Why you should visit Mongolia in 2023

Mongolia has long been an off-the-beaten-track destination on Wanderlust’s radar. Best known for its nomadic culture, grass-covered steppes, and for having more horses than people, it calls out to those seeking culture, nature and adventure. But if that wasn’t enough to seize your attention, it’s now become easier than ever before to travel to this emerging country. Here is why you should take a trip to the ‘Land of the Eternal Blue Sky’ in 2023.

Travel to Mongolia visa-free

Explore the Gobi Desert on your visa-free trip (Shutterstock)

That is, if you’re travelling from one of the 61 countries on Mongolia’s visa-free list. Several western nations have been recently added to the temporary visa exemption, which will run until December 2025, allowing visitors to have up to 30 days travelling in Mongolia. Many European countries are included on the list, such as the UK, Switzerland, France, Denmark, and Spain, as well as the South Pacific countries of Australia and New Zealand (US citizens were already allegeable for 90-days of visa-free travel). This temporary exemption is part of efforts by the Mongolian government to invite more tourists to experience Mongolia, so if you’ve ever wanted to ride the Trans-Mongolian Railway, tour the Gobi Desert, or roam the capital of Ulaanbaatar, now is the time.

Celebrate 100 years of Naadam

Opening ceremony (Alamy)

The hottest cultural festival in Mongolia’s calendar turned a century in 2022, although the origins of the festival date back much longer than that to the days of Genghis Khan. Naadamis Mongolia’s answer to the Olympic games, with participants competing in three traditional events: archery, wrestling and horseracing. The games take place during July, and while the main sporting competitions and celebrations – including the opening ceremony and closing ceremony – take place in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, many towns and villages in the countryside often hold their own, smaller events.

Learn Mongolia’s history at a new museum

Chinggis Khan Museum is the largest of its kind (Imaginechina Limited/Alamy)

The end of 2022 saw the opening of the Chinggis Khan Museum, the largest museum of its kind. With more than 12,000 artefacts spanning centuries, the museum’s permanent and temporary collections transport visitors back in time to understand three main periods of Mongolian of history: the ancient kingdoms of the time before Genghis Khan, the Mongol Empire, and the Great Khan dynasty. The museum has been built where the old Natural History Museum once stood, with nine floors of exhibition space and immersive experiences.

Stay in a new eco retreat

Yeruu Lodge is set in the Mongolian wilderness (Alexander Demyanov/Shutterstock)

Outdoor enthusiasts will love the opening of a new eco-friendly camp set in a valley along the Yeruu River. Many activities can be planned alongside your stay to help you make the most of the natural surroundings, including horseriding, kayaking and yoga. Yeruu Lodge not only pays attention to the needs of its guests, but also its environment and community. All produce used in the on-site restaurant are locally sourced, and all food waste is made into compost for growing the camp’s own fruit, vegetables, herbs and berries. Plastic, glass and metal is recycled and solar panels provide electricity throughout the camp. The community have been part of the workforce building the accommodation – which is based on traditional Mongolian Gers – and local artists will be supported as part of planned performances, helping visitors be immersed in the culture.

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The 21 best places to visit in August

August is an extremely popular month to travel, especially to Europe, when temperatures soar. Prices tend to skyrocket, too, as the school holiday rush means that families nab flights to make the most of their fixed six weeks off.

Of course, there are brilliant places to visit all over the world during August. Whether you’re after a hot island holiday, a life-changing wildlife experience or an unexpected long-term adventure on the road less travelled, we’ve got you covered.

Skip ahead to your chosen travel type by clicking on one of the below, or keep scrolling for the full list:

The best August destinations for nature and ideal weather

1. Off-the-beaten-track Croatia

Sibenik, Croatia (Shutterstock)

Croatia’s hottest (and driest) month is August – with temps climbing as high as 28°C – so of course the likes of Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar and other classic destinations will be packed with visitors making the most of the sun.

If you want to enjoy the sparkling weather in Croatia without the crowds, head to the Mamma Mia island of Vis. Or for a city vibe, discover all of the amazing things to do in Sibenik, or Rovinj. But hurry, these gems are starting to be discovered.

Alternatively, why not skip Plitvice and Krka and head to one of Croatia’s six lesser-visited national parks? Kornati may be tricky to visit, but it is perfect for true explorers. Paklenica National Park is another gem, ideal for hikers unafraid of a hot, hot hike.

