Western Mongolia - Altai Mountains

Western Mongolia – Far western part of Mongolia is the most beautiful, but the least travelled destination. It is home to the world rare wild species, numerous ethnic groups and snow capped majestic mountains. Kazakh people, famous for their hospitality and generosity, take pleasure in poetry and music. Over three hundred Mongolian Kazakhs now practice the art of eagle hunting, a sport that goes back two thousand years.
Highlights: Kazakh people, Eagle hunters, Golden Eagle festival, hiking and climbing at Mt Khuiten Peak.

Attractions & Highlights:

Bayan-Olgii & Kazakh ethnic group

Bayan-Olgii is a unique place in Mongolia, home of the Kazakh ethnic group. The Kazakhs have a rich culture, close extended families, and many traditions that are still practiced today that are centuries old. Kazakh is the language of everyday communication, with Mongolian used for inter-ethnic interactions and official communication. Islam is the primary religion of the Kazakhs.

Eagle Hunters

Hunting with eagles is a traditional form of falconry found throughout the Eurasian Steppe, practiced by the Kazakhs and the Kyrgyz in contemporary Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as diasporas in Bayan-Ulgii Provinces Bayan-UlgiiMongolia, and XinjiangChina. Though these people are most famous for hunting with golden eagles, they have been known to train northern goshawksperegrine falconssaker falcons, and more.

Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

Altai Tavan Bogd National Park is located on the Western most point of Mongolia in Bayan-Ulgii Province. This vast mountainous park borders China and Russia with views of Kazakhstan from the highest peak in Mongolia.
The snow-capped Kuiten Mountain, 4374 m (14,201 ft), is the highest of the five peaks of Tavan Bogd Mountains (literally ‘5 Saints’) that gives the park its name. It covers an area of 630,000 hectare and is home to three large freshwater lakes and 34 glaciers, plus several waterfalls. The largest, Pontuninii Glacier, covers 23 sq km. Tavan Bogd Mountains is considered sacred to local Kazakhs, Tuvans, and Mongolians. Also, there are over 10.000 of petroglyphs (Rock paintings) in 15 km of river valley which is registered in World Heritage Site, UNESCO.

Khoton and Khurgan lake

Located in the northern part of the Altai mountain range, near the Chinese border, in Bayan-Ölgii, the westernmost of the provinces of Mongolia, Khurgan and Khoton are 2 lakes situated at an elevation of more than 2.000m.
The road to the lakes, located in Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, is gravel. It’s narrow, steep, and impassable in winters. Do not travel this pass in severe weather conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice.  From October the surface of the lakes starts to freeze, creating then 1.3-1.6 m ice thickness.
Khurgan Lake lies at an elevation of 2,072m above the sea level, and Khoton Lake at 2,084m. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging. One of the most challenging parts of the route is a small wooden bridge over the lakes, with a length of 100m. This bridge tests the skill, and courage, of any driver. It’s definitely not for anyone suffering from vertigo and there’s little room for error on this section.

Baga Oigor petroglyphs

The Tsagaan Salaa River flows into the Baga Oigor in the far western region of Bayan Olgiy aimag in the Mongolian Altay Mountains. As the joint Mongolian, American, Russian project “Altay” which began in 1994 determined, along the lower Tsagaan Salaa and upper Baga Oigor, is “one of the largest rock art complexes in North and Central Asia, and the richest in terms of chronological age, quantity, and quality of imagery” There are images of various animal species, hunting scenes, and scenes depicting aspects of human life in the region. We can see humans riding and leading animals, loaded caravans and schematic drawings of what we assume are enclosures. Certain imagery seems clearly to have had some kind of religious/ritual significance (for example, bell-shaped anthropomorphs and birthing scenes, arguably amongst the earliest of the images. A great deal of the imagery may be connected with human and animal reproduction. While precise dating is impossible, there are plausible hypotheses which correlate certain themes with different periods, reflecting changes in climate and the patterns of human activity.
Thus, some of the drawings arguably pre-date domestication of animals; the petroglyphs document a shift from dependence on hunting to pastoral nomadism in the period between about 2000 BCE (Bronze Age) and 1000 BCE (early Iron Age). At a certain point, chariots or wagons were being used and their images pecked into the rocks. Scenes with animals being ridden are arguably later.

