At 603,908 square miles, Mongolia is one big country, and one that's mostly empty. Even more startling than the country's size is the population - or lack of it. Mongolia is home to a mere three million people, making this the sovereign state with the lowest population density in the world. The stats keep coming - 30% of the population are nomadic and 8% of Mongolian men are direct descendants of Genghis Khan, now immortalised in a 120ft tall equine statue just outside of the capital Ulaanbaatar from where the great Mongol warrior glares down on his people.
On the subject of Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital has a thriving cultural scene with many museums, galleries, and cultural shows making this somewhere to spend a few days at the beginning or end of any trip.
Away from UB (as the capital is almost universally known), a country this vast needs pretty careful planning because most visitors don't have the several spare weeks required to do every far flung region justice. More often than not it's a case of choosing what, when and where as wisely as possible, and that's where we'd like to think our expertise comes to the fore.
Top of the 'unmissable' list is the iconic Gobi Desert, which covers swathes of Southern Mongolia. This beautiful region is home to 600ft sand dunes; large numbers of dinosaur fossils and fossilised eggs; the famous Flaming Cliffs (so called because of the vivid orange colour they go at sunset); the Bronze Age rock art of Havtsgait and the Gegeet Valley, where snow leopards roam.
Between the Gobi and the capital lie the seemingly endless steppes of grassland that Mongolia's nomads call home, setting up encampments of their distinctive ger tents and staying until their livestock are ready to move on. Within easy (by Mongolian standards) reach of Ulaanbaatar are two stunning National Parks; Hustai (also known as Khustain), home to the world's only remaining wild horse species - the takhi, and the alpine expanse of Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and its resident bears and elks. For an injection of culture, to the west of Hustai lie the hundred white stupas and Buddhist artworks of Erdene Zuu Monastery and what little remains of Karakorum, the one-time capital when the Mongol Empire stretched from Eastern Europe to Korea in the 13th Century.
After the expansive steppes, Northern Mongolia represents a different ecosystem entirely, with the landscape dominated by mountains, lakes and thick forests that are the perfect habitat for reindeer, bear, moose, elk and yak. The focal point of the region is the vast Lake Khovsgol and the network of smaller lakes and rivers to its west, a major lure for fishermen and women in search of huge taiman fish, while non-anglers can enjoy riding safaris in the beautiful surroundings.
Last but not least, Western Mongolia feels like a world apart in an already other-worldly destination. Squeezed to a point between the even larger land masses of Russia to the north and China to the south, The Altai Tavan Bogd National Park (the Altai Mountains to you and me) features Mongolia's highest peaks, many of which are permanently snow-capped, alongside fascinating Turkic stone men sculptures and ancient burial mounds. The Turkic influence is also visible in the ethnically Kazakh people who inhabit the area, and who maintain their tradition of hunting with hawks and eagles. In fact one of the key times to visit Mongolia is for the Golden Eagle Festival in Bayan Ulgii aimag (region) of Western Mongolia at the end of September or beginning of October.
While we're on the subject of dates for the diary, another particularly fun time to be in Mongolia is over the great annual festival of Naadam from 11th - 13th July, when Mongolians show off their aptitude for archery, horse riding and wrestling; skills that once saw them rule the largest contiguous land empire ever. Even if you're not in Mongolia over either of these dates, there's always trekking, riding, camel trekking, fishing, climbing and endless photographic opportunities to keep you happy.