2. Matera, Italy

Matera, Italy (Shutterstock)

Matera is one of Basilicata’s biggest draws and was named one of two 2019 European Capitals of Culture. A few days is the perfect amount of time to delve deeper into how Matera turned its reputation around from ‘Italy’s shame’ to ‘iconic cultural hot spot’.

With highs of 29°C in August, summer is the ideal time to explore its fascinating cave districts in the sun, enjoy the natural beauty of Polino National Park, Italy’s largest, and sample the region’s authentic cuisine. For a longer trip, rent a car and head towards Pompeii, Sorrento, or in the opposite direction to coastal Bari.

3. Medellin, Colombia

Medellin, Colombia (Shutterstock)

August in Colombia, weather-wise, is a bit hit and miss. Whether you’ll get sun or showers really depends on which region you’re visiting, whether you’re after a wildlife adventure in the Amazon or some time in the city.

One thing Medellin has in August that makes up for its – at times – overcast appearance? The spectacular 10-day celebration of nature, known as Feria de Flores(Festivals of the Flowers).

Every August, the city blooms with the bright colours of flowers, paraded down the streets. Hundreds of concerts, crafts sessions and floral parades take to the streets and fill the city’s best venues. It’s a must for any nature lover’s travel wish list.

4. Off-the-beaten-track Greek island hopping

Ithaca, one of our off-the-beaten-track Greek Island picks (Shutterstock)

Sunseekers won’t be surprised to see Greece on our list for August. It’s a classic summer holiday destination, whether you’ve booked with a travel agent, arranged an island-hopping boat tour or you’ve planned your trip yourself.

As with Croatia, just because it’ll be busy doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the perks. After all, there’s a reason it’s so rammed.

Simply take the road (or waterway) less travelled to one of Greece’s secret islands, for an unforgettable beachside break with a difference. It’ll be incredibly warm, whichever island you choose. Average highs in August are 31°C, so make sure you’re prepared.

5. Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia (Shutterstock)

When you think of Tallinn, you may find the peach-coloured Alexander Nevsky Cathedral springs to mind, surrounded by droplets of crisp white snow.

We don’t blame you. Though freezing, Estonia and its neighbours Latvia and Lithuania make fine winter breaks. But they shouldn’t be overlooked in summer.

Walking through Tallinn’s comprehensive Old Town and soaking up the atmosphere in Freedom Square is just as satisfying in the sun. With plenty of steep hills to climb, to get to the best views of the city, it’s almost easier without all the ice…

The best longer-term travel experiences to take on in August

6. Guyana & The Guianas

The rainforest of French Guiana (Shutterstock)

South America’s smallest wonders Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname are prime for visitors at the end of August. It’s the perfect time to witness the breathtaking Kaieteur Falls in Guyana, follow in Papillon’s footsteps in French Guiana, and sample Suriname’s tasty, speciality rums.

Firstly, the weather’s always warm, but it’s dry season on the Guianan coast during August, andFrench Guiana tends to be drier and warmer in August – as does Suriname.

All three countries are sandwiched between Venezuela and Brazil, so we’d say you’re best off lengthening your trip and visiting all three at once. At least you’ll have the benefit of being as far off the beaten track in South America as possible.

7. Mongolia

Mongolia (Shutterstock)

You can’t really go wrong in Mongolia at this time of year. Expect vibrant steppes rich in shades of green during August, and just-right temperatures between 20°C and 25°C.

If you head to the mountains, you’ll probably find it’s slightly colder than everywhere else – arguably better conditions for longer treks, which won’t require sweating it out in the heat. Wild camping and cycling are other must-do activities in August – as is heading to the Gobi Desert in the south.

It’s also prime time to visit Lake Khövsgöl in northern Mongolia, near the Russian border. The country’s biggest and most beautiful freshwater lake dazzles in the sunlight, and seems to stretch for miles on end.

8. Northern Kyrgyzstan

Burana Tower in Chuy Valley, northern Kyrgyzstan (Shutterstock)

August lands firmly in the middle of Kyrgyzstan’s peak season (May to October), so certain areas will be packed with visitors and locals (here’s looking at you, Lake Issyk-Kul).

However, it is a good time to take on the epic hikes that Central Tien Shan (the ‘Celestial Mountains’ in Chinese) has to offer. The highest peak reaches 7,439m, so this is no casual climb. You’ll need to be an experienced walker, with a high-level of fitness to make the most of it.

