Memories in Mongolia (Part 1)


During the 2018-19 school year, Thornton-Donovan School embarked on a journey to Mongolia. Around forty faculty members, students, and family members joined to enjoy this experience. Each day was an adventure and we learned more about the land, the food, the people and the culture of Mongolia.

On February 28th, we departed JFK airport enroute to Mongolia. Then on March 1st, after almost twenty-four hours, we arrived in the capital city: Ulaanbaatar. We took the rest of the day to adjust to the thirteen-hour difference and to ready ourselves for the activities to follow throughout the trip.


On March 2nd, the group explored the capital city. We traveled to the largest functioning Buddhist monastery in Mongolia: the Gandan Monastery. We had the opportunity to silently witness the monks during their prayers. Then, we made our way to the Museum of Mongolian History, where everybody learned more about how the country came to be. Afterwards, we visited the mountainous region to get a preview of the nomadic life and area where the eagle festival would be held. We ended the day by touring Sukhbaatar, one of the city’s squares.


On March 3rd, we were fortunate enough to watch the Golden Eagle Festival. The concept of this event is to measure the accurate contact and the speed of a hunter’s eagle. Unfortunately, we were not able to stay for the entire contest, but we made our way to the Bogd Khan Palace, a complex that was head of the Mongolian religion. After the museum, we were given a choice to either go shopping for cashmere or to travel to see the best view of the city. I chose the viewpoint in which one could see all of Ulaanbaatar with its mountain ranges behind it. It was absolutely beautiful.


On March 4th, the school made their way to the city of Karakorum, one of Mongolia’s major tourist destinations. We toured a museum about the oldest Buddhist Monastery complex of Erdene Zuu (which we visited right after). We stayed in the city overnight instead of the capital.


On March 5th, every person on the trip went for a ride on Bactrian camels in the sandy dunes. Mongolia is home to most of the two-humped, Bactrian camels. This was very exciting.  To end the day, we arrived at a ger camp where each person stayed in a traditional Mongolian house for the night. I would say they were quite comfortable.


On March 6th, we all rode in different buses to visit Hustai National Park to see the Przewalski horses, one of the last remaining species of wild horses in the world. We went to a couple of different locations to see these horses, even though they ran at the sight of people. Leaving the Gobi Desert, the school made its long trip back to Ulaanbaatar.

On March 7th, the T-D travelers departed for Terelj National Park, one of the most visited parks in Mongolia. On the way, we visited a Nomadic family and were welcomed into their winter ger, where they offered us snacks and milk tea. Later that day, we explored the national park and visited Turtle Rock, which is a rock formation that resembles a turtle. We then made our way to visit the Aryabal Meditation Temple located on a hill overlooking the mountains.


On March 8th, we split up in two groups and switched between two activities: horseback riding and dog sledding. We rode the native Przewalski horses though the steppe. Dog sledding was quite interesting; one person would stand upright near the back of the sled while their partner would sit in a sack in the front. The sleds were pulled by a line of about ten strong Huskies. As we slid on a completely frozen river, we were able to see the beautiful snow covered mountains from our sled.


On March 9th, we traveled to the 40-meter-tall Genghis Khan statue, where one could climb the statue and see a panoramic view of the steppe. Later in the day, we visited a sacred Shaman Camp, where shamanic rituals are held. After lunch in a nearby ger camp, we returned to Ulaanbaatar.


On March 10th, we had a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the president of Mongolia at the capital’s center. The group asked questions regarding the future of Mongolia and its citizens. One traveler in particular, Mr. Newman, sang a parody of Frank Sinatra’s “Chicago” about his experience in Mongolia.

The school’s adventure to Mongolia was incredibly enriching for all ages. Thornton- Donovan thanks everybody who travelled for adding this trip to another one of TD’s memorable trips around the world.