General information about Mongolia. Mongolia Travel Guide.
TRIP TO MONGOLIA TOURS
INFORMATION FOR TRAVELERS
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT MONGOLIA
situated in the heart of Asia. Mongolia is the country of grass of the steppes, sand
dunes, mountains. Mongolia is a land of nomadizm. Mongolia is the country of blue sky.
Mongolia is a remarkable sunny country enjoying 250 sunny days a year. Come to
Mongolia with Legend tour and find out what Mongolian hospitality means. You will be welcomed to
share the nomad's fire and food.
(Ulaanbaator, Ulaan-Baator, Ulan-Bator). 650.000 inhabitants.|
Completely landlocked between two large neighbors - Russian Federation and China. It was immeasurably bigger during the period of Mongol conquest under Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan. Until the 20th
century Mongolia was twice its present size and included a large chunk of Siberia and Inner Mongolia (now controlled by China).
Mongolia is ranked as the seventh largest country in Asia and the 18th largest in the world. Mongolia covers an area of 603,899 square miles (1,564,100 sq. km.), larger than the overall combined
territory of Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy. Mongolia is the largest land-locked country. Mongolia lies between 87° 44'E and 119° 56'E
longitude and between 41° 35'-44'N and 52° 09'N latitude in the North of Central Asia.
The territory of Mongolia extends 1,486 miles (2,392 km.) from the Mongol Altai Mountains in the West to the East and 782 miles (1,259 km.) from the
Soyon mountain ranges in the North to the Gobi desert in the South. The nearest body of ocean connected water to Mongolia is the Yellow Sea, 435 miles (700 km.) away in the East.
Mongolia is bordered with Russian Federation to the North, China to the East, South and West. Its total borderline is 5,072 miles (8,162 km.) long, 2,166 miles (3,485 km.) of which is with Russian Federation
and 2,906 miles (4,677 km.) is with China.
Mongolia's climate is extremely continental. The high central Asian mountain ranges surrounding Mongolia on practically all sides form a formidable barrier against the humid masses of air moving from the
Atlantic and the Pacific, thus establishing the dominance of a continental climate in Mongolia. The typical climatic features are sharp temperature fluctuations with the maximum annual amplitudes
reaching 90°C in Ulaanbaatar. Even the daily temperature may fluctuate by 20°C-30°C. The coldest month is January. In some regions, for instance in the northern part of the Khuvsgul
temperature drops to between -45°C and -52°C. Average winter: -24°C. The hottest month is July. On the
greater part of Mongolian territory the air temperature rises to 20°C. In the south it is as high
as 25°C-30°C. Average summer: +20°C. The mean annual precipitation is 200 - 300mm of which 80 to 90 per cent falls within five months (May to September). Mongolia is the land of winds and
especially sharp winds blow in spring. In the Gobi and steppe areas winds often develop into devastating storms, reaching a velocity of 15-25 meters per seconds.
One of the highest countries in the world with one of Eurasia's highest capitals. Mountains (40%) and rolling plateaus with vast semi-desert and desert plains in the center and a desert zone in the south.
Average altitude: 1,580m above sea level. Ulaanbaatar: 1,380m above sea level. The highest point is the Tawan Bogd (4,374m) in the west and the lowest is the Khokh Nuur lake depression in the east -
a more 554m above sea-level.
The geography of the country is characterized by great diversity. Mongolia is divided into six basic natural zones, differing in climate, landscape, soil, flora
and fauna. The principal mountains are concentrated in the west, with much of this region having
elevations above 2,000 meters and the country's highest peaks permanently snow-capped land covered with glaciers. Mountains and dense forests predominate central and northern Mongolia and grasslands
cover large areas of this region. Across the eastern part of the country stretches the vast grasslands of the Asian steppe. The steppe grades into the Gobi desert, which extends throughout southern
Mongolia from the east to the west of the country. The Gobi is mostly gravelly, but also contains large areas of sand dunes in the drier areas of the Gobi near the southern border.
is dotted with hundreds of lakes, the largest being Uvs-Nuur (covering an area of 3,350 sq.kilometers), Huvsgul (2,620 sq. kilometers), and Khara Us-Nuur (1,852 sq.kilometers). Lake Huvsgul is also
the largest fresh-water lake in Central Asia. The Orkhon (1,124 kilometres), the Kherlen (1,090 kilometres) and the Selenge (539 kilometres) are the largest rivers.
Chalkha Mongol (85% of population), Kasach (7%),
several Mongolian tribes (Burjat, Durwut, Bajat, Dariganga, Dsachtschin, Torgut). Four million Mongols live outside Mongolia.
Mongolia's history spans 500,000 years. From nomads herding the Central Asian steppe to the formation of the powerful Mongol empire and the gradual emergence of the Mongolian Republic, its
history is steeped in conflict.
Traditions and customs of Mongols have a wide range of common traditional practices and religious rituals.
