Mongolia

The untamed beauty and stark remoteness of Mongolia has captured the imagination of adventurers for centuries. Humble monks and curious nomads occupy a landscape dotted with yaks, camels and the occasional ger. To be immersed in a culture and way of life completely different from most, simply head to the far-flung magic of Mongolia.

Mongolia Tours & Travel

All our Mongolia trips

Trans Mongolian Railway

Trans-Mongolian Experience

21 days from
USD $4,500.00
CAD $4,278.75
AUD $3,948.75
EUR €3,150.00
GBP £2,617.50
NZD $5,055.00
ZAR R34,263.75
CHF FR3,873.75

Travel on the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian Railways from Russia to China. This epic transcontinental adventure...

View trip details
Forbidden City, Beijing

Trans-Siberian & Mongolia

16 days from
USD $3,323.50
CAD $3,366.00
AUD $3,387.25
EUR €2,435.25
GBP £2,091.00
NZD $4,016.25
ZAR R31,836.75
CHF FR3,000.50

Travel to China, Mongolia and Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing to Moscow. Visit China, tour Mongolia...

View trip details
Ger camp, Mongolia

Beijing to St Petersburg

22 days from
USD $4,980.00
CAD $5,035.00
AUD $5,245.00
EUR €3,475.00
GBP £3,140.00
NZD $6,215.00
ZAR R47,740.00
CHF FR4,285.00

Explore China, Mongolia and Russia on a journey from Beijing to St Petersburg via Ulaanbaatar, Lake Baikal and Moscow....

View trip details
mongolia siblings posing camera happy locals kids

Wild Mongolia

15 days from
USD $2,605.00
CAD $2,770.00
AUD $2,880.00
EUR €2,005.00
GBP £1,725.00
NZD $3,415.00
ZAR R26,215.00
CHF FR2,470.00

Travel to Mongolia and discover a remote patch of the earth seemingly untouched by time. Visit traditional homestays,...

View trip details
mongolia_rainbow-local-man

Mongolia Overland

21 days from
USD $2,800.00*
CAD $3,031.69*
AUD $3,001.74*
EUR €2,047.09*
GBP £1,700.50*
NZD $3,319.53*
ZAR R29,740.98*
CHF FR2,476.75*

Travel to Mongolia and visit Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s eccentric capital. Then embark on an overland trip to Mongolia’s...

View trip details

Video

Articles on Mongolia

The tribe has spoken: these ancient Asian tribes will blow your mind

The tribe has spoken: these ancient Asian tribes will blow your mind

Posted on Mon, 29 Sep 2014 by Intrepid Travel

Believe it or not, the old world does survive, in the deep jungles and the high mountains, kept alive in the ancient knowledge of tribes.

Read more
Trans-Mongolian vs Trans-Siberian: how to decide

Trans-Mongolian vs Trans-Siberian: how to decide

Posted on Tue, 3 Jun 2014 by Verity Russo

What is the difference between the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Siberian railway? Here are some tips to help you decide which route to take.

Read more
Tips for meat-free meals in Mongolia

Tips for meat-free meals in Mongolia

Posted on Thu, 13 Feb 2014 by Sue Elliot

Think of places where it’s easy for vegetarians to travel and Mongolia probably won’t be high on the list. Growing vegetables is tough in the harsh climate and tending to [...]

Read more
A winning Trans-Mongolian experience

A winning Trans-Mongolian experience

Posted on Mon, 12 Aug 2013 by Sue Elliot

Hands up if you ever expect to win any of the competitions you enter? Well for Cassie Silva it was no different, except that this time she got the surprise [...]

Read more

Transport

Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is in getting there, and getting around once there. Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport, which usually have a lesser environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.

Depending on which trip you're on while in Mongolia, you may find yourself travelling by:

Accommodation

Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember, so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.

