MONGOLIA TRAVEL GUIDE
Mongolia, a nation bordered by China and Russia, is known for vast, rugged expanses and nomadic culture. Its capital, Ulaanbaatar, centres around Chinggis Khaan (Genghis Khan) Square, named for the notorious founder of the 13th- and 14th-century Mongol Empire.
While Mongolia is not quite the savage and godforsaken place of imagination, it is still amongst the last of the untamed territories of the world. The desolate and hostile expanse of the Gobi Desert, the unrelenting peaks of Altai - Tavan Bogd, the frozen 'Blue Pearl' Lake Khovsgol, the bleak volcanoes of Uran Uul and Togoo Uul and the magnificent valleys of Terelj and Yolyn Am, the 'Flaming Cliffs' and fossil park of Bayanzag, salt and freshwater lakes, springs and glaciers galore - all await the visitor. Mongolia is an unusual, harsh land - but it’s also amazingly beautiful in its arid splendour. Don’t expect the luxuries and pampering of more popular tourist destinations, instead prepare for the experience of a lifetime in an almost extraterrestrial terrain.
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MONGOLIA QUICK FACTS
With only 1.7 people per km², Mongolia has the lowest population density among all independent countries in the world, and it is this vast and majestic emptiness that is the country's enduring appeal, bringing the traveller, as it does, into a close communion with nature and its nomadic inhabitants.
- Capital: Ulaanbaatar
- Currency: Togrog/Tugrik (MNT)
- Area: 1,565,000 km²
- Population: 3,17 million (2018)
- Language: Khalkha Mongol 90%, Turkic, Russian
- Religion:Tibetan Buddhist (Vajrayana) 97.5%, Muslim (primarily in the southwest), Shamanism, and Christian 1.5%
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MONGOLIA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 1 June, Mother and Child Day
- 11–13 July, Naadam Festival
- 26 November, Independence Day
Also, Tsagaan Sar (Lunar New Year) and Chinggis Khaan’s Birthday.
FESTIVALS IN MONGOLIA
BEST TIME TO VISIT MONGOLIA
Mongolia has four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
- Spring (April-May) is a transitional season, with temperatures starting to rise and snow melting in the lower elevations. It's a good time to see the first flowers and the return of migratory birds.
- Summer (June-August) is the warmest season, with temperatures reaching up to 30°C (86°F) in some areas. This is the best time for trekking, hiking, and visiting the national parks.
- Autumn (September-October) is a great time for travel as the weather is still mild and the grassland is at its most colorful.
- Winter (November-March) can be harsh, with temperatures dropping as low as -40°C (-40°F) in some areas. But it's also a good time to see the traditional eagle hunters and the beautiful winter landscapes.
The best time to visit Mongolia depends on the type of activity you plan to do. If you want to go trekking or hiking, the best time is between June and September when the weather is warm and dry. If you're interested in seeing the traditional Naadam Festival, it takes place in July. If you're looking to see the famous eagle hunters and the winter landscapes, the best time to visit is between November and February.
MONGOLIA WEATHER SYNOPSIS
Mongolia has a strongly continental climate, with four distinctive seasons, high fluctuations of temperature, low precipitation and clear climate differences according to latitude and altitude. Average temperatures range between around -4 and -8°C in and between mountain ranges climbing to around 2°C in the steppe desert region and around 6°C in the southern desert bordering China. Temperature varies dramatically throughout the year. Historically maximum temperatures have peaked at around 24°C in July, while January minimum temperatures drop to around -28°C. Annual precipitation rarely exceeds 400 mm, and is often much lower in the south and central desert and steppe regions. An estimated 85% of precipitation falls between April and September. Small inter-annual variations in precipitation can lead to severe drought events, with some regions not experiencing rainfall at all.
MONGOLIA TOURIST SEASONS
Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists.
Off Peak Season
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN MONGOLIA
The snow sports season in Mongolia can stretch all the way from November and last until March. You can even appreciate the city lights while skiing at night!
HIKING & CYCLING IN MONGOLIA
The best time for outdoor activities in Mongolia is from May to September, with June to August being the most pleasant.
BEACH OPTIONS IN MONGOLIA
SURFING IN MONGOLIA
KITESURF IN MONGOLIA
Kitesurfing spot details and weather
HEALTH RISKS IN MONGOLIA
Be aware of possible health risks in
Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.
Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.
Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.
MONGOLIA TRAVEL COSTS
The cost of traveling to Mongolia can vary depending on your itinerary, accommodations, and mode of transportation. Some estimates for budget travel in Mongolia are:
- Accommodation: $10-25 per night for a budget guesthouse or hostel, $25-50 for a mid-range hotel
- Food: $5-10 for a budget meal, $10-20 for a mid-range meal
- Transportation: $10-20 for a long-distance bus or train ticket, $80-120 for a domestic flight
- Entrance fees: $5-10 for national parks and other attractions
- Activities: $30-50 for a guided tour or trekking excursion
It's important to keep in mind that prices can vary depending on the location and the time of year. In addition, if you're planning to do any activities such as horseback riding or camel trekking, that will add to the cost of your trip.
Overall, it's possible to travel to Mongolia on a budget, but it will depend on your travel style and what you want to do during your visit.
Here is a sample budget for a one-week trip to Mongolia, assuming budget accommodations and meals:
- Airfare: $800-$1000 (depending on where you're flying from)
- Accommodation: $70-$100 for 7 nights in budget guesthouses or hostels
- Food: $70-$100 for 7 days of budget meals
- Transportation: $50-$70 for long-distance bus or train tickets
- Entrance fees: $50-$70 for national parks and other attractions
- Activities: $150-$200 for a guided tour or trekking excursion
Total cost: $1200-$1600
It's important to note that this is just an estimate and the costs will vary depending on your travel style, destination and season you choose to visit. Additional costs such as visa fees, travel insurance, and souvenirs should also be factored in.
MONGOLIA TRAVEL TIPS
Here are some travel tips for Mongolia:
- Pack for the weather: Mongolia has extreme temperatures, so pack accordingly. Bring warm clothing for the winter and cool clothing for the summer.
- Learn some basic Mongolian phrases: Many Mongolians speak only limited English, so it's helpful to know some basic phrases in Mongolian.
- Be prepared for long distances: Mongolia is a vast country, and distances between destinations can be long. Be prepared for long bus or train rides.
- Respect local customs: Mongolia has a rich cultural heritage, and it's important to be respectful of local customs and traditions.
- Have cash handy: While some places in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, accept credit cards, many places, especially in the countryside, do not. Make sure you have enough cash to cover your expenses.
- Be mindful of your water usage and environment: In some remote areas, water resources can be scarce. Make sure to use water wisely and do not pollute the environment.
- Be open-minded and flexible: Mongolia is a unique and fascinating country, and you're sure to have a memorable experience. Be open-minded and go with the flow, as things may not always go as planned.
- Hire a guide or join a tour: Mongolia can be a difficult place to navigate for first-time visitors, a guide or a tour can help you to make the most of your trip.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF MONGOLIA
Mongolia is divided into 21 provinces, also known as Aimags, and one municipality (Ulaanbaatar city), each with its own unique culture and landscapes. Here are some of the main regions of Mongolia and the highlights of each:
- Ulaanbaatar: The capital city of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar is a mix of traditional and modern culture. Highlights include the Gandantegchinlen Monastery, the National Museum of Mongolia, and the Zaisan Memorial.
- Central Mongolia: Home to the famous Naadam Festival, held annually in July. The area is also known for its beautiful landscapes, including the Khogno Khan mountain, Khar Us Lake, and the Kharakhorum, a 13th-century Buddhist monastery.
- Western Mongolia: This region is known for its stunning mountain ranges, including the Altai Tavan Bogd and the Khuiten Peak, which is the highest point in Mongolia. It's also a great place to see the traditional eagle hunters.
- Eastern Mongolia: This region is known for its vast grasslands, the Khustain Nuruu National Park, home of the endangered Takhi (Mongolian wild horses), and the Dornod province, the main region for the traditional nomadic way of life.
- Northern Mongolia: The northern region of Mongolia is known for its beautiful forests, including the Tsaatan people, who are reindeer herders, and the stunning Lake Khovsgol, which is the second-largest freshwater lake in Mongolia.
- Gobi Desert: located in the southern part of the country, the Gobi desert is known for its sand dunes and unique wildlife. Highlights include the Yoliin Am Canyon, the Bayanzag Flaming Cliffs and the camel riding, visiting local nomadic families and getting to know their culture and way of life.