When a visitor spots or approaches a ger he says "Nokhoi khorioroi", which literally means "Call off the dog". A hostess or a child usually comes out and invites the guest
into a ger. The visitor should not carry a whip, hobble or weapon when he comes in and he hangs his knife from the belt. The visitor normally does not knock on the door. He crosses the threshold
with the right foot. A guest greets inside, not outside. In Mongolia, the younger usually greets first and asks' Ta sain baina uu?' which means, "How are you?" or "How do you
do?" Mongols living in the countryside are not used to shaking hands with visitors; instead, they greet by stretching their arms if they see each other for the first time in the year.
Mongolia has 136 mammal species, almost 400 different types of birds and 76 species of fish. From the abundance of wolves to the globally endangered
Snow Leopard, there is a myriad of wildlife
to track, photograph and hunt.
Nearly 10% is forest, mainly conifers in the northern region next to Siberia. Most of Mongolia is wide open ‘steppe’ grasslands in transition with the arid lands of
the Gobi Desert.
The central and northern forest area is home to wolf, wild boar, elk,
roedeer, and brown bear. Steppes and forest margins support marmot, muskrat, fox, steppe fox, and sable.
Western high Altai Mountain boasts a rich varied wildlife. Apart from common wolf and wild cats, such as lynx and
Snow Leopard, Altai is home to the world's largest wild sheep - Argali and
The Gobi desert and the eastern Mongolian steppe are inhabited by thousands of gazelles. The rarest animal in Mongolia - the Gobi bear is found in the south western part of Gobi. Wild ass and
wild camels are abundantly found in the desert while Argali and Gobi ibex also inhabit the rocky mountains within the Gobi region.
Wild horses have been reintroduced to the country from captivity abroad after being unseen for about thirty years in their home country. Bird life is rich and includes the golden eagle, bearded
vulture and other birds of prey, while the country's 2,000 lakes are a magnet for water birds including storks and gulls. The east of Mongolia is famous for its bird life, boasting lakes of storks
and pelicans, while vultures can be seen across the country and species as rare as the Altai snowcock and the mute swan are still observed in the countryside. "
Parliamentary type of Government, with President second in authority to state Great Hural (Parliament).
1921 final independence from China. 1990 Democratic reform and shift from dependence on the former Soviet Union.
1960 and 1992, some revision 1996.
21 aimags (provinces), the capital city (Ulaanbaator), including 3 autonomous cities (Darkhan, Erdenet and Choir).The aimags are subdivided into somons, or district of
which there are 298. The biggest aimag is Umnugov which occupies an area of 165,000sq.km but due to its rigorous climatic conditions has the smallest population (only 42,400 people).
Mongolia's natural environment remains in good shape compared with that of many Western countries. The country's small population and nomadic subsistence economy have been its
environmental salvation. The great open pastures of its northern half remain ideal for grazing by retaining just enough forest, usually on the upper northern slopes, to shelter the abundant
However, it does have its share of problems. Communist production quotas put pressure on grasslands to yield more than was sustainable. The recent rise in the number
from 134,000 in 1990 to 414,000 in 2000, and livestock numbers is seriously degrading many pastures. The number of wells has halved in the last decade due to neglect and the health of herds has
started to decline.
Forest fires are common during the windy spring season. In early 1996 an unusually dry winter fuelled over 400 fires in fourteen of Mongolia's
twenty one aimags. An estimated
one-quarter (about 80,000 sq km) of the country's forests and up to 600,000 livestock (and unknown numbers of wildlife) were destroyed. Damage to the Mongolian local economy was officially estimated
at a staggering US$1.9 billion. Serious fires hit again in 1999 and 2000.
Other threats to the land include mining (there are some 300 mines) and deforestation. Urban sprawl, coupled with a demand for wood to build homes and to use as heating and
cooking fuel, is slowly reducing the forests.
Pollution is becoming a serious problem, particularly in Ulaanbaator. At the top of Zaisan Memorial in the capital, a
depressing layer of dust and smoke from the city's
three thermal power stations regularly hovers over the city - this is often
appearing in winter, when all homes are continuously burning fuel and the power stations are working overtime. Ulaanbaator has also suffered from acid rain, and pollution is killing fish in the nearby river Tuul Gol in Central Mongolia.
Oil leaks from trucks crossing the frozen bodies of water in winter continue to pollute the pristine lakes of Khovsgol Nuur and Uvs Nuur, despite an official ban on these crossings.
Since 1991, the government of Mongolia has been pursuing on a program of economic stabilization and structural reform, and
implemented a broad range of measures to expand the scope of market
transactions. Privatization: Comprehensive privatization program was launched in early 1990's. 100 percent privatization of the live-stock ensured preservation of traditional Mongolian economy. Under the law on privatization of housing, almost 100 per cent of housing has been
privatized. Resolution of the property issue through privatization has
dramatically decreased government's involvement in economic life and boosted private
initiatives. Currently, the private sector produces more than 60 per cent of GDP. Liberalization of foreign trade:
Mongolia is one of the few countries in the world where for 2 years tarrifs and duties on
imports, except for some items, have been abolished. Currently, the
reintroduced tarrifs are being sustained at the level of 5 per cent. Exports are exempt from taxation.
