Your full Wanderlust guide to

Mongolia

Mongolia

Mongolia is vast. This landlocked country (further from the sea than any other on earth), has one of the lowest population densities on earth.

Blue skies and huge expanses of near-empty land epitomise Mongolia. There are few roads, and nomadic herders still roam the steppe as they have for centuries.

Horses are the most common form of transport, while two-humped Bactrian camels are also used for transport in parts of the country.

Not that Mongolia is all grassland as people often imagine; in the south of the country is the magnificent Gobi desert, in the west are the Altai mountains – home to the Kazakhs who hunt with eagles , while the north is known for mountains, rivers and the stunning Lake Khovsgol.

Mongolia is more diverse than people realise. Come here for the unspoilt landscapes and unchanged culture. But be prepared for long distances.

Take plenty of layers, even on summer, a torch and sun glasses/sun protection. Mongolia is known for producing the best cashmere in the world, so leave some space in your bag.

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Experience true remoteness in the Altai Mountains of Western Mongolia, with natural splendour, nomadic hospitality and swirling, luminous skies…
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Wanderlust recommends

  1. Experience the Naadam festival but away from the crowds at a local event
  2. Trek by camel or by horse
  3. Explore the vast expanses of the Gobi desert

If invited into a family ger, avoid stepping on the threshold as you enter, and then make your way round in a clockwise direction, trying not to turn your back on the altar or religious items. When you sit down, avoid pointing your feet at the altar, the hearth or another person.

Latest Mongolia articles

Capital
Ulaanbaatar (known as UB)
Languages
Mongolian
Population
3 million
Int. dial code
+976
Visa
Time zone
GMT+8
Voltage
220 AC, 50 Hz
Currency
Mongolian togrog (MNT). There are limited opportunities to change money or use credit cards outside Ulaanbaatar.
Mongolia travel advice
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Mongolia tourism board
Mongolia tourism

When to go

June to September is peak season, although May and October can be good times to visit the Gobi desert.

The Naadam Festival in July is Mongolia’s biggest draw, and features archery, wrestling and horse races. It is celebrated throughout the country, although UB’s is particularly well known.

Winters are very cold, and there can be snow in the Gobi desert. However, hardier folk will find a warm welcome, few visitors and low prices. We’ve had good reports of the Gobi’s annual Camel Festival held in March.

International airports

Ulanbaatar (ULN) is 15km from the city.

Getting around

Distances are huge. Fly between centres and/or be prepared for long off-road drives. Bactrian (two-humped) camels and horses are the buses and taxis of most of the country.

Accommodation

Lodgings outside the cities are mostly in ger camps. The gers usually have a solid floor, proper beds and a wood-burning stove. Bathroom facilities are usually Western-style and in a separate block. The best hotel in UB is probably the imaginatively named Ulanbaatar Hotel.

Food & drink

Ulanbaatar has a surprisingly wide range of restaurants, both international and local. Ger camps usually serve Western and Mongolian food. Typical dishes are soups and stews made with mutton, served with noodles or bread. Dumplings and pancakes are also popular. Horse, camel and yak meat are all available. Dairy products, from sheep, goat, camel or cow milk are ubiquitous.

Milky tea is the most common drink. Airag (fermented mare’s milk) is refreshing but don’t forget it’s alcoholic. As well as lethal homebrews, vodka is the most common drink but beer, such as Mongol or Chinggis, is becoming more popular. Wine is increasingly available in the ger camp and is usually from Chile from Australia.

Vegetarians will survive but vegetables other than carrots, cabbage an dpotatoes are rare, so dishes can be monotonous.

Health & safety

Consider immunisations against hepatitis A and B, rabies and meningoccal meningitis. However,the biggest hazards are crossing the road in UB, and banging your head on the door of your ger.

Etiquette tips: never take food from a communal plate with your left hand; hold cups by the bottom, not the top; avoid touching another person’s hat; keep your sleeves rolled down to avoid exposing your wrist.