Thirteenth-century conqueror Chinggis (Genghis) Khan – who built the world’s largest-ever contiguous empire – is Mongolia’s most famous figure. And, he still looms large today. Book early to visit its capital city Ulaanbaatar and scenic surrounds during July’s big national games.
Where To Eat + Drink
So, uh, there’s a lot of mutton here. But, you’d be remiss in not trying comfort-food classics, like Khuushuur, fried flat mutton dumplings, and Tsuivan, mutton stew served with hand-cut noodles. A meal at a guanz, or Mongolian canteen, will set you back less than $3.50. Or, enjoy the fine-dining version at Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace’s KK Lounge. A favourite local drink is Suutei Tsai, or salted milk tea, served in a small bowl with most meals. Want more kick? Sample Mongolian vodka by brands like Chinggis or Soyombo.
What To Do
Explore Ulaanbaatar at its most vibrant during Naadam Festival, the country’s biggest sporting event, held in the National Sports Stadium every July. Drive to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park to gape at the Turtle Rock and 10-metre-tall, shiny steel Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue. Or, splurge on a 10-day horse countryside trek – Stepperiders will take you past extinct volcanoes and Huvsgul Lake, and introduce you to a reindeer-herding family (from about $1,852 per person).
Where To Shop
Head to Hunnu Mall for your retail therapy while your LO loves life at the Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs located in the mall. Otherwise, pick up high-quality cashmere products, wool felt goods and silverwork at Mary & Martha chain, a top-rated shop – thanks, in part, to its mostly ethically sourced items.
Where To Stay
In the city, Zaya is a no-frills-but-chill hostel (from $27 a night), whereas Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace offers luxe lodgings (from $145 a night). For a true Mongolian experience, stay with a nomadic family in a ger, a round tent covered with animal skins. Book through eco-adventure company GER to GER.
Getting There + Around
Air China and Cathay Pacific offer one-stop flights that range from 10 hours and up (depending on the length of your layover — in Beijing or Hong Kong, respectively). Though you can rent your own 4WD vehicle from companies like Drive Mongolia (price upon request), driving in the city can be manic, and the country roads are quite bumpy (tip: Save offline GPS maps on your phone). Typically, it’s best to hire an experienced driver, which you can do through the same site – and without the hefty $1,000 USD security deposit.
Some text adapted from www.straitstimes.com, www.thepeakmagazine.com.sg
Additional Reporting: Joshua Tan
More on The Finder: