I am very happy & enjoy my trip. It was wonderful. You have a very very good & excellent guide and driver. Thank you. I shall return with my family.~ Quek Tee Kim, Singapore
This is How to Travel to Mongolia –the Country in the end of the World
Travel to Mongolia means tackling and surviving in a land of extremes. Both in the landscape, from its vast desert lands and rolling dunes to its lush green mountainous national parks, you feel just as frustrated and bored as you are in awe by the country’s areas of extreme isolation.
Visiting Mongolia is to find a canvas of untouched beauty capped by a sky so blue that why they- mongols like this color mostly. Passing only wild horses, herds of cattle, an isolated ger in the distance and the odd truck also on its way to the city, life here is at its purest and beautiful. Overlanding through Mongolia, rather than flying or taking the train is one of the best decisions I have ever made. This guide will show you how to travel Mongolia by land, in a vast loop that takes in some of the country’s most treasured hotspots and wilderness hideaways.
Why Travel to Mongolia?
Visit the Least Densely Populated Only Country, where the Nomadic Civilization Existing Still Now
Mongolia travel changes you and makes you to appreciate the beautiful patches on the earth’s surface and someone’s culture that should be untouched by extreme modernization, pollution and overpopulation. My time in Mongolia meant experiencing everything from outdoor tent camping to ger camps and to 5 star hotel and from camelback ride to domestic airplane.
I saw a night sky so clear that I didn’t think you could ever see so many stars shining and glittering just over my head and it seemed as close as touching by my hands. I traversed a land so serene in isolation and culture so welcoming that I hope it never, ever becomes ruined by tourist traps or the tight grips of mass capitalism.
Firstly, there are hardly any roads. Roads are dirt tracks, or pre-made grooves in the land pointing the way and paved highroads are very few and far between.
Secondly, Mongolia is prone to unpredictable weather conditions. That means random onslaughts of rain and the likelihood that you are likely to get bogged at some point. Weather is changed minute by minute. There were several times where we had to dig out and push the travel van or find locals to come to the rescue – tractors are a saving grace here. There were several times to feel suddenly windy and chilly, soon it feels like very hot when the sunshines, it was happened on the horseback during only 1 hour riding.
Best Time to Go to Mongolia
The summer season between May to September is said to be the best time to go to Mongolia. July and August are the hottest months, with temperatures in the Gobi Desert reaching up to 40°C on air and 50C on surface of sandy soil. Rainfall is at its highest between June and September, balancing out the heat while keeping the forest and valley lands, in particular, lush and fertile. I travelled Mongolia in July and experienced a lot of rainfall alongside high temperatures. At the beginning of September, the most adequate and comfortable weather is welcoming and no rains anymore.
Mongolia’s winter season is from November to February, which is snowy season with temperatures below minus 20°C – a harsh and challenging environment to travel in.
Is Mongolia Safe to Travel?
While petty crime and pickpocketing are common in the capital, Ulaanbataar, Mongolia is a relatively safe place to travel, and I never encountered any significant problems. We saw drunk local people, two when inebriated locals came to our makeshift camp out of curiosity. Even then, it never felt threatening, and we were always within the safety of our group.
On the whole, we rarely saw other people, and when we did, we were met with kindness, invited into homes and welcomed into common spaces such as markets and small-town social spaces.
At the time of planning my travel to Mongolia, I talked my friends, who already visited and wandered through this country. My favorite adventures: riding, hiking, meeting people, driving in wild nature, exploring the nationwide festivals all included in the tailor-made Mongolia tour program. Want to stargaze from a ger camp, hike up an (extinct) volcanic crater, get right up into the wilds of lakes and end on the high of experiencing the Naadam Festival horseracing, archery and wrestling tournaments all are in the plan.
We spent a full day in Ulaanbaatar exploring the museums, Buddhist temple, souvenir shops, theatre and main square in terrible traffic jam, as one small hybrid car just touched and crashed another small car and drivers got our off cars and looked at each cars and sat back in their cars. Extra reserve time is needed in UB.
Traveling in country region
We set off in the van for a drive to the Baga Gazryn Chuluu rock formations in the Gobi desert. Due to heavy traffic getting out of the city and general road conditions we got delayed and so decided to stay overnight at the nomad family. The nomad family is Mr.Batsaikhan’s family, who has been worked as a ranger in the nature reserve area since 2010. The Baga Gazryn Chuluu – rock formations worshipped by locals who make pilgrimages here partly because the different landscape of rock formation in the middle gobi steppe area with lots of ancient historical remains, before journeying to the Gobi Desert. We did lots of fun hikes and nice acclimatizations in layers of Baga Gazriin Chuluu. Then we head to MandalGobi town. On the way, we got to experience the famous Nadaam Festival at Mandalgobi. It was full of wrestling, horse racing, archery and fairground style fun. Nadaam means ‘games’ and the buzz was all around us. Mongolian locals enjoy the Naadam festival. We stayed at the Mandalgobi small motel.
