Mongolia: What to Know and Where to Go

June 24, 2024 Global Basecamps

Category Mongolia,, Gobi Desert

There are so many spectacular things to do and see in Mongolia. Let us be your guide.

Are you ready for a transformative journey? Something that will utterly change your experience of the world? Then you’ve got to see Mongolia, a land where time seems to stand still, and extreme beauty and uncommon experiences await at every turn.

Nestled between Russia and China, Mongolia is a vast landlocked country with wildly diverse landscapes, each offering glorious opportunities for exploring nature in the extreme. Rolling steppes, rugged snow-capped mountains, expansive deserts with dramatic sand dunes, pristine lakes, and dense forests all beckon. With only 3.4 million people spread over 604,000 square miles, Mongolia is one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth. You’ll be amazed at how much empty space there is. If you want to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of modern life and immerse yourself in nature's grandeur this is certainly the place to do it. 

Mongolia is very special, there’s no doubt about it. The Mongolian people are known to be friendly and welcoming, but there are a few things that will deepen your understanding of this special culture.

Here are some helpful tips about Mongolian life and history that will help you get the most out of a trip. Please don't hesitate to contact us at for more information. 

The Importance of Genghis Khan: No discussion of Mongolia can be complete without understanding the importance of Genghis Khan to the national psyche. Born around 1162, Khan is revered as the father of the nation. His unparalleled achievements in unifying the Mongol tribes, establishing one of the largest contiguous empires in the history of the world,  conquering rival leaders in Persia and China, and shaping the geopolitical legacy of Eurasia are just some of his achievements. He is undoubtedly one of the most important leaders in world history. His influence on Mongolia’s national identity is profound and continues to be an important touchstone a thousand years later.

Nomadism: Mongolians are known as some of the last practitioners of pastoral nomadism on earth, a way of life in which people live and move with their livestock from pasture to pasture seeking grazing land. About 30% to 40% of the population of Mongolia lives this way. Interacting with these people is a chance to witness a bit of living history while it lasts, as this way of life is being threatened by modernity. Mongolians are universally regarded as warm-hearted and hospitable people who will welcome you into their homes to share a meal. (Make sure to observe their customs, e.g., taking your shoes off when entering their home, to show reciprocal respect.) Such authentic cultural encounters are to be prized because they are increasingly rare in our globalized world. 

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The mindblowing emptiness of the Gobi Desert. Photo by Victor He on Unsplash.

The Gobi Desert: Wild, remote, dramatic, untamed, otherworldly. These are some of the adjectives used to describe the Gobi Desert. It’s hard to be prepared for its outrageous beauty. One of the largest deserts in the world at 500,000 square miles, the Gobi is renowned for its extreme temperature variations and diverse landscapes. From the stark beauty of the “singing dunes”  to the red-orange color of the fossil-rich “flaming cliffs,” you can expect traditional desert landscapes of infinite sand. But it's also one of the few places where you can see snow amidst the sands, creating a striking contrast. Its vast, remote expanses are a testament to nature's untamed beauty. Riding through on horseback is truly extraordinary.

Horses, Wild and Otherwise: Speaking of horses, you’ll find that they are integral to daily life, a legacy of Genghis Khan’s time when horses formed the backbone of the Mongol army. Today they are essential for managing livestock herds, and, outside of UlanBataar, they are the main means of transportation in Mongolia. They are also valued for their hair and meat and as racers. For many travelers, riding a horse through the Gobi is the highlight of their trip to Mongolia. Not ridable but beautiful is the still-endangered Przewalski’s Horse, known locally as "takhi," which was believed to be extinct but was reintroduced into Mongola in the 1990s. Now numbering about 300, these lovely creatures roam freely in Khustain Nuruu National Park, Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, and Khomiin Tal.


Przewski’s Horse, formerly thought to be extinct, has been successfully reintroduced to Mongolia but is still endangered. Photo by Tengis Galamez on Unsplash.

Canine Companions: Dogs are every bit as important to Mongolian daily life as the livestock they guard. The Mongolian Bankhar Dogs, revered as family members in Mongolian culture, were presumed extinct but thanks to the Mongolian Bankhar Dog Project they are being revived and reintroduced as a traditional livestock guardian dog breed. They are not only significant for herding and protection but also symbolize the deep bond between Mongolians and their animals.

Yurts/Gers: Staying in a yurt (or ger), the iconic circular tents of Mongolia, provides a unique glimpse into traditional Mongolian life. These structures, with their felted wool insulation and wooden frames, have been used by nomads for millennia and offer comfort and warmth in the harsh climate.



Two-humped Bactrian camels have served as pack animals since ancient times. 

Naadam: Held annually in July, the Naadam Festival is Mongolia's most significant celebration. Naadam has ancient origins. It is believed to have originated as a way for warriors to keep their skills sharp and for tribes to demonstrate their prowess. It features the "Three Manly Games”: wrestling, horse racing, and archery. Although traditionally only men could compete in the games, women have started participating in horse racing and archery. The festival plays a crucial role in preserving traditional customs, clothing, music, and rituals.


Wildlife: Mongolia is a paradise for wildlife lovers. There are many endemic wild species such as the critically endangered Gobi bear—the only bear in the world that lives exclusively in the desert. Some studies report that there are no more than 50 Gobi bears in existence. You’ll also find the two-humped Bactrian camel, and other rare animal species such as the snow leopard, argali sheep, and a diverse array of birdlife. National parks like Khustain Nuruu and Altai Tavan Bogd provide excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing.


The rare snow leopard, caught in the stalking position. Photo by Robert Sachowski on Unsplash.

Bogd Khan Uul National Park: Established in 1783, Bogd Khan Uul is the world's oldest national park, predating Yellowstone by nearly a century. This protected area, rich in biodiversity and cultural heritage, is a must-visit for nature lovers and history buffs alike.

Throat Singing: Mongolia's unique throat singing, or "khöömei," is a mesmerizing musical tradition where performers produce multiple pitches simultaneously. If you can’t imagine one person being able to simultaneously create two distinct sounds, you’ve got to experience a live performance. It’s an unforgettable cultural encounter.

Eagle Hunting: In western Mongolia, Kazakh hunters maintain the ancient practice of eagle hunting, using trained golden eagles to hunt game. The Golden Eagle Festival in October celebrates this remarkable skill and offers a captivating glimpse into this age-old tradition.

Karakorum: Once the heart of the Mongol Empire, Karakorum was established by Genghis Khan. Although little remains of the ancient city, the nearby Erdenezuu Monastery, built in 1586, stands as a testament to Mongolia’s rich historical and spiritual heritage. This area, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, offers a window into the empire that once spanned continents.


The remains of the Erdenezuu Monastery, the earliest surviving Buddhist monastery in Karakorim, Mongolia. Construction began in about 1585.

These are just a few highlights of a trip to Mongolia but there’s much more to do and see. If you’re interested in visiting this enchanted country, we can take you there. This sample Mongolia itinerary gives you a sense of our trips, but we can customize to create the perfect trip for you. Contact us to get started at




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Tags: Mongolia,, Gobi Desert