With its vast expanses of steppes, desert and taiga, Mongolia encompasses some of the most pristine wilderness on earth. The country boasts a population of just three million people, scattered over an area three times the size of France. And almost half live in one city: the capital, Ulaanbaatar. The rest maintain a largely nomadic existence in encampments of grey, felt yurts, or gers, where they tend horses, cattle, sheep and goats – in much the same way as their ancestors did during the age of the region’s most illustrious historical figure, Genghis Khan.

Landscapes, rather than monuments, provide the main focus for visitors here. In the north, a band of wild, pine-forested mountains and lakes line the border with Russia – the start of the great Siberian taiga – while across the south stretch the sun-scorched dunes and sand flats of the Gobi Desert. Between these two extremes lies a belt of rolling grassland, interrupted by countless hills and empty river valleys, which in the southwest rise to a range of snow-capped, glacier-encrusted summits along the Chinese border: the Altai Mountains. This thrilling scenery alone would be reason enough to visit Mongolia. But the country also preserves a unique nomadic culture. Wherever you travel, yurts sprout like exotic fungi from the great, green sea of grass, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stay in one, walking with local guides, or riding beautiful steppe horses.

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