When travelling with us in Mongolia you may find yourself staying in a:

About Mongolia

At a glance

Trips Available: 5
Capital city: Ulaanbaatar (population 1.2 million)
Population: 3 million
Language: Mongolian
Currency: MNT
Time zone: (GMT+08:00) Irkutsk, Ulaan Bataar
Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin) Type E (French 2-pin, female earth)
Dialing code: +976

Best time to visit Mongolia

Mongolia has an extreme continental climate due to its inland location. The best time for travelling is from May to October when the weather is pleasant. Due to the popularity of the Naadam Festival, July is the busiest time to go; it can get crowded, but Ulaanbaatar buzzes with an incredible vibe during this time.

The wet season is from July to August and although it rains frequently during this time, the rain turns the countryside into a pleasant shade of green. It can get extremely cold from June to October, with snowstorms sometimes grounding flights and bringing transport systems to a halt.

Ulaanbaatar weather chart

Culture and customs

Mongolian farmer
Mongolia is known for its strong nomadic traditions, but life has recently become more urbanised for many citizens in this sparsely populated country. Almost 50% of the population live in or near an urban centre, while the other 50% live a semi-nomadic lifestyle in the countryside; although, settled agricultural communities can be found in rural areas and are growing each year. Despite this change in lifestyle, the rich nomadic heritage remains strong and traditional Mongol songs, dance, stories and clothing are still celebrated, especially during festivals and national holidays.

Many Mongolian people are Buddhist - this is evident in the monasteries and temples that populate the urban areas as well as the remote regions. Shamanism is also still in existence in some of the more isolated regions of Mongolia where the proud cultures have been somewhat protected from modern influences.

A common thread that links most Mongolians is respect for family and the importance of hospitality. Probably borne from the nomadic way of life, sharing with others and receiving guests with grace is a common theme that recurs in Mongolian society. Harsh conditions, a changeable climate and the uncertainty of nomadic life mean that most Mongolians go out of their way to provide a safe haven for family, friends and guests. It is for this reason that turning down food or not accepting a warm welcome is not advisable.

Eating and drinking

Making curds

Intrepid believes that one of the best ways of experiencing a country is by eating. Whether you're sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.

Mongolian food will probably be very different to what you’re used to. Due to many Mongolians living a nomadic lifestyle, access to ingredients and different modes of cooking are limited. Fermented milk products and meats such as goat, mutton and horse are commonly eaten. Vegetarians might find eating difficult here, especially since refusing food is considered rude when visiting people’s homes. The cafes and eateries of Ulaanbaatar offer more variety and should be frequented.

Things to try in Mongolia

1. Buuz

These steamed meat dumplings are usually served during festive times, but can be found in restaurants and cafes all year round.

2. Khuushuur

Similar to buuz, these meat-filled dumplings are fried, not steamed. Served in the cafes of Ulaanbaatar, these pastry pockets are a cheap, flavoursome snack.

3. Vodka

Russia’s influence on Mongolia is evident in the popularity of vodka among locals who pass the bottle around generously.

Geography and environment

Frozen lake khovsgol
Bordered by China and Russia, Mongolia is a land of mountains and plateaus, grasslands, marshes and deserts. Even though Mongolia is landlocked, Lake Khovsgol (one of Asia’s largest freshwater lakes) provides 70% of Mongolia’s fresh water. This ancient lake provides much of the drinking water for the animal and human population, with the surrounding areas providing lush habitats for wolves, ibex, deer and bears. Due to Mongolia’s significant seismic activity, there are also many hot springs and volcanoes throughout the country.

Mongolia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, leaving much space for nomadic herders to roam. The fast-growing capital city of Ulaanbaatar is an exception, being home to high-density housing, universities and financial institutions. As an economic centre and transport hub, Ulaanbaatar has all the modern conveniences expected of an international city.

History and government

Erdene zuu monastery

Early History

The area now known as Mongolia has been inhabited for more than 800,000 years. Archaeological evidence, such as rock paintings, points to groups of hunters and gatherers living throughout Mongolia in prehistoric times. Mongolia’s early history is coloured by battles and invasions, with various nomadic empires laying claim to the land. The most famous of these was the Mongol Empire, created by Genghis Khan in 1206. This empire was known as the largest land-based empire of its time and had great success invading and claiming foreign territory, before declining due to infighting, disunity and the rise of neighbouring territories.

