For those travelers who find themselves with an unquenchable wanderlust, Mongolia just might be the perfect vacation. A nation with a centuries-old tradition for a one-of-a-kind nomadic culture that has defied the super powers surrounding it time and again, Mongolia is home to a ton of interesting locations that are sure to find favor with even the most critical of visitor. Heck, simply getting from one place to another is a great part of the experience in and of itself. If you have the opportunity to travel to this little nation between Russia and China, then here are some ways to fill your time.
1. Make Sure to Talk to a Guide
As awesome as the internet is, a lot of the best parts of visiting Mongolia may not be available online. That’s why it might be a good idea to enlist the services of a qualified travel guide when you first enter the country. There are plenty of English-speaking professionals who can make sure that you experience the most fascinating aspects of visiting Mongolia.
2. Start in the Capital, Ulaanbaatar
You just might find the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar — pronounced OO-lahn-BAH-toor — to be far more developed than you anticipated. The thriving restaurant scene is a treat for any tourist, while the incredible number of museums and monasteries will help you get primed for the rich history and spiritual life of the Mongolian people. From a logisitical standpoint, Ulaanbaatar has several English-speaking citizens who can help you get your bearings before you strike out into the country’s gorgeous landscapes.
3. Spend the Night in a Monastery
The most popular religion in Mongolia is Buddhism. As such, the country has a gorgeous selection of monasteries filled with some impressive history and extremely welcoming monks. Some of these monasteries will even accommodate an overnight stay, which is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you’re interested, this is one of those activities that’s good to speak to a travel guide about when you land in the city.
4. Don’t Forget a Trip to Khövsgöl Nuur
One of the countries most popular attractions in Mongolia is the gorgeous Khövsgöl Nuur, the country’s deepest lake. At a length of more than 84 miles, Khövsgöl Nuur is a sight to behold. Even if you think you’ve experienced the beauty of a vast mountain lake, you still haven’t seen the sun rise on Khövsgöl Nuur.
5. Visit the Gobi and Ride a Camel
As you travel through Mongolia, consider spending a night or two in Dalanzadgad, which will place you in perfect position to enjoy the breathtaking expanse of the Gobi desert. While you’re there, make sure to take a camel ride. The walk might be a little wobbly, but the experience is perfect.
6. Take a Ride on the Trans-Mongolian Train
When you visit Mongolia, you should absolutely take some time to travel through the country at large. The easiest way to do that is to hop on board the Mongolian leg of the world-famous Trans-Siberian railway. The sleeping cars can accommodate practically any budget, and the restaurant is a great way to grab a meal between destinations. The railway also covers some of the most gorgeous contryside in the country; it’s a perfect way to take in the vast expanses of Mongolia while you’re there.
7. Experience a Secret Skier’s Refuge
If you’re the kind of traveler who is always in search of fresh powder, then you shouldn’t overlook the possibility of a trip to Mongolia. This is another vacation that you should coordinate with a Mongolian travel agent, because the skiing options are limited. Limited, but spectacular. Avoid the crowds at the lift and throw yourself down some of the best lines in the world.
8. See the World’s Largest Statue of Genghis Khan
To the east of Ulaanbaatar is a 130-foot-tall statue of Genghis Khan in the spot where the leader supposedly found a legendary golden whip. The massive monument to Mongolia’s most famous historical conqueror, the statue is quite impressive on the shores of the Tuul River.
9. Drop In for Some Tea
Expect a very warm welcome if you happen to converse with a Mongolian family near their home. The country has a long-held tradition of inviting a visitor in for a cup of tea; if you should be the recipient of such an offer, you should really think about taking it. Fair warning, standard Mongolian tea includes salt and yak’s milk which can be an interesting combination for a Westerner. That said, the hospitality should more than make up for the taste. Just take small sips.
10. Spend at Least One Night in a Ger
For a large part of history, one of the most common forms of housing in the country was the ger, also known as a yurt. Essentially, a ger is a tent made of several animal pelts that are draped on a collapsible frame. They’re still extremely popular in Mongolia today, and if you’d really like to get a glimpse into traditional Mongolian culture, spending a few nights in a ger is a good way to do it.