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“It’s the surprise, the astonishment that forces us to evolve.”

Edgar Morin

Mongolian nature is a breathtaking mosaic of diverse landscapes stretching over vast areas, which did not fail to captivate us. The boundless steppes, characterized by endless grasslands, are interrupted by rugged mountain ranges that provide a striking contrast to the vast plains. The Gobi Desert, a vast arid region, reveals an austere beauty with its imposing sand dunes and rocky outcrops. Crystal clear lakes contribute to the country's natural splendor, reflecting the azure skies and surrounding peaks. Mongolian nature invited us to come and discover its wild beauty. We experienced an epic adventure in a country where nomadic traditions harmonize with pristine nature. We will never forget this extraordinary journey which kept all its promises.

September 2023

VISA - upon arrival in the country, free visa for 1 month.


VEHICLE - no special document required; 7400 MNT for tire disinfection


SIM - 50GB for 33,000 Tugrik

DIESEL - 0.98CHF/liter

INSURANCE – 74,000 MNT for two months and two drivers

OTHER - ​Visa extension at immigration offices in the main cities of the country. The price of the extension is linked to the duration of the extension (168,000 MNT/30 days)


Mongolia is a huge country with an extremely low population density. Although mobile network coverage is good for the country, it often happens that you find yourself in the middle of nowhere and completely cut off from the outside world. In addition to this, in proportion to the size of the country, there are relatively few paved roads. We therefore often find ourselves riding on tracks. It is therefore necessary to prepare your vehicle and itinerary as little as possible in advance. It is also necessary to take some equipment with you to be able to tackle your trip with peace of mind.

For us, in addition to preparing the vehicle for offroading, it is essential to have the following elements before setting off on the country's tracks:

- Sufficient water and food and fuel in reserve.

- Enough cash

- A GPS radio

- A good map with routes that can be used offline.

- Sand removal plates

- A compressor

- A peel.

- Snow chains (we didn't have any)



Before arriving in Mongolia, this was a big question for us especially for the desert areas where there are no rivers from which we can draw water (the lakes are often salty). However, we quickly noticed that the nomads always set up their yurts next to or near a water point. So, all you have to do is ask them for permission to take water from their well.


In Mongolia, when we want to get lost far from everything, there are few towns where we can find everything we need to get supplies. Although there are many villages with small shops selling basic foods such as tomatoes, eggs, flour and sometimes even tomatoes and carrots, more specific products are difficult to find.

Consequently, it may be useful to fill your stocks and your freezer before arriving in Mongolia or during a visit to the capital.


In small villages that are not on main roads, it is often not possible to pay by card. You must therefore have enough cash to be able to pay cash for fuel or food.


While in many countries, in which the road network allows easy access to different sites of interest, Google maps is sufficient to define your itinerary, in Mongolia it is often not sufficient, because a good part of the country 'is only served by tracks.

In addition to the usual tools, we used the book “Mongolia, the most beautiful routes in 4x4, motorcycle and camper van” to sketch out our route on electronic maps such as Map Out and Pocket Earth that we could use unintentionally. On site, we used them for navigation and to record our actual track. The latter can deviate more or less strongly from the predefined itinerary depending on the condition of the tracks or the unlisted variants that we find.


Not all villages have a gas station. It is therefore important to note, in advance, those where you can find gas pumps. Depending on the route chosen, it may be useful to bring one or more jerrycans in order to increase your autonomy and to avoid running out of fuel.

If like us, you have a vehicle, it is important to know that the quality of fuel is not always guaranteed in the country. So, it may be essential to stock up on additives that can help engines handle Mongolian gasoline and diesel.

Natal parkional Tavan Bog

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In order to enter Tavan Bord National Park, which is located in the town of Olgi, we normally need a permit and a local guide. Many locals try to make money off the backs of tourists by offering exorbitant prices (between 70 and 200 dollars). The ideal solution is to find a Mongolian local who would be willing to help you obtain authorization free of charge. To do this, all you have to do is tell the customs office that he will accompany you as a guide. For us that's how it worked.

The stars in Mongolia

In Central Asia, we have already found places to observe the Milky Way, but Mongolia breaks all records. Indeed, there are a lot of places where there is absolutely no construction for miles around and therefore without light pollution.  When the sky is clear and the moon is hidden, these are perfect places to admire the stars.

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First invitation to a yurt

There are several customs to remember in Mongolia. One of them is that when we are invited to someone's yurt, before crossing the threshold of the door, we must be careful not to step on the doorsteps. A 67-year-old nomad invites us inside his beautifully decorated and colorful yurt. We taste for the first time the famous salted butter tea as well as some local specialties including a rock-hard cheese. We are extremely happy to be able to relive one of these beautiful moments of sharing.

Tsambagarav Uul Park

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In the Tsambagarav park, we imagine being able to discover and climb glaciers and large peaks at an altitude of more than 4000 m. To get there, we have to take tracks that are not very clearly marked on the map and are rather technical. We decide to enjoy the incredible sunset lights over the yurts and animals.

