With just over two million inhabitants, Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country in the world and the sense of space is epic. Freed from its Soviet chains traditions are strong with Buddhism slowly reasserting itself, as is the nomadic lifestyle so alien to the socialist model. Even in Ulaanbaatar half the population still live in gers, the traditional circular Mongolian tent.
EXPLORE THE HIGHLIGHTS OF Mongolia
- Swim in remote lakes flanked by sand dunes and snow-capped peaks
- Drive south into the dramatic and arid Gobi Desert
- Join researchers in the wild Altai Mountains in search of the elusive snow leopard
- See the Kazakh Eagle Hunters in all their finery
- Travel during the Nadaam Festival when nomads congregate to compete in sporting events
- Stay in a traditional ger, spending time with a nomadic family
- Search for herds of Siberian ibex and argali sheep, the largest wild sheep in the world
- Notoriously elusive are both the pallas cat and the beautiful snow leopard
- Birdlife in Mongolia is rich including passerines, water birds and of course raptors
- Visit Gandan Monastery - the largest in Mongolia
- Explore Hustai National Park where Przewalski horses, once close to extinction, now run wild
- Admire the view from the top of the huge stainless steel statue of Genghis Khan
What to expect on your Mongolian holiday
Over 70% of the Mongolian population remain nomadic and travelling across the flat open steppe you will still encounter isolated family ger (yurt) encampments whose occupants will inevitably offer you hospitality. To experience the true essence of the country, spend time travelling by the traditional mode of horseback, camel or yak. The wiry little thirteen-hand ponies will seem a little small, but their stamina is legendary - they carried Genghis Khan across Asia.
Expect remote and wild panoramic scenery ranging from lush grassy steppes to craggy desert, rolling sand dunes and soaring mountains. There are few internal flights so moving around the country is either done overland using 4x4 vehicles or via one of the few internal flights. Distances are great so expect long journeys. The further west you travel, the more remote Mongolia becomes as you approach the Altai Mountains and the border with China.
A holiday to remote Mongolia used to mean staying in basic accommodation but this is no longer the case. There is now the opportunity to stay in small, private ger camps in unspoilt landscapes with modern comforts such as ensuite bathrooms, private chef, excellent guides and a support team. Some camps work with local communities and all share the same vision, to preserve the natural environment, leaving nothing but footprints once the camp departs.
Some beyond the ordinary ideas for a Mongolian holiday
- Visit the reindeer herders around Lake Hovsgol north of Ulaanbaatar
- Spend a few days in the saddle riding out across the steppe staying in comfortable gers
- Combine your time in Mongolia by travelling to China or Russia by train
- Ride across the South Gobi desert by camel
Our Mongolia Holiday Experts
Paul, our Mongolian expert, joined Steppes Travel in 1994 and has visited Mongolia numerous times. His most recent adventure was with his son when they experienced a yak trek, staying in yurts as they travelled, as well as visiting a nature reserve where they found eagles and argali sheep. Justin, our MD, spent time riding and hunting alongside the Kazakh Eagle Hunters in 2015, something he describes as "one of the best travel experiences of my life". Jarrod our Product Director ventured west to the wild and remote Altai Mountains, in search of snow leopard and parts of the country that even Google maps have yet to discover.
Advice from our Mongolian experts
“Mongolia has a very short season for travel between July and September, so advance planning is necessary. Distances are great, and things don’t always go exactly as planned so a good dose of flexibility is needed when travelling there. That said the spontaneous events that happen when all doesn’t go according to plan are often the most magical and rewarding”