If you’re looking to explore a destination that’s both under the radar and chock full of enjoyable activities and incredible sights, then look no further than Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia’s capital city boasts a host of must-do activities for curious minded and adventurous travelers alike. You can wander through museums and temples, hike among some incredible rock formations, or take a ride on a roller coaster. When you’re on the road, it can be hard to pinpoint the best attractions in each destination. But with this curated list of the best things to do in Ulaanbaatar, you can make the most of your journey!
Tsagaan sar, the Mongolia’s Lunar new year is the biggest long-awaited holiday in Mongolia. It is widely celebrated throughout the country around January or February according to the combination of Solar-Lunar calendar that Mongolians use. It is a celebration of passing long harsh winter and welcoming a spring as well as welcoming new year. Furthermore, Tsagaan Sar is a family celebration as all relatives gather at the elders’ home to greet and wish all the best to each other for the following year. The festival lasts for 3-14 days depending on the region. It is non-working national holidays in Mongolia for 3 days.
Ger (aka Yurt) has been a reliable accommodation of the nomads of Central Asia for the last three thousand years. Surprisingly, due to its unique characteristics, ger is still used by Mongolian nomads nowadays. Interesting traditions involving gers include that the altar space usually serves as the traditional seating area for elders or respected leaders. Ger’s western half is considered the male part of the dwelling, while the eastern is where women lives and works. In 2013, the traditional craftsmanship of the Mongolian Ger and its associated customs was recognized as part of our Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
Mongolia celebrates many festivals and celebrations throughout the year, and one of the most important of them is Naadam festival which is held in summer months all over the country. While the national celebration of Naadam is held on 11th and 12th of July every year in the central stadium, each province and soum (equivalent to villages) also organize their own local Naadam festival throughout summer months, mostly in July and August. Given its importance and unique celebrations, Naadam was registered in Unesco`s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
Many think that Mongolian winter is unbearably cold and there isn't much to do and see in Mongolia during the winter. However, Mongolian winters are incredibly beautiful and there are plenty to see and enjoy! Glittering white snow, clear fresh air with sun shining almost everyday, and of course, adventure! In recent years, dog sledding tours are trending during the long winter in Mongolia.
Khoomei or Throat singing is one of the most representative traditional arts of Mongolia. Khoomei was originated when people started imitating the voice of nature and animals many thousand years ago, and around 19th century, Khoomei was first developed as an art. Mongolian throat singing was registered in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, as an art native to Mongolia in 2010. At its meeting in Nairobi, the UNESCO Council inscribed Mongolian Khoomii in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of mankind.
If you are a big fan of dairy products, then Mongolia is for you! For over thousands of years, Mongolian nomads have developed many different ways to process the milk into very unique dairy products. It is estimated that Mongolian nomads make about 150 different types of dairy products, including cheese, yogurt, curd, fermented drinks and many more. Cows, yaks, and mares are the main source of dairy products but depending on the region, goat, sheep and camel milks are used as well. Dairy production can last from mid-April till October as the livestock usually dry off by October when food becomes scarce.
“Nomads on horses” is what comes to mind of many upon hearing the word “Mongolia”. Indeed, nomadic culture is engrained into every part of Mongolian lifestyle and culture. Mongolians have been nomads for thousands of years, sustaining their life on Central Asian plateau by relying on their domesticated livestock. Today, about 30% of the country`s population is still leading nomadic lifestyle all over the country, and as there are not many truly nomadic cultures left on earth, Mongolia has become an unique destination to visit for many tourists.
This fantastic festival celebrating the honored Golden Eagles is also a celebration of Kazakh traditional heritage. Kazakhs are a minority group, living in Western Mongolia, and they make up about 5% of the country`s population. They are distinctly different from the majority group in Mongolia, the Khalkha, as Kazakhs speak their own language and worship Islam while the rest of country is Buddhist.
Buddhism and monasteries are one of main attractions for many while traveling to Mongolia, and average tourists visit at least 2 monasteries when traveling in Mongolia. Most popular monasteries include Erdenezuu Monastery in Karakorum, Amarbayasgalant Monastery in the northern Mongolia, Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar and Tuvkhun Khiid in Orkhon Valley area. As you most likely will visit handful monasteries while on your Mongolian tour, it is useful to know few things that you should keep in mind while visiting.
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