Mongolia is a large country and its name is quite popular. For the country itself however people do not know a lot around the world. Most people associate Mongolia with the endless plains and steppes. To a large extent this is true, but does not describe completely the real nature of this exciting Asian country. Here flourished the great empire of Genghis Khan and the roots of some European nations as the Bulgarians for example originate from Mongolia.
Geographic location, boundaries and size. Mongolia is situated between 41 and 52° north latitude and between 87 and 119° east longitude.
It is located in the eastern parts of mainland Asia and occupies an area of 1,565,000 sq. km. It is the 18th largest country in the world. Despite its huge territory, it is bordered by only two countries – Russia to the north and China to the south.
The geographical location of Mongolia is peripheral and isolated, and the reason lies in the fact that the country has no outlet to the ocean. On the other hand the fast growing economic centers of the continent remain quite far from its territory.
Landscape of Mongolia. Most of Mongolia is located on a high altitude. Overall, the country is occupied by high mountains and broad plateaus. The highest point is Khuiten Peak, which rises to a height of 4374 m in the Mongolian Altai, near the border with China in the western parts of the country.
Climate of Mongolia. Mongolia falls within the temperate climate zone. However, local climate is rather crude with a strong continental character. Summers are very nice.
Summer temperatures in the capital Ulan Bator are usually about 23 – 25°C. Winters are long and extremely harsh. In January, daytime temperatures are below (-15) °C and at night reach around (-25) – (-30) °C. These values however are average.
Sometimes the temperatures can become much lower because the icy arctic air masses coming from Siberia invade here easily. The high altitude of Mongolia, which in most parts of the country is more than 1000 meters contributes to the harsh climatic conditions.
Overall, precipitation in Mongolia is extremely scarce. During the year, rainfall ranges from 1 to no more than 60-65 millimetres per month.
Driest weather is during the winter months and most humid in the summer. Because of dry weather and sudden temperature changes large parts of Mongolia are occupied by deserts.
Waters of Mongolia. Most of Mongolia is not rich in water. The only exception is the high mountain regions in the northern part of the country where there are many mountain rivers and lakes.
Most of them originate from the snowy and icy mountain peaks. Water bodies are rare in the lower and plateau parts of the country. The largest river in Mongolia is called Selenga and flows northeast. The largest lakes are Khovsgol Lake and Uvs Lake, both located in the northwest.
Economy of Mongolia. Mongolia has a growing economy. The country is among the poorest on the continent. Much of the population leads a nomadic lifestyle and live in tents called yurts.
One of the main reasons for the economic difficulties of the country is its location. Although there are powerful neighbours, Mongolia remains quite isolated.
On the one hand the economic heart of Russia is located thousands of miles to the west, on the other hand China’s economic power is concentrated in a quite different part of the country, away from the borders of Mongolia.
The poor quality of infrastructure, lack of highways and railway lines also reflect quite unfavourably on the local economy. The main source of income for Mongolia is the export of copper, fluorine, textiles and leather. The quality of life in the country is quite low compared to most Asian countries.
Population. Despite the enormous area in Mongolia live only about 2,700,000 inhabitants. This is one of the most sparsely populated countries on the planet. Population is very unevenly distributed in its territory.
About 44% of all people in the country live in the capital Ulan Bator. Much of the capital city residents live in large, concrete buildings, which give too Soviet image of the city. Large parts of Mongolia are practically deserted.
This applies most strongly to the deserts of southern Mongolia. There is low population density also in the mountains of northern Mongolia. Population consists of different nationalities, but the greatest percentage are Mongols, who constitute over 80%.
A large proportion (around 5%) are Kazakhs. In Mongolia also live Russians left in these lands since the times of the Soviet Union. The official language is Mongolian.
Russian and Chinese are quite popular languages in which you can speak with the locals. In religious terms the country’s population is relatively homogeneous – the majority of residents are Buddhists.
Tourism in Mongolia – historical past, natural beauties and interesting places
Mongolia’s past. Although today is among the poorest countries in Asia, Mongolia is the cradle of impressive culture and the locals are extremely proud of its history.
At the time of Genghis Khan the country has occupied enormous territory from Eastern Europe (Balkans) to the Pacific coast and from Siberia to the Arabian and South China Sea. At this period Mongolia was among the greatest countries ever existed and with certainly was the largest in area.
Warriors of Genghis Khan rode on horseback, equipped with bows and arrows and spread fear and respect in anyone who dared stood in their way. The glory of Mongolia was like fireworks – burned strong and bright, but it did not last long.
Soon after the country reached its peak, internal conflicts began gradually destabilize it. Several centuries after having reached its apogee, Mongolia became a victim of the Manchus, who managed to take it over.
