National Parks of Mongolia
National parks are the prime locations of wild and untamed nature; in many countries, they are the most exciting places to visit and most worthy places to travel and it works the same in Mongolian National Parks. Mongolia has a rich and ancient history with sacred and protected areas since the 13th century and the first official declaration of sacred mountain Bogd Khan in 1778 while the United States’ first National Park-Yellowstone in 1872.
Unlike American national parks, one special thing while your travel in Mongolia is nomadic herders and their livestock living inside protected areas-the parks. Nomadic people also do protect nature and wildlife out there and keep close eyes to every nature consequences that might influence and hurt the origin of nature. It is the duty and tradition of nomadic people coming down from ancestors who believe the power of nature.
Mongolia currently has 99 special protected areas divided into 4 different categories: protected areas –Strictly Protected Areas, National (conservation) Park, Nature Reserve, and Natural Monuments and equating to 17.4% of its territory. Mongolian protected areas are not so difficult to get to but most of them you will need local travel agencies to take you there, while others have their own agenda, favoring a lodge in a private reserve with insignificant forest or nature.
And with the proper knowledge, transportation, visiting some national parks is relatively unaffordable, even required some permissions. Now, let us travel to the Best National Parks in Mongolia through amazing photos by Photographer Batzaya Choijiljav who traveled and photographed the most protected areas in Mongolia.
Lake Khovsgol National Park
Khovsgol National Park based on one of seventeenth ancient lakes of the world-Khovsgol was protected as National Park in 1992. The park area, 3500 square miles is bigger than Yellowstone in the USA, the first national park of the world- The freshest and deepest lake of Mongolia- Lake Khovsgol NP is hottest and must-visit travel destination of the country.
The best way to explore this watery wonderland is boating, kayaking, and diving with a chance to view blue tidewater glaciers up close and see 9 species of fish inhabiting in the lake.
With more time, you should seek out Taiga, quiet and serene, ideal for hiking and climbing in Khoridog Saridag and Bayan Mount Ranges with chances to spot wild animals such as ibex, Argali, wolf, brown bear, musk deer, Siberian moose, and many others along your way. If interested in birds, you can spot over 250 species of birds surrounding areas of the national park and especially in 4 islands named as Modon Khui, Khadan Khui, Modot Tolgoi and Baga Khui in the magnificent lake. These are just beginnings of the discoveries there, you can meet an ethnic group of Tsaatan reindeer herders, explore their way of life, an ancient belief of Shamanism and much more to experience.
Travel to Khovsgol National Park
The national park is reachable by domestic flight to Murun city takes about 1.5 hours from UB and then transfer by car to Khatgal for about 2 hours. By getting this way, you can easily get to Khuvsgul National Park within 4 hours. Another way to travel Khovsgol is by a car on new tarmac roads, 684 km from the capital city and it takes about 12-14 hours. If you prefer the train, you can take the daily train to Erdenet city and then transfer by car to Khovsgol.
Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park
Gobi Gurvan Saikhan, the largest national park of Mongolia established in 1993. The park lies on the northern edge of the Gobi desert in southern Mongolia, 650 km from Ulaanbaatar city and 45 km from Dalanzadgad, capital of Umnugobi province. Most famous attractions in the park are Flaming Cliffs-Bayanzag, Yol Valley, Khongor Sand Dunes. The park is home to more than 52 mammal species including wild ass, Hamsters, Pikas, Gobi bear, Gerbills, snow leopard and endangered species such as Argali sheep and Siberian ibex.
The park is globally reputation of archeological discoveries of various species of dinosaur fossils and skeletons with its modern natural beauty of dry valleys, salt wetlands, springs, and Oases. You can camel riding adventure while discovering the beauty of Gobi, exploring nomadic life in the Gobi and tracking pre-historic sites. For the birdwatchers, this the paradise, you can spot more than 240 types of birds including Kestrels, Bearded Vultures, Lammergeyers and Altai snow-cocks also flourishing in the park.
Travel to Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park
The park is easily accessible from Dalanzadgad that has daily flights takes only 1.5 hours from and to UB. You need a good car within destinations in the national parks and excellent driver who knows everything. Another way to get National Park almost 700 km from Capital Ulaanbaatar is travel by car while sightseeing and stopping wherever you want in vast steppe of Mongolia which takes approximately 10-12 hours.
