Having just written about the best things to do in China, I felt it would be pertinent to write an article on the top things to do in Mongolia. So incredibly unspoilt by human contact, so much of this land is still how it would naturally appear without the damage and pollution caused by humans. You will be able to witness a number of traditional methods of farming, ways of life and see a culture which still proudly is embedded in the countries history. You will still to this day find nomads travelling the lands, where they have been doing this ever since the days of Genghis Khan. So take a look through my list and see how many you can tick off if taking a holiday to Mongolia.
1.0 Camel Ride
The ideal ‘thing to do’ in any area containing a desert, you will find some of the greatest expansions of desert in the entire world here in Mongolia. The most impressive being Khongoryn Els, which stretches an unbelievable 180 kilometres. Just make sure to get a reliable tour guide and make sure not to annoy him, this is the last place in the world you would want to be abandoned!
When I visited Egypt, I tried to tick off as many excursions as possible, but the little scientist in me was most excited about going stargazing in the desert, as the lack of clouds and pollution means you can see so much more than back home. I have never seen a sky like it, where every single section seemed to have a bright star. Here in Mongolia (one spot you could try is the Gobi desert) you will get a perfect view, while your guide will point out some of the most well known and researched constellations, as well as the stories of how they were named.
3.0 Spend The Night In A Yurt
These can be spotted all over the country and look like a mix between a tipi and a small hut. While it can get cold outside at night, the fur exterior keeps in a large amount of warmth, like being covered by a giant coat. Stay with a local and hear about all the unbelievable stories and legends of the area.
4.0 Naadam Festival
I’m a big fan of festivals and always feel it is ideal to visit a country during times of celebration, so try to make your trip around the Naadam Festival, which occurs on July 11-13th. You will be able to find celebrations all over the country, so try to find out what is going on in the area you are planning on visiting, however the biggest of them all is in Ulaanbaatar. Basically, three games are played, which are wrestling, horse racing and archery. If you are any good at one of these, why not sign up to the minor versions they have running just for fun. I might at some point make a whole post on this festival, as there seems to be limited resources on it.
5.0 Uvs Nuur Basin
A world UNESCO heritage site, this is a beautiful area, with a shallow lake which helps an incredibly large amount of birds during migration as a stop off to get a quick drink of water. For this reason it has become a must-see for bird watchers around the world. For me though, the appeal is the beautiful scenery, you will definitely get a snap on your camera none of your friends will have. I would also keep an eye out for the gorgeous and rare snow leopard!
6.0 Tsaatan Darhad Valley
This beautiful mountainous region is another naturally stunning item on the list, with over 300 lakes to check out. Here you will find the people known as Darhad’s, who still live in the traditional tents and most don’t use any form of electricity. To see people who, to us from an ethnocentric perspective, live in a completely different world, it is like stepping into a time machine and is fascinating. Expect long journeys to get around though.
7.0 Visit A Mountain Monastery
You obviously have to visit a monastery while in Mongolia, but visiting one on the edge of a mountain just makes it that much more impressive. You will find temples which are located scarily close to the edge of mountains, with views for miles of forests and mountains. Just as an extra point, you might also want to check out Erdenee Zuu in Kharkhorin.
8.0 White Water Rafting
I recommend this as an activity anywhere it is possible, being my absolutely favourite thing in the world, making it onto my list of things to do before you die. With some picturesque lakes and white water rafting centres set up all over the country, the choices are really open. You will have all different levels, as lets just face it, you might not want to jump straight in the deep end if you’ve never given it a try before. Give the Tsagaan or Chuluut river a try.
9.0 Horse Riding
We have mentioned camel riding already, however horse riding is really how they traditionally travelled in this country, with over 20 million horses in the country, compared to only 2.8 million people. This means you will also get the chance to see horses in their natural environment, I don’t know what it is but there is something incredibly majestic about a horse in its natural habitat just running for fun.
I was going to write Altan Ulgii, Khentii Aimeg as the title for this point, but there are a huge amount of areas you should try hiking. However this one offers something you will keep to the moment you die, reaching 2,646 metres high. If you make it to the top, all I can ask is that you please send me a picture!