As one of the least densely populated countries in the world, it will come as no surprise that Mongolia has quite a few open spaces. Moreover, the quantity of different landscapes we experienced as we traveled was unexpected and very rewarding.
The most common way for tourists to get around is in a shared van. Anyone who has travelled in Asia will have experienced some poor quality roads at some point… The roads in Mongolia, if they exist at all in the usual sense of the word “road”, which is rare, are in a constant and furious battle with the vehicles that traverse them and every twist and turn resonates through your whole body as you hold on hoping not to be thrown through an open window!
But even as your body is battered left and right, you will still be captivated by the ever changing scenery. From the endless grasslands of the East, the Gobi Desert to the south and the snow capped mountains of the west, the landscape transforms and seeing it up close from the ground as it surrounds you is, for the most part, the most fascinating part of visiting Mongolia.
When you do stop, and you will want to, often just to recover from the roads, you can expect to see the ever typical herders and their temporary homes – called “Gers” – dotted around in the vastness. You can also expect to feel the ever present animal poo under your feet, for a country this big it is quite amazing how poop has coated the entire landscape.
One of the most amazing transitions we experienced was actually surprisingly close to Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital and main jumping off point for visitors to the country. Within the space of less than 50Km we left the grasslands, passed massive rocky outcrops and onto sand dunes that were reminiscent of a Hollywood movie, juxtaposed by distant stoney mountains. Then on again to grasslands, as if the desert had never existed.
There are not many countries where the landscape will hold your attention endlessly. Normally it is easy to lose yourself in a book as the world passes you by, waiting for your next destination. More so than anywhere else I have ever travelled, I could, and have, watched Mongolia through a window for days and it never ceases to captivate and surprise me.
For a country that could easily just be written off as a barren tundra, the summer here brings forth life, views and a constant engagement that will keep the active adventure traveller reeling with excitement. One note though – bring warm clothes! Even in the summer, temperatures can plummet when the sun disappear and the cold winds can chill the bones of even the hardiest adventurer.
We’ve said in previous articles that the best part of travel is really the arriving, not the hours of sitting on uncomfortable public transport waiting to get somewhere… Mongolia is the first country that has made us question this notion.
I may not want to live here but as a visitor, Mongolia and its incredible landscape has been a must see destination.