Recent History

Modern Mongolia is an interesting mix of Mongol, Chinese and Russian influences. Rising up to gain independence from decades of communist rule, modern Mongolia is becoming more fast-paced and globalised as the years go by. Holding its first democratic election in 1990, Mongolia now enjoys a time of relative peace and stability, with tourism, agriculture and mineral resources providing more abundance and improvements in infrastructure and living conditions.

Top Picks

Lake Khovsgol Selenge River

Top 10 Natural Wonders of Mongolia

1. Lake Khovsgol

This shimmering, azure jewel of Mongolia is simply stunning. Surrounded by majestic mountains and fresh, alpine meadows, Lake Khovsgol is a photographer’s dream and the perfect playground for nature lovers and adventurers.

2. Selenge River

This powerful river in Northern Mongolia is surrounded by lush landscapes and agriculture. Home to a wide variety of wildlife and birds, this fertile area shows Mongolia in all its natural glory.

3. Gobi Desert

Covering a large part of southern Mongolia, the atmospheric Gobi Desert is a vast, barren expanse of dunes, rocks and gravel. Surprisingly, there are traces of life here, from flocks of cashmere goats to rare Gobi bears. Think you’ve seen deserts before? The Gobi Desert is simply like no other in the world.

4. Bayan Olgii

Remote, rugged and rich in archaeological treasures, this isolated part of Mongolia rewards the patient traveller with impressive historic sites, panoramic vistas, unaffected people and a fascinating culture.

5. Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

Home to lakes, glaciers, alpine forests and dramatic valleys, the rugged landscapes of this national park will mesmerise visitors. Home to eagles, deer, moose and ibex, this stunning national park showcases Mongolia’s untamed beauty at its finest.

6. Uran Uul

This extinct volcano is no longer threatening - it hasn’t erupted for centuries and is now covered in verdant grass and lush greenery. Hike to the rim and enjoy the views of the surrounding valley.

7. Darkhad Depression

The 200-odd lakes of the Darkhad Depression possess a mystical, romantic beauty. The Mongolian steppe and surrounding Taiga forest provides the ideal environment for reindeer-breeding nomads who frequent this area throughout the year.

8. Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake

This lake in Central Mongolia is a place of peace, stillness and beauty. Its uncrowded shores are a great place to spot the wide range of aquatic birds that call this picturesque lake home.

9. Tsenkher Hot Springs

The hot springs of Tsenkher are the real deal. Natural, non-commercial and remote, the open-air springs offer hot and steamy rejuvenation amid unspoilt rugged mountain scenery.

10. Gurvan Saikhan National Park

The huge variety of flora and fauna within this national park make it a popular tourist spot. See finches, vultures, gazelles, wild camels and the elusive, endangered snow leopard.

Shopping

Mongolian knitted cashmere

Mongolia has loads of unique things to buy that you’re not likely to find anywhere else in the world. Look out for the items below in the shops and markets of Mongolia.

It's a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.

Things to buy in Mongolia

1. Traditional clothing

Vibrant and unique, Mongolian belts, boots and hats are great mementos of your visit.

2. Art

Supporting local artisans is a good way to give back to the local economy. Vibrant paintings by Mongolian artists can be found in galleries and markets.

3. Cashmere

Mongolia’s cashmere is among the world’s finest, so why not pick up a scarf, sweater or wrap before heading home.

4. Felt

Felt products are easily found in most shops and markets of Mongolia. Delicate felt slippers are super soft and make great gifts for friends.

Festivals and Events in Mongolia

Tsagaan Sar

One of the most important Mongolian celebrations, the White Moon holiday (Lunar New Year) marks the end of winter. Mongolians typically celebrate by feasting on regional specialities and enjoying traditional song and dance with family and friends.

Naadam Festival

Dating back centuries, this traditional Mongol event is held in Ulaanbaatar with smaller versions also held throughout the countryside. This celebration of sport and fitness features wrestling, horse riding and archery competitions, as well as traditional song and dance and much vodka swilling.

