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Tips Mongolia

Written by DanielaZavala. Posted in Asia, Tips

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Published on June 12, 2009 with No Comments

MONGOLIA: FACTS FOR THE TRAVELER

HOW TO GET THERE: Most tours to Gobi and other destinations within Mongolia departure from Ulaanbaatar, the country’s capital. There are a few airlines with direct flights to Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar including Korean Air (from Seoul), Mongolian Airlines (from Beijing, Moscow, Tokyo and Berlin), and Air China (from Beijing).  To get to the city’s center from airport, you can take a taxi (between $10-15) or can arrange an airport transfer through the travel agency or hotel.

ORGANIZED TOURS AND TRAVEL AGENCIES:

Traveling independently in Mongolia is almost impossible due to the lack of infrastructure and public transportation. The best option to travel around Mongolia is to join an organized tour or to arrange a driver and a guide through a travel agency.  There are options to fit different budgets and special needs.

Black Ibex Expeditions: #302. Mongolia Insurance-1. 5 Khoroo, Sukhbaatar District, Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia. Tel. (976) 99110410. Fax: (976) 11-318-848 http://www.discovermongolia.mn/. It offers tours to the Eagle Hunting Festival, then Naadam, the Gobi Desert and other destinations within Mongolia. It has special interest trips such as horse riding and motorcycle tours. Domestic flights can also be arranged through this agency.

Nomadic Expeditions LLC. Building 76, Suite 28. 1-40 000, Peace Avenue. Chingeltei District Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Tel. (976) 11-313-396. Fax: (976) 11-320-311 http://www.nomadicexpeditions.com. It offers private and group tours. Nomadic Expeditions arranges trip to fit special interests and preferences (history, festivals, kayaking, wildlife, or hiking among others).

Juulchin Tourism Corporation: Tavan Bogd Plaza Building, Prime Minister Amar street-2, Ulaanbaatar-2, Mongolia. Tel. (976) 11- 328428. Fax: (976) 11-320246. http://www.english.juulchin.com. It offers a varied range of tours to Ulaanbaatar, Gobi, Mongolian lakes and mountains. A private service that includes a driver and a car can be arranged through this agency for an individual or a group.

UB Guesthouse and tours: POB – 517.Central Post Office, Ulaanbaatar -13. Tel. (976) 11-311037. Fax: (976) 11-325555. It is the most popular guesthouse in Ulaanbaatar and offers both affordable accommodation and tours for budget travelers. Some of its tours include trips to Central Mongolia and Great White Lake, Terelj National Park, the Gobi Desert and Khovsgol lake.

OTAM (Open Tour Around Mongolia): Rm#504, 5th floor, Alyska building, 13th micro district, Peace avenue, Bayan zurkh district. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia/the building is across from the British embassy. Tel: (976) 88140101 www.otamecotours.com. OTAM is another option for budget travelers and it is probably one of the cheapest. It consists of a service that provides transportation to a specific route. The price includes a Russian van, a driver, a translator and petrol only. The departure of the tour though will depend on whether all its seats in the tour are occupied.

Stepperiders: A horse trekking company that offers horseback riding adventures of different length in the Mongolian countryside, including some trips during the Naadam Festival. http://www.stepperiders.com. Tel. (976) 96659596/ (976) 99982412. Email: info@stepperiders.com

Money: Credit cards and travel checks are widely accepted in Ulaanbaatar. There are also ATMs in the country’s capital. However, once you are in the countryside, cash in the local currency—the Mongolian Turgik—is the only accepted method of payment.

WHERE TO STAY:

Accommodations in Mongolia are hard-pressed to measure up to Western standards, whether you’re staying in a “top-end” hotel, a guesthouse, or a hostel.  The well-known, five-star Ulaanbaatar Hotel has a good location but is in need of urgent renovations. The three-star Narantuul Hotel and Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace have spacious, clean rooms, helpful staff, and a central location. The Continental Hotel is another, newer option. UB Guesthouse and tours is the most popular guesthouse in Ulaanbaatar and offers both affordable accommodation and tours for budget travelers. Travelers on a budget can try the Nassan, Oyuna Guesthouse, LG Guesthouse or Idre’s Guesthouse.

