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Why 2023 is the year to visit Mongolia

Editor’s note: This CNN Travel series is, or was, sponsored by the featured country. CNN retains complete editorial control over the subject matter, reporting and frequency of articles and videos in the sponsorship, in accordance with our politics.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Because of its distance and the short summer season, Mongolia has been long neglected destination from travelers.

But as the country moves to open up more to tourism by easing its conditions of entry for international visitors and upgrading its infrastructure, 2023 might just be the best time to arrive.

Here are 10 reasons why travelers should start planning their long-dreamed-of visit to Mongolia now.

With the Mongolian government declaring 2023 to 2025 as “Years to visit Mongolia,” citizens of 34 new countries can now visit the country without a visa until the end of 2025.

The addition of several European countries, including Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom, as well as citizens of Australia and New Zealand, now brings the total number of visa-free countries to 61.

The full list is here.

Mongolia's new Chinggis Khan International Airport.

After years of delay, a pandemic and many controversies, the newly built Chinggis Khaan International Airport finally opened in the summer of 2021.

With the capacity to handle approximately 3 million passengers per year (double that of the old airport), the addition of 500 new aircraft parking spaces and the infrastructure to support the increase in domestic flights and budget, the airport is a welcome addition to the country’s efforts to grow tourism.

Budget flights to Hong Kong by EZNIS Airways have been relaunched since the airport opened, and discussions to resume direct flights to the United States are ongoing.

The little open Genghis Khan Museum offers a beautiful and fresh look at Mongolia’s tumultuous history.

With more than 10,000 artifacts spanning more than 2,000 years, the museum explores the history of the Mongols and the empire they created—and eventually lost.

The museum’s artifacts are presented on eight floors, with six permanent and two temporary exhibition rooms. Guided tours are offered in English every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm for free.

The Spirit of Gobi festival in Mongolia 2023 will take place in August.

When most people think of Mongolia, music festivals and conservation-focused art installations in the heart of one of the world’s largest deserts are the last things that come to mind.

But everything has changed thanks to festivals like Game time, Spirit of Gobi, INTRO Electronic Music Festival and the Kharkhorum 360 Visual Art & Music Experience.

Putting international bands, DJs and musicians from around the world alongside Mongolia’s eclectic mix of rappers, bands and folk singers, the country could be one of the world’s most underrated places for festival goers.

The annual Naadam The event has always been a great reason to visit Mongolia, but now that the festival has just celebrated its 100th anniversary, 2023 is a good time to attend.

While the origins of the festival are rooted in the days of Genghis Khan, when he used horse racing, wrestling and archery competitions to keep his warriors in shape between battles, Naadam has officially become a national holiday only 100 years ago.

Today, the festival – held in Ulaanbaatar at the National Sports Stadium, has a few more bells and whistles than in the days of the Great Khan.

A seat at the opening ceremony on July 11 is still one of the hardest tickets to score in town.

Mongolian archery is back.

Mounted archery is seeing a revival in Mongolia thanks to guys like Altankhuyag Nergui, one of the most accomplished archers in the sport and his archery academy, First name.

Here, locals learn the basics of Mongolian archery before mounting a horse and taking their new found skills to another level.

In the summer months, students and members of the academy put on weekly shows for interested spectators. The academy also offers day training sessions for those who want to try this intense sport.

Speaking of giving life to the oldest traditions of Mongolia, the revival of the Mongolian bichig, or the traditional Mongolian script written from top to bottom and read from left to right, has also seen a major revival in the last years

Visit the Erdenesian Khuree Mongolian Calligraphy Center in Karakorum to learn from master calligrapher Tamir Samandbadraa Purev about this important cultural heritage. And while you’re there, explore the yurts full of Tamir’s works.

A Mongolian hunter sends his golden eagle to catch prey.

Pair the release of Husqvarna’s new Norden 901 Expedition motorcycle with the newly announced Nomadic Off-Road Tower of the Eagle Hunterand you have one of the fastest adventures in Mongolia.

The tour takes six riders 1,700 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar to Bayan-Ulgii, where the riders eventually meet their hosts, the famous eagle hunters of Mongolia.

The only thing faster about this adventure is the rate at which Nomadic Off-Road tours sell out.

Professional musher Joel Rauzy has been leading dog sled tours across frozen Khuvsgul Lake for 18 years.

With fewer crowds, lower hotel rates and the chance to see one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world completely frozen, winter in Mongolia is something else to see and experience.

Rauzy’s company, Wind of Mongolia, offers tours of the lake, where each person is assigned their own sled and dogs for the trip. Following Rauzy, the mushers make a loop of the lake. Activities include ice fishing, while travelers stay in winter yurts and spend time with nomadic families along the journey.

Yeruu Lodge is infused with Scandinavian minimalism.

Located in the heart of Selenge Province on the Yeruu River, Yeruu Lodge is the brainchild of Norwegian founder Eirik Gulsrud Johnsen, who first visited Mongolia in 2017.

With a minimal restaurant and a Scandinavian-style dining area, a handful of fully equipped yurts for guests to stay in, two pétanque courts, kayaks, a driving range, mountain biking and a yoga area, the lodge is a destination for nature lovers.

Completely off-grid, the home runs off solar panels, uses thermal heating, and all of the property’s water comes from a well on the property and is recycled after use.

In addition, all the glass, metal and plastic used in the lodge is also recycled, and food waste is turned into compost used to grow vegetables, berries and herbs on site.

The lodge will open in April 2023.

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