Off the Beaten Path: Travelling to Mongolia’s Remote Sites

18/03/2024

While many parts of Mongolia have been modernised over time, much of the country still embraces a largely nomadic lifestyle. In fact, around 30% of Mongolia’s population lives a nomadic lifestyle. Considering that the country spans 1.5 million square kilometres yet is home to only 3.3 million people, there is plenty of space for exploration.

As the world’s most sparsely populated region, Mongolia offers a rugged yet beautiful landscape. Living a nomadic lifestyle in an extremely cold climate during winter is challenging, and it’s something you can experience firsthand. From exploring Mongolia’s historic sites to learning the ways of local nomads, travelling to Mongolia is full of unique experiences you won’t find anywhere else.

A traditional nomadic ger camp.
A traditional nomadic ger camp.

Visit nomadic families in Terelj

The Terelj National Park is a beautiful area about 60 kilometres from the city of Ulaanbaatar. While some of the area is designed for tourists, there are ways to get a little further into the heart of Mongolia’s nomadic lifestyle. As you make your way through the Terelj National Park, you’ll be impressed by the rock formations, pine-covered mountains and beautiful meadows full of wildflowers.

Within the park, you can meet and stay with local nomadic families. They will share their history, culture, and traditions with you during your visit. You’ll also have the opportunity to experience nomadic life firsthand by assisting the family with daily chores. Whether it’s collecting firewood, fetching water from nearby streams, milking cows, or tending to animals, this unique experience allows you to stay in traditional ger housing with a real Mongolian family.

The Nadaam Festival

Ulaanbaatar is Mongolia’s capital and the home of the Nadaam Festival. This is the biggest festival in Mongolia, usually held over three days in July. Nadaam has existed in some shape or form for centuries, and, to this day, involves the nation’s three most popular traditional sports. Wrestling, archery and horse racing events take place throughout the festival, along with plenty of traditional music and food.

Other competitions and national games are also on display, and the opening and closing ceremonies are usually a big spectacle. This historical event is one of the biggest on Mongolia’s calendar, so timing your visit around Nadaam is well worth it.

Naadam is a national festival held throughout the country during midsummer.
Naadam is a national festival held throughout the country during midsummer.

The Orkhon Valley

The Orkhon Valley lies along the Orkhon River in central Mongolia and is home to some incredible historical sites. Some of these include the 8th Century Orkhon Monuments, the ruins of Karakorum, the Tuvkhun Hermitage monastery and more. UNESCO has described the area as one of Mongolia’s most important cultural landscapes.

But the surrounding natural landscape is also breathtaking. You can paddle the river on kayaks, enjoy picnics along the banks, visit waterfalls, ride horses, swim in natural pools and more.

Meet the Reindeer Tribes of Mongolia

The Tsaachin tribe of Northern Mongolia has earned the nickname ‘The Reindeer Tribes’, partly due to reindeer’s prevalence in their areas. It’s estimated that between 200-400 Tsaachin remain, and those that do are willing to share their lifestyle and culture with visitors.

Along with meeting and staying with locals, you can enjoy horseback riding, indulge in traditional Mongolian cuisine, explore stunning meadows, and visit ruins from ancient empires.

Best of all, visiting the Tsaachin with Crooked Compass helps preserve their culture by providing valuable income to tribe members.

Part of the Tuvan ethnic group, the Tsaachin tribe is truly nomadic.
Part of the Tuvan ethnic group, the Tsaachin tribe is truly nomadic.

The Land of Snow Leopards

The global snow leopard population is in steep decline, with fewer than 10,000 alive today. In Mongolia, however, the species is quite highly concentrated, with around 1,200 estimated in the wild. While this is naturally cause for concern, the reality is that some nomadic Mongolian families still live in snow leopard territory, which is challenging for both humans and animals.

Crooked Compass offers a dedicated snow leopard tour, which is the perfect mix of conservation and cultural exchange. You can stay with local families, while your guides will take you out on horseback to explore the region and search for snow leopards. This opportunity to witness these majestic animals amongst their natural snow-capped habitat is something you won’t find very often.

During your visit, you will also learn about  living a nomadic life  in leopard territory and have the opportunity to witness Golden Eagle trainers in action.

Mongolia is home to the second-largest population of snow leopards in the world.
Mongolia is home to the second-largest population of snow leopards in the world.

Want to see more Mongolia sites?

Crooked Compass offers life-changing travel experiences to some of the most beautiful locations on earth. We feature a range of Mongolian adventures that take you off the beaten path. If you’re the type of person who wants more from their travel adventures, we’d love to hear from you.  Mongolia is rich in history, culture, and breathtaking landscapes. Crooked Compass connects you with locals, revealing the authentic parts of Mongolia that often remain hidden. So, start packing your bags for a perspective-shifting travel experience today.