Mongolia was a dream destination. The land of the nomads, green steppes, ancient history, endless blue sky, incredible hospitality, wild horse adventures. And the dream came true. And it was beyond expectations. We wrote this Mongolia Travel Guide based on our two-month stay in the beautiful country, and we hope it will help you organize your own Mongolia trip.

Mongolia Travel Guide

Where is Mongolia?
Places To Visit in Mongolia
Things To Do in Mongolia
Mongolian Culture
Mongolia Itinerary Suggestions
How to Travel to Mongolia
Facts about Mongolia<
Mongolia Travel Tips
Our Mongolia Experience

Where is Mongolia?

Mongolia is in Asia, located between Russia to the north and China to the south.

Many ask, “is Mongolia part of China?” or “is Mongolia a country” as the location of Mongolia can be confusing.

And no, Mongolia is not part of China. And yes, Mongolia is a country in its own right.

There is a region of China called Inner Mongolia, which borders the country of Mongolia. To make it clearer, Mongolia is sometimes referred to as Outer Mongolia. The whole area used to be one nation and one Mongolian people, but historical and political changes split the region into two different entities.

Places To Visit in Mongolia

Mongolia is a vast and diverse country with a rich cultural heritage and a wide range of tourist attractions.

There are so many places in Mongolia that are incredible, but we tried to highlight the top Mongolia attractions as well as a few hidden gems we loved.

Ulaan Baatar

The capital city in Mongolia is worth spending a few days. Admire the stunning Gandan Monastery, walk the massive Genghis Khan Sukhbaatar Square, or shop at the Naran Tuul Market (Black Market). There are enough things to do in Ulaan Baatar for a few days!

Mongolia Travel Guide: How To Experience the Nomadic Life // Gandan Tegchenling Monastery, Ulaanbaatar

Gandan Tegchenling Monastery, Ulaanbaatar

Other cities in Mongolia include Ölgii, Erdenet, Darkhan, Khvod, and Mörön, but these cities are more travel hubs.

Gorkhi Terelj National Park

The park is relatively close to Ulaan Baatar and can be visited as a day trips from the capital. Go horse riding on the Mongolian steppes, drink tea in a traditional yurt. A day in Gorki Terelj can give you a short taste of Mongolian nomadic experience right from Ulaan Baatar.

Gobi Desert

Probably one of the most famous places in Mongolia, the Gobi Desert is a must-see. Meaning “waterless place,” the Gobi is indeed the most famous desert in Mongolia, though it’s not the only one.

The sand dunes of the Khongoryn Els are probably the most iconic but there is not the only type of landscape available in the popular Mongolian desert, where brushland is widespread.

Khustain Nuruu National Park

Don’t miss a chance to see wild Takhi horses in their natural habitat! If you love horses, you will for sure want to visit.

Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

Located at the borders of China and Russia in Western Mongolia, the national park is simply stunning! It’s best visited on foot as you trek the valleys, cross rivers, and admire ancient tombs. We went trekking in Altai Tavan Bogd for several days and had one of the most memorable trips! One of the top outdoor attractions in Mongolia!

Mongolia Travel Guide: How To Experience the Nomadic Life // Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

Khuvsgul Lake

The lake, whose is written Hovsgol, Khövsgöl, or Huvsgul, is situated about 120 miles (200 km) west of Lake Baikal and is the largest freshwater lake in Mongolia. The lake and the nearby town of Moron (Murun) is the departure point to go and see the Tsaatan Reindeer Herders.

Erdene Zuu Monastery

The Erdene Zuu Monastery is considered the oldest Buddhist monastery in Mongolia, close to the ancient town of Karakorum, which was the capital of the Mongol Empire. The ancient Mongolia sites are near Kharkhorin.

Things To Do in Mongolia

What to do in Mongolia will of course depends on what you are interested and how long you plan your stay in the country. To discover Mongolia, you must love the outdoors as the country is mostly a open terrain with very few cities.

Riding the Mongolian Steppes

Follow the steps of Genghis Khan, and ride Mongolian horses through the steppes of Mongolia. Steppes are the grassland Mongolia is known for! So, for an hour or for a day, the experience is incredible.

Hiking the Mongolia Mountains

Mongolia trekking opportunities are plentiful, but the Altai mountains were simply astonishing.

Follow the Kazakh Eagle Hunters

Western Mongolia is home to ethnic Kazakhs, the same group of people living primarily in Kazakhstan. Their language, religion, culture, and customs differ from the rest of Mongolia. One of these traditions is eagle hunting, which has been performed for millennia as a means to provide food in harsh, arid regions.

It is possible to stay with the Eagle Hunters and experience their daily life.

Stay with the Tsaatan Reindeer Herders

One unique experience is staying with the Tsaatan, some of the last reindeer herders in the world. Millennia-old way of life as they live high in the taiga close to the Russian border north of Lake Khövsgöl.

