1. The Gobi Desert – No trip to Mongolia is complete without going to the Gobi ("dry land" in Mongolia) Desert.
During the summer months, temperature rises above 40 C (104 F) and plummets to below 40 C in the winter.
Unlike the Sahara, only about 3% of the desert is taken up by sand dunes. Much of it is covered with rocks, dry grasslands and gravel.
The climate maybe harsh and extreme, yet a number of animals flourish in the Gobi, including the Bactrian (double-humped) camel, ibex, wolves and golden eagles.
2. Breathtaking landscapes – Mongolia has varied and stunning landscapes, ranging from rugged mountain ranges to cascading green hills. There's also alpine mountains like this at Terelj National Park.
One of Mongolia's biggest protected areas, Terelj National Park features a dizzying array of fascinating rock formations, including Turtle Rock, set against pine covered mountains.
3. Mongolia's sacred lake – Lake Khovsgol is said to be the most scenic destination in Mongolia.
With stunning vistas greeting visitors at every turn, it seems possible to point a camera in any direction and take an award-winning photograph.
The lake, located close to the Russian border and bordering the Siberian Taiga Forest, is the country's deepest and holds about 70% of Mongolia's freshwater supply.
The lake is full of fish while its shores are home to a number of wildlife including ibex, elk, wolf, wolverine and Siberian moose.
During the past couple of years, tourism has flourished thanks largely to the construction of a sealed road from Ulaanbataar.
The lake's surface totally freezes over during the winter and produces ice up to 1.5 meters thick.
4. Small but great Great White Lake – Formed by lava flows millions of years ago, the White Lake (Tsagaan Nuur) in central Mongolia's Arkghangai provinceis relatively small compared to Khovsgol, but it's equally breathtaking.
Surrounded by rolling grass hills and some forests, the lake is especially stunning at sunset and sunrise.
Vast and virtually unspoiled, it's possible to spend days wandering the surrounding steppes that go on for miles on end.
Visitors can go fishing, horse-riding or hike the 2,965-meter Khorgo volcano.
5. The Flaming Cliffs – The Flaming Cliffs in South Gobi are famous for one of mankind's most important dinosaur fossils discoveries.
While seeing a dinosaur fossil in the wild is a thrilling prospect, the spectacular colors of the sun setting and rising over the sandstones are what make the Flaming Cliffs experience unforgettable.
6. These versatile Buddhist monks – During the widespread repression of Buddhism in Mongolia during seven decades of communism that ended in the early 1990s, almost all the country's monasteries were destroyed and thousands of monks were killed.
Gandan Monastery was the only survivor with barely a hundred monks until collapse of the Soviet Union led to the demise of Mongolia's communist regime.
7. High-tech gers – While Mongolia's landscape has changed little over the centuries, the nomadic lifestyle is slowly changing.
Instead of using horses to herd their livestock, some use motorbikes.
Instead of using yaks and camels, many nomadic families now use trucks to move their belongings.
Most gers -- the traditional tents -- also now have solar panels and satellite dishes.
8. Unforgettable family stays – Most tour operators offer short visits to nomadic families as part of their itinerary. Those wishing to fully immerse themselves into the nomads' fascinating ancient lifestyle, its possible to organize longer stays.
9. Space. All that space – With a population density of approximately 1.7 people per square kilometer, Mongolia is one of the most sparsely peopled countries on the planet.
It's possible to drive for miles without a sign of another human being. It's possible to take a plane from one province to the other, but nothing beats the overland trips to truly appreciate the grandeur of Mongolia's landscapes.
10. Magical sunsets – Other than the mind-bogglingly wide open spaces, the other special feature of the Mongolian landscape is the light.
Because it's so far north, it doesn't get truly dark until 10 p.m. in summer months.
But the real magic happens between 7-9 p.m. when the bright blue sky turns into brilliant red hues.
Wrestling 'lions' – Wrestling is one of the three manly sports celebrated during Mongolia's annual Naadam Festival -- attracting 3,000 competitors.
The other two are archery and horse racing. There are no weight categories. Wrestling bouts are mostly judged and won on strategy, so it's common to see a lighter contender trying his luck against a brawny rival.
Once the match is over, the winner performs an eagle dance in honor of the judges and the defeated.
The overall winner is given the title "lion."
12. 'Open-door' policy – Every ger in the Mongolian countryside is a potential rest stop and sometimes a hotel.
Nomadic life can be lonely so visitors are warmly welcomed and tradition dictates they can enter without being invited in.
Even if there's no one at home, it's OK for visitors to help themselves to the food purposely left behind in case a guest drops by.
When visiting a Nomadic family in the countryside, its polite to bring some presents.
Small, practical gifts such as nail clippers, pens and food -- especially fresh fruit -- are usually appreciated.
13. Deep connection with nature – Nomadic Mongolians are inseparable from their animals and their environment.
For centuries this deep connection has enabled them to survive harsh Mongolian weather conditions.
Herders are said to know each of their animals and can tell when one goes missing. Many herders believe natural elements such as grass, rocks and animals contain spirits and should be respected.
"We don't put people above nature," says Mongolian guide Timur Yadamsuren,. "We believe that animals and nature should be treated equally with humans."
14. Plenty of blue skies – Mongolia enjoys around 250 sunny days of the year.
In springtime, a network of ger camps like this begins sprouting in major tourist areas to cater for the growing number of visitors.
Travel season starts in May and peaks around July during the Naadam festival. The weather starts to cool in September but travel is still comfortable in October when Mongolia holds major celebrations such as the Eagle Festival, a huge gathering of hunters and their eagles.
15. A 131-foot-tall Genghis Khan – Genghis Khan maybe remembered for his brutalities when he conquered half of the world in the 13th century, but Mongolians see him as their national hero and a symbol of their culture.
So much so that they built a 40-meter-tall statue of him riding horseback at the Tuul River 54 kilometers east of Ulaanbaatar.
The statue is wrapped in 250 tons of stainless steel and is symbolically pointed east, towards Khan's birthplace.
16. View from the Zaisan Memorial – Built by the Russians as a monument to Soviet soldiers who died in World War Two, the Zaisan Memorial sits on top of a hill overlooking Ulaanbaatar.
On a clear day, it offers fantastic views of the city and spectacular sunsets.
17. A national costume that reveals age – Commonly worn by both men and women, especially by herders, the traditional Mongolian costume called deel is as ancient as the country itself.
The deel, similar to a robe with no pockets is worn with a thin silk sash tightly wound around the waist.
The belt is used to carry items like chopsticks, snuff bottles and pipe pouches. Toothpicks, ear scratchers and tweezers can also be carried.
Different styles of deel reflect the age of the wearer.
Older people typically wear something modest and plain while married woman are distinguished by more elaborate dresses.
18. The ubiquitous ovoos – Ovoos are little piles of stone that act as altars.
They're found on high places like hills or mountains.
Tradition requires anyone leaving an offering to circle an ovoo three times in a clockwise direction for luck. Candy, money, milk or vodka are among items regularly offered.