Against the backdrop of the Mongolian Gobi Altai mountains, a scattering of felt-covered gers—or traditional Mongolian tents—dots the wild expanse of the Gobi, their brightly decorated doors all pointing south. This is the Three Camel Lodge, a remarkable ecolodge in the heart of the desert that celebrates the traditions of Mongolia’s nomads while seeking to preserve its awe-inspiring surroundings.
Mongolia’s nomads have lived in gers for millennia, raising and collapsing them to follow their herds. The 35 gers of Three Camel Lodge are authentic and locally made, a circular wooden frame of radiating poles resting on lattice walls and covered in thick felts and canvas. Each is appointed with hand-painted, carved furniture and made cozy by wool carpets, thick camel-hair blankets, and wood-burning stoves. The main lodge building was designed in the style of ancient Buddhist temples, using traditional wooden peg construction and not a single nail. Even the roof tiles were hand molded in the ancient tradition. Modern technology all but stops at the lodge: guests instead gaze at a sky full of stars or rainbows arcing across the steppe, and get immersed in the nature and the culture of this vast desert.
Everything about Three Camel Lodge reflects its surroundings. The furnishings were made by local artisans using time-honored designs, and modern conveniences are quietly integrated into the traditional feel of the lodge. The lodge provides a full spectrum of activities to experience the Gobi, from visits with nomads in their homes to throat-singing performances to opportunities to participate in the excavations at the Flaming Cliffs with leading paleontologists.
From its design to its daily practices, the Three Camel Lodge is a model of environmental and cultural sustainability. Not only does it minimize its impact on the Gobi in every possible way, it also engages local residents in a number of projects and initiatives to conserve the natural and cultural heritage. Staff members enjoy fair wages and benefits and have the opportunity for career advancement. This healthy environment makes for a phenomenal guest experience, whether you’re peering at dinosaur fossils with a knowledgeable guide or watching a spectacular sunset on the sweeping Gobi landscape. In fact, we love this lodge so much, it made National Geographic Traveler’s list of World’s Best Ecolodges in 2013.
Guests who reserve their space through National Geographic Unique Lodges have a number of National Geographic Exclusive options depending on which package they choose. Join the lodge chef for a private cooking lesson, visit a local nomadic herding family, or enjoy an evening of stargazing through a Galileo telescope. See the full package itineraries for details.
Three Camel Lodge was built according to traditional Mongolian design using natural stone and other local materials. The lodge utilizes solar energy, recycles gray water, collects unused water to use for irrigation, and, along with its sister company, Nomadic Expeditions, has planted more than 8,000 trees to combat desertification.
“The concept of the Three Camel Lodge began as the keen desire to preserve and protect the Gobi Desert by creating a property that enabled controlled tourism to bolster the local community.” — Jalsa Urubshurow, Three Camel Lodge Founder and CEO
A key player in the local community, Three Camel Lodge has trained farmers in organic agriculture techniques, reducing the amount of food being imported into the area and supporting local livelihoods. Traditional musicians from the area are invited to perform regularly at the lodge and share stories about their heritage. Three Camel and Nomadic Expeditions were instrumental in establishing the Golden Eagle Festival, now a yearly event that celebrates falconry, an important element in the heritage of Mongolia’s nomads.
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