Mongolia’s Nine Nines of Winter: A Journey Through Extreme Cold and Tradition

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A Mongolian yak herder battling the winter weather conditions during winter in Mongolia
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A Mongolian yak herder battling the winter weather conditions during winter in Mongolia

Mongolia’s Nine Nines of Winter: A Journey Through Extreme Cold and Tradition

Mongolia’s climate is fiercely continental, devoid of any oceanic moderation, making it one of the coldest places on Earth. With January temperatures plummeting to -30°C and occasionally dropping below -40°C (with some regions even reaching below -50°C), Mongolia’s Nine Nines of winter serve as a measure of coldness for Mongolians.

In this ancient tradition, from the winter solstice onward, Mongolians track the winter’s progression through these Nine Nines, spanning 81 days. In a time when calendars weren’t readily available, these markers helped nomadic communities understand the season’s severity.

The Orkhon Waterfall in summer in our Mongolia's Nine Nines of Winter blog

From this – the Orkhon Waterfall in summer …

The Orkhon Waterfall taken during Mongolia's nine nines of winter

To this … the Orkhon Waterfall in winter. Learn more about the Orkhon River Valley –

Here’s a glimpse of Mongolia’s temperature guide based on the Nine Nines. I’ve even included the dates so you’ll be able to know whether to expect your vodka to freeze or your rice not to freeze.

  • 1st Nine:  December 22nd to December 30th  – Vodka made from milk (traditional shimiin arkhi) freezes
  • 2nd Nine: December 31st to January 8th –  Normal vodka freezes/congeals
  • 3rd Nine:  January 9th to January 17th –   The tail (or horns, depending on what you read) of a 3-year-old ox freeze and fall off
  • 4th Nine: January 18th to January 26th – The horns of a 4-year-old ox freeze and fall off
  • 5th Nine:  January 27th – February 4th –  Boiled rice no longer congeals and freezes
  • 6th Nine:   February 5th – February 13th –  Roads blacken (start to become visible through the snow)
  • 7th Nine:  February 14th – February 22nd – Hill tops appear from beneath snow
  • 8th Nine:  February 23rd – March 2nd   – The ground gets damp (snow melting on grass)
  • 9th Nine:  March 3rd -March 12th  Warmer days have set in (Hurrah!)
Selenge River in summer

From this – the mighty Selenge River in summer …

The Selenge River taken during one of Mongolia's nine nines of winter

To this – the mighty Selenge River in winter … Learn more here –


The 81 days finish in March … just when the spring winds arrive.

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

This ancient measurement holds significance in understanding Mongolia’s weather changes and, by extension, the impacts of the climate emergency. Since 1940, Mongolia’s average annual temperature has risen by between 1.8 C, – 2.2 C, 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 even unique to Mongolia), and sand storms, and endangering the lives and health of Mongolian people. For tens of thousands of Mongolian households – specifically herders – affected by dzud, drought, desertification, and forest and steppe fires, climate change is not distant news, but a reality and has resulted in urban migration from the countryside to Mongolia’s capital city Ulaanbaatar (UB). This is our motivation for becoming a signatory of The Glasgow Declaration, an agreement between many in the tourism industry to lead, align and galvanize on climate action. We are proud to be a signatory of the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action In Tourism (to give it its full title) –  led by the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Association) in collaboration with the Travel Foundation and Tourism Declares A Tourism Emergency (of which we are a member) within the framework of the One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme.

As travel writer Benedict Allen humorously noted in his book Edge of Blue Heaven, “On arrival and learning that the temperature was minus 18 degrees, I overheard a fellow traveller say ‘thank God. Looks like Mongolia’s enjoying a warm spell.’” If you’re intrigued by Mongolia’s Nine Nines of winter and wish to experience them for yourself, consider joining us on one of our winter tours (all with a 15% discount as part of our low season policy). We invite you to embrace this ancient tradition, experience the deep chill stillness, and uncover the unparalleled beauty of Mongolia in winter.


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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