Northern Mongolia has attracted the hearts and minds of many travelers throughout the year.Northern Mongolia is home to the densely forested mountains of Khangai and sayan, Khuvsgul lake that shimmers like a borderless blue pearl, the DarkadTsenher depression (a huge valley of rivers flowing from high mountains), and the mystical deer stones. The Taiga’s nomads , reindeer herders by trade, live here. In the deep forests of the mountains , the worship the sky and nature. The Khotgoid ethnic group live around the fast – flowing TesRiver.They’re skilled pathfinders.Khalkh people who worship their colossal mountains and the hard working Darkhad people all live in this area.
1. Khuvsgul Lake
2. Reindeer Herder & Taiga
3. UushginUvur Deer Stone
4. Amarbayasgalant Monastery
Location: 775 km northwest of Ulaanbaatar in the Alag-Erdenesoum of Khuvsgul province.
Features: Mongolia is part of the Amur river basin that contains more than 300 rivers and 26 large lakes.
The seemingly boundless Khuvsgullake, which Mongolians call ‘Mother Sea’, has a secret trail that you can walk along. The lake is 2 million years old and makes up 0.4 percent of the world’s fresh water reserves. Its deepest point is 262 meters. During sunset, the lake looks like a clear mirror. When the sun rises the lake sparkles like the colors of the rainbow. Khuvsgul is the deepest and largest fresh water lake in Mongolia. During the harsh, cold, winter the lake attracts visitors with its calmness. The annual Ice Festival provides a unique opportunity for people to experience the lake when it’s frozen and take part in a range of Mongolian games. A visitor to the ice festival, Joanne Baxter, shared her experience: “I really liked the Ice Festival. The amazing clean water of the lake looks like crystal, when it’s frozen.
I never imagined what can be done here, how hard the ice is and how tolerant it is in warm weather. When I saw how people rode yak carts, many games were organized and heavy luggage was carried on yak carts on Khuvsgullake’s ice, I had a feeling that this ice never melts. Making a bonfire on the ice just shocked me. Are you also surprised that the fire doesn’t melt the ice? Of course, after a few hours the bonfire area became water. But that ice was as thick as fire resistant construction material. We visited an ice bar with ice furniture. It was truly amazing to see how the ice was made into all those shapes.
Location: Taiga is 960 km northwest of Ulaanbaatar in the Tsagaannuursoum 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 Eastern Taiga, which is home to roughly eighteen households, lies northeast of Tsagaannuursoum 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 habitats classified as taiga in the Tsagaannuur region forms the northernmost tip of Mongolia and provides home range for the world’s southernmost indigenous reindeer population. The specialized nutritional and geographical requirements of reindeer, 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 include 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 the west), and dense forests, open valleys and wetlands (in the east).
Location: 17 km to the west of Murun town, Khuvsgul province.
Features: Uushgiinuvur is the famous archeological site where we can find 14 deer stones, square burials and many Khirigsuur (ancient tomb) at the same time. Deer stones are ancient megaliths carved with symbols and the name comes from their carved flying deer. Uushgiinuvur deer stones are considered as the most clearly depicted stones. In total there 109 granite deer stones located from each other 3-20 meters and aligned in one line. There are many common images appear on the stones: animals, mostly deer, sun and moon, weapons and tools, patterns, shield, horses
Location: 360 km north of Ulaanbaatar in the Baruunburensoum of Selenge province
Features: Amarbayasgalant, one of the most well known and largest monasteries of Mongolia, are 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 honor of UndurGegeenZanabazar, 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 attracting people since prehistoric times to 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 of 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 have 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.