Expeditions remains dedicated to taking travelers sustainability to obscure, unbelievable places throughout Asia, including Bhutan and Tibet. A decade later, Three Camel Lodge opened with the same ethos. Today, the Lodge recycles its organic waste to local farms for use as fertilizer, builds and supports greenhouse projects, employs 100% local Mongolians, and assists local families with goods and supplies to weather intense winters. In addition, Three Camel Lodge launched a ‘No Plastic Bags in the Gobi’ program that works with locals and small businesses to encourage the use of cloth shopping bags. I always prefer to stay at a property that doesn’t diminish its setting but instead enhances and cherishes it, and Three Camel Lodge is a pillar example.