Mongolia Travel Guide: How To Experience the Nomadic Life // Tsaatan Boy riding a Reindeer

Tsaatan Boy riding a Reindeer

Mongolia Photography

Whether you prefer the Mongolia landscape or Mongolia sky, the colors and shapes are endless. Watch the sky as it changes every second, clouds sculpted by the endless wind.

Mongolian Culture

Who are the Mongols?

Since prehistory, Mongolia has always been inhabited by nomadic Mongol tribes. But in the 12th century, the Mongols united under one chief Temüjin who became known under the title Genghis Khan in 1206. His military campaigns through Asia led to the creation of the Mongol Empire, which grew to be the largest land empire in history in the 13th and 14th centuries, covering from today Poland to Korea, Siberia to Vietnam, and Oman.

Such an extensive territory meant that whoever the Khan of Mongolia was reigning over the Mongol Empire was also Padishah of Persia and Emperor of China. The famous Golden Horde was composed of the Mongolic peoples who settled in today’s Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the Caucasus from the 13th to the 16th century.

Festivals in Mongolia

The most popular festival is the Mongolian Naadam Festival, featuring traditional sports like Mongolian wrestling, horse racing, and archery. The popular event occurs during the National Holiday from July 11 to 13. Given how huge the Naadam Festival Mongolia is, make sure to book your trip ahead of time.

Mongolia Travel Guide: How To Experience the Nomadic Life // Golden Eagle Festival Event

Golden Eagle Festival Event

Or you can attend a Mongolia festival in the Altai dedicated to Eagle Hunting – the Golden Eagle Festival and the Altai Eagle Festival – which are great ways to learn about Kazakh traditions.

Mongolian Eagle Hunting

The remote region of the Altai in Western Mongolia has limited resources and harsh living conditions. The nomadic tribes have been living with their herds of sheep and goats, but hunting in Mongolia was a necessary means to survive. Eagle hunting has been an integral part of the Kazakhs’ way of life, including rabbits and wolves, feared predators.

Mongolia Religion

Mongolia is, in the majority, a Buddhist country, though Islam in Mongolia is the second religion after Shamanism. Shamanism is strong in the Lake Khosgol region and is practiced by the Tsaatan. Islam is mostly present practiced by the Kazakhs in the Altai region.

Mongolia Itinerary Suggestions

What to see in Mongolia depends on how long you have to visit the country. Travel in Mongolia can be rough and in rustic conditions. The country is not for everyone, but if you do, you are in for a treat!

Here is a sample 15-day itinerary that highlights some of the must-see destinations in Mongolia:

Day 1: Arrive in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. Take some time to explore the city, visit the Gandantegchinlen Monastery, and try some local food at one of the city’s many restaurants.

Day 2: Visit the National Museum of Mongolia, which has a large collection of artifacts and exhibits that showcase the country’s history and culture.

Day 3: Take a day trip to the Terelj National Park, a beautiful protected area that is home to a variety of flora and fauna, as well as interesting rock formations and a number of cultural sites.

Day 4: Head to the Gobi Desert, a vast and rugged landscape that is home to a number of unique species and natural wonders. You can visit the famous Flaming Cliffs, take a camel ride through the desert, and visit a local nomadic family to learn about their way of life.

Day 5: Spend the day exploring the Yol Valley, a stunning canyon that is home to a number of interesting rock formations and wildlife.

Day 6: Visit the Khustain Nuruu National Park, home to the rare and endangered Takhi horse. You can take a guided tour of the park and learn about the efforts to preserve this unique species.

Day 7: Head to the Orkhon Valley, which is home to a number of important cultural and historical sites. You can visit the Orkhon Waterfall, the Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape, and the ruins of the ancient capital city of Karakorum.

Day 8: Spend the day exploring the ancient Buddhist temples and monasteries of the Erdene Zuu Monastery, which is one of the oldest and most important religious sites in Mongolia.

Day 9: Head to the western region of Mongolia and visit the Kazak Eagle Hunters. You can stay with a Kazak family in a traditional yurt and participate in a number of activities such as eagle hunting, horseback riding, and herding livestock.

Mongolia Travel Guide: How To Experience the Nomadic Life // Kazakh Yurt

Kazakh Yurt

Day 10: Visit the Tsambagarav National Park, which is home to a number of interesting geological features and wildlife. You can take a hike through the park and visit the Tsambagarav Mountain, which offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

Day 11: Head to the Khuvsgul Lake region, which is home to the largest freshwater lake in Mongolia. You can take a boat ride on the lake, visit a local nomadic family, and explore the surrounding forests and mountains.

Day 12: Visit the Kharkhorin, the ancient capital city of the Mongol Empire. You can visit the ruins of the Karakorum Museum and the Erdene Zuu Monastery, and learn about the history of this important cultural and historical site.

Day 13: Head to the Tsenkher Hot Springs, which are known for their therapeutic properties. You can take a dip in the hot springs and relax in the beautiful natural surroundings.

Day 14: Take a day trip to the Khorgo Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park, which is home to a number of interesting geological features and wildlife. You can take a hike through the park and visit the Khorgo Crater, a stunning volcanic crater that is surrounded by a beautiful lake.

