The northern Mongolia, part of the country is covered by forest mountain ranges and grasslands cover large areas of this region.
Baruun & Zuun Taiga – Tsagaannuur
Location: Baruun (West) Taiga is 973 km and Zuun (East) Taiga is 960 km northwest of Ulaanbaatar in the Tsagaannuur soum of Khuvsgul province
Features: The Tsaatan, community of nomadic reindeer herders who engaged in reindeer husbandry, live in two distinct areas known as East and West Taigas. The East Taiga, which is home to roughly eighteen households, lies northeast of Tsagaannuur soum center, across the Shishged River, crossable by ferry. The West Taiga, home to around twenty five households, lies due west of Tsagaannuur, beyond a steppe valley area called Kharmai. Highly distinct from the steppe grasslands found in much of Mongolia, the ecosystem that is home to the Tsaatan and their reindeer is classified as taiga. Taiga ecosystems are dominated by forested areas, in this case primarily composed of larch trees. Open valleys that resemble polar tundra are also typical in taiga ecosystems. The several thousand square kilometer habitat classified as taiga in the Tsagaannuur region forms the northern¬most tip of Mongolia and provides home range for the world’s southern-most indigenous reindeer population. The specialized nutritional and geographical requirements of reindeer, Rangifer tarandus, prevent the species from living outside the taiga naturally, but extensive forage resources in the taiga allow them to thrive. Dozens of species of lichen, along with sedges, grasses, and willow, provide nutrition for reindeer. Berries, mushrooms, pine nuts and a variety of medicinal plants add to the floral biodiversity in the taiga. Fauna includes endangered species such as musk deer, sable, and Argali sheep, which are protected under Mongolian law. Brown bears, wolves, elk, moose, and marmots also live in the taiga, along with Ptarmigans, Capercaillie (Wood Grouse), raptors, woodpeckers and other birds.
Mineral springs, jagged peaks, and lush valleys are valued by community members for their beauty and resources, but also as features of sacred geography. This perception transforms the physical environment of the taiga into a spiritual landscape deserving of special considerations and practices. Some sacred areas are off limits to visitors, for example places inhabited by dangerous spirits, while other areas may have rules associated with them, such as activities that are required or prohibited Tsaatan guides and hosts help travelers navigate their sacred homeland, ensuring that visits to the taiga are both environmentally and culturally sensitive. Most camps and taiga locations are accessible only by horse & walk. Terrain in the taiga is rugged and varied, with steep & forested mountains, high-alpine passes, mud and wetlands (mostly in west), and dense forests, open valleys and wetlands (in east). (Source of information: Tsaatan Community & Visitors Center)
Activities: Exploring unique life and culture of the Tsaatan people, trekking, horseriding
Natural and cultural sites around: Tsagaan Lake (50 km), Ulaan Taiga (216 km), Khuvsgul Lake National park (210 km), Khoridol Saridag Mountain Range Strictly protected area (130 km)
Khuvsgul Lake National Park
Location: 775 km northwest of Ulaanbaatar in the Alag-Erdene soum of Khuvsgul province
Features: The Khuvsgul Lake National park covers an area of 838,070 hectares including Lake Khuvsgul and its watershed, the Uur river basin and parts of Zuun Sayan Mountain range. The Lake Khuvsgul, known as Dark Blue Pearl, is deepest lake in the Central Asia (262m), and 14th largest source which contains 2% of world fresh water. This 136 km long, 36 km wide crystal clear water lake covers an area of 2760sq.km at an altitude of 1645 m above sea level. About 99 rivers and streams flow into the lake, but only the Eg River flows out, then joins the Selenge River, ultimately reaches Lake Baikal in Siberia. The Khuvsgul Lake is sacred to Mongolians as “Mother Sea”. Different ethnic people as Darkhad, Buryat, Uriankhai and Tsaatan live around the lake areas and still keep alive their special cultural legacies. This magnificent lake and surrounding area are home to many rare animals like Argali sheep, ibex, bear and moose, as well as over 200 species of birds spend summer around the lake.
