Mongolia is a true adventurer’s dream. It boasts a seemingly endless wild landscape and is one destination that has not been overrun by tourists. Especially not in the winter. One of the best times to visit Mongolia is during the winter when you’ll be able to view frozen waterfalls, dog sled across a frozen lake and set out to find snow leopards.
During my month-long winter expedition to Mongolia, we traveled over 5,000 km in a 4×4. Most of which was off-road. I truly had the time of my life learning about Mongolian culture and exploring Mongolia’s vast wilderness. I even had the pleasure of staying with local families, sleeping in traditional geers and teepees.
If you’re interested in getting back to basics and exploring one of the world’s most underrated travel destinations, continue reading to discover 5 amazing things to do in Mongolia in January, as well as a guide to exploring Mongolia in winter.
Things To Do In Mongolia In January
- Visit The Reindeer People
- Visit the Eagle Hunters in Western Mongolia
- Search For Snow Leopards In The Gobi Altai High Mountains
- Dog Sledding
- Search For The Last Wild Horses In The World At Hustai National Park
What You Need To Know About Exploring Mongolia In Winter
The average daily temperature in January ranges from -18 degrees Celsius to -33 degrees Celsius. However, temperatures can plummet to -44 degrees Celsius and reached -40 degrees Celsius during my tour around Mongolia. So I highly recommend packing warm clothing and warm winter boots. Although it’s possible to purchase warm clothing at the black market in Mongolia’s capital city Ulaanbaatar. The black market in Ulaanbaatar is a “fun” place to visit. You can buy almost anything for really cheap. It’s highly recommended to go there on your visit to Mongolia.
One reason why it’s well worth planning a winter trip to Mongolia is that it’s an incredibly cheap country to visit and explore. So you’ll be able to afford to take part in a wide array of activities and excursions. Listed below are some of my favorite things to do in Mongolia in winter.
5 Amazing Things To Do In Mongolia In January
Visit the Reindeer People, visit the Eagle hunters in Western Mongolia, search for Snow Leopards in the Gobi Altai High mountains, dog sledding and search for the Last Wild Horses in the World at Hustai National Park
1. Visit The Reindeer People
If you’re not afraid of getting off the beaten tourist track it’s well worth planning an adventurous expedition to visit the reindeer people. While it will take you several days to reach their remote location in the wilderness, getting to spend time with the reindeer people will be an experience which you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Some of my fondest memories of my visit with the Reindeer people include sharing traditional meals with my hosts and getting to learn about their unique way of life. Instead of being obsessed with social media and modern conveniences the Reindeer people continue to live off their land, like their ancestors.
As not only will you get to enjoy their warm, genuine hospitality but you’ll get to live alongside them and to sleep in a traditional teepee. Just be sure to pack warm clothing, as the reindeer people’s traditional yurts lack insulation. In fact, during the middle of winter, temperatures can plummet to -40 Celsius.
You’ll also get to discover the integral relationship between the reindeer people and their herds. Who they rely on for milk and reindeer skin. You may even get to see individuals such as children confidently riding reindeer.
The Reindeer People also knows as The Tsaatan people, live isolated in tepees and move from place to place depending on season and resources. The Tsaatan people normally don’t eat reindeers, but they drink their milk and make cheese and yogurt for the community. It’s fascinating how little they got and how little they need, compared to how much some people have and how much more they want.
If culture shock doesn’t bother you and you’re up for an adventure of a lifetime, I highly recommend trekking out to spend a few nights with the reindeer people.
2. Visit the Eagle Hunters in Western Mongolia
If one of your favorite parts of traveling is getting to connect with the locals and to learn about the cultural practices which they’ve passed down from generation to generation, make sure to visit the eagle hunters. They are located in western Mongolia and there are around 250 left. The only way to become an eagle hunter is if you’re trained by family. It’s passed down from generation to generation. It was an incredible experience visiting them.
The eagle hunters are of Kazakh origin and are a minority in Mongolia. They are a nomadic race, who for generations have bravely climbed up the Altai Mountains in order to capture young eagles. So that they can train the eagles which they capture to help them hunt for food. Such as foxes and sometimes wolfs.
