Bordered by China and Russia, Mongolia has had to defend itself from invaders since time immemorial. But it has clung on to its vast territory all these years and is now arguably one of the world’s last frontiers as a tourism destination.
Ulaanbaatar, the capital, is developing at breakneck speed. Luxury hotels, modern shopping malls and glass tower blocks seem to have sprung up all over, but thankfully this hasn’t marred the traditional side of the city. Chinggis Khan Square features statues of legendary founders and revolution heroes, while the centuries-old Gandan Monastery boasts a magnificent, gold-gilded Migjid Janraisig statue.
But it’s what lies beyond the capital that really deserves your attention. Verdant hills, vast steppes, rugged mountains and shimmering lakes – it all forms a spectacular countryside which can be explored on foot or horseback. Strike out into the mountains of Bogd National Park, see wild horses roam free in Khustain Nuruu, or traverse the sand dunes, canyons and chalky-red cliffs of the Gobi Desert. It’s all breathtakingly beautiful, and rarely anyone else around to spoil the moment.
Mongolians are tremendously hospitable, and will often welcome visitors into their home – whether to stay the night or share a cup of milk tea. You might stay in a house, but you’re more likely to be hosted in a traditional yurt or ‘ger’ (a round, felt-covered tent). There are many high-end hotels to choose from in Ulaanbaatar.
The 12 best places to stay in Mongolia: Top hotels, B&Bs, inns, and vacation rentals — Based on real reviews from real guests