A map of Mongolia coloured to show highland and lowland regions and vegetationDuring the 13th and 14th centuries, Mongolia was the centre of one of the world’s greatest empires, the Mongol Empire. High, rugged mountains cover much of northern and western Mongolia. In the western Altai Mountains, some peaks reach over 4000 metres (14,000 feet). To the south, the land opens into the steppe grasslands of the Mongolian Plateau, and the rocky Gobi Desert. Mongolia’s seasons are extreme: in most of the country, winters are bitterly cold, while summers, though short, are hot.
A village of yurts and modern homes, on the outskirts of Ulan BatorAround a third of Mongolians live a traditional nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle, moving from one grazing pasture to the next with their animals. Semi-nomadic families live in one town or village for part of the year, and graze their herds on the plains for the other part. Nomadic families live in round tents called yurts (gers). The walls are padded with layers of felted wool to keep out the cold. The one large city, Ulan Bator, draws many people away from this traditional way of life. Just under half of Mongolia’s population lives in the city; many live in modern houses alongside yurts.
Ulan Bator has a yearly average temperature of 0°C (32°F), making it the world's coldest capital city.
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