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Bayannur Lake

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Arriving at the Bayannur salt lake, a breathtaking panorama awaits us. On one side there are some small, steep peaks that seem to be made up of large boulders piled on top of each other, and beautiful, gentler mountain ranges covered in eternal snow. In the middle of it all, there is a lake surrounded by dozens of yurts. Despite the freshness of the water, as the wind blows, Sevan cannot resist the urge to take out the kite equipment to take to the water.

Tonhil Nuur Lake

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Once again, we are taking tracks that take us away from all civilization. To ensure that we could arrive safely, we bought an additional jerrycan with a capacity of 20 liters of diesel.

Our route takes us past the Tonhil Nuur salt lake, next to which we stop to admire the breathtaking landscapes in the middle of which we find ourselves.

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Steppes as far as the eye can see

Today, we are driving almost 250 km in the middle of the steppes. With the exception of the inhabitants of a village, a few camels and antelopes, we did not encounter a single living soul. It’s truly incredible to ride on these long tracks that crisscross these grandiose plains. By getting lost on these trails, we almost every time manage to find a place for the night from which we never want to leave again.

Technical Passage

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Given that we are far from everything, we try to take easily accessible trails with our van in order to minimize the risk of breakage. However, in certain situations, we may find ourselves faced with more complicated passages.


Here, in this canyon, there are some vehicle tracks, but no real track.

Before we set off, we think about where to go. It's teamwork. While one drives, the other goes out to observe the terrain and walks a few meters to check that the van is not rubbing.

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Alone in the world

Mongolia is a huge country and yet it is home to barely 3.4 million humans (1.7 million in the capital) for 67 million farm animals. With its 2 inhabitants per square kilometer, it is the country with the lowest human density on earth. In comparison, Switzerland has a density of 209 inhabitants/km2.


Along our route, we encounter more animals than men, but when we come across one of our own it is often to discover an unusual character. In these moments we cannot resist the urge to take a photo. Far from being annoyed by this, most of the time, the locals seem to happily play this game. 


We met this gentleman in the Gobi region, so he is of Mongolian ethnicity whereas before that we mainly met Kazakhs. In this region, the population wears large coats of very varied colors with a belly belt and a pointed hat. Coats are used to carry all kinds of things, including unusual objects.

Different ethnicities

Mongolia is divided into several regions that are home to different ethnic groups. There is the part through which we entered Mongolia, the Bayan-Olgii region in the west of the country which is mainly home to Kazakh households. The latter have a culture different from that of the Mongols. Indeed, their language is Kazakh and they are Muslim. This population is known for its incredible friendliness. We also noticed that they have a “no filter” side. They say things as they come to them and they have a very infectious laugh. 


We also met the Mongolian ethnic group, who speak Khalkha (Mongol dialect). The Mongols are Buddhist in the central and northern part of the country. They are rather cold and distant at first, but once the ice is broken, they are very warm and friendly people. Here, unlike other countries, it is up to us to take the first step.

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Mongolian family

One of the Mongolian traditions is that one does not announce one's arrival before entering a yurt. However, in reality, a new arrival will often shout “hold your dog” to announce their arrival.


As a result, when traveling by vehicle, it may happen that a Mongolian enters the vehicle unannounced and expects to receive at least a cup of tea. This is how we meet a Mongolian who arrives with his motorbike. As soon as they leave, his children arrive, 4 of them on the same motorbike. Everyone seems excited and extremely happy. They came to us to offer to follow them to their yurt to share a meal. We laugh a lot and share an unforgettable moment with this little nomadic family.

Food in Mongolia

When you are invited to the homes of nomads, you must prepare to taste some of their specialties, in particular salted tea, types of fried buns, cheeses with extremely hard pastes or strongly resembling cream and meat. When the Mongols really want to honor us then they slaughter an animal from their herd and serve us the offal (the parts which keep less well).


When we are invited to eat, that's when things get complicated for us. Indeed, we cannot get used to certain foods. But to honor our heritage, we must at least taste each of the foods offered to us.


Petroglyph, Bichigtiin Am

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Due to the low human presence, there are a huge number of archaeological and natural sites in Mongolia which have been little or not damaged, as well as ways of life which are found almost nowhere else.


Here, we take a relatively difficult track for our van, but which allows us to access rock walls covered with Petroglyphs. The latter are listed as UNESCO world heritage sites. On site, there is no real infrastructure other than a small arbor and an explanation panel. As is often the case, we don't meet anyone here, the place is very wild. We lose ourselves for a moment in this incredible environment and in front of these engravings from another time.

 The immensity of Gobi

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This feeling of immensity and solitude, we have already felt it in Kazakhstan, or in other regions of Mongolia, but it has never marked us as much as here. There, both for Sevan and for me, it is the very first time we realize that here we are alone and very far from any civilization. More than once, we can drive for kilometers and not come across anyone, not even yurts. This is also the first time we've said to ourselves that we're happy to have satellite radio and an extra supply of diesel. 

