There is a lovely area about 50 minutes drive or so from Ulaanbaatar. Taking the South Road and heading south out of town and then turning off to Terelj. Once you enter the areas you travel past some lovely terrain, a mix of rocks, mountains, hills, valleys and all manner of stuff. Some of the rock formations make quite visible objects (look out for these described later here).
What is really nice in this area (and indeed, in many other areas of Mongolia) is how much like Mongolia this area does NOT look like. I mean, ask 10 people what they think Mongolia looks like and they’ll tell you “flat, desert, steppe, windy, no trees”. It is not surprising that those images abound as those flat featureless areas have a mystery in and off themselves and as such, they are what captures the imagination of people outside Mongolia … dreaming of Chinggis’ Hordes, white flag to the fore, riding across the Steppe to conquer most of the known world.
The truth about Mongolia is somewhat different. Yes, there are those flat steppe areas. Yes. the Gobi is a desert. And yes, the steppe and the desert cover a large area of the country. There are, however, also mountains, lakes, trees and such spread across the country as well. Mongolia is generally, flat in the south, mountainous in the north.
My favourite Mongolian family knows I really like trees (see an earlier blog here about Dancing Trees and Pretty Girls – in the June 2005 archives) so they tend to take me to places that are tree filled. Terelj is one such area. There are tourist camps in the Terelj area so visitors can stay there a couple of days. There is also a Korean restaurant, lots of gers (many selling Airag), horses, some camels and yaks, pretty much most things people want to see when they come to Mongolia. There is also a lovely park area.
We stopped there, we had lunch (salami, cheese, bread and beer) and then we had dinner (mutton, potatoes, carrots, er, and beer). Look closely at the pictures. Does this look like the Mongolia you imagine? Come have a look at the country.