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A Mongolian ger - Gorkhi Terelj National Park in summer in your guide to Mongolia's seaons

Best Time To Travel To Mongolia

Mongolia is not exactly a pack-light destination.  It experiences four very distinct seasons all of which bring their own weather challenges but own beauty as well. It is better to be prepared to bring everything or at least be prepared to purchase on route anything that you suddenly require – from a large sunhat to thermals or even rubber boots. Our following guide to the best time to travel to Mongolia emphasizes the reasons for choosing a specific season over promoting any single one.

The Climate In Mongolia

Mongolia is one of the highest countries in the world, with an average altitude of 1580 metres above sea level.  The high central Asian mountain ranges protect the country against the humid air masses creating an extreme continental climate with a temperature range to suit. Known as the ‘Land of the Blue Sky’ it is named for its (on average) 260 days of blue sky per year – but these do not all occur in the summer months! Mongolian weather is known for its sharp fluctuations with warm, short summers and long, dry and very cold winters. The coldest months are December to February with some areas of the country dropping to as low as -50°C, with Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia’s capital city) often seeing temperatures of -35°C. In the summer, the Gobi frequently hits temperatures of 30°C+, whilst (slightly obviously!)  it’s colder the further north you go.   

Mongolia’s climate has been impacted by an average annual temperature increase of between 1.8 C, – 2.2 C (depending on sources) since 1940 – a trend that is expected to continue in the coming decades. This warming is causing water scarcity, desertification, and pasture degradation, exacerbating catastrophic events such as floods, droughts, dzuds (a cyclical weather event unique to Mongolia), and sand storms, and endangering the lives and way of life of Mongolia’s herders.
A Mongolian ger in summer in our guide to the best time to travel to mongolia

A typical summer scene. In this image, you can see the working horses brought in from the herd waiting to be ridden as well as the dairy products drying in the sun on the ger roof. Dairy products in Mongolia are known as Tsagaan Idee (white food).

 

Mongolian gers in the snow in our guide to the best time to travel to Mongolia

A typical winter scene. Notice the traditional ‘ulzii’ pattern on the nearest door – a symbol of protection and longevity. What you can’t see is that there are two or three layers of felt inside the ger providing additional insulation (in the summer months there is just one layer).


Spring

March to May, few visitors, dry but very windy. Often sunny but with large fluctuations in temperature – Day 10-20°C; Night 0-10°C

Arid, windblown, and dusty, spring in Mongolia is notorious for its whims and unpredictable weather.  Mongolians say, ‘like a spring sky’ (хаврын тэнгэр шиг), in reference to moody behaviour. Although Mongolian winters are infamous for their bitter temperatures, March and April are considered the most challenging time of year by Mongolians, especially the herders because livestock are thin and weak after a long winter, and rain is rare. Winter chills can sometimes last through to the end of April.  Animals and people are waiting for the weather to stabilise, for rain to come to bring fresh growth to the pasture and for the spring winds to move on. Once rain (or other forms of precipitation) does fall, it brings new life to Mongolia in a way like nowhere else.

Spring in your guide to Mongolia's seasons

Sand or dust storms such as this one are a frequent occurrence in Mongolia during the spring season – not just in the Gobi Desert but countrywide.

The Mongolian ger (a circular felt tent still used by families in both urban and rural Mongolia) serves as a highly functional home throughout the changing seasons in what remains one of the harshest climates in the world.  In the winter months, gers are insulated with additional felt layers providing warmth and in the summer, the canvas and felt cover can be raised to allow air to circulate. And then, when the strong spring winds blow, the shape of the ger structure with its combination of tension and compression makes it extremely wind-resistant. And when families come to migrate – whatever the season – a ger can easily be collapsed, dismantled, and packed away in a few hours prior to a herding family starting their migration.
Spring flowers in Mongolia

Spring flowers against the backdrop of the Khangai Mountains in Mongolia’s Orkhon River Valley

 

Yellow Pasqueflower Mongolia

Yellow Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla patens subsp. Flavescens (zucc.) zamelis). This beautiful wildflower is one of the first flowers of spring popping up in meadows and open forest floors in Mongolia in early May.