Activities: Trekking, horseriding, kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking, fly fishing, visiting and exploring Tsaatan community and nomadic herders, experiencing culture, winter activities – skating, dog sledding, horse sleighing
Natural and cultural sites around: Uushgiyn Uvriyn Deer statue (104 km), Dayan Deerkhiyn Cave (157 km), Khoridol Saridag Mountain Range Strictly protected area (20 km), Baruun Taiga (273 km), Zuun Taiga (260 km)
Location: 360 km north of Ulaanbaatar in the Baruunburen soum of Selenge province
Features: Amarbayasgalant, one of the most well known and largest monasteries of Mongolia, is located in the beautiful Iven River valley on the foot of Burenkhan Mountain. The Monastery was a great source of Dharma teaching and accomplishment with over six thousand novices and ordained monks who followed the rules of Lord Buddha’s Vinaya, combining the Three Basket in full harmony with the Three Higher Trainings. The beauty, decorations and construction of the monastery have made it one of the most magnificent architectural monuments not only in Mongolia, but in the whole Asia.
The complex of Amarbayasgalant Monastery was built during 1727-1736, in the honour of Undur Gegeen Zanabazar, the first Bogd (religious Leader) of Mongolia. The valley is well-watered by the Iven River and has long been renowned for its rich vegetation in this arid part of the Central Asia. In particular, thick groves of native Mongolian cherries have been attracted people since prehistoric times until the present and are the reason for the association of this valley with theologies of fertility, re-birth and gardens of paradise. The valley is covered throughout its extent with Turkic-era graves of various geometric shapes marked out in large boulders. These important archaeological features dated back to the 3rd-7th centuries are the indication that the valley has long-standing sacred relations for the Mongolian people and this was lasted uninterruptedly into the Buddhist era when they were re-validated by the construction of Amarbayasgalant Monastery on this historic site. Originally, Amarbayasgalant Monastery consisted of over 40 temples built on the special terrace, surrounded by a wall, measuring 207×175 m. Only 28 temples remained under the State protection since 1944. The monastery has a symmetrical construction. The size of its Tsogchin (Main) temple is 32×32 m. Its construction expresses the planning features of the Mongolian national architecture and engineering solutions are very original. One of the interesting solutions is routing of roof water through the inside of four columns, under the floor, through stone grooves and away from the Tsogchin temple.
In 2002, the lamas were revived “Tsam” – Religious Mask Dance in the Amarbayasgalant Monastery after being interrupted for 65 years. In 1996, this pure land of Dharma was nominated as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. (Information source: www.amarbayasgalant.org)
Activities: Exploring cultural heritage, practicing Buddhism, visiting nomad herders and experiencing culture, trekking, horseriding
Natural and cultural sites around: Selenge River (25 km), Orkhon River (40 km), Erdenet city (100 km), Darkhan city (116 km), Khan Jargalant Nature reserve (164 km), Uran Togoo Mountain (240 km)
Location: 130 km north of Ulaanbaatar in the Mandal soum of Selenge province
Features: The Noyon Mountain is the most famous archaeological site in Mongolia with its findings of Hunnu tombs. It was proven with many archeological researches that the ancestors of Mongols were Hun people who been established the first State in the world. The Noyon Mountain’s archaeological site first identified in 1912 and then first excavated seriously beginning in 1924 under the supervision of S. A. Kondratev and S. A. Teploukhov, who were part of the Tibeto-Mongolian expedition led by the famous Russian explorer Pyotr Kuzmich Kozlov. The remarkable achievement of the first excavations at Noyon Mountain was their retrieval of a wide range of organic materials, which had been preserved thanks to the tombs having been flooded. The Noyon Mountain burials of Hunnu elite were nested wooden chambers, hung with textiles. Many items of clothing were preserved. A Chinese lacquerware cup with a date of 4 CE provided a terminus post quem for one of the graves. Those findings of unique artifacts from Hunnu tombs at Kharaa’s Noyon mountain in 1924-1925 was an important event in the history of Mongolian archaeology and arguably the beginning of Hunnu archaeology. Excavations at Noyon Mountain were resumed by Mongolian expeditions led by Kh. Perlee and Ts. Dorjsuren in the mid-1950s. A joint project involving the well-known Siberian archaeologist Natalya Polosmak has continued work at Noyon Mountain in last years. A selection of the Noyon Mountain finds can be viewed today in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and in the National Museum of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar.
Activities: Exploring archaeological sites belong to ancient Hunnu, visiting local community and experiencing culture, planting tree, trekking, horseriding
Natural and cultural sites around: Darkhan city (165 km), Amarbayasgalant Monastery (280 km), Junction of Orkhon & Selenge Rivers (273 km)