9. Jodhpur, India

Jodhpur, India (Shutterstock)

The Blue City of Jodhpur, Rajasthan, is a travel photographer (and Instagram lover’s) dream come true. A seemingly endless maze of blue houses, winding alleys, and colourful doors awaits.

Of course, there’s much more to it than that. Expect history and art in the renowned, 15th century Mehrangarh Fort. Admire the ornate decoration of Jaswant Thada. Get out into nature at the impressive Mandore Sculpture Garden, get active with water activities in Lake Kaylana, or picnic at the 12th century Balsamand Lake.

Visit in August particularly for bearable heat (lows of 26°C and highs of 34°C), and the good chance that you’ll find some savvy accommodation deals. August is off-season, so though you won’t find yourself a lone visitor at any stage, it’s likely you may experience a tiny bit less of the typical bustle.

10. Langkawi, Malaysia

The stunning views of Kilim Geoforest Park in Langkawi, Malaysia (Shutterstock)

There’s so much to explore in Malaysia, it almost seems unfair to single out the archipelago of Langkawi. Though we suppose, with more time, there’s nothing to stop you heading further afield…

But with suitably warm temps (often around 28°C to 31°C), incredibly natural beauty to marvel, cable cars and boat trips galore, and unusual wildlife sightings practically guaranteed it’s an appealing all-rounder for a sunny getaway without the ‘packaged holiday’ feel.

The best August destinations for arts & culture

11. Edinburgh, Scotland

A sign for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, in 2018 (Shutterstock)

In August, you won’t struggle to find a variety of culture and entertainment festivals in most of the major British and European cities. For the best of the best in summer fun, you need to head to the Scottish capital.

Not only does the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival and its world-class comedy and theatre take over the architecturally-stunning city for the entire month of August, but you’ll also find a host of other big name festivals.

Expect arts exhibitions, orchestras and dances at the Edinburgh International Festival, performances at The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo Festival – both throughout the month. Towards the end of August, there’s a fireworks concert in the city centre, and a mix of multicultural events at the Edinburgh Mela Festival on 31 August.

12. London, England

London, England (Shutterstock)

Every month in London has something for everyone, but August really ups the ante in terms of arts and culture offerings for travellers.

As the name suggests, Greenwich + Docklands International Festival takes over south east London. Performance art takes place indoors and outdoors – expect everything from laser shows and colourful powder fights to stilt walkers and acrobats abseiling down historic buildings.

For classic music fans, BBC Proms has performances running throughout August.

As the month draws to a close, embrace the colourful madness of the iconic Notting Hill Carnival. The London Craft Beer Festival takes place in the middle of the month at Tobacco Dock, a former warehouse in Wapping.

And for those foodie travellers, the many street food markets dotted across London will delight in warmer months – go beyond Borough Market and try visiting Mercato Metropolitanoin Elephant and Castle, or Boxpark in Shorditch.

13. Papua New Guinea

Mount Hagen Cultural Show in Mount Hagen township, Papua New Guinea (Shutterstock)

The city of Mount Hagen in the western province of Papua New Guinea comes alive in the middle of August for days-long performances, feasts and musical festivities hosted by locals during the Mount Hagen Cultural Show.

Drier than June and the coolest month of the year overall, the weather also makes a compelling argument for August as the best time to explore Papua New Guinea’s exotic cities and towns.

Of course, Papua New Guinea is a challenging destination and truly off the well-trodden trail. As such, only very experienced travellers should plan to visit, keeping a close eye on the FCO’s Official Travel Advice before going, too.

14. Guča, Serbia

Guča, Serbia’s famous Trumpet Festival (Shutterstock)

The Guča Trumpet Festival, known sometimes as Dragačevski Sabo, is probably a little less well-known than the likes of the Edinburgh Fringe and Notting Hill Carnival.

Nevertheless, the small Serbian town of Guča comes alive for three days in early August for its annual festival, showcasing the best in brass music performances. Hundreds of thousands attend each year.

15. Tunisia

The Roman ruins of Dougga in Tunisia (Shutterstock)

Tunisia’s perhaps not the first place you’d think of for a short break with a focus on the arts. However, August provides a few opportunities to see a different side to this North African country.

Established in 1964, the International Festival of Carthage, is held every July and August, offering live music, theatre, opera and even a bit of ballet.

Dougga International Festival is another opportunity to experience live music – this time in the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre, located in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Roman city of Dougga. The festival ends in the first week of August.

