Great Mongolia Itineraries: How Many Days to Spend?
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Given its riveting history (there was a time when it could have become the ruler of the world), Mongolia commands a near-mythical appreciation from outsiders, even though it is one of the world’s last untouched spaces. Its population continues to live a traditional, largely nomadic lifestyle in a wild and untamed landscape, passing through terrain as diverse as the Gobi Desert and a vast steppe dotted with lakes. Find your perfect Mongolia itinerary and you too can discover a place like nowhere else on Earth.
How Much Time Should I Spend in Mongolia?
If your aim is to experience the incredible Naadam Festival that involves traditional Mongolian sports (horse racing, wrestling, and archery), then three days is an acceptable amount of time. Extend this a little to include a couple of days in the capital of Ulaanbaatar and you are already looking at a Mongolia itinerary of five days or more.
A week at your disposal will give you the opportunity to see the wild horses of Khutsai National Park. However, given the country’s massive size, and to do the country the justice it deserves, we recommend a Mongolia itinerary of two weeks. This will give you the time you need to discover the Gobi Desert, explore the heritage of Genghis Khan, and spend time at the country’s mirror-like lakes.
Mongolia in 3 days
With three days or less, the best option is to limit your Mongolia itinerary to a single destination. The obvious choice is perhaps Ulaanbaatar. Located in the valley of the Tuul River, the capital provides a great introduction to Mongolian culture.
Although yurts may be thin on the ground, there are several important museums worth reserving time for, including the National Museum of Mongolia and the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum. Other sites include the Chinese-style Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan and Gandantegchinlen Buddhist monastery.
Time your trip in line with the annual Naadam Festival and you will have an altogether different experience. A celebration of the country’s traditions, the opening evening is marked with an impressive firework display in Ulaanbaatar’s Sukhbaatar (Central) Square. On the following day, the games begin, with men taking part in breathtaking feats of skill and endurance. These include the world’s longest horse race, lasting 1,000 kilometers.
Mongolia in 5 days
A five-day Mongolia itinerary makes it possible to discover the two sides of contemporary Mongolian life – city living in Ulaanbaatar and the rural idyll that still occupies much of the country. Having spent a couple of days among the grandiose buildings in the capital’s heart, turn your attention to the delights of Gorkhi Terelj National Park.
Positioned around 45 kilometers to the northeast of the capital, the area’s landscape of hills and mountains covered in forests and meadows reminds many of the Swiss Alps. Attractions within the park include the Yestii Hot Springs and the glacial lake of Khagiin Khar, whose surrounds are home to brown bears and around 250 bird species.
End your stay in Mongolia with a seven-hour trek to the heights of Mount Altan Olgii, which can be tackled on foot, or on horseback, along with tracks that are hundreds of years old.
Mongolia in 1 week
Revel in an altogether different side of Mongolia with a one-week Mongolia itinerary by heading west from Ulaanbaatar to the city of Karakorum. Founded by Genghis Khan in the 13th century, this UNESCO World Heritage site is home to the oldest surviving Buddhist monastery in the country.
Continue into the Gobi Desert, whose panoramas never tire. Head off-road for the very best views, including those looking towards the Altai Mountains. Protected in part by Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, they are covered in snow for much of the year.
Along the way, you will encounter the Gobi Desert of Hollywood movies, where winds cause the sands to sing and the world’s largest dune rises to 300 meters and stands taller than the Eiffel Tower. End your wonderful week with a stop at Yolyn Am, an area of canyons that are home to some of the world’s rarest creatures, including the enigmatic snow leopard.
Mongolia in 2 weeks
Our recommendations for a two-week Mongolia itinerary allow visitors to develop a greater understanding of what makes this country wedged between Russia and China so special.
From a starting point of Ulaanbaatar, it is possible to head south into the realms of the Gobi Desert. Here camels roam panoramas largely free of human influence, except for isolated monasteries and
temporary nomad settlements.
A stay in a grouping of ger tents is often the highlight of trips to Mongolia and for good reason. They combine the warm hospitality of locals with a surprising level of comfort and offer the opportunity to try traditional delicacies such as butter tea.
Then continue on to Khustai National Park, which provides an important habitat for the Takhi horse. Said to be the world’s last truly wild horses, these creatures have been integral to the development of Mongolian culture from the time of Genghis Khan onwards.