Tsenkher Cave

The Tsenheriin cave (also known as Khoid tsenher) are reasonably attractive. Because of approximately 15,000 years old history (some sources say 40,000). There are numerous passages to explore with the largest cavern being about 15m high, with the floor measuring around 12m by 18m. Unfortunately, some recent graffiti has marred the cave paintings. Controversy has erupted among experts about the interpretation of the paintings. It is interesting that both ostriches and mammoths are depicted on the walls, proving that both lived in Mongolia up to approximately 15,000 years ago.

Ulaagchin Khar lake

Ulaagchnii Khar Lake has been protected as Strictly Protected Area since 2010. Ulaagchnii Khar lake is located in the northeast of Erdenemandal soum in western plateau of Khangai Mountain Range. This lake is fresh water lake and one of the most beautiful lakes of the country. We can see amazing sand dunes in the southern and northern parts of the lake. The lake is 23.9m long and 3.5m wide in average. Depth of the lake is 47m in the west 23-30m in the east and the deepest point is 57m near the Gatsaa. There are 2 big and small island called “Small and Big Avgash” in the middle of the lake. Great Avgash is quite sandy and suitable place for the roedeer for their rebirth in springs, they habitat in the mountain in the autumn. Shoreline of the lake is rocky and has a lot of different peninsulas and bays that penetrate into the lake water. On the bottom of the lake, there are sand and mud and gravel, and some water plants occur on the shallow parts of the lake. The clarity of the lake is 8m and colors are seen as green and blue emerald. Some migratory birds such as Whooper swan, Greylag goose, duck and others come to the lake in summers and other mammals such as deer, roe deer, fox, wolf, corsac fox cat, and marmot are seen near the lake. Along the shoreline of the lake, there are many eye-catching places.

Potanin glacier

There are many glaciers in Mongolia on Altai range. Biggest glacier in Mongolia is Potanin Glacier on Altai Tavan Bogd national park. It’s 20 km long, and it hase huge ice rivers on it! Activities with glacier are: You can walk on the glacier with expert tour guide, take photos, experience it, camp just next to glacier! (sunset on Glacier)

Waterfall in Baga Durgen area

In Altai Tavan Bogd National Park located very easy accessible waterfall in Baga Durgen valley around Khoton and Khurgan Nuur area. This waterfall formed from small glaciers up the Altai range mountain and flows through local Kazakh nomads. This is very beautiful spot with gorges mountains and different lifestyles around. As easy to get there it is very good for short hiking through local Kazakh nomads meet their everyday activity, visit the waterfall, enjoy the perfect landscapes and even swim under that waterfall.

White river Valley

White River Valley (Tsagaan gol) is place where the 4 season of the weather in one hour, where the mountains are meeting the sky and friendly Tuvan nomads showing you unexpected hospitality. This heaven located in very western part of Mongolia where Russian, Chinese and Mongolian Altai mountains are joining and Mongolian side of the mountains lasting with long Potanin glacier. But, the White River coming from that glacier and coming across all way through western Mongolia and ending at Black lake in Hovd province.

Tolbo lake

Tolbo lake is fresh water lake in south of Olgii in western Mongolia and also known as one of biggest lakes in western Mongolia. It extends on 185 square kilometres (71,43 miles) in the heart of the Altai range, at more than 2000 metres (1,24 mile) above the sea level. During the Winter, it’s possible to move on the iced lake. The lake was the witness of the battle of Tolbo lake (1921) during the Russian civil war, when the Bolsheviks allied to the Mongolians defeated a White Russians army. You can spot by the lake a couple of memorial plaques. Lake is just amazing for fishing activities!