The best places to visit for wildlife watching in August

16. Discover birds and monkeys in northern Ecuador

Squirrel monkey in the Ecuadorian jungle (Shutterstock)

Ecuador is on South America’s west coast. A delightful combination of the Andes, Amazon and the Galápagos Islands (just to name a few), it’s home to many unique and colourful wildlife species. No surprise then, that it’s become one of our top August wildlife trips.

Head to the northern part of the country to give yourself the best chance of seeing the cheeky-looking squirrel monkey, a marmoset or tamarin in the wild.

Birders in Ecuador have the opportunity to see around 1,600 species in total. Undeniably, it’s one of the planet’s best birdwatching countries. Staying in the north, you’ll see rare macaws, the sleek Andean condor, hummingbirds aplenty and brightly-patterned toucans (again, to name a few). Get your binoculars ready…

17. Go polar bear watching in Arctic Canada

Polar bears in the Canadian Arctic sunset (Shutterstock)

Summers in the Canadian Arctic are, unsurprisingly, rather short. They’re also the best time to get out on the water in a Zodiac and do a bit of polar bear-spotting from your expedition boat.

As we all know, polar bears are best admired from a distance. They’re nowhere near as cuddly as as they look. But you may have a chance of getting a little closer than usual, as the Zodiacs can get quite close.

17. Whale watching in San Juan Islands, Washington State

Whale-spotting from San Juan Islands (Shutterstock)

Hop on a Washington State Ferry from Anacortes to reach four of the 172 San Juan Islands. The weather here is mild most of the year, but the sunniest time to come is during August – coincidently also the best time to see killer whales. This is one of the top places in the world to see the black and white beauties.

San Juan is the most popular islands, with its Whale Museum and plenty of outdoor activities. If you want a more peaceful, wild experience, head to lesser-visited Orcas Island and take on the 6km climb up Mount Constitution. If you’re lucky, you can spot Vancouver from the top on a clear day.

19. Watch macaws in Manu National Park, Peru

Macaws in Manu National Park, Peru (Shutterstock)

Visit the south-east region of Peru in August and you’ll find yourself stunned by the natural prowess of Manu National Park. Also classed as a Biosphere Reserve, you’ll be awed by its lush Amazonian jungle, and the striking Andean Highlands.

It’s the perfect place for the avid birdwatcher to see the wow-worthy macaw in its natural habitat. These beautiful parrots – often a mix of red, yellow, blue and green feathers – are best spotted collecting clay at ‘clay banks’ or ‘clay licks’ around the park, to feed on later. It’s quite an incredible sight.

August is typically the beginning of the season for the most sightings, with September and October also thought to be ideal months.

20. Meet orangutans in Borneo

A young orangutan in Borneo (Dreamstime)

Borneo’s orangutans basked in the spotlight when Dame Judi Dench visited an orangutan sanctuary during filming of her documentary, Wild Borneo Adventure, for ITV.

August is one of the best times for us non-knighted folk to head to this South-East Asian island paradise to try for a wild sighting.

Danum Valley in Sabah (in the northern part of the island) offers 400 sq km of rainforest reserve for wild orangutans to swing in. Travel along the Kinabatangan River, too, to try and see these magnificent creatures in their homes.

21. See grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park

Grizzly on the move in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA (Shutterstock)

Unlike polar bears, we think it’s fair to say that grizzlies do look a little bit mean. They’re quite elusive, too: there are only around 150 bears living within the Yellowstone Natonal Park itself, or around 700 in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

To see one roaming, you’ll need proper viewing kit. Wake before sunrise or wait until sunset and use dusk and dawn to to scour the area with your telescope and/or binoculars.

Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley are two of your best sighting spots, but Dunraven Pass, Swan Lake Flats and Gardiners Hole are also good places to try.

10 breathtaking travel photographs taken by an NHS doctor

It’s an unprecedented time of uncertainty. The whole world is unwell, and we are losing so many lives across the globe. I, as an NHS doctor, am proud to be fighting the coronavirus pandemic from the frontline and I believe that we will be able to overcome this crisis.

People are leading a completely different lifestyle now, as instructed by the world’s governments and higher authorities. Being an avid traveller and photographer, I too have embraced this change, but I feel rejuvenated as I travel down memory lane, remembering some of the most enjoyable times of my life.

Here are just a few of my favourite travel photographs…

Kolkata, India

Durga Puja, Kolkata, India (Prabir Mitra)

Durga Puja, the Hindu festival celebrating the goddess Durga, is an annual extravaganza of thousands of Bengalis. It’s best celebrated in Kolkata, India.

