And the country is famed for its horses and horsemanship, too. With a population of 2.2 million people, the ratio of equine beasts to human inhabitants is almost 1:1. Almost half of Mongolians live pastoral lifestyles little-changed for millennia.
This distant land in the heart of Asia still resonates with those echoes from a different time. Travel beyond the confines of Ulaan Baatar and you could find yourself travelling through a different century.
From the mountains of the north to the Gobi desert in the south, this vast, stunning country is awash with dramatic mountain scenery, spectacular deserts, a fascinating and ancient culture, and a warm and welcoming people.
In a country where 30% of the population still follows a nomadic existence, sleeping in a circular felt ger - or yurt, as they are known in much of Central Asia - is just one way to experience local life.
The Golden Eagle Festival
It is worth planning your holiday to Mongolia, to coincide with some of the world’s special and unique events. One such event is the Golden Eagle Festival in Olgii. The people of the Altai region in western Mongolia still practice the ancient tradition of hunting for foxes and marmots with eagles. It’s considered an art, and the eagles – eventually returned to the wild – are among their most treasured possessions.
The annual festival celebrates the strong connection the Mongolian people have with their animals and land. It includes competitions and demonstrations from the eagles and their hunters, a camel race and the lively Kukhbar competition – a fighting match on horseback in which two riders each try to claim possession of a goat skin. Arranged by the local Kazakh community, the festival also includes a competition for the best Kazakh costume, horse-racing and archery, as well as cultural performances.
Our expert consultants will help create the perfect tour for your tastes and budget, all of which can be tailored to you.
What activities available in Mongolia?
- Stay in an Eco Camp - Spend a night or two at Ursa Major Geolodge to get back to basics. As there is no running water at the camp, steaming hot towels will be brought to your ger every morning and evening. With no electricity, use candlelight to navigate your cosy ger at bedtime
- Climb the Genghis Khan Statue - This giant shining statue of Genghis Khan on horseback is made of stainless steel. If you climb up to the viewing platform on the horse's head you will be rewarded with views of over 60km across the steppe
- Walk up Yolyn Am Canyon - Take a walk up this long valley with high cliff walls which shade some areas of the valley floor from the sun for the entire year, allowing the stunning ice sheets to form. As you walk, look out for ibex grazing on the cliff faces
- Visit the wild Horses - Several decades ago wild horses had disappeared from Mongolia, victims of habitat loss and poaching for meat, however small numbers survived in European zoos. Through a program of careful breeding and international cooperation, the wild population was rebuilt
- Go Stargazing - Star gazing in Mongolia is not just about enjoying the beautiful night sky about your head, it is actually a very important part of the local culture as the starry skies allowed nomadic people to navigate through the vast steppes and deserts
- Enjoy Mongolian folk music and dance - Make sure to go to a traditional Mongolian dance, singing and music performance where you can expect to see various instruments including the horse fiddle and singers along with the rather strange traditional throat singers
- Ride a camel on the singing dunes - At the impressive Khongoryn Els Dunes, an early evening climb to the top affords stunning views out across the rippling sands towards the desert beyond. You can take a camel ride along the dunes with one of the local herder families
- Get out on horseback - Terelj is home to some outstanding scenery of forested hills and valleys and an abundance of bird and animal life. The best way to explore the park is by foot or on horseback, giving you the opportunity to get in to the remoter valleys and take in the scenery
- Visit a Shaman workshop - Learn about one of the oldest beliefs in the world - Mongolia's Shamanic rituals and traditions. Pay a visit to a lady who makes costumes for shaman in her workshop. She is actually a yellow shaman herself
When is the best time to visit Mongolia?
Although it boasts over 260 sunny days a year and is known as the "Land of the blue sky", Mongolia's climate is extreme. August typically is a great month for travelling with cooler temperatures and occasionally rain, which fills the rivers and brings fresh grass to the steppes.
Weather across the globe is ever changing as seasons and climates alter every year, so always worth travelling with an open mind towards unexpected weather patterns.