Mongolia, the Most Deserted Country in the World
If you ask me what there is to see in Mongolia, I’d tell you it’s mainly sheep, goats, horses, ‘gers’*, vast and empty landscapes and nomadic people. It’s the most deserted country in the world, which means that you can drive for hours without seeing a soul. In case you’re wondering why you should even think about visiting Mongolia if there is nothing to see or do, stay tuned. For a place that offers very little entertainment as we know it, you’ll find that I’m most raving about this extraordinary country, including its sheep, goats and horses.
* A ‘ger’ is a traditional tent.
Why is this rural place worth a visit? With its unique culture and antiquated development, it will make you feel like you’re living inside a National Geographic documentary. The people are extremely friendly. Besides, it’s the most peaceful place I’ve been to in my life, with absolutely no distractions; no cellphone reception, internet connection or tv. You’ll spend your time going for long walks, riding a horse or milking the goats. See, I told you the goats got me all excited!
Honestly, it’s fantastic. Sure, you can switch off your phone in other countries, or even at home. Sure, you can see amazing landscapes elsewhere. But the idea that you’re so far away from everything, sleeping in your ger surrounded by beautiful nature just makes it extra special.
Now don’t think that it will be comfortable. I wouldn’t particularly recommend this place for your honeymoon, unless you’re into that kind of stuff. You get to sleep in a ger, sometimes shared with others. Sometimes you’ll have a mattress, sometimes you sleep on a piece of wood covered by a dirty rug. Sometimes there may be a goat inside your ger, or a bunch of crickets. Sometimes it’ll be freezing cold, or maybe you’ll add too much wood to your fire and you’ll be stuck inside your sauna-ger. Once, I slept next to a box full of dried meat. The reason I’m telling you all this, is because of my lesson learned: never travel without your own sheets and pillow case. But in spite of this slight physical discomfort, it will be the most relaxing vacation you could ever go on!
But don’t think that you’ll get to take regular showers. On a 12 day trip, I got a shower 4 times. On day 1 and 12, and twice in between. For this shower we walked a mile, got bitten by a BUNCH of mosquitos, got cold water only, and we were dirty by the time we got back. Like I said, personally I would have different hopes and dreams for my honeymoon. And about the bathrooms… You can opt to go to the ‘toilets’ available just outside the camps, although I would recommend utilizing all the space that Mongolia has to offer and enjoying the view while you’re at it.
Unless you have unlimited time and patience to wait for the limited public transportation available, it’s necessary to organize a car and driver. We met one or two adventurous people that were crossing the Asian continent on their own bike, but if you’re not lucky enough to have the time, money or balls to go on a similar trip – stick with the car and driver. We went on a 12 day tour, visiting some of the highlights of the country. Don’t think there are any roadsigns available outside Ulaanbaatar… If it hadn’t been for our Chuka, who knew exactly at which bush to turn right and at which rock to keep left, we wouldn’t have seen a thing.
Because of Chuka we got to see all kinds of beautiful landmarks, with exotic names such as ‘Baga Gazriin Chuluu’ and ‘Tsagaan Suvarga’. We visited the Khongor sand dune in the Gobi desert. Got to swim in the Terkh white lake. And we saw a whole lot of sheep, goats, horses and camels on the way! The country is truly beautiful, whichever way you decide to go.
Highlights of the Trip
- Getting to try ‘airag’ – the local delicacy, also known as fermented horse milk. Truly the most awful thing I’ve tasted in my life. Of course I couldn’t show my friendly host how shocked I was by the taste, so I ended up swallowing quite a bit of it.
- Driving for 8 hours and reaching a bridge that was broken. The response of Chuka, our friendly driver who was not fluent in English (at all): “Oh. Tomorrow, drive back. 350km.” What? After I suggested we drive through the river – after all, it was worth a try, I figured – Chuka was awesome enough to give it a go and off we went. THROUGH the river!
- Staying with a local family, whose children were the cutest!
- Visiting the local museum, proudly presented by the staff of the national park we were entering. It displayed the local fauna, in the form of stuffed animals. However, these poor animals looked so distorted and abused, it was very entertaining…
- We booked our car and driver through a company called Khongor Expedition. The staff was amazing!
- Check out the latest requirements before getting your Mongolian visa. There have been some changes, you may not need one anymore.
- Keep in mind that camels really stink. I don’t really know what you can do to prepare for it, but just know what you’re in for when you book that camel trip through the Gobi desert!