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 Hermen Tsav

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The immensity of the Gobi desert and the Khermen Tsav site with these superb ocher cliffs leaves us speechless. To get there, we take various trails that take us into an incredible labyrinth of red earth hills. 


And to think that around 200 million years ago this place was covered by an inland sea. For paleontology enthusiasts, this remote location in Mongolia is famous for its abundant underground fossils of dinosaurs and other mammals. 

Khongoryn Els

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The Khongoryn Els dunes are the largest dunes in Mongolia (around a hundred kilometers long and around ten wide). Composed of golden sand and black sand, they form a sublime landscape located between two mountain ranges. To the north, they are also bordered by a river. In places, the latter even forms lakes. The presence of water allows greenery to grow. The contrasts in texture and color only enhance the landscape. 

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Tsagan Suvraga

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Leaving the Gobi desert, after more than 1500km of tracks, without ever driving on asphalt roads, we finally rediscover the pleasure of smooth roads. We never thought we would say this, but now, the tracks can no longer be seen in paint (at least for the moment).


Heading back towards the capital, we set off to discover places that are on the circuits for short-term travelers. We discover the famous colorful Tsagan Suvraga cliffs.

Raptors as far as the eye can see

Mongolia is the jewel of wild animals. Apart from horses, yaks and other four-legged animals, there are many species of birds of prey of all kinds. In particular, you can observe the saker falcon, the golden eagle, the black vulture, the hawk, the black kite, the imperial eagle as well as many other species.

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Erdene Zuu Monastery

Near the town of Kharkhorin, there is the Erdene Zuu monastery. The latter is one of the largest monasteries in Mongolia. There are several temples that we can enter. The exterior architecture of these monuments is very beautiful with dark wood and colorful paintings. Inside, we are not allowed to take photos, but it is also very colorful. There is the smell of incense which brings a warm atmosphere and you can observe different Buddhas with multiple meanings.

Orkhon Valley

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This valley, which runs along a very beautiful river, is surrounded by beautiful green mountains and there are many yurts and animals. Going up from the main road, we arrive at the waterfalls of the same name which are located where the Ulaan Tsutgalan river flows into a canyon formed by a unique combination of phenomena. In fact, 20,000 years ago an earthquake and the simultaneous eruption of a volcano formed this very special canyon. Located in a relatively flat valley, the latter strongly marks the landscape.

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Tsenkhe Hot Springs

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In August, in Mongolia, the weather can already be cold and temperatures can even drop below zero degrees Celsius. Learning that in the region where we are, there are hot springs, we just want to jump into them.

Khorgo Volcano

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We arrive in the Khorgo – Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur natural park where we discover the famous Khorgo volcano which is now extinct. The latter rises to an altitude of 2240 meters to the east of Lake Terkhiin Tsagaan. We climb to the top in about 20 minutes of walking. Once at the top, we continue the walk around the basalt-covered volcano, which was active 8000 years ago. Its crater measures 200 meters in diameter and 70 to 80 meters deep, and is surrounded by these magnificent yellow larch trees.

Khangai region

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Once again, we are here in an isolated and little visited region. Day by day, Mongolia never ceases to surprise us. In the Khangai region there are enormous plateaus overlooking numerous rivers and mountain streams.

Setting up a yurt

In Mongolia and depending on the seasons, nomads change the location of their camp approximately every 3 months. Very often, we see locals assembling or dismantling a yurt. If what our road book says is correct, in Mongolia, tradition dictates that in such a situation we stop to lend them a hand. So we don’t hesitate long before going to meet them. 


After assembling the structures, we help them install the different layers of textile, felt and the waterproofing layer.

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Ulaagchiin Khar Lake

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Ulaagchiin Khar is a lake almost 2000 m above sea level. To be honest, this place is one of the most breathtaking landscapes we have ever seen. It's surprising, but this lake is particularly popular with Mongolians, but not so much with tourists.


What makes this place spectacular is being in this transition zone between this freshwater, turquoise-colored lake located in the Great Lakes depression, surrounded by sand dunes, called Bor Khyar and the Khangai mountains.

The weather in Mongolia

In Mongolia, weather changes are no joke. This photo was taken in the middle of August, when 24 hours earlier it was 24 degrees Celsius. Overnight, the temperature dropped below 0 degrees and a heavy layer of snow fell.


Obviously, when this happens to us, we are far from any civilization. One of the particularities of the region in which we find ourselves is the presence of dunes, but as there is also snow, this complicates our progress quite a bit. 

We got stuck in the sand once, but fortunately, thanks to our sand removal plates and the fact of having deflated the tires well, we got out quickly.


IMPORTANT ⚠️ in Mongolia, before going to get lost far from everything, find out about the weather conditions.

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Lake Uureg nuur

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Our trip to Mongolia is coming to an end. We are enjoying our last moments in this incredible environment before leaving this magnificent country and this simple and caring population. 


What will remain engraved in our minds is these immensities, these breathtaking landscapes, as well as the low human and construction density.

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