If you want to experience a dramatic change of scenery and experience a different way of life, Mongolia is the place for you.
When I was a kid, I always thought of Mongolia as a country full of challenges but with amazing scenery. This is a country where the night sky is full of stars.
During the day, an azure canvas unfolds above your head, endless verdant landscapes undulate before your eyes, and melodious folk songs sung by herders about wild horses and love float above your head.
During a visit last fall, I discovered during one-on-one travel with Dream Mongolia (http://www.dreammongolia.com), a bespoke travel agency run by a group of young, proud and dedicated locals whose The Motherland is really all that and more.
There are more than five reasons why people should not put off their plans to visit Mongolia, but due to space constraints, I just want to list the five that I think are the most important.
Population density is one of the lowest in the world – 1.94 people per square kilometer (according to 2015 stats), if you must know, in rural areas where two fifths of the 3 million people live, miles and miles by car Hours are possible, before you meet anyone.
For example, in Gorkit Rigi National Park outside Ulaanbaatar, you can stay for just a week, spend the night in different yurt camps, hike through the fragrant pine mountains during the day, and look down at the herds of cows, goats and horses in the grasslands. Grazing on the ground and drinking the clear water in the stream.
Imagine yourself owning this pristine natural beauty – something you won’t find in densely populated Singapore, or even in many developed cities. Did I mention the crisp alpine air?
Ancient Civilizations and Prehistoric Monuments
See remnants of Mongolia’s glorious past when Genghis Khan and his descendants conquered (modern) Russia, China, Korea, Southeast Asia, Persia, India, the Middle East and most of Eastern Europe in the 13th century.
Although the ancient city of Karakorum only served as the capital of Mongolia for 40 years before Genghis Khan’s grandson Kublai Khan moved it to what is now Beijing, and Chinese troops destroyed most of it in the late 14th century, you can still find remnants of the ancient city. The city has a glorious past.
Erdenizu Monastery is the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia and is very impressive with its massive 400 x 400m stone walls and 108 stupas.
In the Bayanzag area of the Gobi, there is the famous Flame Cliff, which takes on a bright orange hue at sunset under the scorching sun.
In 1922, dinosaur fossils and the first dinosaur egg in modern history were discovered here.
Mongolia is home to a variety of wild animals.Native breed of Taki or Przewalski’s horse successfully reintroduced 40 years after extinction
In the Gobi, you might be lucky enough to see more than gazelles, antelopes and Bactrian camels, a breed native to Central Asia that has two humps and sits on a saddle between them very stable.
You might spot one of only three Gobi bears left in Mongolia, or a rare and beautiful snow leopard. Further north, you can see reindeer herded by an indigenous group called the Tsaatans, who have their own unique culture.
The Gobi Desert is the fourth largest desert in the world and covers most of southern Mongolia and northern China. I had a great day riding a camel that took me to the Khongor sand dunes.
Soak your feet in warm sand (the dunes are easier to climb without shoes, as the sand weighs down your hiking boots and when the grain
Finally, Mongolian hospitality
On my road trip from Ulaanbaatar, we stopped in the Orkhon Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the richness of ancient ruins within its basin. It is also home to the famous Ulan Chut Garan Waterfall.
But the most memorable experience in the Orkhon Valley was my time with a nomadic family. I learned a lot about how nomads live.
Husband Irene and wife Ghana are alone tending to their summer yurt as their children have flown back to the capital. Although they are considered wealthy by Mongol standards—they own around 1,000 cattle—they are very down to earth.
They opened up their home and fireplace to us and even gave up their main yurt to the driver and guide (while I stayed in the guest yurt) because Mongolian culture dictates that guests come first.
We enjoyed a variety of homemade Mongolian dairy products. I actually found the taste of fermented mare’s milk——
My favorite thing is milk butter made by my Ghanaian mom. I literally slathered butter on her matzo and savored this simple joy with every bite.
For a solo traveler in a remote destination like Mongolia, if you get lost, you may not be able to find anyone for days, and not many people in rural areas speak English, so choosing a company that has experience and is worth it is a must. A reliable travel agency for trusted tour guides.
It is for this reason that I chose Dream Mongolia, a bespoke travel agency led by Doogii, a nomadic family from Western Mongolia with over 10 years experience as a tour guide. Today, she leads a team of dedicated local guides and drivers covering the whole of Mongolia.
The author’s trip was sponsored by Dream Mongolia.