THE NORTHERN MONGOLIA
Further north from Khangai region the mountains get higher and forests get denser and the 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 north-central Mongolia, occupying most mountainous part of Huvsgul aimag (province) territory. The main feature of this region is an abundance of clear water lakes and rivers with the most outstanding being the Huvsgul Lake.
Numerous rivers including Shishged, Tengisiin gol, Jargalant in the spectacular green plateau of Darkhadiin Kroger 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.
Duration: 3 hours by road from Murun, the capital of Huvsgul Province and a 1 and a half hour flight northwest from UB
Accommodation: Ger camps
Activities: various nature trips, hiking, fishing, boating, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, photography and videography tours.
Known as the “dark blue pearl” of Mongolia, spectacular Lake Huvsgul truly epitomizes a geographic jewel. Bordered in the north by Sayan Mountain and in the west by the Horidol Saridag Range, the 136 km long and 36 km wide lake is the finest spot in a sublime area. The world’s 14th largest fresh-water lake by volume, Huvsgul holds 380 cubic km of water, over 1% of the globe’s freshwater. Comfortably situated 1,645 meters above sea level, the lake’s greatest depth lies 262 meters below its surface. Huvsgul shares similarities in its surrounding flora and fauna with Russia’s massive and magnificent Lake Baikal, which rests 200 km to Huvsgul’s east and is linked to the Mongolian lake by the Egiin River. 68 species of mammals including ibex, argali sheep, elk, reindeer, musk deer, brown bears, lynx, martens, wolves, beaver, moose, as well as 244 species of birds inhabit the lake and its surrounding area. The lake itself is home to 9 species of fish, including Siberian grayling and lenok. While pollution has become an increasing risk for Hovsgul, samples were taken from the lake still suggest that the lake’s water remains remarkable pure. Just a glance in at the sparkling water body is enough to convince most people of this claim.
The Darkhatiin Hotgor Depression
Distance: 4-5 hours by road
Accommodation: Ger camps and tented camping
Activities: various nature trips, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, cultural trips, photography and videography tour.
Situated to the west of Lake Huvsgul, between the Horidol Saridag Range and Ulaan Taiga Uul Mountain, a traveller will find the Darkhatiin Hotgor Depression. Several lakes including Targan, Narmai and Tsagaan as well as the extensive marshes surrounding them, constitute some of the depression’s attractions. Some small streams empty into Tsagaan Nuur, the area’s largest lake, which in turn pours into Mongolia’s northernmost river, the Shishged. Both Tsagaan Nuur and Shishged River provide a residence for numerous species of fish including taimen, lenok, sig, Siberian grayling, roach and burbot. The river and the lake are great places for travellers interested in fishing.
The Reindeer (Tsaatan)
Duration: 7-9 hours by road rivers and streams pour into Huvsgul, but only the Egiin conveys water from the lake
Accommodation: A ger camp or camping
Activities: cultural tours and nature trips in the surrounding areas.
The Tsaatan (meaning “reindeer herders” in Mongolia) are one of Mongolia’s most fascinating ethnic groups. They live in the rugged, taiga-forested, mountainous areas to the northwest or Huvsgul, north of the Darkhatiin Hotgor Depression. These forest dwellers use reindeer for transporting supplies, riding, and milk, only rarely sacrificing one of their precious animals for meat.
A deer stone monument compex
Duration: 30 min drive from Murun town
Accommodation: A ger camp or hotel.
Uushigiin Uvur mountainside is a deer stone ritual site located in Murun soum of Khuvsgul province along the way to Lake Huvsgul. A complex of several burial mounds and 14 deer stones dates back from the end of the Bronze and the beginning of the Iron Age.
Deer stone monument is testimony to religion, sacrificial ritual, practice and culture as much as deer stones are a symbol or reflection of the spiritual belief of the ancient nomads.
The deer stone has many engraved images and the core depiction is a flying deer in the abstract style, that is why it is named the deer stone monument.
In addition, there are images of a human head, headdress, earrings, necklace, and engrave various types of weapons such as bows with cases, swords, belts with decorated patterns and symbols of the sun, the moon as well.
All these images represent the viewpoint of that time, based on the belief to respect and worship great warriors.
Duration: 2-3 hours by road
Accommodation: Ger camps Activities: cultural tours and horseback riding, hiking.
The beautiful monastery ranks second in the hearts of many (behind Erdenezuu), in terms of wonderful Buddhist centres outside Ulaanbaatar. Constructed 360 km north of Ulaanbaatar, the monastery was built from 1727-1736 by Undur Gegeen (Great Saint) Zanabazar, a prominent religious leader, artist, and politician. Astonishing in its beauty and design, the monastery’s main temple was completed without the use of a single nail. Incredibly, Amarbaysgalant escaped the fate of many other Buddhist monasteries during the political purges of the 1930s, surviving almost untouched. There is good local hiking and a ger camp 7 km from the monastery for those who want to stay nearby overnight.