True rugged wilderness and pristine untouched lands are hard to find in the world anymore. However, this is precisely what Mongolia is. Vast steppes, crystal lakes, gorgeous streams, rocky mountains, and never-ending countryside with few people make this country a proper paradise for a bicycle tour and adventure lover.
The nomadic culture of Mongolia is world-famous and it is refreshing to discover how open-minded and willing herders are to share the beauty of their country. The small town of Erdenedalai, situated in the Gobi steppe, is a great place to cycle to and do this. Here you can spend a night in a ger (traditional felt yurts) and begin to understand the lives of people here.
While this natural way of life is spectacular, the hardiness of the herders and the difficult conditions they live in - dry summers and harsh winters make life tough - should not be underestimated.
In the Gobi, you cannot miss the extraordinary Thousand Camels Festival. This magical event, on March 6 and 7, celebrates the endangered Bactrian camel, which plays a vital role in the lives of the nomads. The camels boast fluffy winter coats, and the event features polo, racing, plus traditional Mongolian dances and music.
Riding further into Mongolia’s wild steppes, another highlight is the magical Khogno Khan Nature Reserve. The sacred granite mountain is surrounded by sweeping valleys, freshwater springs, open steppe, and sand dunes.
The mountain’s hidden interiors are great for hiking and you can discover small working temples, a ruined monastery, and an array of amazing wildlife, including eagles, wolves, red deer, and ibexes. Meanwhile, the nearby Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes make for a perfect place to enjoy an atmospheric camel trek and lap up more of the scenery.
Another must-visit is the alpine town of Tsetserleg. Located at the slopes of the Khangai Mountains, this spot prickles with gorgeous colors from the vibrancy of the local market contrasted by the eerie and beautiful mountains. Cycling the surrounding steppe here is truly something else. Gravel plains lead out past mountains, verdant valleys filled with yaks, and an array of colorful woods.
Finally, do not miss spending time by the Orkhon River and its gorgeous surrounding valleys. This beautiful area provides another chance to meet local herding families, hear their stories, help out, experience their lifestyle and explore the area further on bicycle or on horses. And that is the true mark of any trip to Mongolia - basking in the mesmerizing nature and getting to know the locals.