Traditional gers dot the vast steppes while sand dunes rise from empty deserts and snowcapped mountains loom over lush green grasslands: Mongolia is packed with so much pristine natural beauty that few other countries can rival. Every turn on the road reveals a different landscape, be it a hill of colors after emerging from parched earth, or rising from the dunes to find an oasis of lagoons. It is a special place, especially for those who love nature and wilderness.
Mongolia definitely has no shortage of land and area; in fact, it is three times the size of France and twice the size of Texas. With a population of three million people, two million of which live in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, it is known as the most sparsely populated country in the world. But it’s the people of Mongolia that make the country such a special place. Nomadic families continue to live the way their ancestors did for centuries, and their infectious sense of hospitality is nothing short of overwhelming.
Even in today’s world, Mongolia remains a secret amongst the most hardened travelers who dare traverse its rugged terrain. For those curious enough to venture here, it’s definitely a visual feast for outdoor lovers. I’ll be sharing more of my experiences in Mongolia, but meanwhile here’s a quick look at some of my best photos from Mongolia.
A Photo Essay of Mongolia
This was my favorite moment during the trip as we sat feasting on traditional Mongolian barbecue and watching the sky turn a shade of gold.
When we climbed up to the highest point of the Khongoriin Els sand dunes in the Gobi Desert, this was the view that greeted us: acres upon acres of sand dunes sprawling across the base of a mountain chain.
Our ger camp in Karakorum stood beneath the Great Imperial Map monument overlooking the city. I climbed up to the hilltop to see a view of Karakorum, but my mind was blown when I turned around and saw this instead: a panorama of the Orkhon Valley with the tributaries of the river flowing like arteries across the floodplain.
While driving to Yolyn Am gorge, we had to make so many stops because the view of the Gurvan Saikhan mountains was just outrageous.
The golden hour at the Ongiin River with streaks of purple and pink jazzing up the sky.
Known as the Flaming Cliffs, Bayanzag is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. This was where the first discovery of dinosaurs eggs was made in the 1920s.
The hills surrounding Ongiin Khiid monastery came in shades of orange and lime green, sprinkled with wild flowers and dotted by gers of nomadic families.
Erdene Zuu was the first Buddhist monastery built in Mongolia; even though many of its temples were destroyed during the Soviet purge, the few remaining ones show just how impressive the monastery must have been during its heydays.
Found all over Mongolian, the ovoo is a shamanistic cairn made of rocks and wood, used in worship of the mountains and the sky.
We spotted this horseman herding his cattle while driving along the rocky road towards Tsenkher hotsprings. Most nomadic families still live mainly from their cattles for their milk, meat, skin and for transportation.
Up close and personal with the Mongolian two-humped camels in the Gobi Deserts. These creatures sure had problems controlling their bowels.
Another icon of Mongolia, horses are important assets to the nomadic families of Mongolia.
The airag (fermented mare’s milk) is an alcoholic drink typically made in every Mongolian household and shared with guests as a form of hospitality.
We were fortunate enough to camp with this nomadic family and get to know their way of life and try the airag and vodka they made. It was definitely my favorite experience of the trip.
Our guide Amaraa with his Mongolian del.
This young lady played dress-up and wore the traditional Mongolian costume for a photo.