Three great ranges-the Mongol Altai (plus Gobi Altai), Khangai and Hentii dominate the majority of Mongolian territory. Of these the most picturesque and largest is the Mongol Altai mountain range. The Mongol Altai has many summits reaching 4000 meters above sea level and stretches for 900 kilometres from the north-western part of the country to the south, through the territories of Bayan-Olgii and Khovd provinces. Over 20 peaks are capped with eternal snow in the Altai Mountain Range. These include Tavan Bogd, the highest peak of Mongolia measuring 4,374 meters above the sea level, Munkh Khairkhan (4,204 m), Sutai (4,226m) and Tsambagarav (4,195m).
Heading southwards, the mountains get smaller and the range turns into Gobi Altai mountain range. The Gobi Altai sub-mountain range lies within the territory of Gobi-Altai and South Gobi provinces.
The Altai is mainly composed of rocky mountains and there are many glaciers along the high ridges. Altai region is dotted with hundreds of freshwater lakes and rivers. Some of the largest rivers in the country including Khovd river, Buyant river and Bulgan are made up of hundreds of small springs of Altai Range. Altai is the habitat of rare Argali sheep, ibex, different cats, including endangered species of snow leopard and lynx, as well as, popular animals like wolves, fox, and elks.
The region is separated from central Mongolian mountainous region by Mongol els sand stretch and the Great Lakes Depression. There are some of the most famous and beautiful lakes of the country located in this region including Khar-Us Nuur Lake, Durgun Lake, Khyargas Nuur, Uvs Lake, Tolbo Nuur and Dayan Nuur lakes. These lakes and rivers in Altai are ideal places for boating, fishing and bird-watching. The whole region of Altai is an ideal destination for a number of adventures including climbing, mountain trekking, horse riding and cultural journeys. In addition to the stunning beauty of its natural settings, Altai is home to varied ethnic groups of Mongolia including Kazakhs residing most of Bayan-Olgii aimag occupying northern parts of the range.
Offering the widest variety of natural habitat and largest diversity of ethnicity Khovd aimag is a very interesting place for visitors. A large part of magnificent Altai Range with its rich wildlife, stunning beauties of Khar-Us Nuur, Khar nuur and Durgun Lakes and the isolated Trans-Altai Gobi are main features of its diverse natural settings. As the largest number of ethnic groups and minorities reside territories of this province Khovd aimag has a very rich and varied cultural heritage. The small Mongolian ethnics from this province are Uuld, Uriankhai, Torguud, Zakhchin, Myangad, Durvud, Bayad except for Khalkha. Other non-Mongolian minorities living in Khovd include Kazakhs, Tuviens and Uiguirs.
Situated in the basin of the Buyant river, Khovd is the largest town in Western Mongolia. It is the main gateway to most destinations in the high Altai Mountain region, having good air connections with Ulaanbaatar. Khovd town exhibits large old poplar trees planted during the 1800s along with its streets. Of special interest, the Sangiin herem, ruins of a fort built by Manchurians in 1792, lies in the northern outskirts of the town. Hovd aimag museum displays interesting exhibits and historic items featuring the culture of a number of ethnic groups that live in Hovd aimag.
|Lake Har Us – Black Water Lake|
Covering 1,153 square kilometres, Lake Har Us (Black Water Lake) is one of the largest lakes of Mongolia. From its western shore, 30 kilometres from Hovd town the lakes stretches about 72 kilometres eastwards. A small island in the middle of the lake forms an interesting landscape. Mongolian Grayling, an endemic fish to Central Asia, and other species of fish live in plenty. Har Us is the habitat for wild ducks, geese, wood grouse, partridges and seagulls, including the rare Relict Gull and Herring Gull. Lake Har Us is connected with Lake Durgun by the deep Green Chono Haraih river (Wolf Leaping River), which provides perfect points for excellent fishing.
|Gurvan Senkher Cave|
It takes three hours to reach the famous Gurvan Senkher cave from the centre of Hovd town, travelling across the arid grassland of the Mankhanii steppe southwards. Gurvan Senkher. There is two separate cave both facing to the north in the slope of the small rocky mountain standing on the bank of the Senkher river. The cave is about 20 meters deep and was inhabited by humans 40,000 – 12,000 years ago during the Paleolithic Era. The walls of the entrance chamber of the cave are filled with numerous rock painting, which scientists reckon was drawn by men who lived during the Paleolithic Era about 40,000 -12,000 years ago. Among the paintings, images of various animals are identified. Except for ibex, the mountain goat which is common in Mongolia, such ancient animals as buffalo, ostrich and elephant that are long extinct in Mongolia were depicted among the painting.
Munkh-Hairhan, standing at 4,204 meters above sea level in the centre of High Altai Mountain Range is one of the most beautiful mountains of Mongolia. Devoted trekkers can hike up to the snow-capped peak from its northern side. Such exquisite streams, lakes and colourful flower slopes are rarely found elsewhere.
