Mongolian Highlights

This summer, I went toMongolia for two weeks and I absolutely loved the country. Going there had been on my bucket list for about ten years. It was definitely worth it and to get you as excited about the country as I am, here are some of the amazing things to do and see in Mongolia.

Visiting a local family
Staying with a Mongolian family was without doubt one of the highlights of my trip. Mongolians are extremely friendly and hospitable and will welcome you into their ger even though you have never seen them before. Tradition dictates that they offer you a drink (regular tea or milk tea, which is hot milk with herbs and salt) and a snack to eat and it was inside a ger that I had the most delicious yoghurt I have ever eaten in my life.

Mongolia - girl with black goat
Children love visitors!

Sleeping in a ger
You can’t come to Mongolia without staying in a ger. There are camps all over the country that will allow you to sleep in one of the traditional buildings.
Before coming to Mongolia, I automatically assumed that gers were fading and that most people migrated to the cities and preferred to sleep in a house. But as we travelled through Mongolia and passed towns along the way, I noticed an odd pattern. Almost all families had a ger on their patch of land. There might be a house next to it but it always looked as if life went on mostly inside the tent.
From our point of view, it might be difficult to understand why anyone would prefer a ger that offers no protection from spiders or squirrels over a solid house but this is Mongolia and life is different here.

Mongolia - ger camp

Listen to the monks’ prayers
I had been lucky enough to listen to a Buddhist ceremony in Bhutan two years ago. That doesn’t mean I’ve had enough of monks chanting. Even though Shamanism is at least as common as Buddhism in Mongolia, you can find temples all over the country. The most important one is located in Ulan Bataar but I was lucky enough to visit a couple of interesting ones in the countryside. The monks were exceptionally welcoming, answering all of our questions about the country, their religion and their lives. And what’s best is that Mongolia hasn’t been overrun by tourists yet so our group was usually the only one and the monks were genuinely interested in interacting with us.

Ever seen a temple inside a giant ger that is large enough to hold a smaller ger?
Ever seen a temple inside a giant ger that is large enough to hold a smaller ger?

The Gobi desert
The Gobi desert takes up a huge part of Mongolia and a visit to this country wouldn’t be complete without going here. There is so much to do and see in Mongolia’s south! Sometimes, the landscape stretches on until the horizon, a vast, flat expanse that doesn’t seem to end. Then, suddenly, in the middle of the nothingness, you come across a herd of goats and sheep and before you know it, sand dunes rise up high before you.

Of course, you can find and ride camels, too.
Of course, you can find and ride camels, too.

I highly recommend climbing those sand dunes as the view from up there is amazing. Plus, you will have lots of fun running and sliding down the dune.

I was so exhausted, I couldn't even stand anymore. But it was totally worth it. One word of advise: Don't wear your best trousers. The colour faded on my butt after I slid down the dune.
I was so exhausted, I couldn’t even stand anymore. But it was totally worth it. One word of advise: Don’t wear your best trousers. The colour faded on my butt after I slid down the dune.

One of the surprises the Gobi desert has to offer is the Yolin Am Canyon. It is a nice hike through beautiful scenery that will lead you to a small glacier hidden in a canyon. Mongolia is very high up and apparently, it doesn’t get hot enough for the ice to melt completely during the summer. We walked on it for quite a while and had lots of fun.

Ice in the middle of a desert
Ice in the middle of a desert

Hunting dinosaurs
Mongolia is a country of dinosaurs. Bones have been found in the Gobi desert, not far away from the Flaming Cliffs which were named after the red colour they light up with at sunset. To my disappointment, I didn’t stumble upon a giant bone or eggs as large as my head (in fact, the only eggs I saw were the ones we had for breakfast and I’m pretty sure they belonged to a chicken, not a dinosaur). But it’s possible to see dinosaur skeletons in one of the museums in Ulan Bataar and it’s still cool to know that you’re standing in one of the places where they have been found.

Sunset at the Flaming Cliffs - which brings me to my next point...
Sunset at the Flaming Cliffs – which brings me to my next point…

Watching Mongolian sunsets
In a country that consists of as much empty space, you are guaranteed to see a few spectacular sunsets. My favourite was at the Hustai National Park where I ran up a mountain to make it to the top in time. It took me a long while to catch my breath and for a moment I was so exhausted, I doubted I would ever make it down again, but it was totally worth it!

What you see at the left of the picture is a spirit spot, a pile of rocks that locals come to for their prayers.
What you see at the left of the picture is a spirit spot, a pile of rocks that locals come to for their prayers.

Wild horse fights
We were incredibly lucky on our trip to Mongolia. Not only did we see the last remaining wild horses in the world, we also managed to watch a horse fight. Maybe it’s the extra two chromosomes that Przewalski horses have compared to our domestic ones that makes them so much more agressive. It was a bit scary, standing out there and watching the horses at bite each other but at the same time, it was fascinating. Hustai National Park, where you can watch those horses, isn’t too far away from Ulan Bataar and definitely worth a trip.

Ouch!
Ouch!
It's all about a girl...
It’s always about girls…

I hope I could get you as excited about Mongolia as I am because it is a beautiful country that everyone should visit at least once! If you ever go there, let me know how it went and what you loved most about it.

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7 thoughts on “Mongolian Highlights

  1. I can’t wait to go to Mongolia! Sounds like you had a wonderful time 🙂 Just wondering if you did a tour (and could recommend it!) or organised things as you went?

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    1. I did a tour with G Adventures which I can highly recommend! The tour guide was wonderful and we were going around with four amazing Mongolian drivers, which was a good way to get a chance to interact with them.
      There is barely any public transport in Mongolia and you can’t hire a car without hiring a driver as well, so you either have to book a tour or hire a driver and a guide. Mine was booked a couple of weeks in advance but if you’re not sure about your plans yet, I know that some hostels in Ulan Bataar can organise tours as well.

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      1. Ahh ok good to hear! I want to go for the Naadam festival eventually and G Adventures’ tour looks like a great one so thanks for the feedback and advice 😀

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      2. Naadam festival always takes place during our summer holidays which means that, since I have kids, I can’t take time off during that period of the year. But I know someone who did that Naadam tour and who loved it! And our tour guide told us so much about it, I’m sure it must be amazing and that you’re going to love it!

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