But, don’t let the weather put you off from experiencing Mongolia’s spring season. Just make sure to pack a windproof jacket and a scarf to protect yourself from the dusty wind as well as thermals and sunglasses. Spring is one of the most industrious times of year for herders and one of the most fascinating times of year to experience Mongolia – especially with the newborn offspring and the cashmere harvest – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/the-mongolian-herding-calendar

For those visiting Ulaanbaatar in May, the annual marathon takes place on the third Saturday of May. Even if you’re not a runner, the car-free street day that coincides with the Ulaanbaatar Marathon provides a great opportunity to explore the city on foot or by bike. For those keen to compete there are two race categories – professional and amateur with the professional race covering 42km and 21 km.

Visit for – the Kazakh New Year of Nauryz, the start of the livestock giving birth, and the cashmere harvest. Before the pandemic, a Yak Festival was held in the Khankhongor soum (district) of Omnogobi Province (the southern Gobi).


Summer

Late May to August, the busiest time of year for international visitors. Expect a mixed bag weatherwise –  changeable with sunshine most days, but also cloud and rain with some humidity.

Summer is one of the busiest seasons of the year for Mongolian herding families. Family life is fluid at this time of year as July and August bring summer rains that bring fresh grass growth and livestock are moved looking for the rich summer pasture so they can fatten, enabling them to survive the harsh winter. Summer is also known as the White Season due to the processing of the livestock’s milk into other dairy products such as airag (fermented mare’s milk), orom (clotted cream) and aruul (hard cheese).

Schools typically have a long summer holiday (breaking up in early June until the start of September) and this is typically when Mongolian families go on holiday. Mongolian families can be loud and boisterous but are also typically a lot of fun and very hospitable so take the time to get to know them – it makes for a great cultural experience.

Summer is also festival season with the highlight of Naadam (the Three Manly Sports) taking place throughout the country. But there are also some great music festivals including 

  • Playtime – features indie, punk, and folk-rock bands. It is also a birthday celebration of Mongolia’s first grunge band, Nisvanis. It typically takes place in mid-July at Hotel Mongolia, Gachuurt.
  • Spirit of Gobi –  a contemporary art & electronic music festival taking place in mid-August in the southern Gobi. (The location can change but always takes place in the Gobi.) The aim of the festival is to develop sustainable art tourism in the Gobi region as well as promoting the work of Mongolian contemporary art and music.
  • XMF Khuur Music Festival – popular locally, XMF aims to put new and hidden talent on the stage and also brings in a wide range of international artists.

 

Visit for – the highlight of the Naadam Festival, the Yak and Felt Festival held in the Orkhon River Valley, the Danshig Naadam Festival, a general insight into the herding way of life, and green steppe.

Mongolian wrestlers in the annual Naadam Festival in your guide to Mongolia's seasons

Mongolian wrestlers doing their famous ‘eagle dance’ prior to competing at the national wrestling competition during the Naadam Festival. Naadam showcases the ‘Three Manly Sports’ of wrestling, archery and horse racing.


Autumn

September and October, not very crowded, dry, sunny, clear and cool. Day 0-20°C; Night -5 to +5°C

There is a Mongolian saying that goes, ‘Autumn is after Naadam’ and in the Mongolian Lunar Calendar, autumn is often highlighted as starting around August 6-8.  Naturally, autumn is a time of spectacular colour. 

