Camel Lodge in the Gobi Desert is a luxury getaway experience like no other

No phone, no TV and no internet: To some it could seem like a screenless nightmare from a non-connected era some time in the (cue eyeroll) early 20th century.

But swinging on the chairs of the Dino Bar sipping the first Golden Gobi beer as the sun disappears over the horizon soon allays any fears you've made the wrong choice in hopping from airport to airport to get to remote Mongolia.

The vast, flat expanse is tinged with green from recent rain, horses and sheep floating aimlessly around the unfenced landscape.

It is a view like no other – one seemingly open to all manner of adventures.

Just deserts

Sandwiched between Russia and China, Mongolia is landlocked.

So, forget beaches and pools. It's not that sort of country. Mongolians prefer wrestling, horse riding and archery.

For those wanting to experience the true Mongolia it's more about the desert – the Gobi Desert covers half a million square kilometres, about one third of the country – and the adventures that go with that.

Tucking in

Our base was the Three Camel Lodge, an exclusive hotel about an hour from the regional airport of Dalanzadgad.

Sitting at the base of a small hill, it consists of 40 gers, the Mongolian equivalent of a yurt. They are based on the portable homes the nomadic farmers still rely on. Ours weren't at all portable, affixed to a rock foundation and with far more luxury trimmings that your average ger. Sort of like the Mongolian equivalent of Uluru's Longitude 131.


Thick felt lies over a wooden frame held together with camel leather, an ensuite attached to complete the luxury trimmings.

Bone doctor

One of the Gobi's drawcards is its rich assortment of dinosaur bones, the dry climate helping preserve fossils of 70 and 80 million-years-old. Parts of the desert are known for their proliferation of dinosaur fossils, from bone fragments to complete specimens and even eggs (the first dinosaur eggs were discovered in Mongolia).

Fresh from a 35-person, 16-day expedition that uncovered three unidentified bone collections, our guides are part of the circa $3000-a-night-per-couple room cost take us on one of many adventures.

Recent rain has exposed fresh bones, the white fragments protruding from the sandy surface. Discovering something that old is a surreal experience unlike any other you're likely to experience on a holiday.

Change it up

Heading out to the dinosaur sites exposes the variability of the terrain, from the expansive green plains to dry creek beds with towering rocks to the brilliant red dirt hills of the Flaming Cliffs, where fossilised dinosaur eggs were discovered for the first time 100 years ago.

What look like rugged hills off in the distance are often slightly steeper gentle slopes, the sparsely-dispersed grass creating a brilliant vista. By which time you're learning to leave the phone at the hotel.

There's smatterings of mobile service near small towns, but you're regularly reminded you're in remote terrain.

Nomadic life

Mongolians have traditionally lived nomadic lives and the history continues. Farmers wander the desert in search of feed for their livestock, which can be a mix of camels, horses, sheep, goats and cattle.

They still live in gers, shear sheep with oversized scissors and ride horses. But they also use cars, trucks and motorbikes to get around, technology assisting with their basic requirements. They also have phones and TVs in their gers, one step ahead of the tourists.

They're friendly people, eager to share their simple way of life. It's all part of the unique Gobi experience.

Eat well

Forget the sizzling Mongolian lamb.

Turns out the proximity to China prompted the Chinese to invent a dish inspired by the Mongols, now a staple on the menus of Chinese restaurants the world over.

Mongolian food is more western-influenced but includes some interesting touches, including boortsog – similar to a donut - something served with mild sour cream and local honey, which is nowhere near as golden as ours. Meat is popular, in part because of the herds the nomads cultivate.

Chives also rate well on the menu – mainly because much of that wispy desert grass is often the subtly flavoured herb.

Our Three Camel Lodge also has its own greenhouse, cultivating fresh veggies to complement.

Timing, timing, timing

The Gobi experiences one of the biggest temperature swings in the world, ranging from -35 degrees (or colder) in winter to 40 of above in summer.

Travelling in the icy sting around December and January is out, then, so you're better off aiming for between April to October. It's an effort to get there, involving multiple flights.

And if you want to experience it in luxury, the Three Camel Lodge will set couples back about $3000 per night.

Those who can't unshackle themselves from email will struggle with the remoteness. Those prepared to go with the flow and absorb the culture of a country so different to Australia will be rewarded with a unique experience.

It's indicative of a getaway that's all about discovery and adventure – from the moment you step on the plane.

The writer travelled to the Gobi Desert as a guest of the Nissan Infiniti.