FAQs on Mongolia

Tipping isn’t a local custom in Mongolia; however, the bars and cafes of Ulaanbaatar are used to receiving tips from tourists. Use your discretion and tip if you feel like it.
Internet access is widely available in Ulaanbaatar. Some cafes and coffee houses have Wi-Fi, while many hotels and guesthouses have internet connectivity. Internet availability is far less common outside of Ulaanbaatar, so expect no access when leaving the city.
Mobile phone coverage is generally good in Mongolia, although coverage may be patchy in remote or mountainous areas.
Flushable, European-style toilets are common in the hotels and restaurants of Ulaanbaatar. Throughout the rest of the country, squat toilets are the standard, with the exception of some ger camps and homestays, where toilets may be simple holes in the ground. Please be aware that, in most cases, soap and toilet paper aren’t provided, so make sure you come prepared.
Can of beer = 1500 MNT
Simple meal in a local restaurant = 4000 MNT
Dinner at an international restaurant = 10,000 MNT
Drinking tap water isn't recommended in Mongolia. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water. Ask your leader where filtered water can be found. It's also advisable to avoid ice in drinks and to peel fruit and vegetables before eating.
Major credit cards are usually accepted by most large hotels and restaurants in Ulaanbaatar and other large cities, however smaller establishments may not have credit card facilities. Ensure you have other payment options when visiting small shops and markets, and when travelling through rural areas.
Travellers can access ATMs in Ulaanbaatar; however, rural regions run on a cash economy, so prepare for this when leaving the city.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 1 New Year’s Day
Feb 11 Tsagaan Sar (Lunar New Year)
Mar 8 International Women’s Day
Jun 1 Mother and Child Day
Jul 11 Naadam
Nov 26 Independence Day

Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/Mongolia/public-holidays
MONGOLIA - TRANS-MONGOLIAN:

Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required

Nationals most countries can now travel for tourist purposes visa free for 30 days. US passport holders can travel in Mongolia for up to 90 days visa free.

LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI):
Most embassies do not require a LOI. However, should you be required to present one with your visa application please contact us. There may be a fee for this service. In order for us to provide a LOI through our local partners we will require a clear, colour scan of your passport along with indicating at which embassy you will be applying for your visa. Please allow up to 2 weeks for your LOI to be processed.

VISA ON ARRIVAL:
Visas are not available on arrival at any land borders into Mongolia. You must have a Mongolian visa before beginning your trip.

VISAS EN-ROUTE:
You may be able to apply for your Mongolian visa in Beijing en-route if you have time here before your trip. Please plan carefully and check the current embassy requirements.

INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You will need to apply for a Single Entry Tourist Visa (J) that covers the duration of your stay in Mongolia. Visas are usually valid for 3 months from the date of issue and enable to you to stay for up to 30 days.

Name and address of host person or organization in Mongolia:
Monkhutuch Travel Co. Ltd
Bayangol district, Building 19-3
Ulaanbaatar
+976 11 364 708

Name and address of Hotel in Mongolia:
San Hotel
Baga-toiruu 64
Chingeltei duureg, 6-r khoroo
Ulaanbaatar
MONGOLIA

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You may be required to provide a copy of your Intrepid itinerary, indicating the dates of your tour, along with your application. MONGOLIA - INTREPID:
Australia: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance

Nationals of Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and the United Kingdom can for tourist purposes visa free for 30 days. US passport holders can travel in Mongolia for up to 90 days visa free.

LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI):
Most embassies do not require a LOI. However, should you be required to present one with your visa application please contact us. There may be a fee for this service. In order for us to provide a LOI through our local partners we will require a clear, colour scan of your passport along with indicating at which embassy you will be applying for your visa. Please allow up to 2 weeks for your LOI to be processed.

VISA ON ARRIVAL:
Visas are not available on arrival at any land borders into Mongolia. Due to changes in visa regulations we are no longer able to provide visa invitations for visa on arrival at the Chinggis Khan International Airport.

