Let’s get two things out of the way right at the outset: Mongolia should be on every traveler’s list of destinations. Obviously, it takes more effort to prepare for a trip here, but it’s getting easier all the time.
The second thing: If at all possible, go in mid-July to see Naadam. This annual festival draws people from around the country to compete in horse racing, archery and wrestling. The opening ceremony features plenty of dancing and musicians. The athletes perform in traditional dress.
After Naadam, you simply must visit Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Most tours include a stay with a host family where you can try traditional Mongolian fare — it’s heavy on meat and ribs — and sleep in yurts. The park is famous for its rock formations.
Outside the city, visit the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, a 40-meter-tall statue of the Mongolian warlord who ruled over one of the world’s largest empires in the early 13th century, seated on a massive horse. The stainless steel statue reflects light in all directions.
From here, it’s not far to the 13th Century Complex, an outdoor museum with an inspiring view of the Mongolian steppes. It’s great fun for kids, and you can all practice horse riding and dress up in 13th-century armor.
Back in the capital, visit the Gandantegchinlen Monastery, a Mongolian Buddhist monastery notable for its golden statue of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.
Elsewhere, the Zaisan Memorial to Soviet soldiers is a sign of the strong ties between Mongolia and Soviet Russia. (T)