Mongola had always been a country high up on my bucket list to visit, so for my 28th Birthday when I realized I was going to be in the vicinity (and right before North Korea), I decided to do everything in my power to land a sponsored stay. I reached out to many wilderness yurt camps, which Mongolia is known for (along with the Trans-Siberian Railway – that of which is still on my bucket list!) and Nomadic Journeys ended up hosting me as a guest at their quiet Jalman Meadows Wilderness Camp. Have you ever done glamping? If not, I recommend this be your first experience. For those who aren’t familiar with “glamping”, it’s a luxury form of traditional camping, where, you have all of your basic amenities and then some. Typically, you’re pitched in a large tent or in this case, yurt or ger, somewhat like one large room, and you have a full to king sized bed with covers, bathroom (basic, but still nice), vanity and wood stove. Sometimes “room service” is offered, other times fine dining is located just a few steps away. The staff make an effort to fully please you and you pay a pretty penny for it.
Jalman was a unique experience in that, not only are you experiencing a sort of camping, but you’re doing so in a yurt, which is a surreal experience in and of itself. You have the opportunity to experience what the locals in the wild live like, while also realizing that it’s not so bad! In the cold winter nights, it’s quite toasty within your yurt. There’s a great deal of privacy especially considered that, well, you’re in the wild, and the best part? You’re technically “living off the land”, so it’s all sustainable!
To say I enjoyed myself was an understatement. To date, it was the most secluded week I’d ever experienced in my life, and also the best Birthday I’d ever experienced in my life. I’m an introvert and loner, and I love it. This was the perfect experience for me, but I imagine is just as wonderful for a close group of friends, family or a couple. In fact, I met a really wonderful couple while I was there, and we still keep in touch to this day! If you’re interested in viewing my experience in video format, check out my vlog here.
The overall rating that I gave Jalman Meadows Wilderness Camp was a 9/10.
What I loved: Where to even start my friend? The pure wilderness, untouched land, delicious and eclectic cuisine, immensely kind and hospitable staff, ultimate privacy, plentiful activities (I went kayaking along the river and they even provided lunch!), respect by male staff (as a solo female traveler), freedom to travel wherever one would like – I rented a mountain bike and was on my way! But the best part of all… this camp is about sustainable as a lodging establishment could get. Now, I will note that I have no idea where the trash and recycling from the restaurant and guests went, but there was a blatant effort made by the camp to preserve their environment and natural surroundings. From a (beautiful – a.k.a. best view ever) compost toilet set up 20ft from the camp, to the river water and wood-burning-stove-heated-bucket shower room (which the staff would heat up for you 15 minutes prior), to the solar panels that allow full usage of the kitchen and charging of batteries. Note that when it rains or is cloudy, power is limited, but what I loved was that the staff made sure to always have a backup plan, providing candles and still hosting meals but candlelit and with fresh fare.
“Jalman Meadows entered into a concession agreement with Erdene district and the Khan Khentii Protected Area Administration to bring additional jobs into the area, that are based on traditional livelihoods”.
What Set It Back: Nothing, can you believe it? I got very car sick on the way there, so note that it’s about a 3 hour drive from Ulaanbaatar in a 4-6 person 4×4 vehicle, so if you’re prone to car sickness, I recommend taking anti-nausea medication 30 minutes before the ride. They did stop along the way to view some special aspects of Ulaanbaatar, but be sure to bring your own toilet paper since bathrooms along the way are essentially holes in the ground that do not provide any.
Overall: The best place to stay to enjoy the luxurious and fruitful wilderness of Mongolia, hands down.
What makes a sustainable or regenerative hotel? A reverse osmosis water system, farm to table produce, supporting local dairy and meat farmers, engaging with local non-profit or community organization endeavors to address an issue within the country or community, energy efficient lighting, low pressure water systems, recycling, employing locals and offering fair and equal pay, replanting what was lost during the construction, use of biofuel (for boats), engaging guests in local cultural experiences and making them aware of environmental and cultural needs, LEED Certification, educating staff on importance of sustainability (turning off lights, observing for wasteful practices, etc.), reducing bathroom amenities waste (using bamboo toothbrushes instead, locally made/organic soap, shampoo and conditioner that help the environment), the list goes on.