THE EASTERN MONGOLIA
Eastern Mongolia, encompassing the Khan Hentii Mountain Range and Great Eastern Plains, has a lot to offer travelers and Mongolians alike. Frequently mentioned in “The Secret History of the Mongols”, a rare Mongol-centric historical account, the remote and almost uninhabited wilderness area of the Khan Hentii Mountains is the birthplace of Chinggis Khaan.
The Eastern Mongolian Plains feature expanses of verdant grasslands, which extend as far as the eye can see, as well as lakes, mineral springs, and gently rolling hills. This steppe permits an array of wildlife to thrive but is dominated by thousands of white-tailed gazelle (Mongolian gazelle).
Traditional folk songs, blacksmith and silversmith skills, and the handicrafts of the Dariganga people, who inhabit the southern end of the plains, are also parts of the region’s famous reputation.
Hentii Mountain Range & Khan Hentii Protected Area
Duration: 4-6 hours by road
Accommodation: ger camp, camping
Activities: hiking, horseback riding, climbing, nature trips, wildlife viewing, photography, and videography tours.
Hentii, one of Mongolia’s three prime mountain ranges, starts from just east of Ulaanbaatar and stretches to the great eastern plains. Several peaks rise to 2,500 meters above sea level, the highest one being Asralt Khairkhan (2,800 meters). The ancestral home of Chinggis Khaan, the Hentii Mountain range encloses many places that played important roles in the great khaan’s life, making it a popular destination for history buffs and patriots. The Khan Hentii Protected Area covers over 1.2 million hectares of the rugged Hentii Mountains, bordered by Terelj National Park (See Terelj National Park) to the west. Covered by forests, wetlands, alpine tundra, and even some permanent ice fields, the core of this remote region can only be accessed on foot or horseback. Three large rivers, the Tuul, the Onon, and the Herlen, owe their existence to sources from the Hentii Range’s numerous springs. Therapeutic hot springs, used for medicinal purposes, can be found in some parts of the region.
The Hentii Range houses over 1,150 species of plants and more than 50 species of mammals, including endangered musk dear and moose, brown bears, wolves, lynx, foxes, badgers, wolverines, weasels, sable, roe deer, and elk. It also provides shelter for 253 bird species including whooper swans, spoonbills, great white egrets, and raptors.
Archaeologists have discovered more than 800 ancient burial sites near Khan Hentii Mountain. A ruined monastery, Gunjiin Sum, falls within the Khan Hentii Protected Area.
Huduu Aral & the Ruins of Chinggis Khaan’s Palace
Duration: 5-6 hours by road
Accommodation: Ger camps
Activities: historical and archeological expeditions, horseback riding, and nature trips.
On the Huduu Aral Plains, 13 kilometers southeast of the Khan Hentii Protected Area, a traveler can find the Aurug or the Palace of Chinggis Khan.
In 1240 The Secret History of the Mongols was completed at this site, in the 30 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide plains. The 750th anniversary of this great historical work was held at Huduu Aral in 1990, and a monument was erected to honor the great khaan. The area is also historically relevant because of the ancient burial sites found throughout the area.
Mongol Dagurian Strictly Protected Area
Duration: 5-7 hours by road from Choibalsan
Activities: hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, photography, and videography tour.
About 280 kilometers to the east of Gurvan Nuur Spring Spa, the Mongol Dagurian Protected Area encloses a sizeable portion of the eastern plains’ northern edge. Dagurian receives protection to preserve a representative portion of the eastern steppe and its flora and fauna. The area is divided into two sections; the larger, northern part included accounts for one piece of an international reserve, which covers nearby protected areas in Russia and China—a haven for some of the world’s rarest birds. 226 species of birds, including the endangered whooper swan, relict gull, mandarin duck, and great bustard inhabit the protected area. 36 kinds of mammals including roe deer, Mongolian gazelle, red foxes, raccoons, and wolves also live in Dagurian. Seven fish species and three types of amphibians live in Ulz River and its basin, part of which lies in the protected area.
Halkha River & memorials
Duration: 5-6 hours by road
Accommodation: ger camp & camping
Activities: fishing, bird watching, photography, and videography tours.
The famous Khalkha River starts in the Hyangan Mountain Range and empties into Buir Nuur. The rivers were the site of skirmishes and a major battle between Russo-Mongol forces (mainly Russian) and the Japanese during the mid-to-late 1930s and early 1940s. The Russians effectively won the engagement, ending Japanese interest in Mongolia and Siberia during World War II. Mongolian veterans of the campaign are still recognized every year for their contributions.
Numrug Strictly Protected Area
Duration: 6-7 hours by road from Choibalsan
Activities: wildlife viewing, nature trips, hiking, photography, and videography tour.
Numrug Strictly Protected Area is positioned in the far eastern tip of Mongolia, 420 kilometers east of Choibalsan. Visitors may want to wear good boots because the protected area, which includes the western end of Hyanhan Mountain Range, is relatively wet compared to the rest of eastern Mongolia. Manchurian flora and fauna that appear nowhere else in Mongolia are found in the Numrug Protected Area, an ecologically distinct zone from the rest of the country. Very biologically diverse, the protected area contains 44 types of mammals, 234 species of birds, 24 kinds of fish, 3 species of reptiles and 4 species of amphibians. Rare Ussurian moose, black-napped orioles and great black water snakes, as well as the endangered hooded crane and Houbara bustard is found here along with brown bears, lynx, and wild boar.
The Dariganga Plains & the town of Baruun-Urt
Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes by air to Baruun-Urt from UB
Accommodation: camping & hotel
Activities: hiking, horseback and camelback riding, wildlife viewing, cultural expeditions and nature trips.
Another population center of the white-tail gazelles, the Dariganga Steppe extends along Mongolia’s southern border. Like other places in the east, the Dariganga is a mix of the natural and historical, with its golden sand dunes, mineral springs, and im- portant religious sites. Dari Mountain is a shaman’s shrine dedicated to good fortune, which has been worshiped by the local Dariganga people for many centuries. There are also a number of Buddhist temples and rock statues of local nobility, dating back to the 10-13th century. Art thrives in this area as well, and the traditional folk songs, blacksmith and silversmith skills, and handicrafts of the Dariganga people are famous throughout Mongolia. Great master-pieces of traditional silversmiths and blacksmiths are exhibited in the Sukhbaatar Aimag Museum, which is located in the town of Baruun-Urt.