WHERE TO EAT:

Restaurants and bars in Ulaanbatar: For really good breakfast or lunch, check out Millie’s, located on the right side of the Choijin Lama Museum. The Verandah restaurant is located in back of the Central Library and offers good dinner with a pleasant terrace. For drinks, check out the Grand Khaan Irish Pub, a meeting point for Mongolians and foreigners located in the southern part of the Sukhbaatar Square. For real Mongolian food, just hit the streets and try any of the thousands of small cafes spread all over Ulaanbaatar!

MONEY: Credit cards and travel checks are widely accepted in Ulaanbaatar. There are also ATMs in the country’s capital. However, once you are in the countryside, cash in the local currency—the Mongolian Turgik—is the only accepted method of payment.

ATTRACTIONS:

 Gobi Desert:

 Covering 30 percent of Mongolia, the Gobi is different from any desert in the world. It extends in a vast, complex, and diverse territory with different ecosystems that include sand dunes, endless steppes, pastures, arid soil, and rugged mountains.

 Yolyn Am: Yolyn Am National Park is one of the most spectacular and fascinating places in the Gobi. Located in the Gurvansaikhan Mountains of southern Mongolia, Yolyn Am is a narrow valley between sheer granite walls. These high rock formations hide the narrowest part of a large glacier.

El Karakorum: El Karakorum or Harhorin is the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire founded by Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century. Very little is left of Karakorum, but the Erdenee Zuu Monastery still stands nearby. Shielded by walls decorated with 108 stupas, this sixteenth-century religious center is one of the most important landmarks of Mongolia.

The Flaming Cliffs or Bayanzag: This area became internationally known after Dr. Roy Andrews Chapman found dinosaur eggs and fossils there in the 1920s. The archeological finds are now in a spectacular exhibition in the Natural History Museum in Ulaanbaatar (Juulchin Street 1. Ulaanbaatar 46. Mongolia. Tel (976) 11 324543. http://www.nationalmuseum.mn. Opening hours 10am-5:30pm).The Flaming Cliffs are an incredible natural site with canyon formations that turn bright red and orange depending of the time of day. The sunset is especially stunning.

 The Khongor Sand Dunes: Located in the South Gobi, these sand dunes extend about 180 kilometers in length and reach 500 meters in height. Although the staggering size of the dunes is impressive, the surroundings are no less fascinating. Lush steppes and a wandering river sit at the bottom of the massive sand dunes, and rugged black mountains run beside them. The sun’s beams change the colors of the dunes throughout the day. Climb to the highest dune to enjoy a pinkish sunset.

 Templo Ongiin Hiid: Located in an arid area surrounded by mountains, the Ongiin Temple was built in 1760. It was the home of thousands of lamas until 1930, when 17,000 monks were killed during the Stalinist purges.

 Naadam Festival: Equivalent to the Mongolian Olympics, this event consists of competitions in the “three manly sports”: wrestling, archery, and horse racing. It is said that this tradition started during the times of Genghis Khan. Nowadays, the Naadaam is a national holiday. People from all over the nation come to the capital by jeep, car, horse, camel—you name it—just to be part of it. Taking place every July 11 and 12, the Naadaam begins with a lively ceremony in the main auditorium of Ulaanbaatar with elaborate dances and musical acts to welcome and wish good luck to athletes coming from different regions of Mongolia. Prior to the national Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar, there are small local Naadam festivals in villages across the countryside, which allow one to watch the competitions up close. I particularly recommend seeing not only the lavish ceremony in Ulaanbaatar but also experiencing the more traditional and intimate local Naadam of the countryside.

 Eagle Hunting Festival: The annual Eagle Hunting Festival is one of the most fascinating local events in Mongolia besides the Naadam. Hundreds of Kazakh people gather in this event to celebrate an ancient custom: hunting with specially trained and impressive eagles. The festival takes place in Ulgii, the capital of the Bayan-Ulgii province, in Western Mongolia between mid September and early October. A trip to this festival can be combined with a tour around the high Altai rocky mountains and surrounding lakes.

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