Mongolia is a relatively new stop on the Asian touring circuit. The borders of this vast and beautiful country were closed to outsiders until 1991, as the communist government that feared the influence of outsiders. Now that the doors have been opened, more and more travelers are seizing the opportunity to tour Mongolia and explore the relatively unspoiled country. It offers a varied landscape with mountains, deserts, and the famous steppes, and it is home to a welcoming population. The unique culture here still supports nomadic peoples, and much of the economy is based on animal herding and exporting cashmere, while Shamanism remains the dominant religion.
Mongolia is roughly the size of Western Europe and is bordered by China and Russia. It has just fewer than 3 million inhabitants, making it the most sparsely populated country in the world, and more than 1 million of the people reside in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. About a third of the population is engaged in the traditional economy of agriculture and livestock, and the majority of these still practice a nomadic lifestyle.
When planning your trip to Mongolia, take into consideration the time of year you go. Although the country is graced with sunshine about 250 days a year, the temperature during the winter months of November to April can be extremely cold; in fact, Ulaanbaatar is the world’s coldest national capital. The spring and summer months are the best times for Mongolia holidays, as the temperatures are mild and the sun in constantly shining with little scattered rainfall.
The country can be best divided into the different regions of Ulaanbaatar and Surroundings, Northern, Southern-Gobi Desert, Central, and Eastern Mongolia. Ulaanbaatar is home to more than one-third of the population, and this urban center is both a traditional Mongolian city and home to some of the nation's best museums and exhibits. Ulaanbaatar is also the culinary capital of the country, with local cuisine and influences from the surrounding Asian and European regions. This vibrant destination is a great place to start your Mongolia travel, as it is home to the major airport, offers the best transportation in the country, and is close to the surrounding mountains and Gobi Desert.
Northern Mongolia is the perfect destination for those who enjoy outdoor activities and wildlife. Lake Huvsgul, which contains 65 percent of all the fresh water in Mongolia, is ideal for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. The surrounding mountains and forests are perfectly suited for wildlife observation, as they provide a habitat for more than sixty species. The Uran-Togoo Tulga Natural Reserve is also a great place to visit during Mongolia travel to observe the variety of bird life and mammals, and to explore the various hiking trails. Northern Mongolia is also home to the Tsaatan Reindeer Herdsmen, an ethnic group is made up of 42 families who have preserved a culture that has remained virtually unchanged since the Ice Age.
The Southern-Gobi Desert Region is a must-see during your trip to Mongolia. Although the famous desert is located here, the region is far from arid—it’s home to more than 200 species of plants and a variety of rare animals such as wild camels, white antelopes, and wild sheep. Dornogobi is the best part of the province to visit to learn about these plants and animals, and the region also boasts large dinosaur fossil deposits and is dotted with meditation caves. The Southern-Gobi Desert area is home to the Vulture's Gorge, a conservation area for regional birdlife, and the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park, which protects the untouched land and animals of the area.
The Central Region is one of the most popular ecotourism destinations for those planning outdoor Mongolian holidays. Between the Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve and Khorgo-Terkh National Park, visitors to this part of Mongolia are able to experience the beauty of the wetlands, mountains, extinct volcanoes, and small caverns that are scattered among the area. This area is ideal for your trip to Mongolia if you are looking to do some rafting, fishing, or horseback riding. The Central Region is also home to various ruins dating from 745 AD, the ancient capital established by Genghis Khan in 1220, and the 20,000-year-old Orkhon Waterfalls.
Eastern Mongolia is a nature-lover's delight, boasting an unspoiled landscape and a variety of wildlife. It is the least-visited region of the country despite the area's historical significance and sweeping landscape, and it is definitely worth including on your Mongolia travel itinerary. It is home to various ethnic groups, ruins from thirteenth- and fourteenth- century villages, ancient stone walls, and cave paintings. The Baldan Bereibun Monastery was constructed in 1777 and is one of the most famous monasteries in the country, as it was built to resemble the Utai Gumbun monastery in Tibet. Khalkh Gol, the battlefield of the Mongolian/Soviet allied forces and Japanese troops dating from 1939, is also located here. If you are looking to explore the varied landscape and wildlife, then a trip to either the Mongol Daguur Strictly Protected Area or the Numrog Strictly Protected Area is sure to please. Sukhbaatar Aimag, with dead lakes and volcanoes, and the Steppe Cave are two other outstanding options for those looking to explore nature during time spent off the beaten path in Mongolia.