Mongolia is one of the world's last true wilderness destinations, and a visit to this rewarding country is a real adventure.
What to seeUlaan Baatar is home to a terrific display of dinosaur remains in its Natural History Museum, but beyond that and the nearby beautiful Terelj National Park, there is not much reason to dwell long in the capital.
The Gobi Desert covers much of southern Mongolia, an area of sand dunes, grassy steppe and rocky outcrops. 43 percent of Mongolians still live a nomadic life in gers, which can be easily dismantled and rebuilt. Most camps move twice a year according to seasonal weather changes, with nomads travelling to flatlands near a water supply for the summer months, and to a valley or mountain for shelter during the harsh winter months. In the Gobi you can stay in a traditional Mongolian felt tent, or ger. Whilst basic, the tents are clean and comfortable, with electricity powered by solar panels or a generator. Collapsible wooden frames are covered in sheep’s wool felt, and the tents have a carpeted wooden floor and central stove. Hearty meals such as grilled lamb and dumplings are served in the evenings by the camp staff - who also entertain with the traditional Mongolian ‘hoomi’ or throat singing. In the Gobi Desert you can search for the world's last remaining wild horse - the takhi, visit nomadic families, explore towering sand dunes and view the spectacular dinosaur remains at Flaming Cliffs.
Mongolia still has some Buddhist monuments which survived Stalin's purges, particularly in Karakorum, the ancient capital of the Mongol empire. Once one of the most important cities on the ancient silk road, it is now home to the beautiful Erdene Zu monastery.
Whilst there is a great deal to see, much else of the appeal to Mongolia lies in experiencing a completely different way of life, trying airag (fermented mares' milk), meeting nomadic families and perhaps riding a camel. It is a perfect destination for the adventurous in spirit.