THE WESTERN MONGOLIA

Three great ranges-the Mongol Altai (including the Gobi Altai), the Hangai, and the Hentii dominate Mongolia’s mountainous regions. Of these, the Mongol Altai mountain range is the largest and most picturesque. It has many summits reaching 4,000 meters above sea level and stretches for 900 kilometers (from the northwestern part of the country to the south) through the Bayan-Ulgii and Hovd provinces of aimags. Eternal snow caps over 20 of the Mongol Altai’s peaks, including Tavan Bogd-Mongolia’s highest peak, measuring 4,374 meters above the sea level-Munkh Khairkahn (4,204 m), Sutai (4,226m) and, Tsambagarav (4,195 m). Stretching southwards, the mountains get smaller and the range turns into the Gobi Altai chain of mountains, which extend through the Gobi-Altai and South Gobi provinces. The Altai is mainly composed of Rocky Mountains, topped with glaciers along the high ridges. A number of sapphire blue lakes grace the range, which also generates numerous streams in its valleys; some of Mongolia’s largest rivers, including the Hovd , Buyant and, Bulgan rivers, trace their sources back to the Altai range’s hundreds of small springs. These mountains provide a habitat for rare argali sheep, ibex, and a variety of cats (including endangered species of snow leopard and lynx), as well as popular animals like wolves, foxes, and elk.
The Altai is an ideal destination for adventurous mountain tours: hiking, climbing and, horse riding. Numerous local and foreign mountaineers come to the range to climb Mt Tavan Bogd and other peaks such as Munkh Khairkhan, Tsambagarav and, Sutai. Virtually the most remote destination within the country, travelers can only access the Altai by air.

Bayan Ulgii & the Kazakhs

Distance: 1,636 kilometers to Ulgii from Ulaanbaatar
Duration: 4 and half hours by air
Accommodation: Ger camps, hotels
Activities: horse riding, ethnographic tours.
Kazakh people inhabit Bayan Ulgii Aimag, the most remote of Mongolia’s 21 provinces, which incorporates the highest part of the Altai Range. Although the traditional Kazakh lifestyle is somewhat similar to that of Mongol nomads from the steppe, their cultures differ in many aspects. In addition to herding domestic animals as their main source of living, eagle hunting forms a remarkable part of the Kazakh people’s livelihood and culture. In the late fall and early autumn, exciting eagle hunting tours are arranged by tour operators, so that tourists can witness this spectacular practice of the Kazakhs and experience their unique lifestyle. The province’s main town is Ulgii, erected literally in the center of the aimag.

Mt Tavan Bogd - Roof of Mongolia

Distance: 170 kilometers from the town of Ulgii
Duration: 4-5 hours by road from Ulgii to the foothill of the mountain
Accommodation: camping
Activities: mountain climbing, hiking, photography and, videography tours.
Mongolia’s highest peak, Altai Tavan Bogd (sometimes known as Huiten Uul Mountain), towers 4,374 meters (15,000 feet) above sea level and overlooks Mongolia’s borders with China and Russia in the west. Eternal snow and glaciers on the peaks of Mt Tavan Bogd make it a magnificent sight, but a difficult climb, which requires considerable endurance and experience from the brave mountaineers who attempt to summit the mountain. Teams of both local and international mountaineers climb Mt Tavan Bogd every year, but most visitors choose to hike the foothills near the highest peaks.

Depression of the Great Lakes

Distance: Close to the towns of Hovd and Ulaangom
Accommodation: camping
Activities: hiking, fishing, nature trips, bird watching, photography and, videography tours.
The so-called “Depression of the Great Lakes” is located in northwestern Mongolia between the Altai and Hangai mountain ranges. Several fresh and salt-water lakes make up this natural phenomenon, providing breeding areas for many common and endangered species of migratory birds, including the Dalmatian pelican, houbara bustard, and, a rare Altai subspecies of the saker falcon. The area is also home to the globally threatened Central Asian saiga. For anyone interested in ornithology, several lakes in the depression, including the Har-Us, Har Nuur, Durgun, Uvs and, Hyargas lakes, present perfect opportunities for observing, photographing and, filming birdlife.

Gurvan Senkher Cave

Distance: 92 kilometers from the town of Hovd
Duration: 2-3 hours by road from Hovd
Accommodation: Ger camp or camping
Activities: caving, historical tours, climbing, hiking.
It takes three hours to reach the famous Gurvan Senkher Cave from the center of Hovd town, traveling
south across the arid grassland of the Mankhanii Steppe. There are two separate entrances to the cave, both facing the northern slope of a small rocky mountain, which stands on the bank of the Senkher River. About 20 meters deep, the cave was inhabited by humans 40,000 – 12,000 years ago during the Paleolithic Era rock paintings believed to have been made during that time cover the walls of its entrance chamber. Among the paintings a visitor can recognize the images of various animals still living in Mongolia, including ibex, and mountain goats; however, some of the creatures, such as buffalo, ostriches and, elephants, have long been extinct in
Mongolia. Here you can see cave drawings from Mongolia’s Stone Age found in the South Blue Cave, which is located 25km from the Manhan region of Hovd province. The South Blue Cave is the biggest in the country at 220 meters long.

To meet throat singers in Chandmani Soum

Distance: 160 kilometers from the town of Hovd
Duration: 2-3 hours by road from Hovd
Accommodation: camping or nomad homestay
Activities: cultural and ethnography expeditions.
To understand the secret of Mongolian throat singing (over tune signing) follow the route to Chandmani soum of Khovd province where everyone from 8-year-old kids to 80-year-old seniors performs this amazing art.
A method of singing multiple notes simultaneously, hoomei produces sounds that defy description; whether spirits of nature, the songs evoke something otherworldly and powerful. Mesmerizingly beautiful, these harmonious tunes help you understand the connection between humans and nature.

Mt. Shiveet Khairkhan & petroglyphs

Distance: 180 kilometers from the town of Hovd
Duration: 4-5 hours by road from Ulgii
Accommodation: camping or nomad homestay
Activities: hiking, horseback riding, photographing, cultural and ethnography expeditions.
Shiveet Mountain is a mountain in Altai Tavanbogd national park. This mountain is famed for being a sacred area throughout the local people.
Shiveet Khairkhan Mountain is home to around 10,000 petroglyphs numerous Kurgan stelae from the turtic period and tombs.
Shiveet Khairkhan Mountain towers 3281 meters above sea level located within the upper reaches Tsagaan Gol valley within the region of the Tavan Bogd national park.
It’s well placed, making a perfect stop for people who travel to Mt. Tavanbogd and glaciers.
Besides ancient monuments, the mountain is home to abundant wildlife. The largest wild sheep the Argali to ibex, snow leopards, wolves, eagles as well as many other bird species are habitant of the area. When visiting, however, expect to see golden eagles birds, and, if lucky, herds of wild sheep and goats as well.