For single travellers looking for adventure, an escorted tour of Mongolia promises to be the journey of a lifetime. Sandwiched between Russia to the north and China to the south, this huge landlocked nation covers an area more than three times the size of France. Containing vast areas of grassland or steppe, mountains, desert, forests and lakes, the natural landscape is truly breathtaking and as you journey along bumpy roads through miles of untouched wilderness, you’ll encounter nomadic people who lead a simple life based on ancient traditions.
The capital Ulaanbaatar
In stark contrast, in the capital Ulaanbaatar, modern-day living is developing at pace. In this throbbing metropolis, traffic weaves chaotically through the streets and smartly dressed businesspeople come and go in the gleaming downtown office blocks. Here you can party till dawn and sample an array of international cuisine, but for us the highlights have to be the Gandan Monastery and the Bogd Khan Palace, a museum and one-time home of Mongolia’s last king.
It is away from the lights of Ulaanbaatar where your adventure really begins. Most Mongolians (even many of those in Ulaanbaatar) still live in traditional gers. These circular tent-like dwellings can be moved easily from place to place and are a practical choice for those living a nomadic lifestyle. During your travels, you stay in authentic ger camps for a taste of the real Mongolian way of life.
The Gobi Desert
Dominating the south of the country, the Gobi Desert covers an enormous area of 500,000 or so square miles and extends from Mongolia into China. A visit to this remote and unforgiving wilderness takes you to a world bereft of 24/7 news, the internet and mobile phone reception. An absolute must-see, the Gobi’s Khongor Sand Dunes are amongst the largest in Mongolia. A truly spectacular sight, they soar up to 300 metres high and measure 12 kilometres wide by about 100 kilometres long. They are also known as the Singing Dunes, thanks to the mesmerising sound the sand makes as it moves in the wind. Head deeper into the Gobi Desert to see the Flaming Cliffs or Byanazag – an area of sandstone cliffs coloured in rich shades of red and ochre. It is here that the palaeontologist Roy Chapman Andrews discovered a nest of dinosaur eggs in 1923.
Dotted across Mongolia’s landscape are the ruins of some magnificent monasteries. In Karakorum, the country’s first Buddhist monastery Erdene-Zuu was built in the 16th century. At one time around 1,000 monks are thought to have lived here, but it was all but destroyed during the communist era. It re-opened in the 1990s and is now a fascinating place to visit. A trip to see the ruins of Ongi Monastery is also worthwhile. Founded in the 17th century, this sacred site was once one of the country’s largest monasteries.
Mongolia has no shortage of incredible wildlife and the Hustain National Park is home to the takhi, Mongolia’s wild horse. In the 1960s, the species was declared extinct in the wild, but thanks to some successful breeding programmes, they have now been re-introduced to their native land. You’ll also want to look out for other wildlife in the park, including red deer and Mongolian gazelle. Nature lovers will also enjoy Lake Ugii. It is one of the largest lakes in Mongolia and its shores are home to a wonderful array of different types of fish and bird. It’s also a delightful place to simply relax in the sunshine.
Spectacular night sky
Another place perfect for a spot of relaxation is Tsenkher Hot Springs. Surrounded by woodland, this natural hot water source is said to have therapeutic properties, and there is nothing better than to gaze at the night sky as you relax in one of the bathing pools.
The land of the blue sky
Said to enjoy an average of 250 sunny days every year, Mongolia is often referred to as the land of the blue sky. Its summers are warm, but in winter temperatures plummet well below freezing – so be sure to plan your escorted tour wisely! Every Just You holiday includes so much, from the services of a Tour Manager, flights and accommodation, to many meals and a host of exciting excursions. And of course, you’ll always get a room of your own with no single supplement.