I’ve traveled to many different places around the world, always looking for something unique and different than the same old experiences, and even though I’ve managed to find several different ones, Mongolia still ranks at the top of my list. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that up until 1992, no one was able to travel to the country, but that’s not the only reason the country is unique. Here are some of the others.
One the first day of my tour, we visited the Gandan Monastery, which is the largest and most famous functioning monastery in Mongolia. Over half the people in Mongolia are Buddhists, and here you will get to see the monks in worship, as well as impressive statues. Above you can see the Golden Buddha Statue of Migjid Janraisig. This statue is indoors, and you have to buy a ticket not only to see it, but another to take a picture. Don’t worry though, the cost is minimal, and well worth it to see the sheer size of it. Also pictured is a prayer wheel, which worshippers use to accumulate merit and purify their karma.
In Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar, you will see signs of their hero Genghis Khan everywhere, like this statue at the Parliament Building on Sukhbaatar Square. The large bronze statue has their hero seated, and flanked by Ögedei (on the west) and Kublai (east) as he watches over his nation. Two famed Mongol soldiers (Boruchu and Mukhlai) are also represented as they guard the entrance.
A large part of Mongolia is covered by the Gobi Desert. While seeing a desert may not seem to be too exciting, it’s what you can find in the desert that will peak your curiosity. Above you can see what is known as The Flaming Cliffs, otherwise known as Bayanzag. Important fossils have been found in this area, including the very first discovery of dinosaur eggs. American Roy Chapman Andrews named it The Flaming Cliffs, because of the red or orange colour of the sandstone cliffs, something you can see more clearly during sunset.
Yol valley in the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park is unique in that it’s a valley, in the middle of the Gobi Desert. You will see everything from meters thick ice to rocky cliffs and a gorge that is so deep and narrow that it is difficult for more than one person to cross at a time in some places. The area was originally established as a bird conservation area, especially for the bearded vulture, but now attracts multitudes of tourists each year. Other rare animals you may catch site of include Siberian ibex and argalis.
The steep climb up the side of the mountain may be a little dangerous, especially with all the loose rocks, but it is well worth it to see the Khavtsgait Petroglyphs. The artwork of the Gobi ancestors is extremely precious to the people, and one glimpse of the ancient beauty will show you why. They show the everyday lives of the people who lived in the region, thousands of years ago.
This massive Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue is one you won’t soon forget. This 131-foot (40m) tall statues sits on the bank of the Tuul River at Tsonjin Boldog. It’s here, according to legend, than Genghis Khan found a golden whip. The statue is pointed eastwards, towards his birthplace. Beneath the statue is the Genghis Khan Statue Complex, which in itself is a site to behold. It stands over 33-feet (10m) tall, with 36 columns representing the 36 khans from Genghis to Ligdan. There is also a museum here, which features archaeological finds from the entire country.
As you might have guessed, Mongolia is well known for their herd animals. Here you can see some of what are known as the five jewels or snouts, which are horses, sheep, goats, cows/yaks and camels.
Karakorum is the symbolic ruins of the 13th century capital of the Mongol Empire. It was also a hot spot of trade along the historic Silk Road. The ruins are part of the World Heritage site Orkhon Valley. As you walk among the structure you can feel the history of the land.
This is a traditional Mongolian ger, which is a portable, round tent that is typically covered with skins or felt. Nomadic tribes throughout Central Asia use similar dwellings. The Reindeer people, or Dukha, also use similar structures, but they call them a Dukha yurt.
Of course a large reason to visit any country is to learn about their culture and history. Mongolia is ripe with both, and the people of the country are very eager to share. I found them to be friendly and very gentle, which while it is partly due to their Buddhist background, I also think it’s partly due to just who they are. They make you feel safe and welcome, and when your journey is over, that’s what you find you remember the most.