Mongolia is one of a kind.  With its smooth open fields and vast dry deserts that seem to go on forever, it made for an exciting adventurous journey through the country.  After getting off from a Trans Siberian train across Russia, it was time to go out and explore what Mongolia had to offer.  Thanks to our experienced driver who drove us over 1500 km (1000 miles) and our wonderful guide Altaa, we were able to see the best of Mongolia in seven days.  Seven days does not do Mongolia justice, but unfortunately that was the time I had.

Starting off in the capital Ulaanbaatar, I headed south through the open plains on my way to the Gobi desert.  Along the way I frequently came across piles of rocks, animal skulls, blue silk, and other debris on top of most hills.  These are called ovoos and are meant as a site of worship for Mongolian people when traveling.  By offering gifts to the ovoos, you offer your thanks to nature and you seek safety when continuing on your journey.  I met several nomads who relocate their families and homes (yurts) to different regions throughout the year depending on the season.  They are the country people who depend on the land to survive.  After an exchange of smiles and hand shakes, I was off again through the plains.  The grass fields soon turned to dried open deserts with interesting landscapes resembling the rock formations found in the deserts in the West of the United States.  Here is where many dinosaur bones and eggs were discovered by paleontologists in the early 1900’s, specifically Roy Chapman Andrews, who discovered the first fossilized dinosaur eggs.

Of course no trip through Mongolia would be complete without a visit to the Gobi desert.  These sand dunes are one of the most spectacular in the world, some reaching 800 meters (2,500 ft) high.  Climbing to the top is no easy feat.  In fact, half way up I almost gave up because the incline almost reached 90 degrees.  But I’m proud to say that I survived the great sand dunes of the Gobi desert and was able to reach the top.  The views from the top are priceless and thankfully I experienced it during sunset to take in all the changing colors.  The following morning I decided to visit the dunes again and this time I had a different perspective…a view of the dunes from the reflection on a small pond nearby.   It looked like a beautiful painting.

Mongolia really is a hidden gem and its remote location on the globe helps to keep it that way.  I have never visited a country like it and I hope to return to visit the northwest region.  But for now, I will have to wait.