After more than two centuries, Mongolia became an independent country again, but just to become a few years later part of the Communist world and one of the closest partners of the USSR.
Mongolia today. How to get to know this country better? If you visit today Mongolia as a tourist you will be surprised to see how many things have not changed over the past 800 years.
Many of the locals as still living in Yurts (type portable houses of the type of tent). They usually furnish their homes in the traditional way and still have a great reverence for horses.
Unfortunately one of the things that have change very little over the years is the infrastructure. This would be one of the biggest problems if you visited this Far Eastern country.
There are many places in Mongolia, which actually have breathtaking scenery, but are virtually inaccessible. However, hiring a car remains one of the best ways to explore this distant country.
Even more exciting would be if you can rent a caravan or van with which to travel. In this way you will remain in any place as much as you want without having to comply with schedules.
You can sleep in some of the most remote and unknown areas of the world and enjoy the peace and quiet, which offers the lonely expanse of Mongolia.
Nature of Mongolia. Mongolia is synonymous with space. Most of the territory of the country is occupied by huge mountains and vast plains which extend to the horizon.
Vegetation in lowland areas of Mongolia is scarce and mainly represented by herbaceous species. The overwhelming majority of these planes is located in the south and southeast, while the mountains dominate the northern and western regions.
In the northern mountainous parts of the country there is quite different nature and substantially similar in their species diversity of the Russian taiga.
In these northern parts of Mongolia you will find many beautiful, mostly coniferous forests and much more water resources.
Of course there are forests also in other parts of the country but in the northern regions you can find the largest forest wealth. Outside the mountain forests of northern Mongolia are wide spread cold-loving deciduous species such as birches, which can withstand the fierce Mongolian winters.
The local fauna is extremely diverse. The large species of carnivores that occur in Mongolia are brown bear, gray wolf, fox etc. Some of the most famous herbivore species that you will be able to see are goat, deer, Mongolian gazelle and saiga antelope.
Emblematic of the country are wild horses and wild donkey. From the birds we have to mention falcons that are not only quite common in this part of the world, but are also used for hunting and sporting events.
Here can be found and other raptors, including eagles and hawks. The giant open space area suggests the presence of large number of small rodents and rabbits which are perfect prey for these birds of prey.
Gobi desert is one of the most impressive natural sites in Asia. It is a classic example of temperate latitudes desert. Summers are warm and even hot and temperatures often reach to around 40°C not.
Winters on the other hand are extremely harsh with temperatures between (-30) and (-40) °C! Gobi is located in the southern parts of the country and is considered as one of the most inhospitable deserts in the world.
It is almost uninhabited apart from the small number of local inhabitants, leading a nomadic lifestyle. Most of the desert is stony, which in practice makes it unfit for habitation.
Khovsgol Lake is situated in beautiful mountain scenery of northern Mongolia. It is located on more than 1600 meters altitude. In its surroundings alternate magnificent pine forests and open grasslands and rocky areas.
No less beautiful, but very different are the surroundings of the Uvs Lake. It is located at the lower altitude – about 760 meters. It is surrounded by mostly dry area where vegetation is quite scarce.
Common between the two lakes that are situated among unnaturally beautiful and unspoiled natural areas, and traces of human presence are so small that to the untrained eye of the tourists will go unnoticed.
Deer stones are among the most important landmarks in the country. These rocks are to about 4.5 meters height. On their surface have been carved pictures and symbols.
These stones have been erected in the middle of the desert landscape more than 3000 years ago. It is believed that the ancient inhabitants of these lands have used them in their daily rituals related to funerals and other significant events that accompany human life. Unfortunately they do not know who made them, but with certainly worth seeing.
When to visit Mongolia? The best time for tourism in Mongolia are May, June, July, August and September. In this part of year temperatures in the capital Ulan Bator are very nice – between 15 and 25°C.
May and September are suitable also for tourism in the Gobi Desert. Then the conditions for tourism are most acceptable. Otherwise, the weather ranges from extremely cold in winter to unpleasant hot in summer.
However, it is better to comply and that if you go to these raw lands to take photos the only possibility to find the shade will be if you make it yourself. The same goes for winter. Then lower temperatures and searching wind will make your stay at open not particularly pleasant.
What clothes to wear in Mongolia? Firstly, it is very important to wear sunscreen and quality sunglasses as the weather in Mongolia is clear and cloudless all year around.
For June, July and August is best to wear light summer clothes for daytime and something warm for the night because temperatures can drop below 10°C. In May and September will be better to prepare clothes for spring temperatures.
The weather in May and September is mild and pleasant during the day (15 – 17°C), but cold at night. From October to April you have to wear warm winter clothing, consistent with very low, sometimes even extreme temperatures! Remember that Ulan Bator is the coldest capital city on the planet.