In a country the size of western Europe, it's no surprise that much of Mongolia's population still embraces the country's famous nomadic culture and there's no better way to immerse yourself in this tradition than sleeping in a traditional yurt, or 'ger' as they're called in Mongolia.
Yurts have been the predominant style of homes in Mongolia for thousands of years. The Mongols would move 3 or 4 times a year so having something that could be set up and transported easily as well as something circular that would resist the high winds of the flat grasslands made nomadic life much easier.
You might be surprised to learn that sleeping in a yurt isn't as back-to-basics as you might imagine. Sure, the lifestyle is simple, and communal, but the inside of yurts are typically decorated with brightly coloured blankets, wooden furniture, a small heater, and beds with mosquito nets. Patterned rugs line the floor and fabrics like sheep wool will be used on the domed roof for insulation.
In the quiet wilderness of the grasslands, it'll probably be the best night's sleep you've ever had.
Sleeping in a yurt is only part of the fun of being in Mongolia though. During the day there are opportunities to go horse riding, help round up sheep, and, depending on where you are in Mongolia, bike riding and canoeing. Later, meet your fellow travellers back at camp for a traditional meal before a spot of star gazing under the clearest night sky you've probably ever seen.
If you want to sleep in a traditional yurt the best time to visit Mongolia is in the summer, between June and September. The weather will be warm, and mostly dry and while there may be some thunderstorms, it's better to travel in the summer when you can avoid the dust storms and freezing temperatures.
Mongolians are tolerant people and won't expect you to know all of their customs and traditions when you're only visiting their country for a short trip. However, to make the best possible impression it might be worth knowing a few of their customs, many of which are based on the belief of good and bad omens, before you visit. For example, you shouldn't step on the yurt's threshold or attempt to hold a conversation with someone from across the yurt's threshold. It is also polite to accept food or drink, and taste some of it, even if you're not hungry and, if you're going to be planning a homestay with a Mongolian family rather than sleeping in a yurt on a tour, it's customary to bring a small gift.
If you want to make your trip to Mongolia even more memorable, make sure it coincides with the annual Naadam Festival which takes place every July. This three day festival, which begins with an elaborate ceremony, sees Mongolians dressing in their best clothes and watching the three sports that make up the festival: Mongolian wrestling, archery, and horse riding. Mongolians follow special rituals and practices during the festival and getting the chance to witness these, as well as the celebrations, is definitely worth planning your trip around.
If you love the outdoors, you'll love Mongolia, and sleeping in a traditional Yurt is a chance to really get back to nature. What could be better than waking up to the rolling hills, the rugged mountains, and the fresh, clean air of Mongolia, knowing that it's right outside just waiting to be explored?
Beverley Reinemann is a freelance writer and founder of the travel and lifestyle blog, Pack Your Passport. Originally from England, she's a self-confessed Australophile and travel lover and spends most of her time drinking way too much coffee in east London, going to gigs and planning her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @PckYourPassport.comments powered by Disqus