A herd of yaks in the Orkhon River Valley - part of our local travel experiences in Mongolia
Local Travel Experiences In Mongolia
September 2, 2018
Khentii Province – Eastern Mongolia
September 17, 2018
A close up of the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue at Tsonjin Boldog in Mongolia

Popular Questions About Mongolia

Why are the autumn eagle festivals so close together? What is the best time of year to visit Mongolia? What’s the currency of Mongolia?  Not answers to all the questions I have ever been asked over the past 13 years but certainly some!

What’s the typical landscape of Mongolia?

That’s the problem. There is no typical landscape. Apart from maybe the immensity. 

Mongolians typically divide their country into three – Gobi (desert), tal herem bus (steppe) and Khangai (mountain). 

Mongolian gers in the wide open steppe landscape of Mongolia. One of the popular questions about Mongolia is about what is a typical landscape.

Mongolian gers in the wide open steppe landscape of Mongolia. What is the typical landscape of Mongolia is a popular question about Mongolia.

There’s the Gobi Desert to the south (the fifth largest desert in the world but only 3% is sand), the wide low, stretching grasslands in the east, the Altai mountains (Mongolia’s highest mountains) that dominate western Mongolia and then mountain/forest steppe in the central/northern regions.

What’s the currency of Mongolia? 

Mongolian tögrög / tughrik  – the currency code is MNT, and the currency symbol is .  The lowest denomination in regular use is the 10-tögrög note and the highest is the 20,000-tögrög note.

Why are the  eagle festivals in Mongolia so close together? 

There are two – both held in Bayan Ulgii Province in western Mongolia. The first is held in the district of Sagsai and takes place on the third weekend in September. The second is held in the provincial capital – Ulgii, and takes place on the first weekend in October. Both are sponsored by tour companies. 

An alternative option is Nauryz  which  means ‘new day’ and is the spring festival that is celebrated through Central Asia and falls on the spring equinox. It is essentially a celebration of the coming of spring. In Ulgii in Western Mongolia, there is a two-day eagle festival and celebration with a colourful parade in Ulgii.

What is the best time of year to visit Mongolia?

Hard one this!

The typical season is May through to September with July being peak season because of  Naadam – the three manly sports.

Mongolian children on their horses at the start line of a Naadam Festival horse race. What time of year to visit Mongolia is one of the popular questions about Mongolia

What time of year to visit Mongolia is a popular question on Mongolia. Naadam is peak season with visitors coming to experience the festival and to see images like this – Mongolian children on their horses at the start line of a Naadam Festival horse race.

Spring is March to May – with very few visitors – it is dry but can be very windy. Autumn is September and October and it’s not very crowded, dry, sunny but starting to get chilly.  Winter (November – February) is the quietest time of year – it’s typically dry but bitterly cold.

Sand storms such as this one are a frequent occurrence in Mongolia during the spring season - not just in the Gobi Desert but countrywide. What time of year is best to visit is always a popular question about Mongolia.

What time of year to visit Mongolia is a popular question about Mongolia. Spring can be windblown but it is one of the most industrious times of year for Mongolian herders and gives you as a visitor a very real insight.

 At any time of year, Mongolia is not a pack light destination!

What’s the difference between Outer Mongolia and Inner Mongolia?

Basically, Inner Mongolia is in China whereas Outer Mongolia refers to the actual country of Mongolia.

Historically, both were part of the Mongol Empire. But, China took control of Inner Mongolia in the 1630’s  and it has remained a province (Autnomous Region) of China ever since.

Having become part of China in 1690, (Outer) Mongolia regained independence from China (for the final time) in 1921. It became a democracy in 1990 after the fall of the USSR.

What language do they speak in Mongolia?

Mongolian! 

A mosaic depicting the Orkhon Waterfall in Ovorkhangai Aimag in Mongolia, decorating the end of a building in Ulaanbaatar. What language is spoken is a popular question about Mongolia.

What language do they speak in Mongolia is a popular question about Mongolia. They speak Mongolian but use the Cyrillic alphabet.

However, they use the Cyrillic alphabet in Mongolia (with latin alphabet for text messages and social media!) but in Inner Mongolia they have retained the traditional vertical script based on the Uighur alphabet.

Don’t be put off by the fact that he travel author Tim Severin described the Mongolian language as being similar to:

‘Two cats coughing and spitting at each other until one finally throws up.’

How do I get to Mongolia? 

There are currently five airlines that fly into the capital city – Ulaanbaatar (UB). With each airline, you transfer through their main transit hub for your flight to UB.  

  • Air China – via Beijing
  • Korean Air – via Seoul
  • Turkish Airlines – via Istanbul
  • Aeroflot – via Moscow
  • MIAT – via various hubs


And of course there is the second option of the Trans Mongolian / Siberian railway. There are both local and international trains but either way, express route this is not. 

Early morning light on the platform at the Ulaanbaatar Railway Station. The logistics around getting to Mongolia remain a popular question on Mongolia.

Local and international trains are (slow) options when arriving or departing from Mongolia. The logistics around getting to Mongolia remain a popular question on Mongolia.

Will there be a problem with altitude in Mongolia?

Not really. Mongolia is one of the highest countries in the world – over 80% is over 1000 metres – Ulaanbaatar itself is at 1350m above sea level. Khuiten Peak is Mongolia’s highest mountain at 4,374 m (14,350 feet). It is one of five peaks of Tavan Bogd National Park but unless you’re a mountaineer (this is a technical climb) then you probably won’t be climbing it.

I’m vegetarian. Is this a problem?

No. 

Of course, you have to bear in mind that this is Mongolia so there are restrictions in place to what is available. Anyone travelling with personal dietary requirements must be prepared to be flexible.

Being a country of herders, meat will always top the chart.  You will now see local market stalls and western-style supermarkets, with trolleys and shelves proudly saying ‘Made in Mongolia.’ Local seasonal produce is available such as blueberries, strawberries, and blackcurrants, wild onions, rhubarb, pine nuts, watermelons (small and fresh), cucumbers or tomatoes and salad leaves.

Do be prepared that in rural areas there will be more limitations in place – meals will be meat based with potatoes making a decent showing sometimes followed by carrots, cabbage and onions and that’s about it. And you will still come across the odd rural shop that has just the one onion on the shelf. Remember that most herding families still use mutton fat for cooking (rather than sunflower oil).

If you’re interested in visiting Mongolia,  then why not pop across to the Eternal Landscapes Mongolia website to see what we’re offering. Alternatively, just email me (jess@eternal-landscapes.co.uk) – I’m always happy to be of help and all advice is free with no sales pitch.

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I’m Jess Brooks. I have been based in Mongolia since 2006 and am the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia - a registered Mongolian business and social travel enterprise that focuses on providing travellers with a real 21st Century insight into Mongolia that supports local communities. I'm also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society - awarded for my work in Mongolia and a published guidebook author - having worked together with World Adventure Guides to produce a digital interactive guide to Mongolia. http://www.jessbrooks.co.uk/
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