Why 2023 is the year to visit Mongolia | CNN

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Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Mongolia, often overlooked due to its remote location and short summer season, is now opening up to international visitors with improved entry conditions and infrastructure upgrades, making 2023 the perfect time to explore this unique destination.

Here are 10 reasons why travelers should consider planning a trip to Mongolia in the near future.

In a move to attract more visitors, Mongolia has declared 2023 to 2025 as the “Years to Visit Mongolia,” allowing citizens from 34 additional countries to enter visa-free until the end of 2025.

The list of visa-exempt countries now includes various European nations, Australia, New Zealand, bringing the total to 61. You can find the complete list here.

Mongolia's new Chinggis Khaan International Airport.

The Chinggis Khaan International Airport, which opened in 2021, has significantly expanded capacity, offering improved facilities for both domestic and international flights, marking a positive step towards boosting tourism in the region.

Following the airport’s opening, budget flights to Hong Kong have resumed, with discussions underway to reintroduce direct flights to the United States.

The newly unveiled Chinggis Khaan Museum showcases Mongolia’s rich history with more than 10,000 artifacts spanning over 2,000 years, offering a comprehensive look into the Mongol Empire.

Visitors can explore the museum’s eight floors, featuring permanent and temporary exhibition halls with guided tours available in English on weekends free of charge.

Mongolia's 2023 Spirit of Gobi festival will take place in August.

When people think of Mongolia, music festivals and art installations focused on conservation in one of the largest deserts in the world may not be the first things that come to mind.

However, this perception is changing with the emergence of festivals like Playtime, Spirit of Gobi, INTRO Electronic Music Festival, and Kharkhorum 360 Visual Art & Music Experience. By bringing international bands, DJs, and musicians together with Mongolia’s diverse mix of rappers, bands, and folk singers, the country is becoming a hidden gem for festival enthusiasts.

The annual Naadam event has always been a significant attraction in Mongolia. In 2023, as the festival celebrated its 100-year anniversary, there’s no better time to experience it. Although Naadam’s origins date back to the days of Genghis Khan, who used horse racing, wrestling, and archery competitions to keep his warriors fit, the festival only officially became a national holiday a century ago.

Today, Naadam, held at the National Sports Stadium in Ulaanbaatar, has evolved with additional features compared to its early days. Securing a seat at the opening ceremony on July 11 is considered one of the most sought-after tickets in town.

Mounted archery is experiencing a revival in Mongolia, thanks to figures like Altankhuyag Nergui, a highly skilled archer, and his archery academy, Namnaa. Locals get to grasp the fundamentals of Mongolian archery before showcasing their skills on horseback.

During the summer, students and academy members put on weekly displays for interested onlookers. The academy also offers full-day training sessions for those keen on trying this demanding sport.

Another ancient tradition making a comeback in Mongolia is the Mongol bichig, the traditional Mongolian script written from top to bottom and read from left to right. The resurgence of this script has been notable in recent years.

Visiting the Erdenesiin Khuree Mongolian Calligraphy Center in Karakorum allows you to learn about this cultural heritage from master calligraphist Tamir Samandbadraa Purev. While there, you can also explore yurts filled with Tamir’s creations.The introduction of Husqvarna’s new Norden 901 Expedition motorbike and Nomadic Off-Road’s recent Eagle Hunter Tour promises an exciting adventure in Mongolia. The tour, which involves six riders traveling 1,700 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar to Bayan-Ulgii, offers a unique experience where participants meet Mongolia’s renowned eagle hunters. This adventure is in high demand, with Nomadic Off-Road’s tours selling out quickly.

On another note, professional musher Joel Rauzy has been organizing dogsledding tours across the frozen Lake Khuvsgul for 18 years. The winter season in Mongolia offers visitors a chance to witness the stunning frozen Lake Khuvsgul, experience lower hotel rates, and enjoy fewer crowds. Rauzy’s company, Wind of Mongolia, provides tours around the lake, where each participant gets their sled and dogs for the journey. The activities include ice fishing, overnight stays in winterized yurts, and interactions with nomadic families throughout the trip.

Scandinavian design meets Mongolia at Yeruu Lodge, situated in the heart of Selenge province along the Yeruu River. Founded by Norwegian Eirik Gulsrud Johnsen after his first visit to Mongolia in 2017, Yeruu Lodge features a Scandinavian-style restaurant, fully-furnished yurts for guests, recreational facilities such as pétanque courts, kayaks, a driving range, mountain bikes, and a yoga area. The lodge operates off-grid, relying on solar panels, thermal heating, and water sourced from an on-site well, which is recycled after use. Moreover, the lodge prioritizes sustainability by recycling glass, metal, and plastic, as well as converting food waste into compost for growing vegetables, berries, and herbs on-site. Yeruu Lodge is scheduled to open its doors in April 2023.

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