VISAS EN-ROUTE:
You may be able to apply for your Mongolian visa in Beijing en-route if you have time here before your trip. Please plan carefully and check the current embassy requirements.

INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You will need to apply for a Single Entry Tourist Visa (J) that covers the duration of your stay in Mongolia. Visas are usually valid for 3 months from the date of issue and enable to you to stay for up to 30 days.

Name and address of host person or organization in Mongolia:
Mongolian Trails
Suite 103, Baga Toiruu street 43
Suhbaatar district
Ulaanbaatar
+976 9918 3751

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You may be required to provide a copy of your Intrepid itinerary, indicating the dates of your tour, along with your application. MONGOLIA (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND):

Australia: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance

Nationals of Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and the United Kingdom can for tourist purposes visa free for 30 days. US passport holders can travel in Mongolia for up to 90 days visa free.

LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI):
Most embassies do not require a LOI. However, should you be required to present one with your visa application please contact us. There may be a fee for this service. In order for us to provide a LOI through our local partners we will require a clear, colour scan of your passport along with indicating at which embassy you will be applying for your visa. Please allow up to 2 weeks for your LOI to be processed.

VISA ON ARRIVAL:
Visas are not available on arrival at any land borders into Mongolia. Due to changes in visa regulations we are no longer able to provide visa invitations for visa on arrival at the Chinggis Khan International Airport.

VISAS EN-ROUTE:
You may be able to apply for your Mongolian visa in Beijing en-route if you are travelling on a long combination trip. A LOI is required for applications in Beijing.

INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You will need to apply for a Single Entry Tourist Visa (J) that covers the duration of your stay in Mongolia. Visas are usually valid for 3 months from the date of issue and enable to you to stay for up to 30 days.

Name and address of host person or organization in Mongolia:
Mongolian Ways Ltd.
Chingeltei Duureg
5th Khoroo, 6th Khoroolol
Bldg. 17, door 39
Ulaanbaatar 211238
+976 11 330351

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You may be required to provide a copy of your Dragoman itinerary, indicating the dates of your tour, along with your application.

Health and Safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:

From Australia?

Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/

From US?

Go to: http://travel.state.gov/

From UK?

Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/

Responsible Travel

Mongolia Travel Tips

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, local cultures, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Top responsible travel tips for Mongolia

1. Be considerate of Mongolia’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.

2. Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship.

3. Before entering a place of worship, ask permission, remove your shoes and cover your shoulders with a jacket or wrap.

4. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water instead.

5. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.

6. When bargaining at markets, stay calm, be reasonable and keep a smile on your face. It's meant to be fun!

7. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.

8. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.

9. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.

10. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.

11. When on community visits or homestays, refrain from giving gifts or money to locals.

12. Be respectful of monks, this includes refraining from taking photos of them. Women should also avoid touching or handing items directly to monks.

The Intrepid Foundation

The Intrepid Foundation provides travellers with an opportunity to give something back to the many wonderful communities we travel to. By donating to The Intrepid Foundation you can make a difference in local communities - in health care, education, human rights, child welfare and the protection of wildlife and the environment.

In Mongolia, The Intrepid Foundation proudly supports:

Lotus Children’s Centre

Providing much-needed shelter, education, food and health care to many homeless and orphaned Mongolian children, this centre, which is located just outside of Ulaanbaatar, receives no government funding and relies solely on grants and donations to continue providing this essential service.

Image supplied by Lotus Children’s Centre.

To learn more or donate, go to: www.theintrepidfoundation.org

Further reading

Recommended reading

Title Author
Hearing Birds Fly: A Nomadic Year in MongoliaLouisa Waugh
Modern Mongolia: From Khans to Commissars to CapitalistsMorris Rossabi
Mongolia: Travels in an Untamed LandJasper Becker
When Things Get Dark: A Mongolian Winter's TaleMatthew Davis
Wild East: Travels in the New MongoliaJill Lawless
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern WorldJack Weatherford