One of the most popular travel routes in Mongolia is the Gobi desert, the habitat of the rarest animals and a unique natural landscape. The Gobi Desert is a vast zone of desert and desert steppe covering almost 30 percent of the Mongolian territory. The area is often imagined as a lifeless desert like in many other parts of the world. In reality, most part of the Gobi Desert is a land of steppes, sands, mountains and it is the home for camel breeders rich with wildlife and vegetation. Wild asses, camels, snow leopards, mountain sheep and gazelles flourish here, as do different types of flora. Dinosaur skeletons and their petrified eggs have been preserved here to the present day.
Khongor sand dunes stretch from the southernmost corner to the far west of the country. The dunes rise abruptly from the plain, in some places reaching a height of 200 meters, and extend over an area between 2-20 km in width and 180 km in length. There is a small river called Khongoryn Gol, with dark green banks full of flowers along the side of the dunes. When it is windy some of the dunes give a strange sound like the engines of an aero plane, for which they are named the “singing dunes”. There is an excellent possibility to ride camels near the dunes.
Bayanzag / Flaming cliffs - first discovered by Roy Chapman Andrews, famous American explorer in the 1920, flaming cliffs of Bayanzag are an important site for both archeological and paleontological finds. Complete dinosaur skeletons, including One-horned dinosaur (protocertops) and Egg-thief (Oviraptor) and numerous eggs were excavated in ravines between the red flaming cliffs, which look like fire in the middle of the desert from distance. Activities: desert expeditions, camping, trekking, paleontology
Yoliin Am canyon - One of the best-known travel destinations in the Southern Gobi is Yoliin Am canyon, known as Eagle Valley, which is a part of the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan Mountain National Park (meaning “Three Beautifies of the Gobi”). But in fact, Yol means Lammergeyer, one of the most endangered bird species of prey. Sheltered by high cliff walls on both sides of the canyon, thick ice gorges remain frozen even on summer’s hottest days. Activities: camping, mountain climbing, trekking, wildlife viewing.
Khermen Tsav is a canyon with beautiful oasis, 6 km in width and 15 km in length located in a distance of 400 km from Dalanzadgad city. The canyon is full of 30 meters high natural formations of cliffs, and looks like remains of ancient cities and temples, iceberg drifting on a sea, huge dinosaurs, turtles and crocodiles. Hermen Tsav is known not only by its beauty of natural formation but also by its trove of dinosaur fossils. The first full skeleton of a dinosaur was found in this place.
Tsagaan suvarga, 90degree of straight, consists of many colors of clay deposits. This is 65 km south west of Ulziit sum, Dundgovi province. Tsagaan suvarga is big escarpment with 200m height and 400m long. In ancient time there was a big sea in a Khevtee and Bosoo valleys of Tsagaan Suvarga. After dried up the sea this area became area with many glacis and escarpments, covered by many different sedimentary deposits. There is a cave with two doors called Khevtee and Bosoo which is home of many bats.
Camel Herder Nomads
Visiting camel herder’s family, explore their unique nomadic lifestyle which has not changed for centuries. Its chance to try drinking Hormog (fermented Mongolian camel milk) when visiting a herder family in their Ger. There is great opportunity to ride a Bactrian camel.
BAGA GAZRIIN CHULUU
It is located in Delgertsogt sum, Dundgovi province and surrounded by plain. Baga Gazriin Stone is 15 km long and 10 km wide granite stone-mountain elevated at 1768m above sea level. 30km away to the south east of Adaatsag soum center. Wild sheep, ibexes and mammals, rare rodents are seen here. Surtiin am is one of many beautiful and eye-catching places in Baga Gazriin Stone massif.
This is a narrow canyon with different trees, asp, birch, white wicker and elm trees, as well as ruin of stone temple and site of two yurts where Buddhis monks lived and meditated since 17th century. Also you can see Bolort Cave, eye treatment spa, rock images, petroglyphs, burial mounds many other sightseeing. There is a ruin of Choir monastery which was established by “Zava” Damdin, a famous ancient historical, religious and scientific researcher. This monastery had a monastery with few monks translate, print, explain and advertise books from Tibetan languages and research religious philosophy and medical science.
IKH GAZRIIN CHULUU
The 2 mountains with granite stone massifs and taluses located in Mongolian granite stone zone, Dundgove province are Ikh and Baga Gazriin Stones. Ikh Gazriin Stone covers more than 20km long area consisting of north and south parts. There are many special rocks named for their features of their shapes and figures such as, Uvgun Chinghis (Old Chinghis), Lusiin ezen (Lors of the Sea), Khaan Khatan Hoyor (king and queen), Zagasnii am (mouth of fish), Camel rock, Mother’s womb and Penus rock. There are also over 10 small caves created by the wind and rapid temperature changes including several caves of Ulziit Sumber Mountain, in the east part of Ikh Gazriin Stone. The biggest one is Toonot Cave with 27m length. An open air theatre was founded in the centre of Ikh Gazriin Chuluu in 2006 on the occasion of 800th anniversary of the Establishment of Mongolian Statehood and it stage was surrounded by sharp and flat rocks in the west, north and east sides. International Music Festival ‘The Roaring Hooves’ was organized on the stage of the open air theatre in 2007. A beautiful monument dedicated to Mongolian state honored long song singer Norovbanzad.N stands in the mountain for the memory of the great singer. 35000 hectare km area of Ikh Gazriin Stone have been protected since 2003 as Natural Reserve according to decree number 30 by Mongolian State Khural and protected as strictly protected area since 2012.
