Exploring the Interiors of Mongolia Like a Nomad

Mongolian nomads in their dwelling.

Visiting Mongolia and living with the nomads can give you a very unique experience of life. (Image: David Baxendale via Flickr)

When visiting Mongolia, many people tend to keep to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar and other urban regions. But beyond these areas lie the interiors where grasslands, deserts, and the lives of the nomads can give you a very unique experience of life.

Mongolian interiors

Nomads typically live in a ger, which is a structure without any windows that weighs around 550 pounds. When you decide to live with the nomads, this is where you will be staying. Since nomads live off the land, they are always self-sufficient.

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The people “usually have small herds of animals, which they keep for meat, milk, and trading. These animals are most commonly cows, goats, horses, sheep, and camels. You will be expected to help them in herding some of these animals, milking cows, etc. All of that could prove to be a great experience as you’ll get the chance to play a lot of traditional games a lot of the time,” according to Discover Mongolia.

Nomads in Mongolia tend to keep a herd of animals like goats.
Nomads tend to keep a herd of animals like goats. (Image: Screenshot via YouTube)

For food, you will mostly be eating pancakes for dinner. Since the nomads maintain large herds of cattle, you will also have access to dairy products. Dinner typically tends to be a barbecue. A traditional barbecue involves stuffing hot coals into the stomachs of animals like marmots or goats. As such, the meat tends to be much fattier and tougher than what you would experience back home.

When exploring Mongolian interiors like the steppe or the Gobi Desert, keep in mind that they usually have very few trees. Hence, there is no shady place to get some comfort from the scorching sun. To protect yourself, always take a scarf or bandana, hat, windbreaker, and sunscreen when venturing outside. It is better to stick to routes recommended by locals than blindly go wherever you want, since if you get lost in the vastness of the Mongolian hinterlands, it might be difficult to find your way back.

Though people usually prefer to visit Mongolia during the summer, the winter season also offers some cool sights. The steppe and Siberian borderlands will be covered in snow and frost during the winter. Just make sure that you stock up on certain supplies before a winter trip. “Ski masks, or insulated partial face masks, are crucial for keeping warm in the great outdoors, while disposable hand warmers, sock warmers and adhesive heat packs are always good to have on hand. Thermal gloves to protect against strong winds (especially while dog-sledding), and breathable synthetic or merino long underwear (never cotton!) to wear next to your skin are all very important,” according to Lonely Planet.

Plan a trip to Mongolia in the winter to see the steppe and Siberian borderlands covered in snow.
Plan a trip to Mongolia in the winter to see the steppe and Siberian borderlands covered in snow. (Image: via Pixabay)

Top spots to visit

If you wish to check out other popular tourist places in Mongolia, consider visiting the UNESCO World Heritage site of Orkhon Valley. The region has been the seat of several ancient states. “Old Turkish Orkhon inscriptions from the 8th century, the ancient 8-9th century Uighur capital of Khar Balgas, Tuvkhun Monastery established by the great Mongolian sculptor and politician Zanabazar in 1648, and the present Erdene Zuu Monastery are some of the highlights of a visit,” according to Nomadic Expeditions.

Erdene Zuu Monastery is located about a mile from Kharkhorin. Established by Abtai Khan in 1585, it had up to 100 temples at its peak. Though there are fewer temples today, the region is a very scenic place that warrants a visit. If you are looking for landscapes, check out the Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve located about 80 miles from Ulaanbaatar. Though it is just 77 square miles in size, the landscape offers diverse elements like rivers, wetlands, mountains, lakes, and so on. The wildlife consists of endangered animals.

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