Mongolia is known as the "Land of Blue Sky" and gets around 260 days of sunshine a year, however, it's also a very cold climate. Winter is the longest season and temperatures can drop as low as -26 degrees. The coldest month is January. Because of the dry air though, the weather is easier to deal with than in other places. The low temperature leads to some of the most exciting natural sights that can't be seen anywhere else, when the temperature drops low enough all of the rivers, lakes, streams and ponds freeze. Many rivers freeze almost to the bottom which is an ethereal sight, Lake Khovsgol is particularly beautiful.
While it does snow throughout winter, it is not heavy snow compared to Russian winters.
What should I do?
Mongolia offers two chances to celebrate New Year, once on January 1st on the Gregorian calendar, and the lunar new year called "Tsagaan Sar" or "the White Moon Festival". Typical celebrations involve burning candles on the altar to symbolise Buddhist enlightenment and there are holiday specific greetings such as "Amar Baina uu?" meaning "Are you living peacefully?" It's also common to visit friends and family, gathering at the home of the eldest family member to exchange gifts.
This is a great chance to learn about regional celebrations and find the similarities and differences in culture.
The winter conditions, with snow storms and cold winds, are called "zud", however, winter actually has less wind and snowfall than during spring so as long as you pack appropriately you'll be able to do anything.
Best Winter Excursions:
City Day Tour by Car
It might be cold but that doesn't mean you can't see the sights of Ulan-Bator. This full day of sightseeing takes you to all the famous landmarks and historic cultural points of the city. You'll start by visiting Gandan Monastery, the biggest Buddhist Monastery in Ulan-Bator which is attended by hundreds for worship daily. You'll also go to see the National History Museum and the Fine Art Museum. There's also time to relax, shop for local goods and admire the beauty of Ulan-Bator. You can even climb Zaisan Hill to admire the panoramic views.
Day Trip to Aglag Buteel Monastery
The Aglag Buteel is a Buddhist Monastery situation in picturesque highland overlooking the valley, about 100km to the east of Ulan-Bator. The Aglag Buteel monastery is surrounded by mountains and pine forests and is decorated with many works of art.
There is a walking path at the top of the hill with many stone carvings along the way that provides spectacular views of the countryside. Granite rocks have been carved as Buddhist statues, each having a symbolic significance. If you walk around, you will see intricate mythical animal carvings made out of wooden roots and rocks surrounding the mountain.
If you want to find out more about Ulan-Bator, and other cities throughout the seasons, you can view the rest of our seasonal guide here or view our excursions page here