The open steppe, searing deserts, huge clear blue sky, warm hospitable people, genuinely nomadic culture and starlit nights make Mongolia many peoples favourite Trans-Siberian stopover.
Mongolia is a unique destination – very different to its two giant neighbours China and Russia and although there are influences of both these countries on Mongolia given the history they’ve experienced it’s minimal with Mongolia retaining its own identity.
Any trip to Mongolia is all about getting out of the capital city Ulaanbaatar and into the countryside. There is a little bit of the nomad in each of us and Mongolia is the place to connect with that.
Our programs are designed to show you the best of what this fascinating destination has to offer in the relatively limited time a stop as part of an overall Trans-Siberian trip affords.
What NOT to do when arriving in Mongolia
DO NOT rush off the train on arrival in Ulaanbaatar as it is then when pickpockets operate! Instead wait a few minutes until most people are off & things have calmed down.
Keep a good eye on your luggage and DO NOT use porters
The Mongolian Flag
Blue is a traditional Mongolian colour and it represents the sky. The red stripes initially represented Mongolia’s socialist beliefs, but a modern interpretation means liberty and progress.
What does the soyombo means?
The soyombo is a national emblem which contains individual symbolism within it. The fire at the top of it represents prosperity, contentment and regeneration. The three flames represent the past, present and future. The sun and moon symbolize the universe and are believed by Mongolians to be the mother (sun) and father (moon) of their nation.
The triangles pointing at the ground are arrowheads and represent Mongolian’s willingness to defend their nation. The horizontal rectangles stand for honesty, justice and righteousness. The middle circle can be interpreted as the Buddhist yin and yang symbol, which represents complementary opposite forces existing together in the universe – such as positive and negative, male and female, passive and active, fire and water, etc.
The circle can also be interpreted as two fish that never close their eyes, representing the watchfulness and vigilance of Mongolians. The vertical rectangles represent pillars which symbolize strength, resolve and hardness.
General info when travelling Mongolia
More than anywhere else you have to expect just about any sort of conditions in Mongolia although in general the seasons are as you would expect them. Do bring something warm for the evenings though – even in summer.
Popular items are cashmere sweaters, felt bags, slippers and paintings. If you have space in your luggage traditional hats, boots and dhels (the robe like national costume) are also popular.
Don’t despair if you have booked one of our stopovers as we are used to catering to you. If you haven’t made arrangements through us … good luck!
Time and daylight saving
Mongolia is traditionally nomadic and the concept of time dependent on the daylight hours and when animals need to be fed. It is difficult even today to ensure a business meeting in Mongolia starts on time.
For you it’s ok, you’re on a holiday and it’s part of the charm. Don’t worry, our guides will know when the train departs and will make sure you are at the station on time.
For 2019, Mongolia doesn’t observe daylight saving (summer time) and is the same time as China.
Ulaanbaatar – Mongolia
Ulaanbaatar isn’t the real highlight of Mongolia – that award goes to the people and countryside – but it does dominate Mongolia, particularly in recent times with as much as 40% of the countries population living there at least part of the year.
These days it is booming on a combination of tourism, mining and aid money which has created new problems such as traffic jams for 21st century Mongolia to deal with.
What is included in the City Tour
A city tour is included in most of our tours in Mongolia. The itinerary can vary a little depending on the day of arrival as well as the train schedule. The following places are normally included.
Or fully The Gandan Tegchinlen Monastery, the only surviving fully operational Buddhist Monastery to have lasted through the 1930’s Communist purges. Located in a gritty suburb of Ulaanbaatar, keep an eye on your pockets around here and don’t come after dark.
Zaisan Hill Memorial
Built by the Russians to commemorate war dead, it has sweeping views over Ulaanbaatar and down the valley.
Mongolia’s equivalent of Beijing’s Tiananmen and Moscow’s Red Square has undergone a lot of changes in 2006.
We like the different names of Ulaanbaatar over the centuries which are engraved in stone just to the south of the central statue
The State Department Store is a relic of a former Soviet era, but is still a useful landmark. The top floor has interesting tourist souvenirs.
Things to see in Ulaanbaatar
National History Museum
With its many artefacts on the Mongolian History, a great history lesson right up to present day culture – this is a MUST SEE when you are in Ulaanbaatar! Open daily 10AM to 5.30PM in summer, closed Sun & Mon, from Sep to May.
Natural History Museum
Worth visiting to see the Dinosaur gallery containing remains of finds from the Gobi desert as well as birds of prey – frustratingly many are not labelled!
Tyrannosaurus Bataar Museum
Somewhat temporary museum on Genghis Khan (Sukhebaatar) Square during summer 2013 celebrating the return of this marvelous fossil example back to Mongolia.
Residence of the Bogd-Khan
The Bogd-Khan was Tibetan, recognised by the Dalai Lama when still young as the heir to the Spiritual Throne of Mongolia. The Residence contains royal robes, furniture, documents and other details about the priest Kings of Mongolia’s past, sadly almost no information seems available about what is on display.
An important complex of four temples dating from 1904, the museum now houses many of the treasures which were hidden by faithful believers during the 1930’s destruction of the Monasteries.
Folk Dance Concerts
Such as a Shaman Dance are available between June and September.