Bulgan river, one of the most beautiful rivers of Mongolia starts in the western slope of the Altai, flows through the territories of Bayan-Ulgii and Khovd aimags and finally drains into the Ulangar lake in neighbouring China. 77 square kilometres in the of Bulgan river forms the Bulgan River Natural Reserve, that was made to protect rare beaver its unique habitat. While wild boar are found in plenty in the river near the Chinese border, ibex and argali sheep are a common scene in the Altai mountain part.
Nomads living near Bulgan river, which is one of the most remote areas of the country have kept their ancient customs and traditional way of living extremely undisturbed. It is easy to witness huge nomad’s movements with their gers loaded on camel backs and herds marching in the same pace with camels, heading to the higher slopes of the Altai in the early summer and back down to the Bulgan river basin in the early autumn. Sometimes they travel for about 80-100 kilometres between the higher slopes of the Altai mountain range near the peak of Mt Munkh Khairkhan and Dzungarian Gobi.
The Kazakhs inhabit Bayan Ulgii aimag, which is the most remote from the 21 provinces of Mongolia, occupying the highest part of the Altai range. Although the lifestyle of the Kazakhs is somewhat similar to the Mongol nomads from the steppe, their culture differs in many aspects from that of Mongolians. Apart from herding domestic animals as the main source of living, it is common for Kazakhs to hunt with trained eagles. In the late fall and early autumn, exciting eagle hunting tours are arranged by tour operators, so that participants witness this spectacular game of Kazakhs and experience their unique lifestyle.
|Mt. Tavan Bogd – Roof of Mongolia|
The highest peak in Mongolia – Altai Tavan Bogd ( sometimes known as Huiten Uul Mountain ) towers 4,374 meters ( 15,000 feet ) above sea level overlooking the borders of Mongolia, China and Russia. Eternal snow and glaciers in the peaks of Mt Tavan Bogd make the mountain magnificent and require endurance and high level of physical capability from mountaineers. Teams of both local and international mountaineers climb up Mt Tavan Bogd every year. On the foothills of the highest peaks, perfect trekking can be arranged.
Bordering with Bayan-Ulgii in the west and Khovd in the south Uvs has yet to offer other natural diversities; beautiful lakes, rocky mountains with high ridges and green vegetation, steppe and large sands. The largest lake of Mongolia Uvs Nuur Lake is located in this province. Not far from the lake, the snowcapped Turgen, Kharhiraa, KhanHuhii, Tsagaan Shuvuut mountains rise to 2500-4000 meters. Mt.Har- hiraa and Mt.Turgen are among the most accessible peaks in this region, but not the easiest to climb. Numerous rivers and streams flow from these ranges, where glaciers, snow and ice are permanent, into Uvs and other lakes
|Lake Uvs and its Surrounding Area|
Lake Uvs is the largest lake of Mongolia by surface water. The shallow lake lies near the northern frontier of the country where it Uvs aimag borders with Russia, in the Depression of Great Lakes. The Uvs lake lying in desert and desert steppe at an altitude of 760 meters above sea level is surrounded by large marshes in the north and the world’s northernmost sand dunes of Altan Els (Golden sands) in the eastern shore.
The unique nature contrast of the Uvs lake area creates spectacular scenery and habitat for a wide range of animals and plants. Wolf, fox, snow leopard, lynx, mountain weasel, steppe polecat, wild boar, musk deer, elk, roe deer, ibex, argali mountain sheep, Mongolian and black-tailed gazelle from rich wildlife of the Uvs lake area. Many rare and endangered species of birds including the Eurasian spoonbill, black stork, swan goose and white-tailed eagle are found here.
Lake Hyargas, one of the largest lakes of Mongolia, lies about 100 kilometres south of Lake Uvs in the territory of the Depression of Great Lakes. The Zavkhan river feeds the Airag lake, which is further connected to Hyargas lake that has not an outlet. The saltwater lake, stretching from west to east, is 75 kilometres long and 31 kilometres wide. Several special of fish including the rare Mongolian grayling lives in Hyargas lake.
The westernmost aimag of the vast Khangai region has a lot of natural wonders and diverse landscapes. The highest mountain of central Mongolian Khangai region – Mt. Otgontenger is situated in this province. The western part of Zavkhan is featured by awesome sand dunes of Mongol Els, one of the largest sand dunes of Mongolia.
Snow-capped Otgontenger Mountain, towering at 4,021 meters above sea level, stands on the western edge of Hangai Mountain range and this is the highest peak of the range. Mongolians have worshipped the sacred peak of Otgontenger for generations. Every year, a special religious sacrifice ceremony takes place near the peak of Otgontenger. Badar Hundaga lake that lies on Otgontenger Mountain forms a unique feature of its landscape. Climbing Mt Otgontenger is challenging and the 12845-foot peak is accessible only to the prepared and devoted climbers.
Zankhan River and Mongol Els Sand Dune