Oh Mongolia. You offer adventure, rugged beauty and those wide, blue open skies that just make life feel magical. You are vast, remote and uniquely beautiful, and home to a nomadic lifestyle that is dwindling everywhere but the steppe.
This is the cry of many a traveller who, whilst looking for somewhere truly and authentically awesome to explore, stumbles across Mongolia. So long isolated from the rest of the world, the country is back on the map and making up for lost time, offering those with a love of adventure an extraordinary range of experiences found in very few offer destinations. Here are just five of many reasons why Mongolia is the place to be:
Roughly half of Mongolia’s population still live in gers, a traditional tent made of felt. Quick to put up and quick to put away – perfect for herders on the move, they have certainly modernised over the years. You may even spot one of two with a satellite dish! If you are lucky enough to visit a family in their ger, you will get a full burst of Mongolian hospitality, and catch a glimpse of nomadic life. Large families often live together, preserving all the quirky superstitions and beliefs that have been around for centuries. It’s likely you will spend most of your nights outside of capital Ulaanbaatar staying in ger camps, allowing you to get out into Mongolia’s spectacular nature and the experience the traditional way of life. You’ll find the tents simple and cosy, and heated by a central wood burning stove with a toilet and shower block nearby.
Potentially one of the few accessible places left on the planet that it is still possible to fall off the radar, the Gobi Desert is 500,000 square miles of bleak beauty. Bare rock and towering sand dunes offer a range of fascinating sights from gorges full of ice to valleys full of dinosaur bones, the ‘Singing Sand Dunes’ of Khongoryn Els and the chance to glimpse the nomadic lifestyle. For those who enjoy a bit more wildlife with their nature, the Southern Altai Gobi Nature Reserve is home to Gobi bears, golden eagles, Bactrian camels and Przewalski Horses. If you’re feeling super active the Gobi’s towering sand dunes can be climbed, or travelled through by camel or jeep, plus you’ll have the ultimate nomadic experience spending a couple of nights in a ger.
Known as the ‘Blue Pearl of Mongolia’, Lake Khovsgol offers some of Mongolia’s most spectacular natural scenery. One big national park, the lake’s water is incredibly clear and home to a huge amount of fish, whilst the surrounding forest and mountains are inhabited by moose, wolverines, ibex and sable. Oh and there about 200 species of bird flapping around the area as well. Located in the northwest of Mongolia, close to the border with Russia, the summer here is brief, but brings with it a carpet of wildflowers and a scattering of nomadic herdspeople who set up their gers on the lake shore. Whilst admiring your surroundings is a massive part of visiting, there are also some cool activities available – fishing (permit required), horse riding, kayaking and hiking.
Close to the modern city of Kharkhorin, where the Khangai Mountains meets the steppe, once stood the city of Karakorum. Mongol capital between 1235 and 1260, Karakorum as part of the ‘Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape’ is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and echoes with the memories of Genghis Khan. The city was abandoned and then destroyed by Manchurians in after just 40 years. Not much remains of the city because building materials were scavenged to build the huge monastery Erdene Zuu Khiid, in the 16th century, the country’s first and most important monastery, set on the banks of the Orkhon River. Despite its turbulent past, it is a fascinating and tranquil area to explore.
Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
Gorkhi-Terelj is Mongolia’s most popular national park, and it’s easy to see why. Located just 80 kilometres from Ulaanbaatar, a visit here will find you amongst lush meadows, weird and wonderful rock formations and pine covered mountains – considered by many to be Mongolia’s most spectacular scenery. The park is inhabited by moose, brown bear and plenty of birds of prey, so keep an eye out as you explore. There are also plenty of activities on offer, so if you fancy rafting, horse riding, mountain biking or hiking, what better place to do it?
Like the sound of a Mongolia adventure? You’ll find some more information about the country here. To begin planning your Asia adventure call one of our tailormade specialists now.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.