Founded by Emperor Genghis Khan, ruler of the largest contiguous Empire known to mankind, Mongolia is one of the last patches of unspoiled beauty left on this planet. A landlocked country perched between the hot Gobi Dessert in the south and cold mountains in the north and west, Mongolia is the quintessential travel destination for those who dare to stray off the beaten path.
Home to more horses than people, Mongolia is a meagerly populated country whose landscape is dominated by cold, windy steppes and high altitude desert. Mongolia has the lowest population density in the world. Nearly 40% of the population lives in the capital Ulaanbaatar while the rest lead a nomadic life herding livestock over the vast meadows of the country.
Tibetan Buddhism is the main religion in Mongolia. During the early part of the 20th century, the Soviets razed down many monasteries and massacred the lamas and monks. One of the few monasteries that survived the onslaught is the Gandan Monastery. Home to nearly 150 monks, the Gandan Monastery is one the largest monastery in Mongolia. Visitors are welcome to offer prayers under the guidance of the head lama.
As one of the highest countries in the world, Mongolia is subjected to extreme continental weather conditions consisting of short, sweltering summers and long, frigid winters. Known by legend as the ‘Land of the Blue Sky, the Mongolian sky is cloudless for more than two thirds of the year.
After years of being out of bounds for tourists due to a capricious Communist rule, Mongolia has only recently thrown open its gates for outsiders. A democratically elected government and a free market economy are now attracting scores of people to this uncharted wilderness. However, commuting to remote places on the rugged terrain is no easy task due to the lack of infrastructure.
Besides the capital, no other part of the country can boast of paved roads.
However, if you are in the mood for adventure and are reasonably curious about the nomadic way of life, then Mongolia will come through for you. The windswept sand dunes of the Gobi desert offer its visitors a glimpse into the lives of its nomadic inhabitants. Once the stomping ground of Dinosaurs, these incredible dunes now make for excellent fossil hunting expeditions. The South Gobi is the most popular desert region due to its rich geographical diversity. The Gobi Gurvansaikan National Park is a place where you can see frozen rivers in the middle of a desert and is also home to various endangered and rare animals like the Argali, Ibex and the snow leopard.
All in all, Mongolia is a fascinating country that offers a lot to the explorer in you. One can hire the services of adventure companies that offer visitors a chance to be part of the Mongolian life which includes traveling on horsebacks, sleeping in gers, sharing camel curd with the locals and much more. Mongolian people have a simple, friendly disposition and are wonderful hosts. So the next time you are looking for a spot on the map with pristine beauty, crystal clear lakes, tall mountains and undulating grasslands, remember Mongolia!