Famous as the land that spawned a conquering horde of horseback warriors, stretching from China to Christendom, it’s impossible to separate Mongolia from Genghis (or Chingis) Khan. Even today, his name adorns everything from restaurants to vodka. Every nation has their favourite hero, none more so than Mongolia, and each provides important context, but look beyond and what you see is a country trying to find its place in the modern world.
In Ulaanbaatar, that modernity smacks you in the face, mostly in a disappointing way. Pollution and shoddy infrastructure means the capital is largely a place to avoid. But leave the (literal) big smoke and the true magic of Mongolia is revealed: a country where so many of its people live in ways that are fundamentally unchanged from the time of Chingis, and where the imprint of modern life is more subtle, a complementary addition to a traditional nomadic way of life.
How long that way of life continues remains to be seen, but for now it’s what makes Mongolia such a captivating country. A land of mountains, deserts and vast open plains, a land where in much of it you’re still more likely to see people living in gers than houses, where kids ride horses bareback not long after they learn to walk. It’s a land where the traveller can experience awe inspiring landscapes, and a genuine culture of hospitality so ingrained in the people’s psyche, that it would be hard to beat anywhere. From the Gobi to the Taiga, Mongolia is a special country: a country that’ll grab your attention, inspire you, and leave you wanting more.