It has to be experienced in real life. No written accounts nor photographs can possibly do justice to the level of frenzy that goes on during the festival.

Though it is meant to be a religious festival at its core, in reality it actually is a celebration of colours, food, music, and incredible volumes of works-of-art, that are put up in temporary pandals.

A street in Kolkata, India (Prabir Mitra)

Kolkata’s street scenes never cease to amuse me. It is a city that I know inside and out, yet every time I go out with my camera, I find something new to shoot.

This photograph was taken at one of the busiest localities in south Kolkata. I was fascinated to observe the contrast between the chess players and the speeding buses that were zooming past these people, who remained unperturbed.

I saw a variety of board games in the middle of the pavement, which was dividing two lanes of extremely busy traffic. Random people were coming in and started playing, sometimes without even talking between themselves!

Varanasi, India

Ganga Aarti in Varanasi, India (Prabir Mitra)

Varanasi is a place where myths are entwined with daily lives of the vast number of residents and tourists who come from all across the globe.

The ghats (or banks) of the Ganges River (also called Ganga) serve as a lifeline to innumerable people and is also a photographer’s paradise. The Ganga is considered as a goddess, and every evening priests offer aarti – a ritual which is done as a part of worshipping her.

The Himalayas

A chorten in Himachal Pradesh, India (Prabir Mitra)

The very name Kunzum Pass has a great significance in my life.

About three decades back, during our first trek to the exquisite Chandra Taal (the Moon Lake), I developed acute mountain sickness while crossing the 4,590m-tall Kunzum Pass and was saved by my wife.

After recovering, I wanted to trek along the route again to ensure I could do it. During our second trip, we were more cautious and our guide circumambulated all the prayer stupas or chortens along our route.

One such chorten caught my attention – the magical light and out of this world location made it something really special.

The trek to Everest Base Camp, Tibet (Prabir Mitra)

For a long time, I wanted to trek with my wife up to the Everest Base Camp North Face in Tibet.

I clearly remember the arduous path leading to the destination. At the beginning of the trek, I looked back at the point beyond which wheels would not dare.

It was at that point I saw three trekkers slowly making their way up the mountains – I felt so humbled by nature at that time, the human perspective amidst the vastness of nature made me thoughtful.

Altai Mountains, Mongolia

An eagle huntress in Mongolia (Prabir Mitra)

I wanted to witness the Mongolian Kazakh eagle hunters – a small community who live in the remote Altai Mountains of Mongolia.

In a remote village named Jalan Aash our host, the veteran eagle hunter, took us to meet his friend Asker, who is a proud father of Aigirm, a 12-year-old girl, who is a budding eagle huntress.

She has been training under the auspices of Dalai Khan, and hopes to keep this tradition alive.

Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia, Turkey (Prabir Mitra)

– Prabir Mitra, NHS doctor and travel photographer

The Arctic Circle

A Sami reindeer herder in the Arctic Circle, Norway (Prabir Mitra)

69°26’55N 25°21’30E: deep inside the Arctic Circle, near the border of Finland.

After spending several hours on a snowmobile and then on a reindeer pulled sledge, we found ourselves far off from civilisation, within the heartland of the Sami reindeer herders.

It was a relatively mild day of -19°C in the morning when we started, but the weather changed in no time and suddenly, we were in the middle of a blizzard. It was almost a test of our endurance. I was worrying about my children and my wife, as well as about my camera.

Despite the protective gears, I struggled to keep my fingers mobile enough to manoeuvre my camera for long, as I was bumping up and down on my sledge.

Norfolk, UK

Snettisham Knots, Norfolk, UK (Prabir Mitra)

It is widely believed that travel photography can start at your doorstep. I knew that the RSPB Snettisham Nature Reserve draws birdwatchers and photographers from across the country.

I, being only a few miles away from Snettisham, did not want to miss the rare life experience of photographing the ‘Snettisham Knots’ – thousands of migratory birds that come to create magic in the wide expanses of the northern Norfolk coast.

Berlin, Germany

Facing WWII in Berlin, Germany (Prabir Mitra)

Every time I visit Berlin, I find time to visit places in the city which remind one about the dreaded WWII.

During one of my visits, I was awestruck by a series of life-size paintings which were on display near the historic Brandenburg Gate. I could almost see my expression reflected in the faces of the visitors at that time.

Like these photos? Follow Prabir on Instagram, or tell us at @wanderlustmag on Twitter

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