There are few places in the world that are as famous, yet unknown, as Mongolia. It’s a country that has intrigued curious travellers for decades, with many wondering what life on the steppe is really like.
But due to whatever reason, it is a nation that few actually take the leap to visit, and this is an absolute shame. Mongolia is one of the most fascinating, picturesque, and constantly challenging places to explore, and this transforms into countless photographic opportunities that are there.
We spent two months backpacking across Mongolia, visiting nomadic tribes, trekking in the mountains, visiting the Gobi Desert and spending as much time as possible with the hospitable people. It was an experience we will never forget, and the entire time we had our cameras by our sides.
Here are 5 reasons why Mongolia is a photographer’s paradise!
1# Insane Sunsets
Mongolia is known as the Land of the Blue Sky, and during the day it is easy to see why. With little pollution outside of the capital city, the sky is always a set in a vibrant and lively slate.
These gorgeous days quickly convert into sensational sunsets, with colours emerging that defy imagination.
Throw in a few wild horses and you’ll walk away with a shot worth framing.
2# The Tsaatan Reindeer Herders
The Dukha people (also known as the Tsaatan) are a nomadic tribe living in the far north of central Mongolia, right on the border of Siberia.
The 500 people have become famous over the years for their reliance on their herds of reindeer, which live with them in the remote taiga. They use the reindeer for transport and milk, and their fur and antlers for clothing and tools.
Reaching the Tsaatan reindeer herders requires an intense and exhausting two-day horse trek through steppe and forest, and the only accommodation up there is camping or sleeping in an ortz, which is like a tepee. But the reward is well worth the effort.
3# The Gobi Desert
The Gobi is one of the largest deserts on the planet, and it stretches over 800’000 square kilometres. Meaning “waterless”, the Gobi is synonymous with travel in Mongolia, and it could be argued that no trip to this nation is complete without a visit to the enormous semi-desert.
But there is a lot more to the Gobi Desert than just never-ending stretches of sand, and a photographer could spend weeks wandering around the region.
Just a few of the highlights are the countless dinosaur fossils scattered around, the Saxaul Forest striking against a bare backdrop, the largest sand dune in the country and, surprisingly, Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park.
Known as the Three Beauties of the Gobi. This national park is a lush, green landscape complete with fast flowing rivers and chunks of ice that survive the entire summer; a truly unique photography experience.
4# Nomadic People
The entire population of Mongolia is only 3 million, and a huge proportion of those people live as nomads.
Experiencing the Mongolian nomadic way of life is a magnificent opportunity that is revered by all travellers. Witnessing them live off the land, tend to their livestock and welcome people at any time of day or night provides a wonderful lesson in humility.
Their openness and willingness to pose for photos makes sure you’ll leave with some heartwarming shots.
5# Sprawling Steppe
The vastness of Mongolia is immensely overwhelming. Driving across the country really gives a beautiful understanding of just how open this country is.
The emptiness doesn’t just create long-lasting impressions; it makes for some beautiful photographic opportunities.
Almost every direction you look the land just seems to go on forever. Be prepared to chew through your batteries!
Alesha Bradford and Jarryd Salem are the award winning writers and photographers behind the adventure travel blog NOMADasaurus. Travelling the world together since 2008, adventure travel is their passion, and through their stories and images they promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as they go. Follow their journey on Facebook and Instagram.