Natural regions in Mongolia

Southern Gobi Desert

The Gobi desert, the habitat of the rarest animals and a unique natural landscape. Its desert and semi-desert ecosystems have hardly change in many years. The Gobi is often imagined to be a place of unbearable heat and lifeless sand dunes; similar to the inhospitable Sahara desert, but the reality is quite the reverse. The Gobi has high mountains, springs, forests, sands, steppes and a rich animal kingdom.

      Occupying 30 per cent of the country’s vast territory and stretching from the east to the west through the southern part of Mongolia, it is rich in wildlife. Its numerous rare animal species include argali sheep, ibex, snow leopard, lynx, wild ass, gazelles, saiga, wild Bactrian camel and Gobi bear, just to name a few. Its plant kingdom comprises over 400 species including many valuable medicinal, folder and decorative plants. The sight of an ancient sea, the region has been host to countless fossil discoveries. The first fossilized dinosaur eggs were discovered by famous American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews in the 1920’s in the area known as the Flaming Cliffs (Bayanzag). Famous sand dunes including Hongoriin els, Moltsog els and Burdene Bulag are some of the major attractions. The green canyon at Yoliin Am or Eagle Valley in Gobi Gurvan Saikhan national park nestled between high rock walls is interesting variation for Gobi ecology.  

Southern Gobi Desert
Majestic Mountains of the West

Majestic Mountains of the West

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 kilometers 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 (4,195 m).

                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 fresh water 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. 

Central Mongolia – Khangai Region

Most of Central Mongolian territory is predominated by Khangai Mountain Range, the most extensive from the three major ranges and other smaller ranges. This is the most vegetated part of the country and encompasses several natural zones including mountain and mountain steppe zone, and Siberian taiga forest. Fertile soil and numerous rivers, streams and lakes support a variety of plants and the area is habitat to a huge array of animal species including, elk, Siberian roe deer, wolf, fox, wild boar, ibex, lynx and brown bear, just to name a few.

                The landscape of Khangai Mountain Range is very different from the Altai Mountains. While high rocky cliffs, and deep basins are dominant in both Mongol Altai and Gobi Altai, Khangai Range is featured by broad, warped dome-shaped mountains covered with grass and trees. Khangai is the water source for many rivers including the largest Mongolian rivers Selenge, Orkhon, Ider, Zavkhan and Terh rivers as well as lakes numerous smaller lakes including Terhiin Tsagaan Nuur lake, Ugii Nuur Lake (Arkhangai aimag), Naiman Nuur Lake (Uvurkhangai aimag), Khar Nuur and Telmen lakes (Zavkhan aimag).

                Numerous ancient burial sites and fortress ruins come from the various nomadic people who inhabited Mongolia during different periods of history are found in this region, much of which being found in historic Orkhon Valley. The symbolic ruins of Karakorum and famous Erdenezuu Monastery lie in this region

Central Mongolia – Khangai Region
The North - Watershed of Mongolia

The North - Watershed of Mongolia

Further north from Khangai region the mountains get higher and forests get denser and soil gets more fertile as it approaches the most irrigated part of the country. Overlapping with Khangai range in the south smaller range of Sayan dominates the north central Mongolia, occupying most mountainous part of Huvsgul aimag (province) territory. The main feature of this region is abundance of clear water lakes and rivers with the most outstanding being the Huvsgul Lake. Known as the “dark blue pearl” of Mongolia, lake Huvsgul is one of the country’s largest lakes and it features one of the most spectacular areas of the country. Huvsgul lake is 136 kilometers long and 36 kilometers wide stretching from north to south. Huvsgul is the 14th largest fresh-water lake in the world by volume and its 380 cubic kilometers of water make up over 1% of the world’s fresh water. The lake is elevated at 1,645 meters above sea level and, at its deepest, the lake is 262 meters from its surface to the bottom. Huvsgul shares many similarities in origin, flora and fauna with larger Russia’s Baikal Lake, which lies 200 kilometers to the east and is connected to Huvsgul by Egiin River. About a hundred rivers and streams pour into Huvsgul lake, but only the Egiin River exits the lake.

   Numerous rivers including Shishged, Tengisiin gol, Jargalant in the spectacular green plateau of Darkhadiin Khotgor and Tsagaan Nuur like are famous destinations. Varied ethnic groups including Khalkha, Buriyat and Darkhat people inhabit the nearby forest and mountainous region, and the Tsaatan reindeer herders live in the northern taiga forest of Huvsgul aimag.

Wild Forests of Hentii Range

Wild Forests of Hentii Range

The Khan Hentii Mountain range boasts largest uninhabited land of the country despite its proximity to the capital city of Mongolia. Hentii, one of the three great ranges starts from just east of Ulaanbaatar and stretches to the great eastern plains. There are several peaks that rise above 2,500 meters above sea level, with the highest one being Asralt Khairkhan (2,800 meters). Being the ancestral home Chinggis Khaan, the Hentii Mountain Range encompasses many places that are related to the life of the great khaan.

          Khan Hentii Protected Area occupying much of the region covers over 1,2 million hectares of the rugged Hentii Mountains, bordered with Terelj National to the west. Covered by forests, wetlands, alpine tundra, and permanent snow and ice fields, the core of this remote wilderness area is totally uninhabited and accessible only by foot or horseback. Three large rivers – the Tuul, Onon and the Herlen have their sources from numerous springs at Hentii range. Numerous therapeutic hot springs, used for medicinal purposes, lie in this region.

         The Hentii range is home to over 1,150 species of plant, more than fifty species of mammals, including endangered musk dear and moose, brown beer, wolf, lynx, fox, badger, wolverine, weasel, sable, roe deer and elk. 253 species of birds, including whooper swans, spoonbills, great while egrets and raptors inhabit this area.

Archaeologists have discovered more than 800 ancient burial sites near Hentii Kahn Mountain. A ruined monastery, Gunjiin Sum, is located within the Khan Hentii Protected Area. Hentii region is ideal destination for ecological and adventurous journeys. Dense forests, numerous streams and wetlands only accessible for adventurers, horse riders and trekkers.

Endless Plains of the East

Eastern Mongolian Plains feature a miracle of verdant grasslands that extend as far as the eye can see as well as lakes, mineral springs and gently rolling hills. The steppes are home to rich wildlife dominated by thousands of white-tailed gazelle (Mongolian gazelle). Traditional folk songs, blacksmith and silversmith skills, and handicrafts of Dariganga people, who inhabit the southern end of the plains, are famous throughout Mongolia.

               Further eastwards near Chinese border lies the giant easternmost province of Dornod Aimag. Dornod aimag is the least traveled place despite its rich historical significance and stunningly diverse natural settings. There are rugged terrains in the south-east and in the northwestern part of the province. In the in the east of the province along Chinese border, is a superb area of forests. Huh Nuur (Blue Lake) is the lowest point in Mongolia, 554 meters above sea level. Beautiful rivers of Khalkha and Numrug and Buir Nuur Lake all boast rich bird life. Khalkha Basin was the battlefield during World War II between Mongolian-Soviet and Japanese troops. 

 

Endless Plains of the East