Mongolia is far-flung and hardly well-trodden, but do not let that put you off. There is so much to see and do in this sizable East Asian country, from the stunning scenery and wildlife of mountains and deserts to the emerging luxury hotels and restaurants in the capital, Ulaanbaatar.
In the ancient land of Mongolia, history buffs and culture vultures will find plenty to keep them entertained. Outside of the main cities, many Mongolians continue to hold on to the traditional life of herdsmen. Residing in portable felt and canvas tents (known as 'ger'), the modern-day Mongolian nomads move from one place to another in search of shelter, water supply and food for themselves and their animals.
Mongolia's vast areas of wilderness, from the sprawling Gobi Desert to the snow-peaked mountains located in the Bayan-Ölgii Province, offer plenty of scope for adventurous outdoor enthusiasts. Fishing, jeep tours, horse and camel riding, mountain biking and birdwatching are but a few of the activities on offer. Intrepid visitors can also explore numerous temple ruins like Mañjuśrī Monastery on the slopes of Bogd Khan Mountain or Ongi Monastery in the Dundgovi Province.
While infrastructure remains relatively underdeveloped in vast swathes of rural Mongolia, elsewhere the country is racing headlong into the 21st century. The capital Ulaanbaatar is transforming at a pace that any returning visitors will find dizzying. In a relatively short space of time, the city has turned into an ultra-modern metropolis with international restaurants, five-star hotels, shopping malls and glass tower blocks – a sure sign of Mongolia's status as an up-and-coming Asian travel hotspot.
While there is plenty of nightlife and excitement in Ulaanbaatar, do not visit Mongolia without exploring the wild, largely unspoilt landscapes and traditional lifestyle of its inhabitants. Leaving the capital does not mean being stranded from civilisation. The Internet is now available even in small villages and it is not uncommon to see nomads toting mobile phones. It is perhaps this contrast that makes Mongolia such a fascinating destination to visit today. Get planning your trip now before the tourist hordes inevitably catch on.