In our comprehensive Mongolia travel guide, we invite you to embark on an immersive journey through this enchanting country. From the arid expanses of the Gobi Desert to the serene beauty of Khuvsgul Lake, discover the heart of Mongolia’s unique charm. Uncover essential insights, tips, and hidden gems to craft an unforgettable adventure that resonates with the spirit of this remarkable land.
Fast Facts About Mongolia
- Climate: Brace yourself for Mongolia’s extreme climate. Summers (June to August) can be warm, with temperatures around 20-30°C (68-86°F). Winters (December to February) are frigid, plummeting to -30°C (-22°F) or lower. Layer up for the weather.
- Local Currency: The Mongolian Tögrög (MNT) is the official currency. Cash is widely used, especially in rural areas. Major cities have ATMs, but it’s wise to carry cash for remote regions.
- Power Voltage: Electrical outlets provide 220V power at 50Hz. Make sure to bring the right adapter to keep your devices charged.
- Language: Mongolian is the official language. English is limited, so learning a few basic Mongolian phrases can go a long way.
- Religion: Tibetan Buddhism is widely practiced in Mongolia. When visiting monasteries or sacred sites, dress modestly and be respectful of local customs.
- Safety: Mongolia is generally safe for travelers. However, be cautious when trekking alone in remote areas and follow local advice.
- Cultural Etiquette: Mongolians value respect and hospitality. When offered food or drink, it’s polite to accept. Refrain from pointing your feet at people or sacred objects.
- Tipping: Tipping is not a common practice in Mongolia. However, leaving a small gratuity for exceptional service at restaurants or to guides is appreciated.
Best Time to Visit Mongolia: Seasons and Festivals
- Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season, offering pleasant weather for exploring Mongolia’s landscapes. The Naadam Festival in July showcases traditional sports like horse racing, wrestling, and archery.
- Fall (September to October): Experience the golden landscapes of fall, with mild temperatures and fewer crowds. The Golden Eagle Festival in Bayan-Ölgii in October celebrates Kazakh eagle hunting traditions.
- Winter (December to February): If you’re up for an adventure, winter is the time for dog sledding and experiencing Mongolia’s true nomadic life.
- Spring (April to May): Spring brings new life to the countryside, making it a great time for birdwatching and witnessing the birth of livestock.
Top Attractions and Things to See and Do in Mongolia
- Gobi Desert: Embark on a mesmerizing journey through the vast Gobi Desert, where you can witness stunning sand dunes, unique rock formations, and even fossil-rich cliffs.
- Mongolian Nomadic Life: Immerse yourself in the timeless nomadic culture by staying in traditional gers (yurts). Experience the daily life of herders, learn to milk yaks, and savor authentic dairy products.
- Khuvsgul Lake: Discover the “Blue Pearl of Mongolia,” Khuvsgul Lake. Whether you’re hiking, horseback riding, or simply soaking in the tranquil surroundings, this pristine alpine lake will leave you in awe.
- Horse Trekking: Channel your inner nomad with a horse trek through Mongolia’s rolling landscapes. Traverse vast steppe, forested mountains, and river valleys for an authentic adventure.
- Monasteries and Temples: Explore Mongolia’s spiritual side by visiting monasteries like Erdene Zuu and Gandan Khiid. Admire intricate artwork, attend Buddhist ceremonies, and find serenity.
- Naadam Festival: Experience Mongolia’s traditional sports and culture at the Naadam Festival. Watch thrilling horse races, fierce wrestling matches, and precise archery competitions.
The Best Ways To Get Around Mongolia
- Local Buses: Local buses connect major cities and towns. While they might not offer the most luxurious ride, they are an affordable way to travel.
- Shared Taxis: Shared taxis or minivans are common for intercity travel. Negotiate fares beforehand and enjoy the flexibility of these informal transportation options.
- Domestic Flights: For longer distances, consider domestic flights. They’re efficient for covering vast landscapes and connecting remote regions.
- Guided Tours: Join guided tours for hassle-free exploration, especially in remote areas like the Gobi Desert. Guides offer insight into local culture and ensure a smooth journey.
- Hiking and Trekking: Lace up your boots and explore Mongolia’s stunning landscapes on foot. Trekking allows you to connect with nature and experience the country’s beauty up close.
Accommodation Tips: Mongolia
- Traditional Gers: Immerse yourself in the nomadic lifestyle by staying in traditional gers (yurts). Experience comfort and authenticity while connecting with Mongolia’s culture.
- Ger Camps: Opt for ger camps for a blend of comfort and adventure. These camps offer modern amenities while allowing you to appreciate the vast landscapes.
- Guesthouses: In cities and towns, you’ll find guesthouses offering cozy accommodations. They provide a chance to interact with locals and experience urban life.
- Camping: Embrace the wilderness by camping in designated areas. Make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles and obtain any necessary permits.
- Online Booking: Utilize online booking platforms to secure your accommodation in advance. Whether you’re in Ulaanbaatar or remote regions, this ensures a smooth stay.
Mongolia Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
- Free Museums: Immerse yourself in Mongolia’s history without spending a dime. The National Museum of Mongolia offers free admission on the first Wednesday of each month.
- Local Markets: Experience local culture and save on dining by exploring local markets. Sample Mongolian cuisine from street vendors and food stalls.
- Homestays: Engage with local families by opting for homestays. Experience authentic hospitality and enjoy homemade meals while saving on accommodation.
- Carpooling: Share rides with fellow travelers or locals to cut transportation costs. It’s a great way to connect with others and share expenses.
- Cook Your Own Meals: If you have access to a kitchen, consider buying groceries and preparing your own meals. It’s an economical and convenient option.
Culinary Delights and Traditional Cuisine in Mongolia
- Buuz: Delight in buuz, savory dumplings filled with meat, onions, and spices. These steamed treats are a staple in Mongolian cuisine.
- Khuushuur: Savor khuushuur, deep-fried pastries filled with minced meat and onions. They’re a popular snack and a must-try street food.
- Aaruul: Enjoy aaruul, a type of dried curd made from yogurt. It’s a nutritious and convenient snack that you’ll often find in nomadic households.
- Mongolian Barbecue: Indulge in Mongolian barbecue, where you create your own dish by selecting ingredients like meat, vegetables, and sauces.
- Airag: Quench your thirst with airag, a traditional fermented mare’s milk. It’s a unique beverage that’s an integral part of Mongolian culture.
Souvenir Ideas: Bringing a Piece of Mongolia Home
- Cashmere Products: Invest in high-quality cashmere scarves, sweaters, or blankets, as Mongolia is renowned for its soft and luxurious cashmere.
- Nomadic Crafts: Support local artisans by purchasing handcrafted items like felted slippers, traditional clothing, and intricate horsehair jewelry.
- Throat Singing Music: Take home the enchanting sounds of Mongolia by purchasing throat singing music CDs, a distinctive musical tradition.
- Gobi Desert Stones: Collect unique stones from the Gobi Desert as natural souvenirs, each with its own story to tell from this vast landscape.
- Traditional Mongolian Art: Adorn your space with traditional Mongolian paintings, sculptures, or intricate thangka artwork that capture the essence of the culture.