Due to strict monetary policy, Mongolia managed to curb
inflation, which has been aggravated by price liberalization. Thus,
considerable progress has been achieved in transforming Mongolia's economy into a
In 1999, GDP growth was sustained at the level of 3.5 per cent, which significantly backs up
stabilization of economic development. Growth was ensured mainly by trade, service, agriculture and mining sectors. Consumer price index by the end of 1999,
increased by 10 per cent, but did not exceed 15 per cent. Unemployment rate was sustained at the level of 6 per cent. Budget
revenues amounted to 259.4 billion tugriks and total expenditures 344.4 billion tugriks.
The population of Mongolia is at present 2,5 mil. people. 51% live in urban areas, 1.5 per sq km.
Ulaanbaator: 650.000 inhabitants. The present yearly rate of population growth is estimated as
2.8 per cent. Two thirds of the Mongolian population is below 30 years old, and two fifths of the population is 14 years or below. Much of the population growth of Mongolia has been absorbed in
urban areas. The present urban population is above one million, Ulaanbaator having 700,000
inhabitants - one third of the total population of Mongolia. However, a significant part of the urban
populations still live in ger /national dwelling/ habitations on the town peripheries. While the average population density of Mongolia is just over 1 person per sq. km, the population density of
Omnogov' aimag is only 0.2 per sq. km. About 75 per cent of the population of Mongolia speak Khalka Mongolian , the official language, while another 15 per cent speak other Mongolian languages.
Ethnic minorities are mainly speakers of Turkic languages, such as Kazakh,
Tuvinian, Urianhai and Hoton.
Buddhist Lamaism (94%) since 14th century, Shamaism (in the north), Moslems in the West (Kasach groups).
Traditionally, Mongols practiced Shamanism, worshipping the Blue Sky.
However, Tibetan Buddhism (also called Vajrayana Buddhism) gained more popularity after it was introduced in 16th century. Tibetan Buddhism shared the common Buddhist goals of individual release
from suffering and reincarnation. Tibet's Dalai Lama, who lives in India, is the religion's spiritual leader, and is highly respected in Mongolia.
As part of their shamanistic heritage, the people
practice ritualistic magic, nature worship, exorcism, meditation, and natural healing.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Mongolia had hundreds of Buddhist monasteries and about 30 percent of
all men were monks. Communists led an anti-religious campaign in the 1930s, which nearly destroyed the extensive system of monasteries. Under Communist rule, atheism was promoted and monasteries
were closed, although shamanistic practices survived. From 1945 to 1990, only one monastery (Gandan in Ulaanbaator) was allowed to operate.
Democratic reform that started in 1990 allowed freedom
of religion; well over 100 monasteries have reopened, and Qazaq Muslims are allowed to practice Islam. Many young people are receiving an education through these traditional centers of learning, and
the people are once again able to practice cherished traditions.
The script is Cyrillic due to Russian influence but a switch back to traditional script has begin in
schools. Second language: Russian is spoken by many graduates, with
many Mongolians formerly educated in Russia. English is replacing Russian as the second
language. German is spoken by many graduates, and a little Spanish, France and Japanese is spoken. Chinese
not widely understood except in border areas.
The Mongolian literacy is considered as one of the highest: approximately 90 per cent. Educated working force is already available. Most Mongolians speak and understand
Russian as it was compulsory at secondary schools during communism. However, there is an urge for learning foreign languages, especially English, Japanese, Germany among young population.
Until the start of communism, education was solely provided by the hundreds of monasteries which once dotted the landscape. Since 1921, modern Mongolian education has been a
reflection of its, dependence on the USSR.
On the one hand, elementary education is universal and free, with the result that Mongolia boasts a literacy rate of between 80% and 90%. Mongolians receive 11 years of education, from ages seven
to 17. In remote rural areas where there are no schools, children are often brought to the aimag capitals to stay in boarding schools, returning home only for a two-week rest during winter and a
three-month holiday in summer.
The Mongolian State University (originally named Choibalsan University in honour of Mongolia's most bloodstained ruler) was opened in 1942. In the last 10 years private universities, teaching
everything from computing to traditional medicine, have sprung up: the country currently has 29 state and 40 private universities, mostly in Ulaanbaator.
Unfortunately, education standards have plummeted since independence and literacy rates are starting to fall. Economic pressures have forced increasing numbers of students to drop out of school;
the percentage of students completing compulsory education fell from 87% in 1990 to 57% in 1995. Tertiary students realise they will have to study abroad to gain a worthwhile, internationally
accepted qualification. Corruption among low-paid teachers is reportedly rife; students can virtually 'buy' good marks at some universities.
An interesting gender imbalance is opening up in higher education (although if the reverse were the case it wouldn't warrant reporting); in 1999 over 70% of university students were female.
Around 77% of doctors and 60% of lawyers in Mongolia are women.
Distance education has always been important in Mongolia, as so many herders live in remote areas, but economic hardship and higher tuition fees force students to stay at home. A nationwide radio
education program, supported by Unesco, teaches nomads everything from marketing skills to how to best care for Bactrian camels.