In fact, there are many more things to do in Mongolia than just ten. The ones mentioned here are just a summary of my favorites.
In no particular order, the top 10 things to do in Mongolia:
1. Visit a Mountain Monastery
There are several famous temples in and near Ulaanbaatar, but if you get out of town, make sure you at least make a visit to Erdenee Zuu in Kharkhorin. Or if you have more time and reliable transport on hand, a visit to the Tovkhon Khiid mountain monastery offers a great pine forest trek and spectacular views.
2. Watch a Horse Riding Competition During Naadam
3. Take a Ride Through the Countryside
A visit to Mongolia would not be complete without some experience on the dirt roads in the countryside. At times seemingly endless, sometimes marked by low-lying rock outcrops, the meditative plains are covered with grass and vibrant flowers during summer.
4. Live in a Ger
5. Watch Other People Make a Fool of Themselves on a Camel
OK, yes you could ride across the Gobi on the back of a camel, as the Lonely Planet suggests. But given the average camel’s sandy temperament, perhaps just watching a few tourists plod along the side of the road is close enough to the hump-rocking real thing. (Photo by Jonathan Chiang)
6. Check Out the View From the Zaisan Memorial
Night or day, Zaisan Memorial is really a great place to enjoy a wonderful view of the city. What makes it even more interesting is the cool 1960s soviet era mosaics on the war memorial. The steps from the bottom of the hill are fairly steep. You can drive 2/3 the way up to the small parking lot. But that somehow takes something away from the rewarding city vista that’s waiting at the top.
7. Wander Around the Sukhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar
8. Eat All the Lamb You Like
Dumplings, in soup, off the bone, in crepes…it is everywhere. That lamby flavor is in the tea too. Mongolia is truly a mutton-lover’s paradise. If you don’t like lamb, don’t leave the capital. Better still, you better not come! That said, if you really can’t stand it anymore, Ulaanbaatar has a range of good western and asian restaurants to meet most budgets.
9. Learn About Rare Mongolian Horses
While the takhi are perhaps etched in the Mongolian psyche as the home-grown horse, in fact these days the populations are so low that it takes a concerted effort of conservation and deliberate breeding to keep the species alive. A visit to the Hustai National Park provides an opportunity to learn about one breeding program, and if you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the takhi grazing. Donations are welcome.
10. Share a Meal With a Mongolian
Making friends anywhere can be a challenge, especially where language is concerned. But Mongolian’s are a fiercely party-going kind of people, and with a bottle of alcohol and good food to share, expect the warm feelings to flow. In any case, mixing with the locals should be on your top 10 things to do in Mongolia. (Photo by Jonathan Chiang)
If this was a list of 15, I’d add the following:
- Experience the unbelievable clarity of stars at night
- Freeze your butt off in the cold water of Lake Khovsgol
- Wake to the sound of cows munching beside your ger
- Get sickened by the moves of a young contortionist
- Listen in amazement at the sounds of traditional throat singing
Check out other adventures in Mongolia:
If you have other ideas for your own top 10 things to do in Mongolia, please post your comments or suggestions below.