What makes Mongolian Winters Harsh But Fun?

I grew up in the southern hemisphere and at Christmas the sun would be shining with you more likely to be struck by lighting than for you to see any snow. Christmas in Mongolia though…now that’s another story! You haven’t experienced a winter until you have been to Mongolia!

Mongolia is a country known for its vast, open spaces and rugged terrain. It is also known for its extreme weather, particularly in the winter months. With temperatures dropping to as low as -40°C (-40°F) and strong winds that can reach speeds of up to 80km/h (50mph), Mongolian winters are not for the faint of heart. However, despite the harsh conditions, Mongolians embrace the winter season and have found ways to make it an enjoyable and even fun time of year. In this article, we will explore why Mongolian winters are the most extreme but fun in the world!

The Geography of Mongolia

To understand why Mongolian winters are so extreme, it is important to first understand the geography of the country. Mongolia is a landlocked country located in central Asia, bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south. It is known for its vast, open spaces and rugged terrain, with the majority of the country being covered by grassland (steppe) and desert.

Mongolia has a continental climate, which means that it experiences large temperature fluctuations between seasons. In the summer, temperatures can reach as high as 40°C (104°F) and in the winter, they can drop as low as -40°C (-40°F). These extreme temperature fluctuations are due to the country’s location in relation to the polar front, which is a boundary between the cold, polar air to the north and the warmer, tropical air to the south.

The Harshness of Mongolian Winters

As mentioned, Mongolian winters are extreme, with temperatures regularly dropping to -40°C (-40°F) and below. In addition to the cold temperatures, Mongolian winters also bring strong winds and snowfall. The winds can reach speeds of up to 80km/h (50mph) and can make the already cold temperatures feel even colder. The snowfall can be heavy, with some parts of the country receiving up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) of snow each winter.

These harsh conditions can make life difficult for both humans and animals in Mongolia. For humans, it can be a struggle to stay warm and keep their homes and buildings heated. For animals, such as the famous Mongolian horses, it can be a struggle to find enough food to survive the winter.

Despite the harshness of Mongolian winters, the people of Mongolia have found ways to embrace and even enjoy this time of year. In this article, we will explore some of the traditional festivals and activities that help Mongolians embrace the winter season.

Traditional Festivals

One way Mongolians embrace the winter season is through the celebration of traditional festivals. One such festival is the Tsagaan Sar, which is a Mongolian lunar new year celebration that takes place in January or February. The festival involves a number of traditional activities, such as singing and dancing, and the eating of special foods. It is a time for families and communities to come together and celebrate the new year.

Another winter festival is the Ice Festival, which takes place in the city of Khuvsgul in northern Mongolia. The festival is a celebration of the region’s rich culture and traditions, and it features a number of traditional activities such as horse racing, archery, and wrestling. The festival also includes ice sculptures and ice carving competitions, as well as traditional music and dance performances.

Winter Sports and Activities

In addition to traditional festivals, Mongolians also embrace the winter season through the participation in winter sports and activities. Skiing, ice skating, ice hockey, and ice fishing are all popular winter activities in Mongolia. The country’s rugged terrain and open spaces provide the perfect backdrop for these activities, and the cold temperatures make them even more enjoyable.

Off road adventures in Mongolia can be a lot fun!

Traditional Mongolian Clothing and Shelters

Another way Mongolians embrace the winter season is through the use of traditional Mongolian clothing and shelters. Traditional Mongolian clothing, such as the deel (a type of robe) and the huud (a type of coat), are designed to keep the body warm in the cold winter months. These garments are made from thick, insulating materials and often feature fur lining to provide extra warmth.

Traditional Mongolian shelters, such as the ger (a type of tent) are also designed to withstand the cold temperatures and strong winds of winter. Gers are made from a framework of wooden poles and covered in a layer of felt, which provides insulation and helps to keep the inside warm. The inside of a ger is heated by a stove, which is fueled by dried animal dung.

Mongolian Gers are designed to be incredibly warm during the harsh winter months.

Common Foods Consumed During Winter

To survive the cold temperatures and keep warm during long harsh winters, it is important to eat foods that provide the body with energy and nutrients. These are foods that are tried and tested to get you through a Mongolian winter and a ‘must’ to try if you come in winter.

Soups and Stews

One of the best types of foods to eat in winter in Mongolia is soups and stews. These hearty dishes are warm and filling, and they provide the body with a range of nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals. Some traditional Mongolian soups and stews include buuz (steamed dumplings filled with meat), khorkhog (a stew made with mutton and vegetables), and tsuivan (a noodle soup).

Dried and Cured Meats

Another type of food that is popular in winter in Mongolia is dried and cured meats. These meats can be stored for long periods of time and provide a convenient source of protein and nutrients. Some common types of dried and cured meats in Mongolia include borts (dried, cured meat), boortsog (deep-fried dough balls), and guriltai shul (a noodle soup made with dried meat).

Fermented Dairy Products

Fermented dairy products are another staple of the Mongolian winter diet. These products, such as airag (fermented mare’s milk) and byaslag (fermented cow’s milk), provide a source of protein and probiotics, which are beneficial for the digestive system. These products are often consumed on their own or used as ingredients in other dishes.

Grains and Cereals

Grains and cereals are another important part of the Mongolian winter diet. These foods provide the body with energy and are a good source of nutrients such as fiber and B vitamins. Some common grains and cereals in Mongolia include oats, wheat, and barley. These foods can be eaten on their own or used as ingredients in dishes such as bread, porridge, and noodles.


Mongolia really does have one of the harshest winters on the planet and I could write about it all day here but until you experience it for yourself no words are truly going to be able to explain it. It is extreme yet beautiful with great opportunities to enjoy it to its fullest. So why not come to Mongolia yourself and experience it?

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