Day 15: Return to Ulaanbaatar and spend the day exploring the city. You can visit the National Art Gallery, the Sukhbaatar Square, and the Central Square.

How to Travel to Mongolia

You can travel to Mongolia by air, train, or road.

Fly to Mongolia

There is only one international Mongolia airport: Chinggis Khaan International Airport sometimes called New Ulaanbaatar International Airport (IATA: UBN). The Mongolia airline is MIAT links Europe from Berlin and Moscow and the rest of the world from Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo.

Train to Mongolia

The Trans-Mongolian runs from Moscow to Beijing via Ulaanbaatar, and can be connected to other popular trail routes, like the Trans-Manchurian Beijing to Manchuria and through Siberia, and the famous Transiberian Railway (Trans-Siberian), which runs between Beijing to Moscow.

Land Crossing into Mongolia

Mongolia is a huge country and has many border crossings with neighboring countries.

  • Chinese Mongolia Borders

There are several border crossings between these two countries, but not all are open to foreigners:

    • Bulgan – Takashiken
    • Bichigt Zuun – Khatavch
    • Khangi – Mandula
    • Zamin Uud – Erlian
    • Sheveekhuren – Sekhee
    • Sumber – Arxa/Aershan

Currently, Zamin Uud – Erlian is open for international crossings.

  • Russia Mongolia Borders

There are ten crossing border points, but only three allow foreigners to cross.

    • Tashanta-TcagaanNur
    • Kyakhta-Aganbulag
    • Solovjovsk – Erentsav

The Khövsgöl lake (Mondy-Khankh) border crossing is reserved for citizens of their respective countries and doesn’t allow foreigners to cross. If you are visiting the Tsaatan in the mountains, be careful that they might be close to the Tuva Republic, which is a federal subject of Russia in Eastern Siberia.

Inside Travel Mongolia

Traveling inside Mongolia requires some planning and preparations. There are few stretches of paved roads, and some bus lines run between the major cities. However, the rest of the country has pretty much no infrastructure, which means renting private cars and drivers are a must.

Facts about Mongolia

It’s hard to reduce a country to a couple of bullet points, but we tried to put some of the most important and interesting facts about Mongolia.

Mongolian Food

Food in Mongolia mostly consists of meat and meat derivated items, like fat and dairy products. Cooked mutton is the most common dish in Mongolian cuisine, though Buuz (Tibetan-style dumplings) are considered the national dish. Other dishes include Khuushuur (Meat Dumplings), Bansh (small dumplings), Tsuvian (Stir fried noodles), Khorkhog (Authentic Mongolian Barbecue), and Boortsog (Mongolian Butter Cookies).

Mongolia Travel Guide: How To Experience the Nomadic Life // Dumplings


Dairy products hold an important part of Mongolian food and take the shape of heavy cream, butter, and sun-dried cheese that one rehydrates directly in the tea.

Speaking of, tea is an institution in Mongolia where any visitor will be welcomed and greeted with a table full of cookies, cream, cake, and of course, tea. Tea is served with milk and a lot of sugar.

Mongolian Language

Mongolian is from the Ural Altaic language family and the official language spoken by 94 % of the population. In Western Mongolia, Kazakh is spoken by 6% of the people, as well as some Tuvan, which as both Turkic languages.

Written Mongolian is based on the Cyrillic Russian alphabet since the 1940s plus the letters, Өө Öö and Үү Üü.

Time in Mongolia

The time in Mongolia is GMT/UTC+08, but the western provinces of Khovd, Uvs, and Bayan-Ölgii use GMT/UTC+07.

Mongolian Currency

The official currency is the Mongolian Tögrög or Tugrik. It is possible to withdraw money from ATMs though it is easier with Visa than with Mastercard. Always plan ahead, as the available ATMs might not work or might have no cash.

Mongolia Weather

Situated on mountains and plateaus at 5,180 feet (1,580 meters), Mongolia is one of the world’s highest countries and tends to have major continental climate intervals. Expect extremely cold winters when temperatures can drop to below 30°C. Summer can be hot, especially in the Gobi Desert.

The best time to visit Mongolia is during summer, though June, September, and October are great shoulder months.

Mongolia Travel Tips

  • Download an app to translate Mongolian into English
  • Buy a SIM Card in Ulaanbaatar before heading out
  • Dress in layers to keep warm, and make sure to bring a good wind and waterproof jacket
  • Keep some snacks and water with you when traveling as stops might be few and far
  • Grab a copy of Lonely Planet Mongolia

Our Mongolia Experience

We loved our two-month stay in Mongolia and hoped to return sometime. Even if communication was challenging, the travel conditions rough, the warm welcome and the stunning landscape made our travel to Mongolia some of our preferred experiences ever. And definitely one of our top 5 countries!

So if you are looking for adventures in a remote destination, visit Mongolia!

Have you been to Mongolia? What was your experience? Are you planning your Mongolia travel soon? Let us know if you want to know more about Mongolia, as we have more to share on upcoming travel Mongolia blog posts! Share with us your adventures in this lesser-known Asia destination.

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