Bear valley

Bear Valley is most amazing and spectacular place with fantastic landscapes, surrounded with green snow caped mountains with several waterfalls and crystal clear lakes that located in southwest of Altai Tavan bogd national park. This place is non accessible by any jeeps or transports as there are no special road to there. But during the early nomadic years people were using this valley as a short cut between their winter place and summer places when they are migrating with packed camels and all livestock. And they were going through dramatic mountains, wild animals, beautiful lakes and wide and white rivers as milk that dividing the valley into two. Since that time this place was protected very well and path that left from this migration is now used for our horse riding and trekking itineraries. Of course for our trek we will use very old way of transportation which is packed camels and horses just like how local nomads do!

The Eagle Huntress

Aisholpan is only one girl in the Mongolia who is starting to learn how to train and hold eagle. She is from eagle hunter’s family. In her family starting from grand grandfather to her father and 2 younger brothers of her father are eagle hunters. This Kazakh tradition is taking its new beginning from this family. Father of Aisholpan who is main trainer of her says that “Eagle Hunting” is in their blood. Step aside Daenerys and Katniss, Aisholpan is a real life role model on an epic journey in a far away world. Follow this 13-year-old nomadic Mongolian girl as she battles to become the first female to hunt with a Golden Eagle in 2,000 years of male-dominated history.

Throat singing

The art of Mongolian throat singing is a style in which one or more pitches sound simultaneously over a fundamental pitch, producing a unique sound. The history of Mongolian throat singing reaches very far back. Many of the male herders can throat sing, but women are beginning to practice the technique as well. The popularity of throat singing among Mongolian seems to have arisen as a result of geographic location and culture. The open landscape of Mongolia allows for the sounds to carry a great distance. Ethnomusicologistsstudying throat singing in these areas mark khoomei as an integral part in the ancient pastoral animism that is still practiced today. Often, singers will travel far into the countryside looking for the right river, or will go up to the steppes of the mountainside to create the proper environment for throat-singing. And you have chance to see that in western Mongolia! Our local agency can manage you best trip in Western Mongolia!

Tsambagarav mountain

Tsambagarav national park is suppurated huge sacred mountain from Altai range. This mountain is 4165 M higher with snow on the top whole year and located on the border between Bayan-Olgii and Hovd provinces, The park has beautiful scenery, rich wildlife, plenty of archeological sites, and native nomadic Kazakh and Uriankhai herders living in the shadow of the holey mountain. These glaciers have left deep rocky gorges that have many waterfalls including one 7 m (23 ft) one on the north side of the park. During summer, the valleys north of the mountain are very green and full of wildlife, livestock, and flowers. Below the peaks are many glaciers and glacial lakes. The endangered species; Argali sheep, Ibex, Snow Leopard, Rock Ptarmigan and Altai Snowcock all inhabit the park. Though not all can easily be found, especially the snow leopard. The Altai subspecies of the Argali sheep that is found in the park is the largest wild sheep in the world. The rams of an adult male can weigh over 35 kg (75 lbs).

Uvs Lake & Uvs nuur basin

Uvs lake is the northernmost of the enclosed basins of Central Asia. It is enclosed on the north (Tuva) by the Tannu Ola Range and the Sangilen Mountains in the north-east. The main feeder to Uvs lake is the Tes-Khem River, which has its source in a fresh-water lake, Sangyn Dalai Nuur, in the alpine meadows and larch forests of the Sangilen uplands at the eastern extremity of the basin (in Mongolia).

Dayan Lake

The lake borders the north-western side of the Öndör Khairkhan Mountain range. Lakeside small areas of deciduous forest. From the lake originate a tributary of the Khovd River. The lake sits 2,232 meters above sea level, covering an area of 67 km2. Best destination area for fishing.

Historical sights

Bayan-Olgii has been a crossroads throughout history for empires, conquerors, and trade routes. Just north of the fabled Silk Road; Turks, Scythians, Huns, Tuvans, Uighurs, Mongols, and Kazakhs have left their mark on this vast land. The region has been occupied for over 12,000 years.

Bayan-Ulgii province

Bayan-Ölgii (Mongolian: Баян-Өлгий; Kazakh: Бай-Өлке, Rich cradle/region, alternately spelled Olgiy, Ulgii, etc.) is the westernmost of the 21 aimags (provinces) of Mongolia. The country's only Muslim and Kazakh-majority aimag, it was established in Aug, 1940. Its capital is Ölgii.