After a month travelling in Mongolia, we made a selection of the places and the experiences that we think no one should miss when coming to this spectacular nomadic country. See below our selection of the 20 reasons to visit Mongolia soon.
1. Sleep in the Gobi Desert
It is a difficult ride to reach the Gobi desert (many kilometres from Ulaan Baator and the last leg is 100 kilometres of hard off-road), therefore one should not hurry to get out of it. There are many ger camps near the dunes (some with facilities such as hot showers and restaurants, and others more simple and genuine), pick one and stay for a couple of days to enjoy the dunes, incredible sunsets and nights filled with stars.
2. Climb the Genghis Khan’s Gigantic Statue
The giant statue of Mongolia’s hero Ghengis Khan is located 55 kilometres west of Ulaan Baatar. But because the road that brings you there is filled with potholes, it takes at least one hour to reach it. Once there it is possible to go inside the statue up until the head of the horse, where you come outside for better views of the Emperor’s face. It is considered the tallest equestrian statue in the world.
3. Discover The Ice Field at Yolyn Am
Yolyn Am is a narrow canyon in southern Mongolia (on the way from Dalanzadgad to Bayandalai) most notable because of the existence of wild Siberian ibex in its surroundings as well as by its notable ice field. During winter the ice accumulates to reach several metres of thickness and length. Unfortunately, the ice doesn’t remain all year round, by the end of July, there will be nothing left.
4. Mingle with the Monks in one of the Buddhist Monasteries
There has been a revival of monastery life in Mongolia since after the fall of communism. It is possible to visit the temples and even to go inside during the religious ceremonies. We have noticed that there are many child monks in Mongolia and if you would like to read more about that, you can read our article: Mongolian Child Monks.
5. Set up Camp at the Khorgo Lake
There are plenty of lakes in Mongolia, and this one – the Khorgo lake – is one of the most beautiful ones. It is surrounded by a volcanic landscape, which adds to its beauty. Along the margin, there are several ger camps where it is possible to stay overnight.
6. Look Back at the Mountains
The roads really are not good on specific spots, but the landscapes are worth all the efforts. The good news is that although there are many tracks, you can pick whichever you want, they all lead to the same place. It is only that some are bad and others are worse.
7. Visit Unesco’s Orkhon Valley
The beautiful and fertile Orkhon Valley spreads along the margins of the river that bears the same name as the valley. It has been added to Unesco’s world heritage list in 2004 not only because of its immense beauty but also because of its importance in preserving the nomadic, pastoral societies and their traditions.
8. Stare at the Yaks from a Distance
Yaks are found a bit everywhere, as long as there is grass. Despite their appearance, they are peaceful oxen and we never felt threatened by them, even when they were crossing the road and suddenly stopped to stare at us. in those cases, we just stared back and hoped they resumed their crossing soon, which they did.
9. Glimpse the Siberian Ibex in the Wild
The Siberian ibex is a wild goat that, in Mongolia, inhabits the Sayan Mountains, since they prefer high places, situated between 3,000 and 5,300 metres above sea level. They are easily recognised by their long pointed beards and their long long horns with ridges on the frontal part. They are so agile that are often spotted in the most rugged parts of mountains.
10. Listen to Mongolian Typical Throat Singing
Mongolian throat singing (also called Tuvan singing) is part of Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2009. When singing in this style, the performer produces several pitches simultaneously. The origin of the style is often thought to be due to Mongolian extensive landscapes that allow sound to travel great distances.
11. Don’t Miss the Small Gobi (near Kharkhorin)
If you cannot make it to the Gobi desert but still would like to experience the desert in Mongolia, there are a few dunes outside Kharkhorin, on the road to Ulaan Baator. Besides the dunes, several herders rent camels for a complete immersion in a ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ experience.
12. Check the Strange Rock Formations (near Kharkhorin)
These rock formations are seen from the road (between Kharkhorin and Ulaan Baator) and are a good place for a break and a drink. It is also possible to climb some of the rocks for a better view of the surroundings.
13. Photograph the Colourful Village Roofs (Tsetserleg)
Villages in Mongolia are very colourful because of the zinc roofs of the houses. Most house roofs are built with that material, which exists in many different colours. Another characteristic of villages in Mongolia is that, sometimes, instead of a house, there is a ger. What is interesting is that the ger is surrounded by a fence.
14. Explore Fascinating Ulaan Baator
There is so much to do in Ulaan Baator. The city hosts some of the country’s most beautiful monasteries and museums. The city has grown a lot in the last decades, imagine that only last century, there was practically only gers in the city. Nowadays there are many modern buildings and the restaurant scene is the only one worth to mention in the country.
15. Watch the Horse Races of the Naadam Festival
Mongolians love horses and a good race. Therefore it should not surprise that one of the main activities of the Naadam festivals is horse racing. There are different races, for different categories (different distances, different jockey ages, different horses) and the public does not seem to care about the quantity of dust that is inhaled on those days.
16. Help with the Sheep Shearing
Cutting the wool of sheep is one of the herders’ activities in spring (you should be aware that Mongolia is the second biggest producer of cashmere wool after China), but before shearing the wool, it is necessary to catch the animal, and this seems to be one of the kids’ favourite activity. If you want to help, they will be happy with all kind of help.
17. Camp in the Most Breath-taking Landscapes
It doesn’t matter where you are in Mongolia, every place is a good place to camp. The population is nomadic, so there is really never a problem to pitch the tent anywhere.
18. Be Patient at Mongolian’s Insane Traffic Jams
It was a joy to share the roads with sheep, goats, camels, cows, yaks and horses. When a flock approaches the road, it can take a while until all animals cross it, so the best to do is stop the engine and enjoy the moment.
19. Ride Along Extensive Off-road Tracks and Landscapes
It is undeniable that many motorbikers come to Mongolia after its many off-road tracks in order to have unique adventures. For us, we would really have appreciated tarmac all along. However, we are fully aware that asphalt also brings crowds, and for that reason alone we are happy to put up with the difficult roads.
20. Get Stunned at the Heavy Clouds over the Steppe or Grassland
Because of the long extensions of flat land, clouds in Mongolia seem to be closer to the ground. They also felt closer to the ground every time it rained and we got soaked.