Khustain Nuruu National Park.

Travel Guide: Explore Culture and Adventure through Diverse Landscapes of Mongolia

Let me Introduce you to Mongolia

I want to show you why you should explore Mongolia on your next vacation. I, for one, have fallen in love with this country. Last week I wrote an article on exploring Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. This week I thought it would be fun to expand on that. After spending hours looking into what you can do in Mongolia, I found that there was far more to see and explore that was not in the capital. The culture and adventure of Mongolia can truly be explored by trekking through the land. Or that is what I felt after seeing all the things you could do and experience in this wondrous and diverse country. So this week I thought it would be prudent to explore those options. 

Even if they are simply locations you can do and see all around the country. From the Orkhon Valley to the Gobi Desert. There are so many diverse landscapes and biomes you can check out. Though I will admit. From my research I found that there are very few English speaking people the further you wander from the capital. But if you hire a guide near the various places you go you should be fine. It’s that or picking up a bit of the language yourself. Regardless. Explore Mongolia and experience all the amazing things it has to offer. 

Two Humped Camel Mongolia

Explore the Country & Experience the Culture

Mongolia is not very densely populated. As such there is a lot of untamed land to explore and experience. From the Gobi Desert to the great Lake Baikal. The landscape is truly stunning and impressive to witness. I have gathered a few ideas for you to try if you are inclined for this kind of adventure. There are a lot of other things you can explore and do outside of the capital. I have gathered a few ideas here so if there is nothing here that you think you would like. There will certainly be something you can discover on the web. 

The Gobi Desert

Almost 11 hours from Ulaanbaatar. The Gobi Desert is both the largest and coldest desert in Asia. it is also the fifth-largest desert in the world. It covers the southern parts of Mongolia and stretches all the way into China. The name ‘Gobi’ means ‘semi-desert’. This suits this desert rather well as it is rich in plant life and animal life. From the Bactrian Camel to the Gobi Bear and even snow leopard. There are so many creatures to see great and small. Which is surprising considering the fact that this is a desert. Not only are there many animals to see but also nomads which call this desert home. Explore Mongolia through the various biomes and landscapes it has to offer. 

Parts of the Gobi Desert are now National Parks. One such place is the ‘Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park’. It covers over two million hectares of the desert. Everything from the iconic sand dunes to ice canyons can be seen in the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. It is understandably one of Mongolia’s most popular National Parks and sees a lot of traffic. There are of course more traveled areas in this park in particular. But if you have more time you can drive to the more remote areas of Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. These parts of the Gobi Desert can be so empty and lifeless you may feel like you are on an alien planet. 

The Gobi Desert, Mongolia

A Bit on the Tours

There are many different tours you can take if you want to check out the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. The best place to look for these tours is in Ulaanbaatar. I don’t recommend booking in advance or abroad. The price differs greatly and you can get a better deal if you book in Ulaanbaatar. Some of my research pointed to ‘Sun Path Guesthouse’. From what I found they are reliable, professional and speak English. In the price they include the following:

  • Three Meals Per Day
  • Unlimited Drinking Water
  • Transportation
  • Unlimited Snacks
  • Sleeping Bags

Now, the price might vary depending on when you book and the exchange rate. But it should cost somewhere in the region of 1000,0000. That being the Mongolian currency but there is a lot included within the price. This trip is about seven days but you can go for longer or shorter if you so wish. On this tour you will probably be staying in a ‘Ger’ with the nomad families in the middle of nowhere. So there will not be access to power outlets, showers or the internet. The tour I researched from the ‘Sun Path Guesthouse’ mentioned that you would stop at a restaurant which would have power outlets every two to three days. That should give you time to charge all of your stuff. Finally, it is unlikely you will have access to warm showers on your trip. Or they may be few and far between. 

There are plenty of other articles detailing personal experience on these kinds of activities. As well as detailing what you should bring along with you if this is something you think you would enjoy. I should also mention that you may be able to horse ride or ride camels in the desert. Which should be fun to those that enjoy riding. Overall you should definitely check out the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. There is so much to do and explore. The experience will certainly be a once in a lifetime thing. 

Explore Mongolia With Tours

Mongolia’s Khustain Nuruu National Park

This national park is home to many of Mongolia’s native animal species. Wolves, antelope and some of the last remaining przewalski’s wild horses. This type of horse, also known as a ‘Takhii’ is the last of the truly wild horse species in the world. The Khustain National Park is one of three places that have been selected for the re-introduction of this horse. If you decide to take an early morning walk you might even see some of these amazing creatures. The reserve covers over 50,000 hectares and is located on the southern edge of the forest-steppe zone. This National park is diverse with sad dunes, rivers, mountains and forests to explore. 

One of the most appealing things about visiting this National park is that it is about 100km from Ulaanbaatar. If you decide to take a trip down to The Khustain Nuruu National Park you should take your time. There are so many animals and plant life to explore. Experiencing the local communities within the park. Even checking out the archaeology spots in the southern region of the park. You could get a spot at a tourist camp near the Hustai National Park Trust. This is a pretty good accommodation option. It’s near to the Khustain Nuruu National Park and the money goes toward the parks themselves. 

