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Mongolia

Travel to Mongolia for tours in a land of open steppes, nomadic horsemen, snow-capped mountains and golden eagles. The Mongol Empire was the largest connected Empire in history, which spread from Shanghai in Eastern China to the borders of Finland. Modern guests visiting Mongolia on tours with Great Rail Journeys can see that the brutality of the Khans is long gone and the country is an exemplar democracy. 

The Mongolians are a people of two halves and as such guests crossing Mongolia on tours by rail will be exposed to both the modern urban and traditional nomadic lifestyles. When visiting a yurt, the traditional tent of the nomadic Mongolians, good topics of small talk include the state of the host's animals, the rigours of traveling, the quality of pastures and the weather.

The nomadic people traditionally use horses and camels to cross Mongolia but tours by rail are a far more comfortable way to cover ground in this massive country.

3 results matching: Mongolia

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Trans-Siberian Express
2020Aug
2021MayAug
15 days from
$14,745 pp
View Details
15 days from
$14,745
per person
View Details
tour map
  • DestinationGermany, Poland, Russia, Mongolia
  • Starts / EndsMoscow / Vladivostock
  • AccommodationRail, Hotel
  • TransportRail
Map and accommodation
tour map
  • DestinationGermany, Poland, Russia, Mongolia
  • AccommodationRail, Hotel
  • TransportRail
Map and accommodation
tour map
  • DestinationGermany, Poland, Russia, China, Mongolia
  • AccommodationHotel
  • TransportRail
Map and accommodation

Mongolian Culture

Mongolia was one of the biggest empires in history, stretching the length of Asia, covering lands from China to the border of Finland. This great realm was created by one of the most infamous rulers in history - Genghis Khan. Many of the traditions from this time still continue today. The Nomadic people, who still live on the steppes of Mongolia, still live in 'Gers', large felt tents that are transported on horseback from place to place.

Horses are the center of nomadic life, and there is even a dance performed on them. The 'Mongolian Waltz' is performed by a man and a woman, both on horseback, who circle each other to traditional music, as the music slowly speeds up.

Eagle hunting is also practiced here, most famously being practiced using majestic Golden Eagles. The practice was brought to Mongolian by the Kasakhs escaping from Kazakhstan, and it has grown and developed, with children as young as 13 practicing hunting. Every year in the first week of October sees the Golden Eagle Festival in Bayan-Ölgii aimag, with eagle hunters taking part to show off their skills.

Mongolian Trains

The main method of travel in Mongolia is using minivan or jeep, and camels and yaks are also a recognized form of transport. On our tours however, we travel through Mongolia on the Trans-Siberian Express, which passes through Ulaanbaatar, the capital city which houses nearly half of the population of the whole country.

This line travels 9,288 kilometres between Moscow and Vladivostok, a journey that takes at least 8 days. For the duration, we travel in the luxurious Golden Eagle. Furnished and decorated in classical style to the highest standards, no expense has been spared to equip this striking and elegant train with every modern facility for passengers' comfort and convenience. This ensures that time spent aboard the Golden Eagle becomes, in itself, one of the memorable highlights of traveling the Trans-Siberian Railroad.  

Mongolian Cuisine

The food here mainly consists of meat, dairy, and animal fats. The most popular animals to eat are goat and sheep, and occasionally horse and game. Mongolians take a lot of inspiration from nearby China for their food, with one of the most popular foods being 'buuz', or dumplings, filled with meet, and especially enjoyed around New Year.

One of the favoured drinks in Mongolia is fermented mare's milk, called 'airag'. This delicacy is made by fermenting the milk over a few days, making the drink fizzy and slightly alcoholic. Traditionally, it is made in horse-hide containers and left on top of a yurt in the sun, or put on a horse so the contents jiggled around to prevent curdling.

Mongolia’s Climate

Mongolia is at a high altitude, and therefore tends to be cold and dry. The summers are short, and the winters are very long and very cold, with an average annual temperature of 27 °F. Surprisingly, Mongolia doesn't see much rain or snow, and the sky is clear and blue for over a third of the year.

When it does rain and snow, however, it can be harsh and freezing, and so visitors should always be prepared for a sudden storm, and bring appropriate clothes. The best things to wear in Mongolia are warm layers and sturdy shoes, and a hat, scarf, and gloves wouldn't go amiss.

Traveler’s notes

Typically, tipping isn't usual in Mongolia, however if you are particularly pleased with the service, a 10% tip is fine.

The currency is Mongolia is the Tughrik, and is symbolised with a ₮ before the numbered price. The highest value note, ₮20,000, is worth about $12.

The language of Mongolia is Mongolian. The second most spoken language in Mongolia is Russian, and then English. As 95% of the country speak Mongolian, it might be useful to know a few words and phrases. A few of them are 'hello', pronounced 'saay noo', 'goodbye', pronounced 'barsh-tay', 'thank you' which is pronounced 'bay-err-la', and 'do you speak English', which is pronounced 'chee engel hul yerch chi no'. The writing here is in cryllic. When visiting a yurt, the traditional tent of the nomadic Mongolians, good topics of small talk include the state of the host's animals, the rigours of traveling, the quality of pastures and the weather.

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Laura Strawinski
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Vaugnel Fletcher
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James Starkie
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