How can I even describe what I’ve seen?
Long, rolling green hills. Mountains that change from orange to red to blue. White wild flowers and shrubs that make the steppe smell like thyme. Herds of goats, horses and camels grazing.
On one day, a sudden rainstorm that streaks the sky with grey and leaves behind a double-rainbow.
On another, the crispest, bluest, boundless sky.
Little girls that swipe journals as scratch paper. A man who takes us out riding and a woman who makes hangover soup.
Scraggly lone trees wrapped in bright blue prayer scarves. Silver rivers reflecting the light. Clouds gilded by the setting sun and a swarm of stars emerging at night.
And air, so crystal clear, that you can see for miles.
My friend and I have just gotten back from a stay out in the countryside, 5 hours west of Ulan Baatar. We spent a few days with a family who owns a ger camp in the semi-desert, with no internet, no phones, no running water and no clocks.
I’m not entirely sure how we passed the time, but I know we spent a lot of it riding horses, going for walks, and staring out at the steppe.
And seeing some of the most arresting nature I’ve ever encountered.
So tell me – why is Mongolia so undertouristed?
Nearly any guesthouse in Ulan Baatar can arrange a stay in the countryside. Whether you stay in an upscale tourist resort with heating and running water, or in a rural homestay where you’re put to work milking cows depends on you.
If I could give one piece of advice: come with time. Lots and lots of time. You might lose track of it out in the countryside, but once you’re back in the city – you’ll definitely wish you’d had more.