Mongolia is a freedom loving independent country in Central Asia. This is the land of great conqueror Chinggis Khaan (Genghis Khan), where endless horizons meet blue sky. The capital of Ulaanbaatar (airport code UBN) sits between green taiga forests to the north and the spacious Gobi Desert to the south. While famous for steppe grasslands, Mongolia also has larch forested hills and rocky mountains.

The country abounds in contrasts, with Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and gleaming shopping malls, crowded streets and vast open highways. Soviet era towns with apartment blocks, houses and yurts give rise to tall shiny glass buildings. Family-run small shops compete with 24 hour chain convenience stores.

While half of Mongolia is bustling urban, with cafes, restaurants of many cuisines and museums, the soul of the country is in its nomads, who herd horses, cows and yaks, camels, goats and sheep on the open range in all four seasons. Unique among nomads are the remote Tsaatan reindeer herders, who live in teepees, and Kazakh eagle hunters, who live in the far west.

Along with numerous livestock, Mongolia has interesting wildlife, including saiga antelope, pallas cats and snow leopards. There are nature preserves where visitors may see Przewalski’s horses, native to Mongolia. Bird watchers may spot many kinds of birds including black kites, demoiselle cranes, and western marsh harriers.

Traditional Mongolian food is meaty and hearty, although vegetables are becoming more popular. People esteem eating khorkhog, or mutton, potatoes and carrots slow cooked in fire blackened stones, and drinking koumiss, or sparkling mare’s milk. An everyday comfort beverage is suutei tsai (salty milk tea). However, international fare is increasingly available across the country.

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