Once the heartland of an empire stretching to Europe under Genghis Khan, Mongolia is a landlocked country dominated by sparsely populated steppe and semi-desert. Mongolia opened up to the outside world two decades ago, and the few who have ventured in have beheld one of the world's last remaining horse-based nomadic cultures. A vanishing veneer of 20th-century Soviet socialism had little impact on traditional Mongolian life. Most people still live in felt gers (yurts) with their livestock and horses by their side, practicing a pastoral lifestyle and Tibetan Buddhism that has remained unchanged for centuries.
But that may be about to change. Vast quantities of untapped mineral wealth have made it a target for foreign investors, transforming the country's tiny but fast-growing economy. This rapid change has taken place against a backdrop of political wrangling and government pledges to tighten control over the country's assets.
The "Thousand Camel Festival" in the Gobi Desert is all about the Bactrian camel. Highlights of the festival include camel races, camel polo, camel rodeo etc. A unique opportunity to witness the speed and agility of the Bactrian camels.
Mongolia is home to the thousand year-old tradition of hunting with trained Golden Eagles. This unique tradition has been passed from generation to generation among the Kazakh nomads. During the spring festival, eagle hunters compete to catch small animals, such as foxes and hares, with specially trained golden eagles, showing off the skills of both the birds and their trainers.
Genghis Khan Statue Complex
Enormous statue of the Emperor of the Mongols. To the people of Mongolia, Genghis is revered as a national hero, ruling over the largest contiguous empire in history and establishing the Mongols as a political and cultural force. This huge statue in the middle of the Mongolian steppe is impressive to see, and the view is nice, but a short stop is enough.
Ulaanbaatar is the capital of Mongolia. Long considered a remote satellite of the Soviet world, Mongolia suddenly found itself sitting on up to $1.5 trillion in minerals. Suddenly the sleepy town of UB quickly turned into a sprawling boomtown. Soviet-era buildings, museums within surviving monasteries, and a vibrant conjunction of traditional and 21st-century lifestyles typify the modern city.