I’m a city girl. I did not grow up camping, have never pitched a tent and know nothing of the Girl Scouts beyond Thin Mints or Samoa cookies. Certainly no one would use the words “rugged” or “outdoorsy” to describe me.
So I definitely had a few reservations when my husband suggested a vacation in the wilds of central Mongolia.
My trepidation only grew as I binged on travel reviews bemoaning makeshift bathrooms and swarming insects.
But I ended up loving every minute in Mongolia, a country steeped in history, stunning scenery and welcoming locals. I stepped outside my comfort zone and into the trip of a lifetime. And here’s why you should too.
GET OFF THE GRID
Mongolia, a country of 3 million people slightly smaller than Alaska, is one of the most sparsely populated places in the world.
You can go hours, even days, without seeing another human while traveling through Mongolia’s countryside. Instead, you’ll find a vibrant blue horizon and empty, rolling grasslands dotted with horses, cows, sheep, goats and yaks.
You’ll be forced to unplug as cell service and Wi-Fi is mostly non-existent outside of the larger cities.
So say goodbye to Facebook rants and traffic jams and say hello to a seemingly endless untouched landscape. Your only roadblock is the occasional cow.
BOOK A GUIDE
As avid travelers accustomed to DIY adventures, we rarely book tours. But my top tip for this wonderland is to find yourself an expert.
There are few road signs and English is not widely used, so a local guide with knowledge of the routes and language is highly recommended.
You will also need a four-wheel drive vehicle to navigate the mostly unpaved terrain.
Our expert, good-humored guide, Munkh Bileg, whom we hired through Nomadic Discovery , tailored our private tour to our interests and time constraints to maximize our Mongolian experience.
We rode camels across sand dunes and horses at sunset. We met herder families and sampled local cuisine, including fermented mare’s milk and dried curds. Most of our days were spent off-roading over mountains and across rivers, simply soaking in Mongolia’s other-worldly landscape.