Altai Tavan Bogd National Park
Altai Tavan Bogd National Park is most visited park in western Mongolia, bordering with China and Russia containing with beautiful valleys, alpine lakes, rivers, glaciers and 5 highest peaks in Mongolia and the full spectrum of archeology with petroglyphs, standing stones, burial mounds and Kazakh cemeteries listed in UNESCO cultural heritage sites. This biggest concentration of petroglyphs with over 10,000, which is the Tsagaan Salaa site, is situated along a 15 km river valley. Horse riding and hiking in Altai Tavan Bogd National Park are a great way to see the area and considered as one of the best hikes in Mongolia.
Climbing in Altai Mountain isn’t the world's most difficult, but the weather can turn quickly up there so you should have some hiking experience or take a good guide. Mountain climbing is best for during late summer when weather is the most pleasant and warm, you need to have mountain equipment, the experience of climbing, experienced local guide and warm clothes to reach the peaks.
Many Kazakh people-eagle hunters live inside the park and there are many endangered species inside the park including argali sheep, ibex, grey wolves, red deer, black vulture, elk, snow leopards, Altai snow-cock, golden eagles, and many others. The lakesides of Khoton Nuur and Khurgan Nuur is the highlight of the park, with beautiful scenery, streams, valleys and fantastic place to authentically experience traditional nomadic Kazakh culture. The lakes are also decent fishing spot loaded with Lennox and offer fantastic rafting adventure. These are just beginnings of adventures you will explore in Altai Tavan Bogd NP, you can do more adventurous activities there.
Travel to Altai Tavan Bogd National Park
Due to Bayan-Ulgii’s location is the westernmost and remotest park of Mongolia. You can take a flight to Bayan-Olgii, takes about 3 hours, which is available almost every day during summertime and twice or triple during other seasons. It is quite hard for getting the tickets during tourist high season and Eagle Hunter's festivals. If you can’t get the ticket, you have to get to Altai Tavan Bogd National park by off-road minivan or jeep, almost taking 2-3 days to track 1636km from Ulaanbaatar. Also, it is not possible to travel alone or without connecting experienced tour agencies. You will need a couple of permissions to visit the park because of the location on borders with Russia and China. You will have to get military permits before heading to Bayan-Olgii and need some official papers done in Ulaanbaatar in advance. You will need time to manage and plan your travel in Altai Tavan Bogd National Park and hand your all works and worries to well-organized and experienced tour agency.
Khorgo-Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park
Khorgo- Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur NP named after extinct Khorgo volcano crator and TerkhiinTsagaan Lake is one of Mongolian highlights with attractive scenery and endangered fauna and flora. The park is surrounded by Khangai Mountains covered by peach and poplar forests rich in wild animals such as wild goat, deer, bear and as well as various species of birds. You will hike and horse riding around spectacular national park and climb Khorgo volcano covered with basalt.
Water of the lake is said to be exceptionally pure, it is popular place for camping and fishing spot.
Travel to Khorgo-Terkh Tsagaan Nuur NP
The only way to the NP is by overland car trip about 580 km far from UB takes approximately 9-10 hours. Within your travel, you can take time to spot other natural and historical sites along your way. Because NP is located in Arkhangai province where have many natural and historical beauties in the central region of Khangai Mountain.
Gorkhi- Terelj National Park
Gorkhi-Terelj national park is the closest national park about 75 km north-east of UB and ideal destinations for those with a short time to travel in Mongolia. The park is a 3rd largest protected area in the country established in 1993 and most spectacular parks with fauna filled forests, wide open valleys covered with wildflowers, dramatic rock formation and with 2 waterways of Terelj and Tuul rivers along the park. The park’s most picturesque feature is its rock formations at top of the forest-covered mountains shapes like castles on the mountain. You can go hiking and climbing in these stunning mountains while luckily spotting wild animals such as elk, moose, bear and more. If interested in flowers, you will be captivated by sights of yellow, white, pink, and blue flowers in the wind bow you to like saying welcome. With more, you can horse and camel riding in wide valleys, driving around the park, camping in and visiting local families and rafting on Tuul River. Most popular attractions are giant Turtle Rock and Ariyabal Meditation Temple.
Travel to Gorkhi- Terelj National park
Since the park’s location closely to Ulaanbaatar, the cheapest way to get there is by public bus takes about 2 hours. The bus daily leaves at 4 pm from the Durven Zam on Peace Avenue and you can have bus drop along the park. But for next, you will have to walk and find everything for yourself. You can also take a taxi to the national park, with charge about US $ 35-40 for one way. For the rest, you will have to do walking, if you are not alone, it can be the fastest and cheapest way. If you want to travel quick and clever, it is best to connect with tour agencies with a comfortable car, good guide and experienced service included every activity you do in the national park.
