As I see it Mongolia is a destination like no other: a land of few roads, no fences, epic landscapes and still true to its nomadic roots. All encompassed by vast and usually blue skies. Even the sky itself has a deep and powerful meaning to the Mongols who still worship ‘Munkh Khukh Tenger’ the Eternal Blue Sky, Heaven above.
I am often asked what I think is so remarkable about Mongolia, and why I’ve invested such a huge chunk of my life there. So here’s a few reasons why I believe Mongolia is such an inspirational destination, accompanied by a set of stunning photos by Mongolian photographer Bayar Balgantseren (with permission). I hope this inspires you too.
Nomadic herders range on the Mongolian steppes much as they have done for a thousand years, moving their herds of horses, camels, cows, yaks, sheep and goats with the seasons. Hospitality is a cornerstone of their nomadic heritage and you are never far from a family and their ger where you can always expect a warm welcome. Its the Mongolians’ hospitality, friendship, openness and passion for their country and traditions that makes such a great experience for visitors.
Mongolia has a striking range of landscapes: vast open steppes, painted desert eroded into a myriad of forms, wind sculpted rocks, wild taiga forests, turquoise lakes, snow capped mountains and singing sand dunes. These are also landscapes steeped legends and history of the Mongols and ancient cultures that wandered the steppes before them (see #3).
This is the land from where the Huns, the Turks and the Mongols all rode forth, leaving a landscape dotted with ancient monuments and archaeological sites, giving the modern day visitor a sense of place and it’s epic history. Add to this a Buddhist heritage infused with Shamanism that has created a spiritual landscape where the rocks, springs, mountain summits and the sky above are honored and respected.
Wildlife might be under pressure but still significant populations roam free. Millions of Mongolian gazelles migrate across the Eastern Steppes, an area 25 times larger than Yellowstone National Park. Wild horses have been re-introduced and gallop once again in their native habitat. The Gobi Bear and Wild Camel cling tenaciously to existence in the Gobi Protected Areas. Argali (Wild Sheep) and Ibex can be seen within hours of Ulaanbaatar. If you are lucky you might hear wolves howl as you ride through the mountainous taiga of northern Hovsgol.
The sense of adventure in Mongolia is huge. I have always said that adventure can’t be scripted, packaged and sold: adventure is what happens on the way. Mongolia is a wild country that sometimes throws a few challenges in our path and at times can push the boundaries of your comfort zone, but overcoming those challenges is often what makes for a great adventure.
Whether your thing is trekking into the wilds horseback, mountain bike or on foot, or getting well off the beaten track on an overland jeep safari, Mongolia has boundless opportunities for adventure.
I’ve have been guiding and organizing expeditions in Mongolia since 2000, and as you might have guessed by now, I am passionate about Mongolia, its people and its wild places. If you are looking for a unique Mongolia travel experience then let me know, I’ll be happy to help organize it for you or simply give you some solid advice based on a good few years experience.