Many would consider Genghis Khan the founding father of Mongolia, Kahn’s empire helped unify the many nomadic tribes in the northeast region of Asia. He might not have been the most diplomatic ruler but he did create and empire that can still be seen today. Mongolia can definitely be seen to be quite old fashioned outside of the capitol of Ulaanbaatar, but unlike the dozens of dinosaur fossils found in Mongolia, it is no relic of the past.
Mongolia’s rich history of nomadic culture still exists today as approximately 30% of the population of Mongolia is nomadic or semi-nomadic in nature. Horse-culture is a very important aspect of Mongol life, horses and horsemanship are integral to travel and daily activities of most Mongolian’s lives. This lifestyle has something to do with the fact that Mongolia is a country where distances between places is far and hard to reach and communication can be difficult. This instils a sense of community between and many living in the countryside will always have a bowl of warm tea ready for visitors. The majority of Mongolians are Tibetan Buddhists while a small sect are shamanistic Buddhists.
When traveling to Mongolia it’s best to take some extra layers. Mongolia is very cold due to the high altitude that most of the country is at, it is also remarkably dry and doesn’t get much rain. Mongolia has long and extremely cold winters and very short but still quite chilly summers. The north of the country gets the majority of the rainfall while the south is mostly drier. In the very south is the Gobi Desert which is an arid dryland with very little vegetation at all.
Average temperatures are mostly below freezing from November to march while January and February can manage up to 25°C on average. Mongolia’s weather can be extremely unpredictable and change in a very short space of time.
At just under 604,000 Square miles Mongolia is the second largest landlocked country and contains little land suitable for growing crops. Much of the area is covered by grassy steppe and a lot of the country is at a high altitude on unforgiving or hilly terrain. Mountains lay to the north and the west while the Gobi desert lays to the south. Like much of central Asia it is sparsely populated with 45% of the country’s population living in, and on the outskirts of the capitol, Ulaanbaatar.
The Gobi desert is one of few places on Earth to find complete solitude and serenity. Here ancient culture is preserved entirely, with farmers and their families living in traditional yurts called ‘Geers’ in what’s essentially the middle of nowhere. The desert is aesthetically stunning and filled with colossal sand dunes, ice filled canyons and endless plains. It is also home to the last remaining Bactrian (two-humped) camels, wild ass and the only bears to survive the desert; the indigenous Gobi bears
Known as the ‘Dark Blue Pearl of Mongolia’, Lake Hovsgal is a scenic alpine lake that stretches over 125km in length, the largest in the country. Due to its vast size the water is extremely cold and the lake is often completely covered in ice up until June. Surrounded by the breath-taking Khoridal Saridag mountains Lake Hovsgal makes the perfect picture and provides an unbeatably tranquil destination to relax after a hike.
Travelling on horseback is an unbeatable way to explore Mongolia and immerse yourself in the traditional nomadic culture. It is far more than just a means of getting from A to B, these journeys are liberating experiences in themselves. As you ride through fields of widflowers past breathtaking mountains you will experience the true heart of Mongolia.