The allure of Mongolia is evident as soon as you start looking at pictures of it: snow-capped mountains, wide-open plains, wild horses, fairytale reindeer, modern nomads. But it also has a certain mystery to it. What do you need to know about planning a trip of a lifetime to this sprawling but sparsely populated country? We talked to Jalsa Urubshurow, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Mongolia, to answer your FAQs. Jalsa—who splits his time between Mongolia and the U.S.—has been a recognized champion of sustainable, eco-friendly travel in a country fast becoming a tourist hot spot and has served as an advisor to all seven of Mongolia’s prime ministers and two of its presidents.
When to go?
I like spring, fall and middle of summer,” says Jalsa, a Mongolian-American who was among the first to offer highly customized trips here. “It’s not oppressively hot. You’ll get into the high 80s or maybe 90 in the Gobi desert.” Jalsa also recommends visiting during the Naadam, a festival of horseracing, archery, and wrestling held early every summer (noted by UNESCO as a tradition of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity), and the Golden Eagle Festival in October, when the Kazakhs, Mongolia’s largest ethnic minority, show off their centuries-old tradition of hunting with trained eagles.
Who can go?
Anyone. Jalsa can tailor trips to all levels of activity. Altitude isn’t an issue either.
How long do I need for a trip?
If you’ve got 11 to 12 days, you can see three ecosystems.
What to pack?
Layers. Even though summers are mild, temperatures can drop below freezing at night in some areas, so bring a warm coat and several layers you can put on and peel off as necessary.
Trekking shoes. The terrain varies greatly, but no matter where you are, comfortable shoes are a must. If you’re horse trekking, long boots will protect your legs from chafing.
Flip-flops or shower shoes. You’ll need them at most ger camps.
For more packing tips, see Jalsa’s list.
What will I do and see?
Mongolia offers a wide range of landscapes, activities, and cultural experiences (see “Why Is Everyone Talking About Mongolia and What Do You Do There?”). You can hike in the Altai Mountains; horse trek through the northern region’s forests and meadows; visit a paleontology lab to learn more about Mongolia’s famous dinosaur finds; receive a private blessing from a lama at Ulaanbaatar’s Gandan Monastery; taste huushuur, traditional fried dumplings usually filled with meat, at dinner with a Mongolian family; and much more. Read Jalsa’s Insider’s Guide to Mongolia or our “Why Is Everyone Talking About Mongolia and What Do You Do There?” for more ideas.