Ultra-Luxe in Mongolia has a somewhat different meaning from elsewhere in Asia. Of course it means flying privately by plane or helicopter, but it also means travelling to far-flung locations that would normally require endless hours of driving – or, in many cases, be all but inaccessible with no towns or commercial airports anywhere near. Private ger camps with personal bathrooms and showers are the ultimate luxury in Mongolia, where most gers require trudging across fields in moonlight when nature calls during the wee hours. Private chefs and masseuses are the icing on the cake.
Mongolia is the size of Western Europe with a population of fewer than 3 million (the lowest population density in the world). It has only a handful of commercial airports, so most trips to Mongolia require massive amounts of tedious driving. Therefore, I highly recommend flying privately, as I did recently, in order to reach remote locations in Mongolia quickly, efficiently and painlessly.
I chartered a small turbo-prop plane and few to Ikh Nart National Park in the East Gobi. It would have taken seven hours to drive this route, while a flight takes less than one hour. A land of little excess, Mongolia has but a single private plane available to charter. My pilot was a friendly, young Canadian, and his co-pilot was Mongolian. Because of the lack of airports in this remote land, we had to create our own; a green field can be transformed into a runway in Mongolia, with only the assistance of a few well-placed flags.
Ikh Nart is a semi-desert steppe and grassland full of striking rock formations and roaming wildlife in the form of Argali sheep, Ibex and rare birds. The best way to view these creatures is to head out at dawn or dusk on a safari. With its scrub ground and few residents, Ikh Nart offers animal watching, mountain biking, and relaxing.
Another incredible sight to see by plane is Khan Khentii National Park. Just as every trip to Mongolia must include a stop in Ulaanbaatar, it is also advised to witness the juxtaposition between the arid deserts of the Gobi and the lushness of Khan Khentii. Unlike many other areas of Mongolia, Khan Khentii is situated between a flowing river and rolling hills, allowing for both river rafting and hiking.
One of the most remarkable things about flying privately through Mongolia is that the whole country becomes available to you, and roads, airports, and accommodations are no longer considerations of your visit. Where there is no previous point of access by car, we can land a plane or helicopter. Where there is no hotel, we can construct a private ger camp, complete with a private toilet, personal chef, and masseuse. What was once unchartered territory now becomes your playground, without sacrificing the luxury of a fine resort.