One of my favorite places I’ve ever been, Mongolia is about as exotic and different from my regular life as I can get. We flew into Ulan Baator, and I have to say it’s is not a very pretty city. It is full of boxy Soviet buildings that are in many states of disrepair. Thankfully, our plan was to get out of the city as soon as possible.
We did this by booking a private driver and van to take our small group on a nine day foray across the steppes. I love the word “steppes.” I love that they are barren, rather treeless, windswept, and seemingly never-ending. Beautiful.
Our drive took us from the capital to the one real sight to see, the Old capital city of Karakorum, then to the far-flung Orkhon Valley as well as to a small part of the Gobi desert. We only traveled on pavement for the first 100 kilometers or so. After that we were on dirt tracks or at times, just grass with no discernible path. Our driver was fantastic, informative, spoke English, and best of all was adept at fixing up our Russian van each evening so it would keep going the next day. We got lost twice where he had to pull up to a random ger (yurt) and ask for directions.
Some of the highlights of the trip were seeing truly nomadic people setting up their summer camps, milking and taking care of their yaks and goats, eating a Mongolian dumpling, listening to a throat singer, watching some apprentice acrobats, and getting to know our driver.
If you haven’t been to Mongolia, I would go. If you are an adventurous traveler this really is the place for you!
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