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Destination: Mongolia

WHY TO VISIT MONGOLIA

For a lot of people, Mongolia is a synonym for the end of the world, infinite distances and the untamed nature of the steppes. This mainly rural country is rich in protected nature and also the generosity of the inhabitants.

One of the rare destinations throughout the world where adventurers are still able to live their dreams, the sheer immensity of the country will strike you as soon as you leave Oulan-Bator, the capital city. The latter is situated on the banks of The Tula and offers surprising contrasts with its Stalinian buildings and the Yurts areas surrounded by wood barriers where the local inhabitants in traditional costumes rub shoulders with others dressed European style, the cars mingling with wandering goats.

Not to be missed is the Tibetan Buddhist monastery, ‘Gandantegchinlen Khiid’, and its temples decorated with precious stones and gold. Around the city, the four holy summits, situated at the cardinal points are excellent for wonderful hikes among forests of larches populated with a variety of wildlife.

You can equally visit the Khustain Nuruu nature reserve, which was created to protect the famous Takki, or Prjevalski, wild horses that used to live in large herds in the Mongolian Steppes. Other place to see is the Khövsgöl Nuur Lake, surrounded by hills, a splendid holy site that should be avoided in the middle of summer due to crowds.

WHAT TO SEE IN MONGOLIA

Top destinations in Mongolia are:

  • Karakorum
  • Ulaanbaatar
  • Erdenet
  • Khovd
  • Tsetserleg
  • Moron
  • Lake Khovsgol
  • Terelj National Park
  • Altai Tavan Bogd National Park
  • Orkhon Valley
  • Khustain Nuruu National Park
  • Olgii
  • Khorgo Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park
  • Khangai Nuruu National Park
  • Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park

WHEN TO GO TO MONGOLIA

Best period to visit Mongolia is from May to September.

A country of extremes, Mongolia has interminable, very cold winters and short summers with some rainfall.

This harsh climate is caused by the geographical setting of the country, huge semi desert plains at around 1,500 metres of altitude compensated by the omnipresence of the sun with more than 260 days of sunshine per year. On the other hand, the wind is often strong, particularly in spring when it causes sand storms. Moreover, climate changes are often sudden and harsh.

In the Gobi desert to the south, summers are scorching. It is recommended to visit Mongolia between May and the end of September depending on the area chosen.

Following a list of typical festival and celebrations of Mongolia.

  • Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian Lunar New Year): Mongolian New Year (Tsagaan Sar) is normally celebrated somewhere between the end of January and end of February. The traditional Tsagaan Sar feast includes dairy products, mutton and horse meat, rice with curds, buuz (dumplings) and a ‘mountain’ of cookies stacked high and of course, airag (fermented mare’s milk). Families visit each other to pay their respects and eat mountains of dumplings. Join a family to experience their legendary hospitality and be a part of their community at this time of great festivity. Immerse yourself in the Mongolian culture and experience first hand the ceremonies and customs of this special festival. Read more
  • Khovsgol Ice Festival: March is witness to the unique Ice Festival at Lake Khovsgol. This time of year offers the rare opportunity of experiencing one of the deepest winters on the planet with temperatures regularly dropping below -35°C. The wind can make even moderate temperatures seem much colder, so this festival is not for the faint hearted! The enchanting ice festival with horse-sled races, ice rally-driving, wrestling, and tug-o-war are all held on the frozen lake which offers the perfect light in the afternoon for those interested in photography. Read more
  • Gobi Camel Festival: The Thousand Camel Festival, held in the Gobi Desert, is a celebration of the endangered Bactrian camel and the role it plays in the lives of the Gobi’s nomads. Camel racing and polo competitions, as well as performances of traditional Mongolian music and dance, are among the highlights of this annual event. Taking in the beautiful scenery of the Gobi Desert with its towering dunes, glacial canyons and red sandstone cliffs; this is the land of the Bactrian camel and is the best time to see them in all their fluffy winter splendour when their coats at their thickest. Read more
  • Nauryz (Spring /New Life) Festival: Nauryz is a new year celebration for the Mongolian Kazakhs, many of whom live in the Bayan Ulgii province. Kazakhs call the month of March 'Nauryz' – this is the time of renewed life which comes with the spring. The non-religious Nauryz celebrations take place on 21-22 March, the day of the spring equinox. People believe the more generous the celebration of Nauryz, the happier the year would be. A time to settle rivalries, upset and debts then fill all vessels in the house with milk, airan (plain yogurt), grain, and spring water to gain good yield, fortune and plenty of rain during the coming year.
  • Naadam Festival: Naadam is celebrated every summer throughout Mongolia across every province, in most towns and villages. Local Naadam celebrations are our favourite of the Naadam festivals – none of the queues, crowds and pollution of the big festival in Ulaanbaatar. The atmosphere is fantastic. In traditional dress, the colourful spectators watch competitors take part in the three ‘manly’ sports of archery, wrestling and horse racing. Tradition states that only men will wrestle, men and women can participate in archery and children (some as young as 5) are jockeys for the races up to distances of 35km. Read more or consider joining our Mongolian Epic small group tour.
  • Eagle Festivals: There are two Golden Eagle Festivals held each year; in September and October respectively, when the weather is beginning to get cold and the eagles are livening up ready for a winter of hunting. The ancient art of falconry as practised by the Kazakhs in the west, has remained unchanged for millennia. Admire the speed and power of the noble eagle and marvel at the close relationship that exists between her and her master. Set against the majestic Altai mountain views, this is an experience that truly epitomizes Mongolia. You can experience the earlier Eagle Festival & other parts of Mongolia on our Gobi, Heartland and Altai Small Group Tour or combine with other stunning locations in the west with the Sagsai Eagle Festival and Dayan Lake tour. Our Eagle Festival Close Up Journey focuses on the later Eagle Festival.
  • Horse Festival/Gobi Naadam (15th August): Horse racing, wrestling and archery against the back drop of the Khonghorin Els sand dunes.
  • Nomad's Day Festival (15th - 16th September): An insight into the Nomadic lifestyle with horse demonstrations and participation encouraged! Followed by a mini Naadam festival. 

HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH MONGOLIA

Internal travel will often be by plane (there are 80 airports throughout the territory), or by jeep with a driver or guide: Travelling in your own vehicle is not recommended as petrol is not easy to find.

by plane, the main airport is Ulan Bator

by train

by car

GENERAL INFORMATION ON MONGOLIA

country entry requirements: passport + visa (check your visa requirements)

health tips & vaccination: none

local currency: Mongolian Tugrik

local time zone: GMT+8

electricity: type C and E (220 V, 50 Hz)

mobile phone operators:

WHAT TO DO IN MONGOLIA

typical food in Mongolia

  • Boodog: the whole carcass of a goat or marmot roasted from the inside; the entrails and bones are taken out through the throat, the carcass is filled with burning hot stones, onions, and potatoes and the neck tied tightly, and thus the goat is cooked from the inside to the outside
  • Horhog: chopped up goat, potatoes and onions slowly steamed inside a metal container. Scalding hot rocks are placed inside the container to create the steam and once extracted it is customary to pass the stones from hand to hand
  • Buuz: steamed dumpling filled with shredded beef or lamb, cooked with onion, garlic and pepper
  • Huushuur: a deep fried mutton pancake
  • Khorkhog: lamb cooked inside a pot over an open fire with carrots, onions, and potatoes. The specialty of this dish is that during cooking, smooth stones are placed in the container to foster the cooking process
  • Tsuivan: noodles cooked with pork, beef or mutton and a dash of cabbage, onion, and carrots
  • Guriltai Shul: mutton soup or stock served with noodles and vegetables
  • Budaatai Khuurga: Rice cooked with shredded lamb or beef, onions, cabbage, carrots and bell pepper
  • Uuz: Lower fatty back and the tail of mutton or sheep, cooked in a steam chamber for three to five hours
  • Chanasan Makh: Chunks of mutton are boiled in salted water; commonly made for breakfast
  • Bantan: creamy textured soup made of meat and dough crumbs
  • Airag: Milk of mare is fermented and served as a mild alcoholic beverage
  • Suutei tsai: traditional Mongolian milk tea; made by pouring cold water into a kettle, a pinch of salt, crushed green tea, milk and then is brought to the boil. Once the tea is boiled, the mixture is put through a tea strainer to remove the crushed tea
  • Gambir: lour dough filled with butter and sugar, cooked like a pancake and served with jelly or jam
  • Boortsog: fried dough cookies
  • Ul Boov: cakes filled with sugar or cream

souvenirs from Mongolia

  • antiques
  • paintings on paper, canvas or wood
  • Buddhist Tankas on silk
  • cashmere garments
  • Deel, Mongolian's traditional dress
  • Morin Huur, horse headed fiddle
  • camel-wool blankets
  • sheep bones' games
  • Rock salt
  • felt and leather national costumes: slippers, hats, clothes and boots
  • Mongol Arkhi, light liquor made from Tarag-Yogurt
  • Felt items
  • furs
  • jewellery and silver works 
  • carpets
  • books
  • handicrafts

SIMPLE DICTIONARY

Hello: Sain uu

Goodbye: Bayartai

How are you?: Yuu baina?

Thank you: Bayarlalaa

What is your name?: Tany ner khen be?

How much is it?: Ene yamar ünetei ve?

Sorry: Uuchlaarai

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