However if you would like a more local and cultural approach. You might stay with one of the community-based tourism projects. Herding families open their homes to visitors and this helps the communities with income. As well as developing tourism in the country. As always. If you choose to visit this park you should be respectful in all ways. Wildlife should be viewed from afar and you should not interrupt them or get too close. Don’t litter of course as this affects the animals that call this park home and always follow the rules that are laid out by the Khustain Nuruu National Park. Explore Mongolia through the wildlife and culture. This is a great place to start. 

Explore The Khustain National Park - Przewalski  Wild Horse

Khyargas Lake

This lake is located in the district of ‘Khyargas’ and is about 75km long. It is considered the second main lake in the western part of Mongolia. What makes this lake so unique is that it is a salt lake. It is considered a National Park itself. As the local authorities have found that it is an important ecosystem for other animals around it. Besides being stunning to look at. The Khyargas Lake is a great place to visit because there are a lot of activities for you to do around it. For example:

  • Fishing
  • Bird Watching
  • Horse or Camel Riding
  • Visiting Nomadic Families
  • Traditional Games like Ankle Bone

Of course there are other things you might prefer to occupy your time. But these few activities will be plenty to keep you busy. This lake is on the way to the adventure routes of Western mongolia. Not only is there the lake to enjoy but also the scenic vista surrounding it. If you would like to stay around this lake for a few days. There is a small local ‘Ger’ camp near the ‘Khetsuu Rock’. It is recommended that you book in advance as this camp fills up quite quickly. Additionally you should be using reliable transport. Such as a car with x4 wheel drive as the roads near the lake can get sandy and hard to traverse. If you want picturesque views or just want to explore Mongolia this is the place for you. 

Explore Mongolia - Khyargas Lake

Time it for the Festivals

If you can time your vacation trip just right you might be able to enjoy some of the amazing festivals. The two I will elaborate on will be as follows: 

  • The Naadam Festival
  • Golden Eagle Festival

Both of these are unique to Mongolia and are things you should check out if you have the time. I know I would if I had the chance. These festivals would be a fantastic way to learn and experience more about Mongolian culture. First I will talk more about the Naadam Festival.

The Mongolian Naadam Festival

There is no other festival like the Naadam Festival. Both sophisticated and steeped in traditions. It is in a way an expression of the nomadic culture which Mongolia is famous for. It also celebrates the honoured celebration of national independence and showcases a combination of sports. At the core of the festival there are three main male dominated sports. Though women may take part these days. Those being: wrestling, horse racing and archery. But of course there are many other elements to this festival. The arts, dance and singing are celebrated at the Naadam Festival as well. 

The best thing about this festival is that it is held in one of the most enjoyable times  of the year. So everyone that can, gets to enjoy the festivities. If you would like, tours can be arranged to include the Naadam Festival. It usually takes place near the ‘Khuvsgul Lake‘. This festival is one of the biggest events among the nomads of Mongolia and you can really see this when you see the heart and soul they put into this annual event. 

Naadam Festival

Explore the Mongolian Golden Eagle Festival

This adventurous festival is for both the locals and foreign travellers who wish to see it. The Golden Eagle Festival is not only a festival but also an ancient hunting tradition. It is unique to the cultural heritage of the Kazakh minority in Mongolia. This festival captivates the audience by showcasing the ancient art of falconry and thrilling horse riding competitions. The festival is held in Western Mongolia by the Kazakh people.  The festival should start a parade which shows the hunters all dressed in their authentic garb and carrying a golden eagle. The golden eagles are carefully trained to catch small animals. But for the demonstration they use stuffed animals. 

So if you want to explore Mongolia around the time of either of these festivals. This is something that would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. If I have not mentioned any other festivals I apologise. There is plenty to explore and experience. It is all about finding a festival that suits you. If that is something you want to do.  The cultural significance and learning you can do will be priceless. There is so much you can learn and experience. These unique festivals are certainly worth your time. This is a great way to explore Mongolia and learn about its many ancient cultures.

The Golden Eagle Festival


Outside of the capital there is so much to explore and see. These are just a few places you might find interesting and exciting to visit on your Mongolian adventures. There are still the Reindeer riding Nomads in the South or the other great lakes and National parks for you to check out. Craft a travel plan that suits you the best. I know I found Mongolia particularly inspirational. Of all the research I have done on other countries. I would explore Mongolia in a heart beat.

This one is my favourite and one I myself hope to visit in the future. But for now. All I can do is try and inspire you to get out there and explore what the world holds for you. If you liked this article please check out some of my other work. I hope you enjoyed my ‘Explore Mongolia’ piece. If you did you might like my piece on what you can do in Ulaanbaatar or my Cape Town article. As always, have fun and be adventurous.

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