Yes, Gorkhi-Terelj is the closest national park to Ulaanbaatar and is very developed (some would say overdeveloped) for the tourist industry (the main valley was first developed for tourism in 1964) but it shares a common border with Khan Khentii and the two reserves are similar. Between the two sites, altitudinal variation is significant, leading to the development of different habitats but both support large areas of forest-steppe and mountain steppe, with alpine habitats on higher peaks. The area is rich in rivers and streams, including the Terelj and Tuul and these water sources together with the rainfall in this mountainous region brings life to the pastureland – providing grazing for the livestock of the herding families who make this area their home. These herders include Naraa, Bujee (his wife) and their two children Tsindee and Bayasa – the family we work with in long-term local community partnership with in the region.

Nature is still visible before the start of the long hibernation period with birds such as the Demoiselle Crane gathering in large flocks to start their annual migration. There is also harvesting of the wheat and barley crops and the cutting of the winter grass that will be used as fodder for the livestock. School starts on September 1st and loans are asked from banks to pay school fees (or animals are sold to pay for it).

Autumn is our favourite time for visiting the Gobi Desert (because it is cooler) and also Khentii Province (because the mud roads have had time to dry out).

The Spirit Mongolia Open International Horseback Archery Tournament takes place in September.  Horseback archery is making a comeback in Mongolia through local organisations and groups such as the Mongolian Horseback Archery Association МҮМХХолбоо, the ‘Khan Mongol’ Horse Riders Association and the Namnaa horse archery academy. They are getting local Mongolians fired up and passionate and wanting to learn the ancient Mongol sport of horseback archery and are organsing competitions such as the Spirit Mongolia Open Horseback Archery Tournament.

Mongolian horseback archery in our guide to the best time to travel to Mongolia

Image from Mongolian Horseback Archery Association МҮМХХолбоо

Autumn sees eagle festivals taking place in Bayan Ulgii Province in western Mongolia celebrating the Mongol Kazakh culture and focusing on the relationship between eagle hunter and eagle. As an observer, the festivals will provide you with a wealth of cultural experience as you mix in the company of small-town folk, herders, and Mongolia’s Kazakh hunters. Be prepared for crowds though.

Traditional Kazakh horse games

Visit for – the Eagle Festivals in Sagsai / Ölgii in western Mongolia, star gazing, and fewer visitors.


Winter

November – February, winter is the quietest of Mongolia’s seasons. It is dry but bitterly cold

Winter is a quintessential Mongolian season. It is cold, very cold, but the cold is an important part of what makes Mongolia and its landscapes extraordinary at this time of year.  The Mongolian Lunar New Year falls in January or February with visitors being welcomed to celebrate one of the most important times of the year in the Mongolian calendar. Although the temperatures can scare at first sight, it is a very dry cold and with the right clothes -25 ° C in Mongolia could be compared with – 5 ° C in Europe. However, the concept of cold is very subjective!

From the winter solstice on, winter in Mongolia is classified into 9 sets of nine days (it’s set from the lunar calendar and understood as the 81 days of winter or the nine nines. Here’s our guide). Mongolians in the countryside didn’t always have the luxury of knowing the date or time so a set of ‘standards’ were set that herders used to determine where they were in winter.)

Multiple festivals take place throughout the winter months. Here’s our guide – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/winter-festivals-in-mongolia/. These events play an important part in the winter calendar for the local communities that host them at what can be quite an isolating time of year.

Horse sleigh Khovsgol Lake Mongolia

Visit for – the challenge of winter, Mongolian Lunar New Year, winter festivals such as the Khovsgol Ice Festival, remarkable light

For more ideas on when and where to travel in Mongolia, take a look at the range of experiences we offer in Mongolia. Alternatively, get in touch with any questions you may have.

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I'm Jess Brooks, the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia and the voice behind EL's blog posts. For more than a decade, since 2006, I've been based in Mongolia, working closely with my beloved Mongolian team to advocate for a tourism approach that brings about positive change.. What sets our blog apart is our deep understanding of Mongolia—our home. Unlike content from influencers or creators, our posts prioritise authenticity and firsthand knowledge as guiding principles.
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