Are you planning to visit Mongolia soon? Here’s the list of 11 best things to do in Mongolia based on my experience of visiting this beautiful country last July.
Mongolia is yet another landlocked country in Central Asia and is one of the highest countries in the world with an average altitude of 1,580 meters above sea level. Surrounded by mountains, half of the population are known to be nomads where they camp on the grounds with no fence to protect them or their properties.
While some people frown upon this lifestyle as being harsh, especially during the winter, I believe this is what makes the Mongolians unique and truly special– they are courageous, resilient, tough, and very humble people.
True enough, I was seated next to a beautiful Mongolian lady in the plane who was with her baby and she wouldn’t stop smiling and talking to me, I was welcomed by several nomadic families into their homes and campsites, and I’ve met so many locals who showed me how sincere and hospitable they are. Thank you so much to Deggie from Vast Steppe Mongolia for arranging my itinerary to be one of a kind for me to truly experience your country’s well-kept beauty!
If there’s one place that I’d keep on coming back to, it’s going to be Mongolia. Here are some things to do in Mongolia during your visit. 🙂
1. Explore Ulaanbaatar
Before immersing yourself in a nomadic way of living, why don’t you treat yourself to some little luxury? Ulaanbaatar has 5-star hotels, shopping malls and tons of restaurants including Japanese and Korean. YUM! Some places you have to visit are the Genghis Khan Statue Complex, National History Museum, and the Gantangdegchenling Monastery.
Your visit to this city will likewise surprise you with their infamous Natural Parks– the Gorkhi-Terelj (where you’ll get to see the infamous Turtle Rock) and the Hustai National Park.
2. Go horseback riding
I know this doesn’t excite you much but I’m telling you, horseback riding in Mongolia is an exceptional experience. You’ll see how green this country is, you’ll cross rivers. You will also come across locals tending to their herds who will give you a genuine smile and warm welcome.
3. Stop by an Ovoo/Oboo
These are heaps of stones and wood piled on top of each other that you’ll frequently see by the mountains. While it may look like just a bare structure, they have a very special meaning to the Mongols. This is, in fact, a shrine used to honor spirits and Mother Earth. Stop by one and circle it three times for a safe journey. If you’re in a hurry, asking your driver to honk will suffice.
4. Hike going to Aryabal Meditation Temple in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
One of the best things to do in this park is to hike up this temple. As you know, I’m not a fan of hiking but this one is something I really enjoyed going up to. A beautiful view is awaiting you at the top and is also believed to be a ritual to cleanse you of your sins 🙂
5. Stay with a nomadic family in a Ger or a Yurt
One of the highlights of my stay was staying with a nomadic family who welcomed me into their lives and campsites offering me hot tea. You’ll certainly miss out if you don’t get to experience this kind of lifestyle which you probably won’t get to experience elsewhere the same way. Not only will you learn about their culture, but you’ll also get to understand their way of life and their strong yet warm personalities.
6. Stay in an eco-camp
If you want to stay in a yurt yet you still want the convenience of the modern world, I suggest you stay in an eco-camp like Gorkhi Eco Family Resort located in Ulaanbaatar. The rooms have a nice view of the mountains, a restaurant, a play area with tipi huts, a shared bathroom, and most of all, they have heated flooring as it can get really cold at night. They also serve American and English breakfasts. Yum!
7. Milk a cow!
If you stay with a nomadic family, I’m pretty sure you’ll get to see them tend to their herds and even milk a cow. I suggest you immerse yourself in their culture and offer to lend a hand. This is something you won’t get to do anywhere else :p
8. Go stargazing
I have forgotten the last time I’ve seen the stars as much until I arrived in Mongolia. While it can be very cold at night, try to cover yourself up, go out, and see how truly magical the universe is! Study your constellations, people! 🙂
9. Visit the Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dunes
More or less 300 kilometers west of Ulaanbaatar is this 80 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide desert where nomadic families strive and thrive. Here you’ll be surrounded by astonishing view– sand dunes, hills covered with bushes, and even a forest near the river.
Here, you won’t only get to live with a local family but you’ll also get to ride a Bactrian or 2 humps Camel! I totally suggest you stay with a nomadic family because I did and it was the best decision I’ve ever made for this trip. I’ve totally integrated myself in their way of life and I even saw how they remove the sheep’s fur so they can protect themselves for the winter.
10. Spend a few days at the Gobi Desert
This is one destination that you can’t miss when you visit Mongolia. Gobi Desert is so vast that it covers 2 countries– the northeastern part of China as well as Mongolia. This is the perfect place to just let your hair and your guard down and realize how little we are in this world but how big of an impact we can make.
Activities here include staying with a nomadic family, hiking, riding a Bactrian camel, horse riding, and hiking through various trail and spot famous landmarks including a bronze age rock painting (one of the oldest painted by the nomads), Bayanazag (also known as the flaming cliff), the Tsagaan Suvraga (White Stupa) and the Gurvan Saikhan National Park.
11. Be right on time for the Naadam Festival
One of the best and authentic festivals you could ever experience is the Naadam Festival which is held every year from July 10-12 to celebrate their national independence through sports like Mongolian Archery, Mongolian Horse Race, as well as Wrestling. It is also celebrated with dance, music, and performance.
A lot of tourists usually go to Ulaanbaatar to celebrate but let me tell you one thing: You’ll also get a more authentic experience in some provinces just like what I did. I joined the celebration at Dalandzadgad, one of the provinces in Mongolia and a big city in the Gobi desert area.
MONGOLIA VISA REQUIREMENT FOR FILIPINOS
Mongolia is visa-free for Filipinos for 21 days but I was actually interviewed by senior immigration officer asking details like where I was going to stay, how I was going to travel around, why I was traveling alone etc. If you guys are planning to visit, make sure you have your return flight ticket, a copy of your passport and all the details of your tour/ hotel.
IS IT ADVISABLE TO GET A TOUR OPERATOR?
Definitely! There are so many things to do in Mongolia and you wouldn’t want to waste your time figuring out how to go from place to place or getting lost in the middle of nowhere. Another thing is that tourism here is still in its infancy stage so public transportation, especially outside the city could be very difficult to get by.
I highly recommend Vast Steppe for this! Degii, the Tour Operator, made sure I experience nothing less than the best of Mongolia to the point that I’ve been dreaming about coming back to this country from the moment left! I was very well taken care of by my driver and tour guide and I learned so much from this trip. Contact them on their Facebook Page to get a quotation for your preferred itinerary.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT
May-September promises good weather but I highly suggest you be there on July 8-10 for the Naadam Festival.
WHAT TO WEAR/WHAT TO BRING
You can basically wear whatever you want but note that mornings in the desert could be very hot and the nights are very cold so always bring something to protect yourself like scarves, coats, long sleeves, cap, umbrella, and sunblock. A waterproof jacket, good walking shoes/hiking boots, personal medications, and insect repellant is also necessary.
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