Mongolia - Abbey Travel, Ireland


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Welcome to Mongolia


Mongolia is an unlikely tourist destination but one that proves irresistible to lovers of wide-open spaces, untamed wilderness and raw natural beauty. Outside of the capital Ulaanbaatar, where over half the population lives, visitors encounter a land blissfully unaffected by the modern world. It is a journey back in time where nomadic lifestyles are perfectly in tune with the natural rhythms of the landscape, and the people are renowned for their warmth and hospitality.

Mongolia is three times the size of France and twice the size of Texas, yet with under three million people, it is the most sparsely populated country on earth. The main economic activity is livestock tending, although the country's considerable mineral wealth is beginning to be exploited.

Key attractions are the Gobi Desert with its astounding Khongor sand dunes; the varied sights of Gorkhi-Terelj National Park; vast and pristine Khövsgöl Lake near Moron; and Karakorum, former capital of the Mongol Empire and home to Mongolia's most important monastery. Throughout it all there is the amazing scenery, ranging from desert steppes to snow-clad mountains, that is earning this country a reputation as an ideal destination for adventurers embarking on camel trekking, 4X4 excursions, rock climbing and desert safaris.

Ulaanbaatar itself is more a functional centre with few must-see attractions to speak of. One worthwhile site, however, is the National Museum of History (with an entire floor dedicated to Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol Empire). Under his grandson Kublai Khan, Mongolia became the world's first superpower, spanning from modern-day Korea to Poland and encompassing 22 percent of the globe at its peak.

Democracy only came to Mongolia in 1990, after being under the yoke of Soviet Russia for most of the 20th century. The most destructive consequence of that regime was the systematic eradication of the native Buddhist faith. Over 7,000 monasteries were destroyed, with only four surviving. Over 20,000 monks were killed. Today, Buddhism is once again flourishing and people are rejoining the traditions that have sustained them for centuries.

Information & Facts


The most important aspect of Mongolian social etiquette is the ideal of hospitality. Mongolians are famously welcoming of foreigners, although they expect - in return - that visitors show respect for Mongolian culture, by being enthusiastic and compliant guests. Travellers who enjoy 'roughing it' will probably find more success in Mongolia if they maintain their personal appearance - dirty clothes, long hair, and unkempt beards are generally frowned upon. Vodka-drinking is an inveterate feature of Mongolian culture, and being able to 'hold your liquor' is probably your shortest route to social acceptance. Finally, although there are some harsh standards of conduct, and high expectations placed on Mongolian women, these do not apply to foreigners.

Duty Free

Travellers to Mongolia may bring with them up to 200 cigarettes/50 cigars/250g of tobacco, one litre of vodka, two litres of wine, three litres of beer, and personal goods valued up to US$1,000. Pornographic materials and narcotics are prohibited.

Khalka Mongol predominately, with some Turkic and Russian
Passport Visa

Foreign passengers to Mongolia who do not qualify for visa exemption AND who are holding confirmation of a pre-arranged visa, can obtain a single-entry visa on arrival at Chinggis Khaan International Airport (ULN), provided that (i) their passport is valid for at least one year beyond the date of their arrival in Mongolia; (ii) they are in possession of two passport photos; (iii) they are arriving from a country without diplomatic representation of Mongolia; and (iv) a sponsor in Mongolia submits a request on their behalf to the Mongolian Immigration Authority. The fee for visas issued on arrival is MNT 95000 and USD 3. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Travellers to Mongolia should not be unduly concerned about their personal safety. As in every city, exercise caution in Ulaanbaatar, especially at night, as theft has been known to occur. Watch out for pickpockets at the airport. Be careful when using public transport, or when driving yourself around Mongolia - road conditions can be poor, and visibility (especially at night) is often less than ideal.

The Amarbayasgalant Monastery (the 'Monastery of Tranquil Felicity') is one of the few Buddhist temple complexes in Mongolia that wasn't completely destroyed by the Soviets in 1937. Located in Mongolia's northern province of Silenge, the monastery is situated in a beautiful (and bizarrely fertile) valley in the shadows of the sheer cliffs of Mount Burenkhan. The monastery itself was built between 1727 and 1736 and conforms to a Chinese style of architecture, exhibiting wonderful symmetry. The plains surrounding the monastery are strewn with cherry trees and, most interestingly, Turkic-era graves of various geometric shapes dating back to the 3rd century.

The Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape is located in central Mongolia, about 225 miles (360km) west of the capital Ulaanbaatar. This fascinating area was inscribed in UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 2004, being lauded for displaying evidence of nomadic pastoral traditions dating back well over two millennia. The real reason for going there - despite the incredible trip through Mongolia's desolate interior the excursion offers - is to visit the ruins of Karakorum, the historical centre of the Mongol Empire under Genghis Kahn. Once the most powerful and wide-reaching empire in the world, visitors to the Orkhon Valley will have the opportunity to explore the ruins of the famed Xanadu Palace, as well as some excellent 8th-century Turkic memorials bearing runic inscriptions. A must-see attraction, both for those interested in Mongolia's imperial history and for those seeking wide open space and uninterrupted views of the country's steppe-strewn landscape.

For those who are serious about exploring Mongolia's furthest corners - or for those deeply interested in mankind's origins - a trip to the Petroglyphic Complexes of the Mongolian Altai is a highly recommended tourist activity. These complexes are home to the largest, best-preserved and oldest collection of rock art in north Asia, and the petroglyphs themselves document over 12,000 years of Mongolian culture. The earliest images date from the Late Pleistocene era (about 10,000 BC), and depict a cultural landscape where the surrounding valleys provided a habitat for hunters of big game. Fascinatingly, the rock art images then extend into the Scythian and Turkic Periods, and show the transition firstly to a herding culture, and then to the horse-dependent, nomadic kind of lifestyle for which Mongolia is famous. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Petroglyphic Complexes of the Mongolian Altai provide visitors with an enthralling and authentic cross-section of 12 millennia of Mongolia's history.

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