Then next day we head to Tsagaan Suvarga area and Del Mt. The Plan was to get the tourist camp, but we decided to keep continueing the naadam festival enjoy, so all day time is spent in Mandalgobi among people. We like wandering and taking pictures of nicely dressed locals, gorgeously dressed archers and local children. That night we stayed in outdoor tent camping in vast steppe of gobi desert.
The day, when we visit to Del.Mt, is the best day with lots of fun and hike and exploring instead of lots of driving and stuck in a mud. For me, I did not expect that we will explore so many of rock paintings in steppe area, caves, cliffs and small hilltops, on which driving is felt to us as like we are on rolly coaster. We began our journey without a hitch to the ger Camp called Gobi Mirage stopping at the town of Dalanzagad on the way. Mongolian towns are typically tiny and compact settlements which are reasonably large but without the ruin of a city like Ulaanbaatar. We hiked in Yolin Am, a beautiful canyon in the Gobi which is also an ice valley, and which hosts a colossal glacier all year round. The hike was spectacular but, unfortunately for us, little of the iceberg remained although we had lots of fun playing with what little ice there was regardless.
Next day we headed to Khongoriin Els Sand dunes. The landsccape is like a combination of sandy riverbed along the gobi bushes in one side and with huge sand dunes in another side. We stayed here at the nomad homestay atMr.Yondon’s family. When the nomad family’s ger door is faces to sand dunes, when the door is open, we can enjoy the breathtaking view of the Gobi and the Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes, which I later climbed, drank beer on and ran down. That was after a camel ride, of course.
The summer hottest days are continuing and our driver prefers to drive in the early morning, when it is nice cooler. He did not want to drive in just afternoon, he and we prefers to have a nice shade in a ger camp for the comfortable stay in very hottest afternoon by more than 35C degrees. After lunch we stayed in a ger as sitting and enjoying the filming of national geographic about Roy Chapmen Andrews expedition and travel in Mongolia in 1920-s. It was fun to sit and enjoy the documentary filming and as well as cool bottle of beers. In the evening by 5clock, the hottest temperature is sitting down, so we started our 2 hours hike in this flaming cliffs of Bayanzag. It’s a significant site where lots of dinosaur fossils and eggs were uncovered and which is also a stunning backdrop for bush camping.
When the communists invaded Mongolia in the 1930s (known as the Purges), nearly all of Buddhist Monasteries were destroyed. Ongii Monastery was one of them, and we visited the ruins here before driving to Arvaikheer. The road was very challenging, lots of mud and slippery and our van is driving slowly in bumpy muddy roads and 2 times stuck in the mud and small bumps. We reached the Arvaikheer town very late after 22clock and the heavy rain forced us into a hotel for the night at this town.
We began our journey to the Orkhon Valley, where is Orkhon waterfall and yak herders. But it was again the rainy day and we had another tough day to dig the mud and push our van in rain showers. It took over five hours to get out, with the help of a small local tractor. It was a hilarious few hours that would have made an adventurous unforgettable documentary of hard working travel team.
I highly recommend staying in a ger camp in the beautiful Orkhon Valley. We visited yak herder nomad family and try the first time the Mongolian diary products: cheeasem yougurt and even a home-made cookies with butter crème and even a vodka from milk, which were themy most favorite one. There’s nothing like a pleasant hike through the beautiful forest to reach the Tuvkhon Monastery and to see the surrounding area in 100 km-s distance open space.
Next day it was nice sunny day after 3 days rain and we enjoyed the blue sky on that morning. We headed to Khara Khorum valley and visited Erdene Zuu Monastery in Kharkhorin – the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia which had up to 100 temples and 1,000 monks before the purges in 1937. Only three temples remained, alongside several statues and other items.
We arrived at Hustain National Park in the afternoon to settle into a ger camp. This National Park is known for its rare Przewalski’s horses unique to Mongolia. When you finally track down a small group of them, it’s still hard to see their beauty up close as you can’t that close to them. Next morning after having a breakfast in the country we had to journey back through the crazy, construction overloaded, traffic-ridden Ulaanbaatar city.
Specially for you Recommendations after my travel in Mongolia
Make ready yourself that you get dirty. Getting dirty in Mongolia is a given, but I never thought on my travels that I would push a truck out of thick, stodgy mud, build a road complete with a dam or wade knee-deep through a river to get to the other side.
Make ready yourself that you can encounter any unexpected weather condition or nature areas. You might have a challenge for your mind and psychology. Any natural burden, weather condition should not make you disappointed. Remember! This is a land of nomads- it means land of survivors with very optimistic mind.
Make ready yourself to hear amazing stories about nomads. Mongolian tour guides speak lots of interesting stories and facts about the nomadic civilization, strength and power of local men and Mongolian country culture. We had just had a fantastic evening with our tour guide speaking the unexpected stories and cultural differences, the our Mongolian guide was super! You will have so many questions after listening to his talk.
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