This September, I have been more restless than usual. Maybe it’s our small apartment, or the fact that we have barely left the city since we arrived to D.C, but I have been rifling through old travel photos more often than usual lately and keep coming back to these photos from my trip to Mongolia last year.
Mongolia is one of those places that turns out exactly how you imagined it. Everything from the sweeping landscapes dotted with yurts to the herds of horses roaming across the steppe not only met but exceeded my expectations.
If you are considering traveling to Mongolia, summer is going to be your best bet. The capital, Ulaanbaatar, is not much to look at, even in the summer, but I hear that the pollution is almost unbearable in the winter. Also, it’s the world’s coldest capital, with winter temperatures dipping below minus 40 fahrenheit. Plus, Mongolia is all about the landscape. So yeah, summer.
You may have noticed that Mongolian is written in cyrillic, but settle down comrades, because the two languages are entirely unrelated. For amazing views of the city, we went for a drink at the Blue Sky Hotel and Tower (the tall building just off the main square in the photo above).
After a couple of days in Ulaanbaatar, I headed to Underhaan, a small provincial city located to the south east of the capital.
Underhaan itself is pretty small, but the surrounding area was gorgeous. Although I know it’s totally normal for Mongolians, I was absolutely charmed by the fact that almost every home had a ger (yurt) in the yard.
Underhaan is also home to a buddhist monastery (where the head monk was adamant that we should take lots of pictures), where about 20 young boys were studying.
Contrary to my usual travel MO, I did not visit Mongolia for the food. To be honest, I had a hard time finding things I wanted to eat. (If you were thinking Mongolian barbecue…think again.) The cuisine is based mostly on meat, fermented dairy products, and fried pastry. We did try a few good Chinese dishes, and the capital seemed to have several good options, but out on the steppe the options were (understandably) lacking.
After the breathtaking scenery, the people I met were what made Mongolia special. Almost everyone I encountered was friendly and hospitable (although, almost all of them warned me that I should be very careful while traveling there.) This woman had just voted when we met, and was tickled to show off her beautiful clothes for my photo.
I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this man rounding up his camels in the middle of the steppe. My grandparents have always had a lot of horses (at one point during my childhood they had almost ten!) and to this day my grandpa uses his four wheeler to round them up and bring them back into the corral. The similarities between people, places, and situations,even when they are over 5000 miles away, is sometimes striking.
While driving across the steppe, without a road in sight, we stopped to ask these boys for directions.
Horses remain a very important part of Mongolian culture, and herds of horses roamed free everywhere on the steppe.