Mongolia ... a land of vast, unspoiled wilderness, with a remarkable variety of scenery including steppes, semideserts, deserts, forested high mountains and lakes.
Its steppes go as far as the eye can see and are surrounded by mountains which seem to watch over its nomadic people.
Its old times nickname, 'end of the earth', is considered to be linked with the number of its inhabitants, under three million. It makes Mongolia one of the countries with the lowest average population density in the world.
Former center of the Mongol empire in the 13th century, Mongolia only gained its independence in 1911, after centuries of Chinese rule. Its history has left many marks on the architecture and the culture of the country. Buddhist monasteries are scattered about everywhere. Among the most interesting ones are Bogd Gegeen, the main monastery of the Mongolian capital which was renamed Ulaanbaatar (“Red Hero”) in 1924, Erdene Zuu, the oldest in the country, located in Karakorum, and Amarbayasgalat which dates back to 1736.
Anywhere you go in Mongolia, you can see yurts “gers”. For over 3000 years, they have been used by the nomads who constantly move from place to place in search of better pasture for their livestock. Today, about half of Mongolia’s population still live in these traditional round tents which can be moved around easily. It continues to be an important part of the Mongolian culture and heritage, and many of them are still roaming the vast steppe, living the exact same way their ancestors did. Following nature’s rhythm is a soothing experience and one you will never regret. In addition to sleeping under a yurt, hiking on a horse, a camel or traveling on foot throughout the plains, mountains, forests and desert are unforgettable moments.
The Altai mountains and their high peaks above 4000 meters, are the Kazakhs living area, the only Muslim people of Mongolia.
Caves and water sources are part of Zorgol Khairkhan, the Mongols sacred mountain and Baga Gazriin Chuluu, a granite rock formation is also home to historic caves.
A visit to the Tavan Bogd National Park with its larch forests, small lakes and petroglyphs, is a good way to get deeper into the country. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The numerous lakes are also part of the discovery. Many of them are salty and others, such as the Khuvsgul, the Tsagaan Nuur and the Khovsgol are known as “the blue lakes”.
In total contrast is the vast Gobi desert, which covers one third of Mongolia’s total surface and is home to dinosaur fossils and “Singing Sands”. The Khongor dunes, which can reach up to 30 meters high and are spread over some 965 square kilometers are enchanting. A climb to the top of the sand dunes provides awesome views of the desert.
Should you have to choose, what would you start with? A ride on a camel to discover the nomads? A visit to the Gobi Gurvansaikhan Natural Park? An immersion in the still practiced traditions, such as the Golden Eagle Festival celebrated each year during the first weekend of October in the Bayan-Ölgii province, or the Winter Festival involving races and games over the ice, which begins as soon as Lake Khovsgol freezes?
Mongolia is a fascinating country which will for sure conquer the most demanding visitor.