Mongoliais such terra incognita that Tibet is practically Coney Island by comparison.
– John Gunther, 1939.
Perhaps little has changed: Mongolia’s sparsely populated, mythic folds of grassland, desert and snow-capped ranges have experienced only a slow trickle of modernism since, and its far horizons remain unsullied by development. The country still retains the feel of epic fable, where hunters on horseback train golden eagles to search and snatch prey, snow leopard skulk the far mountain reaches, yak herds roam alongside nomadic families, their big-city brethren dwell in gers in felt-tent suburbs, and a sense of unmapped natural grandeur abounds. Mongolia is never far from legend and its reality is a ready match for your imagination.
Want to stay in a ger, meet some nomads, bask in pristine wilderness? Then Khan Khentji Protected Area is the best place to have your desires met. Walk beside the Tuul river, over the Jalman Meadows and through larch and birch forests in this secluded, rarely visited expanse and get a true taste of Mongolian magic. Khan Khentji is home to an impressive list of wildlife, including some pretty big beasts: wolf, lynx, brown bear, red deer, antelope, moose and wild boar all live on the steppes, taiga forest and lush grasslands of Mongolia. There’s ample opportunity to meet and share a drink with nomadic herders too; Khan Khentji is a top spot for tended herds as mush as for their wild brethren. As overwhelming as Mongolia’s natural beauty can be, the Mongolians themselves are the real highlight, especially the far steppe nomads. Living lives unchanged for centuries and following traditional customs of hospitality, you’ll be invited into gers wherever you travel in Mongolia, to share a meal, a quick vodka nip or just the company of these wonderful people. Try not to stay longer than a few hours, lest you interrupt the family’s work, but otherwise get to know the intricacies of felt-tent living and revel in the warm bright interiors of Mongolian homes and hearts.