For the Kazakh people, the eagles which they capture and train, become important members of their family. As each family relies on their family’s eagle hunter or hunters and their eagles, to catch enough food for their families to survive. In a tough, rugged landscape. Getting to watch Kazakh eagle hunters interact with their eagles was definitely an experience to remember.
If you’re looking for things to do in Mongolia in January it’s well worth traveling to west Mongolia to visit the eagle hunters. One great movie to watch that will inspire you to visit the eagle hunters is “The Eagle Huntress”. A true story about a 13-year-old girl who trains to become the first female eagle hunter in 12 generations of her family.
3. Search For Snow Leopards In The Gobi Altai High Mountains
Another adventure that you probably won’t ever forget about, is searching for snow leopards in the Gobi Altai High Mountains. If you have a reasonable level of fitness it’s well worth climbing the steep rocky terrain of the Gobi Altai High Mountains in order to catch a glimpse of a beautiful snow leopard in its natural habitat. Although they are very hard to spot, as they live deep in the mountains.
In order to increase your chances of encountering a snow leopard, you’ll need to hike to a high altitude. Due to the fact that snow leopards tend to live at high altitudes hunting prey, such as goats that can be found at high altitudes.
While searching for snow leopards, there’s a high chance that you’ll get to photograph a wide variety of animals. Examples of which may include, marmots, Mongolian gazelle, and Saiga antelope. The latter of which are highly endangered.
Another way to drastically increase your chances of seeing a snow leopard on your Mongolian adventure is to hire a local guide. Some of them specialize in tracking snow leopards and will definitely know the best areas to search for them.
4. Dog Sledding
Imagine how much fun you’ll have being pulled across a frozen lake at speed by a team of hard-working dogs. Don’t worry the dogs will have just as much fun as you will and enjoy getting out for their daily run.
Before you tuck yourself into your dog sled, you’ll have an opportunity to help your guide feed your team of dogs and place harasses on each dog. If you’re a dog lover like I am, you’ll love getting to interact with your team of hardy, snow-loving dogs.
Then all that’s left to do is to settle into your comfortable, cozy dog sled in order to enjoy the ride of your life. As no other feeling in the world compares to the rush that you’ll experience being pulled along at speed by a team of energetic snow dogs.
Alternatively, you may be given the opportunity to learn how to become a dog musher and how to lead your team of dogs. So if you’re keen to learn a few dog mushing commands to stand at the back of your dog sled and control a team of snow dogs, select an experience that allows you to take control of a dog sled.
Depending on the company which you choose to dog sled with, you may also have the opportunity to book a multi-day dog sled tour. Better yet, you may get to sleep in a traditional yurt for a night or two, if you decide to book an epic multi-day dog sledding experience. That will also give you a chance to really bond with your team of dogs.
5. Search For The Last Wild Horses In The World At Hustai National Park
Hustai National Park is located 90km from Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia and was actually created in order to reintroduce Takhi horses to Mongolia after they had become extinct in the wild. Today wild Takhi flourish in Hustai National Park and can easily be viewed grazing in the park’s picturesque fields. Not only will you get to see the last real wild horses in the world, but you’ll also get to spot red deer, marmots, gazelle, and birds of prey.
You may be surprised to learn that the wild horses which reside in Hustai National Park are the last truly wild horses in the entire world. If you’d love to be able to watch wild horses frolic in a stunning, breathtaking environment, it’s well worth planning a day trip to Hustai National Park. As it was definitely one of my highlights of exploring Mongolia. So if you’re looking for things to do in Mongolia in winter, make sure to visit Hustai National Park.
While exploring Hustai National Park, you should also take the time to view the park’s stone carvings. Some of which were carved into the park’s stones in the bronze age and some of which were carved into stone in the 7th century. Lastly, you may also come across a few traditional burial sites.
If you’re not phased by getting back to basics and are itching to plan an adventure that you’ll remember for the rest of your life, it’s well worth planning a trip to Mongolia in winter. I have great experiences with Indy-guide.com, so I can highly recommend using them. In order to get started, you should definitely add the experiences that I listed above to your trip itinerary. Especially if you’re interested in spending several weeks exploring Mongolia’s spectacular wilderness. All the above tours are highly recommended.