Our top 10 things to do in Mongolia
There are many reasons you might want to visit Mongolia - perhaps to seek the vast open spaces, so rare 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 dark enough to throw the glittering heavens into sharp relief. 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 majestically over wide-open grassland prairie, steppe, subarctic evergreen forest, wetland, alpine tundra, mountain, and desert. It stretches above yak, goat, reindeer, camel, wolves, bears, marmot, squirrel; forms the tapestry on which hawk, falcon, eagle and crane craft momentary, dissipating brushstrokes; and frames 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. Spending time 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 satellite dish and solar panel. Help out with daily tasks of rounding up and milking the animals and making curds or buuz (dumplings), 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. You may even be able to help out putting up a traditional ger. Read more
2. Eagle hunting with the Kazakhs in the Altai Mountains
The ancient art of falconry as practised by the Kazakh Mongolians 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 epitomises Mongolia. Read more
3. Countryside Naadam Games
Our favourite Naadam festivals are out in the countryside. With none of the queues or crowds of the big festival in Ulaanbaatar you get to enjoy a connected, immersive experience with the locals. The atmosphere is fantastic, buoyed by the legendary hospitality of the Mongolian people. In traditional dress, the colourfully attired spectators watch competitors take part in the three ‘manly’ sports of archery, wrestling and horse racing. Read more
4. Horse riding in the Central Heartland
Horse riding is central to Mongolian life, children become highly accomplished early and riders can handle their horses with skill and ease. The tough, sprightly and nimble Mongolian horse has stamina and strength that belies it diminutive size. Taking a ride across the open steppe is the perfect way to feel a connection with the vast landscape and nomadic people. Your carefully selected horse will carry you across all sorts of terrain and a short guided trek up to Tovkhon Khiid (Monastery) is a great experience.
5. Going on Migration
The nomadic herders across Mongolia will move home three, four or occasionally more times in a year to find the best pastures in spring and summer or places to hunker down for the harsh autumn and winter. Why not join then to pack up their gers, load up their belongings and shepherd, on horseback, their animals to their next home. One their build the gers and settle back in to daily life. A move may take just a day or perhaps more; either way it's a real adventure as you help take care of the animals along the way.
6. Camel Riding in the Dunes
Whether you are visiting the Gobi's Khongoryn Els (the Singing Dunes), some of the largest sand dunes in Mongolia, or the shifting sands of Elsen Tasarkhai in Bayan-Gobi a camel ride is almost obligatory. The Bactrian camels of Central Asia are the two-humped variety and wear very shaggy coats in the winter. You'll feel like a true explorer. Read more
7. Stargazing with a G&T 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.
8. Have an astrological reading with a Lama at Gandan Monastery
Gandantegchinlen Monastery in Ulaanbaatar is a peaceful retreat from the busy streets, a regular place of prayer for Buddhist from across Mongolia. After listening to the mesmerising chanting of the monks at morning prayer you can commission an astrological reading by one of the lamas. What will your future hold?
9. Lunch in a Guanz
Perhaps a roadside ger, a shack or hidden away in the city a guanz is a great place to rub shoulders with the locals. A cafe cum restaurant cum meeting spot you can take your pick from mutton stew, buuz (steamed dumplings), khuushuur (fried dumplings) and airag (fermented mare’s milk). Immerse yourself in the Mongolian culture and a bit of adventurous cuisine.
10. Watching Mongolian horsemen round up horses in spring
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.