Sustainable travel in Mongolia with Tim Cope

Thirty-four year old Tim Cope, a National Geographic Adventure Honouree and awardee of the Australian Adventurer of the Year title in 2006, is the embodiment of grassroots adventure travel.

Victorian-born Tim, whose passion for exploration, curiosity about foreign cultures and desire to embark on a lifelong journey of discovery was first sparked during a short trip to Nepal at age sixteen, now runs guided tours through Mongolia with World Expeditions, one of the world’s leading travel companies.

Having spent the best part of the last decade travelling through Russia, Mongolia and Central Asia by bicycle, row boat, skis, horse, camel and on foot, Tim’s first-hand experience with the Mongolian terrain and relationship with its often remote peoples makes him the perfect guide for an authentic and fulfilling journey to one of the world’s highest and most fascinating countries.

Mongolia, landlocked by Russia in the north and China in the south, features breathtaking mountain scenery, freshwater and saltwater lakes, an ancient nomadic culture and strong traditions. Tim says that tourism is one way of keeping these cultures alive.

“Generally I think tourism is having a positive impact on local communities,” he notes. “It can help nomadic people to maintain a pride in their culture, knowing that they are considered so special by visitors from far away. [Tourism] can also be an important contribution to local economies – particularly for nomads whose fortunes are often at the whims of the weather, and for whom some seasonal employment is a good supplement to herding.”

Of course, any form of tourism development to these remote regions must take into account the vulnerabilities of these cultures and the importance of preserving their lifestyles and the local environment.

“Intensive tourism can be destructive. [Poorly managed tourism practices] can erode traditional values and ultimately the way of life [of Mongolia’s nomadic peoples],” Tim says.
The most important thing is to have an open mind and be adaptable, and as Tim explains, bringing thoughtful gifts such as pictures of yourself can mean a lot to local people. While locals love to learn more about your culture by seeing photographs of your home, it is important to leave behind western thinking and embrace the cultural differences.

Tim’s favourite spots in Mongolia include Khokh Nuur (“Blue Lake”), Bayan Olgiy province (home of well-preserved ancient traditions), the Kharkhiraa-Turgen massif in Uvs province (beautiful landscapes), Tolboo Nuur in Bayan Olgiy province (a giant lake) and the Gobi Desert – particularly  Ikh Bogd Uul (a 4000m mountain) and Khongorin Els (the “singing sand dunes”).

Aside from sharing some of these spots with participants of his World Expeditions tours, Tim is also actively involved in a community project which is developing and maintaining a school in the remote Uv province of Khovd. Every second year, Australian high school students have the opportunity to visit the school and participate in the work being done there to educate nomadic children over the winter months.

Tim says that along with better vetinary services and better infrastructure for buying and distributing livestock, improved schools are a key development need which can have a positive and sustainable impact on Mongolia’s rural communities.

World Expeditions offer a selection of tours that include Mongolia, including an 18-day adventure ‘Mongolia in the Footsteps of the Nomad with Tim Cope’. 

To find out more about Tim, World Expeditions or to purchase Tim’s recently released book ‘On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomad’, visit the below links.


World Expeditions has a very strong focus on responsible travel. All customers who book a holiday with World Expeditions receive a free “Responsible Travel” guide book. For more details about their responsible travel focus, visit their website page:

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