THE CENTRAL MONGOLIA

Mongolia’s Hangai Range defines much of the country’s central northern recesses; the range is the largest of three major mountainous chains (and several smaller ones) in the area, which includes the Huvsgul and Sayan ranges. A considerable of Mongolia’s vegetation is concentrated in these places, and the ranges encompass several natural zones from mountainous stepped to Siberian taiga forests. Fertile soil and numerous rivers, streams and lakes sustain a variety of plants and the area shelters a huge array of species: elk, Siberian roe deer, wolves, foxes, wild boar, ibex, lynx and brown bears, just to name a few. Many popular destinations, highlighted by famous Huvsgul Lake, the ancient ruins of Karakorum, spectacular Terhiin Tsagaan Nuur, as well as the Orkhon and Selenge rivers and Hustain Nuruu National Park, make the greater Central and North Central Region a must-see for many visitors.

Historic Orkhon River Valley

Distance: 365 kilometres from Ulaanbaatar
Duration: 7-9 hours by road
Accommodation: Ger camps
Activities: hiking, horseback riding, cultural & historical tours, and fishing For thousands of years, Orkhon river valley has witnessed the history of the Mongols. Therefore it is famous for prolific, ancient historical sites—the ruins of Har Balgas fortress, the Hushuu Tsaidam stone monuments and the ruins at Uuld Ulaan Had to name a few—the Orkhon Valley attracts plenty of visitors interested in Mongolia’s past.
Numerous streams from the Hangai Mountain Range unite to form the Orkhon River, which flows across Central Mongolian for 1,124 kilometres until it joins the Selenge River in the north. The Orkhon River functions as a habitat for many species of fish native to Central Asia including pike, mirror carp, Baikal sturgeon, taimen, river perch, Siberian umber, roach, golden carp and Amur catfish. Orkhon River also drops into Mongolia’s largest waterfall: Orkhon Waterfall.

Karakorum-The Ancient Capital of Mongolia

Distance: 365 kilometres from Ulaanbaatar
Duration: 7-9 hours by road
Accommodation: Ger camps
Activities: cultural tours and horseback riding, hiking and fishing in the surrounding area.
Once the capital of Mongolia, Karakorum’s shell now possesses symbolic and historical importance rather than direct political clout. However, it remains one of the region’s most popular destinations, in part because the site now houses Erdenezuu Monastery, the nation’s second-largest Buddhist monastery. The ruins of Karakorum repose about 370 kilometers west of Ulaanbaatar, in Uvurhangai aimag. Karakorum was established around 1220 and was briefly Mongolia’s capital until 1241. Within the next quarter-century, Kublai Khan moved the centre of Mongol affairs to Khanbalik, in what is now Beijing.

Erdenezuu monastery

Distance: 365 kilometres from Ulaanbaatar
Duration: 7-9 hours by road
Accommodation: Ger camps
Activities: cultural tours and horseback riding, hiking and fishing.
The first Buddhist monastery, Erdenezuu, was built on the ruins of Karakorum in 1586 on the orders of Abtai Sain Khan, a distant but powerful relative of Chinggis Khaan. Stone monuments, bricks and many other building materials from the ruins of Karakorum were used in the construction of the monastery.
The monastery occupies 1,600 square meters, an area exactly 10 times smaller than the original city; the monastery is surrounded by a stone wall with 108 stupas (Buddhist shrines) and four gates. The Erdenezuu monastery preserves works made by Mongolian artisans, painters, sculptors, embroiderers and craftsmen from the 17-19th centuries.
Erdenezuu flourished before the 20th century, containing one hundred temples and one thousand resident lamas (Buddhist monks) at one point.
During the political purges of the 1930s, most of the temples were destroyed and many of the lamas were either executed or imprisoned. The temple remained closed until 1965 when it was finally permitted by the Mongolian government to reopen as a museum, not a place of worship. However, Erdenezuu clandestinely kept its former glory as a sacred place of worship for local Mongolians, and now represents an important historical site for foreign visitors as well.

Tuvkhun Khiid monastery

Distance: 82Km from Kharkhorum
Duration: 2-3 hours by road
Accommodation: Ger camps
Activities: hiking, horseback riding, cultural & historical tours.
One of the historic landmarks of Orkhon Valley is Tuvkhun Monastery – the place where the First Bogd Undur Gegeen Zanabazar created his famous works and meditated.
In 1651, the Undur Gegeen had a stone-walled house built on a small piece of flat land on top of Shiveet Ulaan Mountain, surrounded by cliffs and boulders and luscious forests. The structure was named ‘Dubkhan’ or ‘The Place for Crafts’, which eventually became ‘Tuvkhun’.
While being at the monastery, the Undur Gegeen invented the Soyombo script in 1686 as well as created his most popular literary work ‘Bestowing the Highest Blessings’ or the sutra more commonly known in Mongolian as ‘Itgel’ or ‘Faith’, alongside putting his craftsmanship skills to use by making sculptures of Buddhist deities such as the White and Green Taras.
Around the monastery, there are also certain points of interest, such as the seat the Undur Gegeen Zanabazar frequently used to rest, two trees used for tying horses, and his footprint when he wore traditional boots and handprints.