These are some of the main regions of Mongolia, each with its own unique culture and landscapes. Depending on your interests and the time of year, you can plan your trip accordingly to get the most out of your visit.
Mongolia is a country with a rich cultural heritage and stunning natural landscapes. Here are some of the best things to see and do when visiting Mongolia:
- Experience the traditional Naadam Festival: Held annually in July, the Naadam Festival is a celebration of Mongolian culture and heritage, featuring traditional games such as horse racing, wrestling, and archery.
- Visit the Gandantegchinlen Monastery: Located in Ulaanbaatar, this working Buddhist monastery is one of the largest and most important in Mongolia.
- Explore the Khustain Nuruu National Park: This national park is home to the endangered Takhi (Mongolian wild horse) and offers great opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing.
- See the eagle hunters: Western Mongolia is home to the traditional eagle hunters and you can witness the hunters and their eagles during the winter months.
- Visit the Kharakhorum: This 13th-century Buddhist monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a great example of Mongolian architecture.
- Explore the Gobi Desert: The Gobi Desert is known for its unique wildlife, sand dunes and the Yoliin Am Canyon, the Bayanzag Flaming Cliffs and the camel riding, visiting local nomadic families and getting to know their culture and way of life.
- Visit Lake Khovsgol: This is the second-largest freshwater lake in Mongolia and is surrounded by beautiful forests and home to the Tsaatan people, who are reindeer herders.
- Experience the Nomadic lifestyle: Mongolia is home to many nomadic families, and you can experience the traditional way of life by visiting a nomadic family and living with them for a short period of time.
These are just some of the many things to see and do in Mongolia. Depending on your interests, you can plan your trip accordingly to make the most of your visit.
WHAT TO EAT IN MONGOLIA
Mongolian cuisine is heavily influenced by the nomadic lifestyle of the country's inhabitants, with a focus on meat and dairy products. Here are some traditional Mongolian dishes that you should try when visiting Mongolia:
- Buuz: These are steamed dumplings filled with meat, usually mutton or beef.
- Khuushuur: This is a fried pastry filled with meat and onions, similar to a turnover or empanada.
- Khorkhog: This is a traditional dish made by cooking meat, potatoes, and onions in a pot with hot stones.
- Tsuivan: A hearty noodle dish made with meat, vegetables, and a savory sauce.
- Airag: A traditional fermented mare's milk that is a staple of the nomadic lifestyle, it has a sour taste similar to yogurt.
- Boortsog: A traditional fried dough that can be served sweet or savory.
- Kebab: Grilled skewers of meat, typically mutton, beef, or horsemeat.
When you're in Mongolia, you should also try to sample some of the local delicacies, such as marmot, which is a rodent that's considered a delicacy in some parts of the country, and horse meat, which is also commonly consumed. It is important to note that in some places, particularly in remote areas, the availability of food options may be limited, so it's a good idea to bring some snacks and non-perishable food items with you.
LGBTQ IN MONGOLIA
WHERE TO STAY IN MONGOLIA
When visiting Mongolia for the first time, it's best to stay in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. This will allow you to get a sense of the country's culture and history while also having access to modern amenities such as restaurants, shops, and hospitals.
There are several options for accommodation in Ulaanbaatar, including:
- Hotels: There are a variety of hotels available, ranging from budget-friendly options to more luxurious options. Some popular options include the Blue Sky Tower Hotel, the Ramada Ulaanbaatar Citycenter, and the Hotel Mongolia.
- Guesthouses: Guesthouses are a budget-friendly option and can provide a more authentic experience. They are often family-run and can provide a great opportunity to interact with locals. Some popular options include the Gana's Guesthouse, the Gobi Hostel, and the Nomadic Guesthouse.
- Hostels: Hostels are also a budget-friendly option and are a great option for solo travelers or backpackers. Some popular options include the UB Guesthouse, the Ger Camp Hostel, and the Ulaanbaatar Hostel.
It's also worth noting that if you plan to visit some of the remote areas of Mongolia, it's best to book accommodation in advance as options may be limited. Additionally, you can also stay in a Ger (a traditional Mongolian yurt) in some places, this can be a great way to get a taste of the nomadic lifestyle.
Overall, it depends on your budget and travel style, but staying in Ulaanbaatar is a great starting point to explore the rest of the country, and you'll have easy access to the basic amenities and transportation.
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