Our top 10 experiences in Mongolia
There are many reasons you might want to visit Mongolia – perhaps to seek the vast open spaces, so rare to find in other parts of the world, perhaps to immerse yourself in unspoilt nature, to breathe the clean air, to hike and horse ride, to find nights still dark enough the stars can send you into a trance. In the countryside (and most of Mongolia remains countryside) the Eternal Sky held sacred by Mongolians since well before the time of Chinggis Khan levitates with majesty over wide-open grassland prairie, steppe, subarctic evergreen forest, wetland, alpine tundra, mountain, and desert. It stretches above yak, goat, reindeer, camel, wolf, bear, marmot, squirrel, hawk, falcon, eagle and crane, and above some of the last traditional nomadic peoples and wild horses on Earth. Make the most of your time in Mongolia and consider our top 10 things to see and do:
1. Countryside Naadam Games at Khatgal
This is our favourite Naadam festivals – none of the queues or crowds of the big festival in Ulaanbaatar. The atmosphere is fantastic, buoyed by the legendary hospitality of the Mongolian people. In traditional dress, the colourful spectators watch competitors take part in the three ‘manly’ sports of archery, wrestling and horse racing. Read more.
2. Spending a night with a Nomadic Family
For many, the highlight of a visit to Mongolia is to spend time with a nomadic family, witnessing first hand their way of life unchanged for centuries – apart from a few modern-day additions of a satellite dish and solar panel. Help out with daily tasks of milking the animals and making curds, learn about daily life, the joys and the hardships of living a nomadic existence, but mostly, experience the genuine warmth and infamous hospitality of Mongolia’s nomads.
3. Camel Riding at Khongoryn Els
Khongoryn Els (the Singing Sands) are some of the largest sand dunes in Mongolia, 180 kilometers long and up to 800 metres high. A climb to the top gives amazing views across the surrounding desert. This area is inhabited by traditional camel herders and is a great place to learn about these fascinating animals and ride a ‘Ship of the Desert’ in their natural habitat.
4. Stargazing in the Gobi Desert
This has to be the ultimate experience of peace and tranquility. Enjoy time and space to think under a glittering canopy of endless stars – whether you are spending a night under canvas or just stepping out from your ger to glance up.
5. Fishing on the Mongolian Rivers, Khentii Aimeg
While away a few hours on a sunny afternoon, fly fishing for Trout, Grayling or the elusive Taimen, known as the Siberian Salmon. Relax beside meandering rivers in the valleys below the Khentii Mountains and enjoy the magnificent landscape; truly an angler’s paradise.
6. Climbing Altan Ulgii, Khentii Aimeg
The second highest mountain in the Khentii range, at an elevation of 2,646m, Altan Ulgii (meaning Golden Cradle) offers hikers unforgettable walks through large forests of pine and cedar, past clear mountain streams and meadows of wildflowers, and affords breathtaking views of the protected Khan Khentii from its peak.
7. Riding Horses at Lake Khovsgol
Explore the beautiful countryside around the shores of Lake Khovsgol. Ride through peaceful forests with spectacular views, and enjoy discovering the incredible landscape on horseback, as Mongolians have done for thousands of years.
8. Tsaagan Sar with a Mongolian Family, Terelj National Park
Celebrate the Mongolian New Year, Tsagaan Sar, with our nomadic friends near Khentii. Enjoy their legendary hospitality and being part of their community at this time of great festivity. 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). Immerse yourself in the Mongolian culture and experience firsthand the ceremonies and customs of this special festival.
9. Watching Mongolian Horsemen round up horses in spring, countrywide
Nowhere is the relationship between man and horse as celebrated as in Mongolia, where it has been central to the nomadic culture for thousands of years. Watching Mongolian horsemen round up the herds of wild horses in the spring is both magical and humbling. Testament to the extraordinary skill and horsemanship of the herders, the experience will leave you in no doubt that their nomadic culture still thrives and that their understanding of all things equine is truly remarkable.
10. Eagle hunting on horseback with Kazakhs, Bayan Ulgii
The ancient art of falconry as practised by the Kazakhs 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.
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