Where: Central Outer Mongolia & Gobi Desert
Best season: June or September
Best Sights: Dinosaur remains
Remember to Bring: Your own food and water and never attempt to trek without a local guide
The Four Peaks
The most easily accessible hiking in Mongolia is around the four peaks that surround Ulaan Baata.They are considered holy by the Mongolians, and relate roughly to the four points of the compass. The highest and most impressive is the climb up Tsetseegum Uul, which can be seen dominating the skyline to the south of the capital. There are two main routes that can be followed, theManzshir Khiid Route, which approaches from the mountain’s southern side is the most popular and the easiest. The Zaisan route is more scenic, but also more challenging, and a return journey to the peak will take you about eleven hours. Make sure you go prepared as weather conditions can change rapidly. Hiking trips into the mountains are only sensible from June to September and, as with all National Parks in Mongolia, a permit is required, which can be purchased at the entrance gates.
Trekking in the Gobi Desert
Many people come to Mongolia purely for the challenge of trekking across the Gobi, a feat completed most impressively by Benedict Allenin his book “Edge of Blue Heaven“. Treks can be on horseback, but are most commonly completed on camel, or at least with camels to carry equipment – an obvious form of transport to use when over two thirds of Mongolia’s large camel population live in the Gobi. Striking out on your own is not advisable as this is one of the most remote wildernesses in the world where help is rarely close at hand, however, there are innumerable guided tours available, at a variety of costs, though none come cheap. Always be sure to carry more than enough water for your expedition, although the Gobi is only 3% sand, water is still is severely short supply and its unlikely that there will be any opportunity to collect more on your way.
Areas worth heading for are the Mountain range of Jaragiyn Els, the Yol Am Valley, theGurvansaikhan National Park and the ‘Flaming Cliffs‘. This area is particularly interesting for the hundreds and thousands of bones, footprints and preserved dinosaur eggs that have been found there. Dinosaur remains were first discovered in this area in 1922 by Roy Chapman Andrews, but more recently a particularly rich site was found at Ulkaa in 1993, and archaeologists still head out here regularly in hope of being the next to make an amazing discovery.
Gorkhi Terlj National Park
Also within easy travelling distance of the capital, Ulaan Baatar (only 50 miles), this National Park is a popular destination for many of lovers of the outdoors. It lies on the edge of the Khentii mountains which is said to be the region of Mongolia where Genghis Khan was born, and offers beautiful scenery, interesting rock formations, lush green meadows, pine forests, bare hillsides, and fast flowing rivers, where hiking, horse riding, and fishing are all possible. Many adventure tour companies organise trips into this area, and it is a common stopping place on tours of the country because of its easy access, but independent trekking can also be undertaken, as long as you take the usual precautions for inclement weather, and other unexpected events. Accommodation can be found in specially arranged tourist ger camps, which can conveniently be used as a base for day walks. Don’t forget that visitors to most Mongolian National Parks will need to obtain a permit, so check before you go.
Off The Map Tours
Tour company organising treks into a variety of areas, with useful information about different trekking sites.
Info on the Gobi and related links
Benedict Allen – Edge of Blue Heaven
Order this book now from Amazon.com.
By Guilia Vincenzi