Mongolia is a unique travel destination, one which many know very little about, except for it’s mighty Mongol Empire, whose notoriety graces the pages of history books in libraries around the world. An East Asian country, situated between Russia and China, and entirely landlocked, Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated nations in the world, with landscapes ranging from the barren Gobi Desert in the south to snow-capped mountains in the north and large urban sprawls such as Ulaanbaatar, the capital city. 45% percent of the population call Ulaanbaatar their home, despite it being the world’s coldest capital city, with an average annual temperature of below zero. A large proportion of the remaining population continues to live a nomadic lifestyle, a tradition that both characterises the country and informs the popular image of Mongolia. Only on a trip to Mongolia can you meet true, traditional nomads, stay in a yurt and experience authentic culture, dress and ceremonies, seemingly untouched by modernity. It is truly an adventure travel destination, full of pristine landscapes and plenty of opportunities to delve into the local culture. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Mongolia has opened its doors to travellers and is becoming a popular holiday destination for lovers of the great outdoors due to the largely intact wilderness that covers most of the country. Travelling through the wilds of Mongolia you will be left wondering if you will ever see modern civilisation again. Furthermore, the country is known for the warm hospitality of its people, who will almost always kindly welcome strangers into their homes and share their culture with travellers. The epitome of exotic travel, a tour of Mongolia deserves a place on your bucket list.
History of Mongolia
Many difference nomadic tribes have inhabited the lands and been part of the history of Mongolia, but the reign of the Mongol Empire is the most well-known and revered part of the country’s story and the reason many travellers are drawn to a holiday to Mongolia. It played a huge role in shaping Asia and at its peak, stretched as far as Poland in the west and South Korea in the east. Founded in 1206 by Genghis Khan, before long, and as the result of countless successful expansion campaigns, the Mongol Empire became the largest continuous land empire in history, and still retains that title today. Genghis Khan’s grandson went on to conquer China, establishing the powerful Yuan dynasty. Tibetan Buddhism swept across Mongolia in the 16th-century around the time that the territory was unified under the ‘Genghisids’. This short-lived unity was disturbed by the Chinese Qing dynasty, who took command of the territory following a series of bloody conflicts, although Outer Mongolia retained some of its autonomy. The collapse of the Qing in 1911 resulted in the country’s independence although Mongolia soon became absorbed by the powerful Soviet Union, renamed the Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924. It was not until 1990 that the country would enjoy independence once again, finally adopting a market economy and a new constitution, although the initial transition proved difficult as Mongolia was in the grips of nationwide food shortages and inflation at this time. Many communities continue to live traditionally today and are reliant on the success of their crops and livestock farming, something which travellers might find eye-opening on a trip to Mongolia. Nowadays, the country is eager to play a more active role in global politics and emerge as another unique and fascinating Asian travel destination.
Nature in Mongolia
Nicknamed the ‘Land of the Eternal Blue Sky’ as it receives more than 250 days of sunshine a year, Mongolia is a brilliant destination for nature lovers who can indulge their passion in the country's vast untouched landscapes. Grasslands, steppes, forests, glistening lakes, mountains and deserts are just some of the features you can expect to see on a tour of Mongolia. The county is known for its severe weather, with hot summers and extremely cold and harsh winters. In fact, Mongolia is the only country in the world to experience the natural disaster of ‘zud’, when a large proportion of the country’s livestock die due to the effects of such freezing winter temperatures. Despite the extreme weather, you cannot miss the numerous natural attractions on offer when you travel to Mongolia. The largest lake in the country is Lake Uvs, situated in the northwest of the country, on the Russian border. This salt-water lake covers a staggering 3350 square kilometres and is the remains of an ancient sea. Other natural attractions include the Gorki-Terelj National Park, home to 250 bird species, bears, rivers, camping facilities and rock-faces for climbing, and the Hustai National Park, known for its beautiful wild horses, the emblematic animal of Mongolia. Other animal species to look out for during your trip to Mongolia include snow leopards, the two-humped Bactrian camels, bears and ibex. Perhaps the most famous of all of the natural attractions in Mongolia is the vast Gobi Desert, home to canyons, mile-high sand dunes and dinosaur fossils.
Culture in Mongolia
Culture in Mongolia is heavily influenced by nomadic traditions which include moving with the seasons, living off of the land and rearing and herding livestock. A significant amount of the population continue to live in this way and make their homes inside ‘gers’, a type of Mongolian yurt. Buddhism is another element of the national culture that visitors can enjoy on a trip to Mongolia, especially in the temples and monasteries of Ulaanbaatar. Buddhism was rigorously oppressed during the years of Soviet rule, although it has long been the prominent religious since it was introduced in the 16th-century. Today, it is again the most popular religion, although western parts of the country are home to numerous Islamic communities and many Mongolians are simply non-religious. In some of the most rural parts of the country the ancient practice of Mongolian Shamanism, known as Tengrism, is still practised. Mongolia has a very old musical tradition and the unique Mongolian Throat-Singing is admired worldwide. One of the best-loved Mongolian celebrations is the annual festival of Naadam, a sporting event which celebrates the national sports of archery, wrestling and horse-racing. It is an unmissable event if you travel to Mongolia in the summer.
Traverse vast open spaces, get to know the nomadic way of life and fall in love with an array of unique and wonderful national traditions on a tour of Mongolia.