When travellers are thinking of visiting Mongolia they often get asked......."But why"? Or even "but where is it"?
So, for those of you considering travelling to this amazing country, here is a bit of an introduction to help you make your decision.
If you’re looking for an adjective to describe Mongolia then vast is a good place to start. Completely landlocked between Russia to the north and China to the south, Mongolia is the 18th largest country with a land area of 1,564,116 km² - roughly equivalent to that of all the countries of Western Europe.
But, mirroring the immensity of the land is the immensity of the sky as well - leading to it being known as the ‘Land of the Eternal Blue Sky.’
Its population is 3,238,479 (Mongolia Statistical Information Service April 2019). That makes it one of the least densely populated countries in the world.
The country is not just vast but remarkably diverse. Located at the crossroads of the Central Asian steppe, the Siberian tundra, and the Gobi Desert, Mongolia hosts a range of globally significant biodiversity.
Mongolians typically divide their country into three central landscapes - the Gobi, Tal and Khangai (desert, steppe, and mountain) but we have divided it into five geographical sections plus the capital city Ulaanbaatar.
At an altitude of 1350m, the capital city of Mongolia (Ulaanbaatar - Red Hero) has its origins as a nomadic city. It is now home to approximately 45% of Mongolia’s population. It has a mix of architectural styles - 18th-century Buddhist temples, semi-permanent ger districts, Soviet-era town planning, and modern buildings.
Eastern Mongolia is dominated by the history of Chinggis Khan, the Khan Khentii Mountains (stretching 200km across Khentii Province to the northern border with Siberia) and extensive stretching grassland (steppes) - one of the largest expanses of unspoiled, temperate grassland in the world.
The Gobi Desert
The Gobi is a fossil-rich mid-latitude desert that occupies much of southern Mongolia and north-eastern China. Within Mongolia, it covers five of Mongolia’s 21 provinces - Gobi Altai in the west through to Bayankhongor, Ömnögobi (Southern Gobi), Dundgobi (middle Gobi) and Dorngobi (East Gobi).
Western Mongolia is dominated by the Mongol Altai Mountains. This major mountain chain - Mongolia's highest - is a region of intensive mountain building and high seismic activity. It is a continuation of the Altai Mountains of Siberia and summits reach 4000m plus and are covered with permanent snow, ice and glaciers. Western Mongolia is also home to one of Mongolia’s ethnic groups - the Kazakhs.
The Khangai Mountains are one of the three main mountain chains in Mongolia and form the backdrop to the central heartland along with river valleys (the Khangai give rise to Mongolia’s major rivers) and both forest and alpine meadow steppe. This area is also rich in history relating to the Hunnu, the Turks and the Mongol Empire as well as the founding of Buddhism in Mongolia.
The northern region consists of dense coniferous forests of pine and larch - where the southern edge of the circumpolar boreal forest meets the steppe of Central Asia. Considered highlights include Khovsgol Nuur National Park and the Darkhad Depression, home to the Tsaatan, a community of nomadic reindeer herders.
Over the next few weeks we will be adding more information about this incredible place.