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One of the least-visited countries in the world, Mongolia is an ideal destination for the adventurous traveler. Visitors can experience the nomadic way of life, sample unique cuisine and enjoy incredible hospitality too. When planning your itinerary, you’ll have some great options for epic adventures, all while surrounded by stunning landscapes that include everything from towering sand dunes and vast grasslands to dramatic mountain ranges.
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The age-old craft of hunting with eagles is still practiced by the Kazakh people on the vast steppes in the westernmost province of Mongolia, Bayan-Olgii. Witnessing it is one of the top experiences in the country. While there are options that allow you to tag along on a hunt, it’s no easy feat and must be done in the winter, from late October to March as the snow cover provides the best backdrop for spotting prey. Most visitors choose to attend the Golden Eagle Festival which takes place just before the season begins in October in the Kazakh’s cultural center of Olgii. You’ll be able to watch skilled hunters and eagles showcase their skills with awards given to the most successful and impressive pairs.
One of the world’s most beautiful deserts, the Gobi Desert stretches across over 500,000 square miles of Mongolia and China. It’s one of the planet’s most dramatic environments and is an ideal destination for a camel trek. You’ll have multiple options with everything from half-day to multi-day tours, and it’s not just the famous dunes known as Singing Sands you’ll ride across, but many other iconic sights like the Flaming Cliffs, the country’s renowned dinosaur site. The impressive red sediment has produced many remarkable paleontological finds, including the very first velociraptor ever discovered.
A ger is a traditional Mongolian dwelling, also known as a yurt, something that’s become popular in the western world for glamping in recent years. Gers have been used on the Central Asian steppe for thousands of years as they’re ideal for the nomadic lifestyle, portable, easy to set up and durable. Spending the night in a Mongolian ger is sure to be a unique adventure. There are dozens of ger camps throughout the country, offering everything from the chance to spend the night with a Mongolian family to luxurious private retreats in urban locations as well as remote wilderness, surrounded by empty landscapes.
A Fatbike is a great way to explore remote, wild destinations, making them ideal for adventure travel in Mongolia thanks to their rugged frames and over-sized tires. One of the top spots for exploring on two wheels is Tavan Bogd National Park in the country’s far west, which is spread across hundreds of miles of unspoiled wilderness that sees very few outsiders – the only humans you’re likely to encounter are the nomads who call it home. Round Square Adventures offers Fatbike expeditions here with summer departures that include tent camping and meals. You’ll be met at Ulan Bator international airport for the flight to Olgii which is followed by a five to six-hour drive to the park.
Mongolia offers one of the world’s great fly fishing adventures with the opportunity to catch the Mongolian taimen which typically ranges from 30 to 40 inches long, although some reach 60 inches in length. Although they’re often called trout, or giant Eurasian trout, they aren’t actually trout but members of the Salmonidae family of freshwater fish. For the avid angler, a float trip through the wilds of Outer Mongolia with its stunning scenery and incredible fly fishing opportunities is a bucket list experience. There are multiple outfitters to enjoy this adventure, where you’ll spend your days fishing on beautiful rivers like the Delger or Onon and your nights in a tent or traditional ger.
If you like horses, marveling at Mongolia’s rare Przewalski horses, known as Takhi here, which gallop through the grassy fields and hills in Khustai National Park is sure to be a highlight. These horses, also referred to as Mongolian wild horses, are the world’s only true wild horse as they’ve never been domesticated. They once roamed both Asia and Europe, but nearly went extinct in the 20th century, with just a dozen remaining at one point. Today, thanks to international conservation and reintroduction efforts, you can see them roaming free here as well as in China and Kazakhstan.
Just 50 miles outside of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, Terelj National Park is the third largest protected area in Mongolia and one of the most popular attractions in the country. You can take a tour but it’s easy to reach on your own to walk through the lush green meadows, passing unique rock formations and alongside the Tuul and Terelj rivers. If you’re here in the summer, you’ll be able to marvel at the beautiful yellow Edelweiss and other wildflowers that blanket the landscape. There aren’t any trails, so you’ll need to chart your own path to see landmarks like Turtle Rock and a Buddhist monastery.
There are lots of options for horseback riding that provide the opportunity to experience traditional culture and breathtaking scenery. If you’re up for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, Horse Trek Mongolia is offering a 2,237-mile expedition, the Blue Wolf Totem Ride, in May of 2021. The outfitter offers multiple excursions, with a percentage donated to charity, including a 10-day trip in August 2020 that visits eight lakes and a waterfall. In addition to five or six hours of riding each day, you’ll hike, swim, enjoy incredible stargazing and gathering around the campfire.
Attending one of the country’s many festivals is one of the best ways to get to known Mongolian culture, and one of its biggest and best is Naadam, held annually in mid-July. Billed as the world’s “second-oldest Olympics,” its main events are horseback riding, archery and wrestling although you’ll see a whole lot more, including a parade, traditional dance and other performances. It’s also the perfect opportunity to sample all sorts of traditional Mongolian foods.