Hustai National Park
Hustai National Park is one of the best managed national parks of Mongolia located in Tov Province, around 100 kilometers west of Ulaan Baatar. The park is a reserve in the UNESCO World Biosphere listing as Nature Reserves and upgraded as National Park relating to the reintroduction of famous for Przewalski’s wild horse-only wild horse of the world. The park is pretty good for short time travelers who want to see the wild horse and wild life without going too far from Ulaanbaatar. You will not only see a wild horse but also have the chance to spot 44 known species of mammals including the red deer, Mongolian gazelle, Eurasian lynx and badger, gray wolves and fox. Moreover, the park is considered as one of the best bird watching spots in Mongolia offering 217 bird species such as the golden eagle, great bustard, black stork, whooper swan, and little owl. Hiking and horse/ camel riding will be also great ways to explore Hustai National Park.
Travel to Hustai National Park
You will travel on better-conditioned asphalt road for a couple of hours before reaching your destination. After arriving at Hustai National Park, you should take your time to explore extraordinary scenic spots where Asian wild horses graze and drink water. There is no public bus or other transportation available to the park. You will contact with tour operators with experienced guide and good car who they can arrange your visits to Hustai National Park.
Gun Galuut Nature Reserve
Gun Galuut Nature Reserve is locally protected area in order to conserve world endangered animals and its diverse ecosystem lies on banks of Kherlen River, 130km southeast of Ulaanbaatar. The Nature Reserve is becoming one of the top ever-changed wildlife attractions in Mongolia where there offer natural beauty with habitant for some of the world’s most rare and endangered species. The reserve is home to Argali- wild mountain sheep.
Only best time to spot Argali is during the mating season and usually, between October-November, they will quite often visible without embarrassment along the reserve.
Moreover, the reserve is a bird lover's paradise where can spot globally rare species of White-naped Crane, Hooded Crane, Red Falcon, Black Vulture, Whooper swan, Black Stork, and Great White Egret and many others summering on lakes and rivers’ in the Reserve. You should bring your telescopes and binoculars to enhance your experience and to make your efforts worthy. For the photographers, it also offers deeper insights into wild animals with surrounding special places and nomadic families. For fishing adventure seekers, the reserve is crossed by many rivers including Kherlen River-longest of the country, Ayaga, Shinebulag, Galuutai Rivers and many others all rich with fishes. You should visit the reserve-truly extraordinary landscape harmonies with high Mountain, steppes, rivers, lakes, and wetlands as well as kept enough as its natural beauty. The reserve is one of the closest and hottest destinations of the country reachable by only 2 hours from UB. You can explore Chinggis Khan equestrian statue along your way. Within short time-one or two days trip is possible to explore the reserve.
Ikh Nart Nature Reserve
Ikh Nart is a nature reserve located in Dalanjargalan soum of Dornogobi province and established to protect the globally important population of Argali-wild sheep, Siberian Ibex, gazelles, black vultures, wolves, and other wildlife. Due to reserve lies within the transition zone between steppe with rocky outcrops and semi-desert you will chance to spot high diversity of plants and animals including 41 species of mammals. There are three natural springs in the park and one near Khalzan Mount is considered local health remedy. Ikh Nart also protects culture resources such as historic ruins, artifacts, burial sites, and petroglyphs and temple ruins from Stone Age, Bronze Age, Chinggis Khan Age and more. Photographing and spotting endangered animals on nature is a never-miss opportunity in the reserve. The reserve lies about 300km (190miles) southeast of Ulaanbaatar and takes about 4-hour drive on fine tarmac roads.
If you’re dreaming outdoor vacation filled with glacier lakes, animal encounters, towering rock formations on high mountains, endless steppe and desert with uniqueness sights and historical significance, you will enjoy exploring national parks, no matter what national park you choose, at one of above Best national parks in Mongolia and you will find picturesque landscapes and activities suitable for all ages and interests such as hiking, climbing, horse and camel riding, fishing and much more. As most worth visiting and most beautiful national parks in Mongolia, we recommend you a visit at least one of these in upcoming autumn and winter of 2019 and 2020 and more further.