Mongolia is now a stunning contrast made up of old and new worlds colliding;, the traditional ways of life can be found intertwined with modern technology; shepherds minding their flocks, and keeping in touch by cell phone; old style markets, with internet cafés. Since communism collapsed Mongolia has spread out its welcome carpet and encouraged visitors to explore this amazing country; but has been canny enough to retain the aspects that make the trip worthwhile.
There are still vast tracts of unspoiled countryside to explore, ideally by horse as there are only 500 miles of paved road in the whole country. If you are driving it’s good to bear in mind that the rough and ready nature of the roads makes car hire excess insurance a necessity. Maikhan Tolgoi is a tourist camp that provides a base for roaming the Taiga or Boreal Forest; and the mountains, with their spectacular granite formations.
Great Gobi National Park
One of the world’s largest biospheres, the area is larger than Switzerland and contains thirty three distinct types of landscape. One of the most striking can be found at Bayanzag, home to the Flaming Cliffs; formed from red sandstone they are spectacular at sunset. It was in this area that the first nest of dinosaur eggs were discovered; the land still yields spectacular fossils which lie close to the surface. You will also find an ice canyon at Yolyn Am, the ‘Valley of Eagles,’ where frozen waterfalls provide spectacular formations; while overhead you can see the eagles that give the site its name.
Ancient city of Karakorum
Founded by Genghis Khan in 1220, Karakorum has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times in its turbulent past, but was originally the centre of his huge empire. The area was once a centre for stone carving; giant tortoises in particular, and some examples still remain. Built on the remnants of the original city in 1585, Erdene Zuu is a Buddhist Tibetan monastery; the oldest one in Mongolia. Partially destroyed by the Soviets in the 1930s the building now houses a museum. The surrounding area, the Orkhon valley, is home to the ruins of three more capital cities, including Kharbalgas, dating back to the Uighur Empire. The valley also contains the country’s longest river which cascades over a magnificent waterfall.
Mongolia is a rapidly changing country but still retains its wild identity, a place where travellers can still have an adventure.