This small mountainous area along the river, The Ongi River, in the western sum of Saikhan Ovoo, makes a good resting place to break a trip between the south Gobi and Arvaikheer. It is located in Saihan-Ovoo soum of Dundgovi province. Ongi was established in 1660 and composed of two temple complexes on the North and South banks of the Ongi river. At its peak, Ongi monastery grounds housed around 30 temples, 4 big Buddhism universities and over 1000 monks at a time. This monastery was one of the largest and most respected monasteries of Mongolia before its destruction by the communist authorities. During 1930s, communism spread out throughout Mongolia. As part of their ideological campaign and rise to power, Communists arrested most monks. In 1939, the monastery was destroyed completely, over 200 monks were killed, and many surviving monks were imprisoned or forced to join the Communist controlled army. Other monks escaped and became ordinary people. In 1990, after the democratization in Mongolia, some monks returned to the monastery and began their Buddhist education as young children some 60 year prior. The water of the river was diverted to supply the local mines owned by the government. The river was dried up, which forced the local population to leave the place. The monastery then seemed to be about to sink into oblivion. Nevertheless, when the communist power fell in 1990, three monks who had begun their Buddhist education in Ongiin Khiid sixty years earlier, decided to go back there. Slowly and patiently, these monks built new foundations on the old ruins in order to restore Ongiin Khiid and to revive Buddhism in Mongolia. Today one temple has been completely rebuilt and two little museums have been set up inside some yurts. We can find a collection of objects, traditional religious items, and some architectural elements of the original monastery. Ongiin Khiid also houses a cold water source, Bar Khamba, reputed to be health-giving waters, notably for “intern” diseases, often bound to digestive apparatus. According to tradition, these waters are effective only if we drink them before the sun rises.
Khamriin khiid monastery was established in the 1820’s by the order of Mongolian educator and literary figure Danzanravjaa. The Monastery was the biggest centre of the Buddhist “red sect”. Also this monastery is the place where Danzanravjaa put on his famous show “Saran Khukhuu” in 1830. Danzanravjaa used to fight against the rigid class and gender distinctions of his day. He devoted great efforts to the cause of public education, which he promoted at Khamriin khiid monastery through the establishment of an inclusive public school, theatre, museum and library. The “Namtar duulakh datsan” (story-singing college), established at Khamriin khiid monastery in the 1830s, is recognized as being Mongolian first professional theatre. The nearby “Khuukhdiin datsan” (children’s college) offered basic and vocation, artistic training for local children, who often went on to become singers and dancers, painters, sculptors, and other artists at the Monastery or in its theatre company, The monastery was a perfectly harmonious location, having a river with many fine trees along its south part and rocky mountains with dozens of caves along its north; and the place was filled with the noise of hundreds of people playing the famous Saran Khokhoo drama”. To the north of the monastery were a series of caves where monks would practice yogic exercises and meditate in isolation for 108 days at a time, hardening their bodies whilst expanding their physical and spiritual powers. Fossilized dinosaur bones, petrified wood, and other rare paleontological remains are widespread in the area surrounding the monastery. Paleontologists working in the region have dug up most notably a skeleton of the herbivorous dinosaur iguanodon, which lived in the Cretaceous period between 80 and 200 million years ago, At its peak Khamriin khiid monastery consisted of four main sections – East Khuree, west Khuree, Tsokhon and Dunkher – comprising four colleges (datsan) and the children’s school, more than eighty temples, and a resident population of over five hundred lamas. The monastery was completely destroyed by the military in 1938 during Mongolian religious purge. Currently two small ceremonial temples and several religious monuments have been reconstructed, with more than ten lamas now in residence at the monastery.
There are hundreds of ancient rock drawings, all of which were created by early settlers in Gobi Desert.
Togrogiin Shiree is an escarpment in the Gobi with an abundance of fossils. This 30m high cliff is situated 30km from Bulgan Soum, Umnugobi Aimag. Several fossilized young dinosaurs in their eggs were found here. Mongol-Poland joint expedition headed by doctor Barsbold discovered a famous find known as “Fighting Dinosaurs” in the 1970s. Tugrugyn Shiree is surrounded by muddy land and on the southwest there is a well called Tugrugyn Bulag. On the southeast there is a crescent-shaped sandy Ovoo.
Mongolia is one of the world’s most important countries for paleontology with the discovery of 40 species of dinosaurs. Some of the best dinosaur exhibits in the world are in the Natural History Museum in Ulaanbaatar. Not only complete dinosaur skeletons but the world’s best collection of dinosaur eggs and their amazing nests are found in the museum. These displays will satisfy some visitors but there are more dinosaur remains in other institutes and in some regional province museums.