Imagine a country so remote you may feel at times like you are the only person on earth in it. Add the stunning scenery of rolling grasslands, rugged mountains, ice-blue lakes, deep forests and sprawling deserts. Then there are the nomadic people who have a natural affinity with travelers and who will invite you into their gers for a meal or an overnight. Just like us you will fall in love with one of the last wild countries on earth.
best time to travel
The best time to travel to Mongolia is the summer from mid-June to mid-September. Naadam is a particularly special time to visit - this festival is celebrated every year from July 11th to 15th.
places to go
The contrast between Mongolia's countryside and its capital could not be greater. Raucous nightlife, a booming commerce, chaotic traffic and a Bohemian counter-culture all vie for space. Throw in a sprinkle of excellent museums, temples, markets and squares and you have a capital that is unique in the world.
Terelj National Park
A short drive from the capital, Terelj makes for an attractive stopover for those short on time. The alpine scenery is amazing and there are plenty of opportunities to hike, bike, ride a horse or stay at a ger camp.
Khustain National Park
An easy overnight excursion from Ulaan Baatar, Khustain protects a swath of Mongolian steppe rich in flora and fauna.
Karakorum & Erdene Zuu Monastery
The legendary city of Karakorum was the capital of the empire of Genghis Khan. Little remains of it as the site has been quarried for building material for the nearby Erdene Zuu Monastery. While even that monastery is a shadow of its former self, it is considered the most important religious site in the country.
Considered the cultural heartland of nomadic life, the fertile Orkhon Valley offers stunning scenery, thundering waterfalls and plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities
Tsenkher Hot Springs
In the midst of the rugged mountains, deep forests, rushing streams and rolling steppe of the Arkhangai sit the Tsenkher Hot Springs. Enjoy a few hours of soaking in the thermal waters of these natural hot springs, surrounded by the remote beauty of the landscape.
The deep blue watres of lake Khövsgöl lie amidst stunning mountain scenery and endless forests. Opportunities for fishing, hiking, horseback riding and visits to nomadic camps and reindeer herders abound.
Amarbayasgalant is considered Mongolia's best preserved monastery, dating back to the 18th century. Despite extensive restorations the place still feels like it is being taken over by nature, which only adds to the appeal.
Few places on earth are as harsh or empty as Mongolia's Gobi Desert. Endless plains stretch under high blue skies and the silence is palpable. It is a place where you can drop off the radar and forget about the world. Add to this its enormous sand dunes, flaming cliffs, dinosaur fossils and a stay in a nomadic ger and you have the quintessential Mongolian experience.
Bayanzag (The Flaming Cliffs)
Deep in the Gobi Desert, the Flaming Cliffs at Bayanzag are famous for its haul of dinosaur bones and eggs but are worth visiting for its red landscapes and beautiful sunsets alone.
Some of the most spectacular sand dunes in Mongolia, the 300 metre tall ridges of the Khongoryn Els are nicknamed the Singing Dunes for the sound they make when the wind moves the sand.
Glaciers, huge lakes and snow-capped peaks - the stunning Altai Mountains in far Western Mongolia are home to nomadic families, the eagle-hunting Kazakhs and the throat-singing Tuvan people.
The highlight of Mongolia's cultural calendar, this traditional festival features Mongolian wrestling, horse racing, and archery. In Ulaanbaatar or in the country, this is one festival you do not want to miss.
Sleep in a ger
The traditional home for Mongolian nomads, gers (a.k.a. yurts) are felt tents, fitted out with a stove and simple furniture. Ger camps vary in comfort from tents with shared facilities to luxury gers with private bathrooms.
Ride a camel or a horse
When staying with the locals you will have the opportunity to ride a camel (in the Gobi Desert) or a horse, for example through the mountains surrounding Lake Khövsgöl.
Travelling by train from Beijing to Moscow is a good way to get an idea of the vastness of the Asian continent. Be sure to make a side trip to the Mongolian country side and spend a few nights in a ger.
Food & drink
There is no other way to put it - Mongolian food is utilitarian. Try traditional foods such as buuz (mutton-filled dumplings), makh (boiled sheep bits) or shölte khool (broth surprise). Wash it down with süütei tsai (milk tea with salt), or airag (fermented mare's milk).
Meet the locals
There is probably no place in the world where hospitality is so ingrained in the culture as it is in Mongolia. Stop anywhere on the steppe and out of nowhere someone will show up and bring you food or drinks, or invite you to their camp.
Hike the hills
With thousands upon thousands of square kilometres of untouched wilderness, Mongolia is a hiker's paradise. There are few trails here - just follow your feet as they take you towards the distant horizon.
Camp in the wild
Pitch a tent along a river or lake amidst rolling flower-covered hills and feel like you are the only person on earth. But don't be surprised if from nowhere someone appears to offer you food and drink!
Gaze at the stars or watch a Gobi sunset
Travel to the Flaming Cliffs in the Gobi Desert and watch them light up during sunset. And everywhere you go enjoy some of the best star gazing in the world.
Watch an eagle hunt
Experience hunting with trained eagles in the Altai or at the annual Ölgii Eagle Festival, held in October.
Listen to throat singing
Throat singing is a guttural style of singing or chanting and one of the oldest types of music on earth. Singers produce hauntingly beautiful harmonies using only their bodies.
Visit a monastery
Heavily suppressed in the days of communism, monasteries are reopening all over the country. Visit them and marvel at the religious artwork. If you are lucky you may witness monks chant.
Enjoy the scenery
Endless steppes and forests, volcanic cliffs, spectacular gorges and waterfalls, deep blue lakes, snow-capped mountains and glacial valleys or towering sand dunes, Mongolia has all that and more.