Elsentasarkhai sand dune

Distance: 269 kilometres from Ulaanbaatar
Duration: 5-7 hours by road
Accommodation: Ger camps
Activities: hiking, climbing, horseback riding, nature trips and hiking.
Forest and desert intermingle at Bayangobi, located 270 kilometres west of Ulaanbaatar. A ger camp is located along the sand dunes, acting as a useful launch point for trips to magnificent Batkhaan Mountain, only 15 kilometres away. Tours can also be arranged from the site to Karakorum, Erdene Zuu, local temples and horse breeding camps.

The Ruins of Har Balgas

Distance: 45 kilometres from Karakorum
Duration: 1 and one-half hours by road from Karakorum
Accommodation: Ger camps
Activities: historical tours.
On the eastern bank of the Orkhon River, 50 kilometres to the north of Karakorum, a traveller can find what’s left of Har Balgas (Black City). The city was the capital of the ancient Uigur State which dominated Mongolia during the 9th century AD. The Uigurs gained power over other competing clans after the power of local.
Turkic peoples waned and built Har Balgas in 751 AD. A large brick wall fortress with two gates, one in the north and the other in the south, and a water canal surrounded, the city covered 5hectares.
Archeological findings prove that Uigurs maintained fairly lively trade, made handicrafts and printed books in their capital city.

Hushuu Tsaidam. Bilge Khan Monuments

Distance: 55 km from Karakorum
Duration: 1 and a half one hours by road from Karakorum
Accommodation: Ger camps
Activities: historical tours.
Monuments with ancient inscriptions were erected by Turks in Hushuu Tsaidam, about 45 km north of Karakorum, to the east of Orkhon River. About 40 such inscribed monuments of Turkic origin are found in Mongolia, dating back to the TurkicState’s preeminence from between the 6th-8th century AD. Perhaps the most impressive of these is a stone known as the “Orkhon Inscriptions”, dedicated to the memory of the Turkic State’s founder, Bilge Khan. The monument is 3.3 meters high and 1.3 meters wide; its inscribed text consists of 68 lines. The scripts on the sides of the monument are in Runic and the words on the rear of the monument are written in Chinese characters.

Lake Naiman Nuur

Distance: 520 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar
Duration: 11-13 hours by road from Ulaanbaatar via the town of Arvaiheer town
Accommodation: camping
Activities: hiking, nature trips, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, fishing, photography and videography tours.
Situated 116 km to the west of Arvaiheer town, Lake Naiman Nuur
(Eight Lakes) had garnered a reputation as one of Central Mongolia’s most spectacular sites. Apart from the eight lakes, which give the larger area its name, sands, forests and dead volcanoes account for additional wonders. Naiman Nuur is home to elk, argali sheep, wild boar, Siberian ibex, musk deer and numerous bird species. There are few better places to camp or hike in the country.

Lake Ugii

Distance: 370 km from Ulaanbaatar
Duration: 7-9 hours by road from Ulaanbaatar
Accommodation: tented camping
Activities: trekking, fishing, nature trips, horseback riding, photography and videography tours.
Elevated 1,387 meters above sea level, Lake Ugii covers an area of 25 square km. Celebrated for its resident and migratory birdlife, the lake also supplies ample opportunity for outdoor activities, particularly fishing, due to its rich population of perch and pike.

Tsetserleg Town

Distance: 430 km from Ulaanbaatar
Duration: 1 hour by air, 10-12 hours by road from Ulaanbaatar
Accommodation: hotels and camping.
The Road connecting central and western Mongolia passes through the pretty town of Tsetserleg, the capital of Arkhangai Province, located 430 km west of Ulaanbaatar. Although small, Tsetserleg has a lot to offer to visitors, most notably the Zayin Hiid Monastery and the Nature Museum, located in a picturesque valley on the outskirts of town. A yak herder is on the move in central Mongolia. Mongolian nomads move very frequently especially during the spring and summer months seeking better pasture for their animals. Central and Northern Regions 89 Situated at the foot of Mt Bulgan, Zayin Hiid Monastery has been preserved remarkably well. Its first temple opened in 1586 and 5 more temples were built in 1679. The monastery now houses the Museum of Arhangai aimag (North Hangai province), which exhibits numerous ethnographic items, from traditional clothes and handicrafts to sculptures and ancient weapons.

Chuluut River and Canyon

Distance: 26 km from Tsetserleg
Duration: 3-4 hours by road from Tsetserleg
Accommodation: camping
Activities: River rafting, fishing, nature trips, photography and videography tours.
400 km long, the Chuluut River begins in the Hangai Mountain Range near Egiin Davaa, eventually joining the Ider River and ultimately feeding into the Selenge River. The Chuluut flows through a wide, rocky canyon made up of basalt from the petrified lava of extinct volcanoes.
The river provides excellent opportunities for white water rafting and for fly-fishing.

Terhiin Tsagaan Nuur & volcano

Distance: 180 kilometers from Tsetserleg
Duration: 4-6 hours by road from Tsetserleg
Accommodation: Ger camps
Activities: hiking, fishing, nature trips, bird watching, horseback riding, and biking.
Surrounded by extinct volcanoes Terhiin Tsagaan is another of Mongolia’s beautiful, crystal clear lakes. 2,060 meters above sea level, the lake itself occupies an area of over 300 square km. Renowned for its fish and birdlife, Terhiin Tsagaan is full of pike and frequented by ruddy shelduck, great cormorants, and other birds. A dead volcano, Horgo, casts shadows over Terhiin Tsagaan from its lakeside location. A huge volcanic crater, about 200 meters wide and 100 meters deep and a solidified lava formation on Horogo’s southern slope, called “Basalt Ger”, further entice visitors to visit the lake.