Naadam festival
Suburbs of Ulaanbaatar

Gobi Desert

Gobi Desert is a vast zone of desert and semi-desert covering almost 30% of territory of Mongolia. It's one of the unique, mysterious and untouched places all over the world! Oases and sand cover only about 3% of the desert, the rest is mainly grass, shrubs and rocks. It is, however, a land of extremes: decent rain falls only every 2-3 years, as for the temperature it can be over 40°C (105°F) during summer and below -40°C (-40°F) in winter; storms of dust and sand can be fearsome in spring. The Gobi Desert is rich in wildlife. You'll see thousand kinds of rare animals and plants. You'll see places where dinosaurs lived 70-80 million years ago. Gobi Desert consists of 5 provinces or aimags, they are Bayankhongor (South-Western part of Mongolia), Dornogov (South-East of the country), Dundgov (Middle Gobi), Gov-Altai (Western part of Mongolia) and Omnogov (South Gobi). 

We tell here just about some of their attractions.

There is famous Valley of Eagles, sand dunes and canyons in the South Gobi (Omnogov Aimag, in Gurvansaikhan Park), the driest, hottest and harshest region of the country. It's the largest aimag in Mongolia. Yol Am (Eagles Valley) canyon is about 200m high and contains a small "glacier" which remains frozen even in the hottest summer days.

Have you heard anything about Bayanzag Mountains or known as the "Flaming Cliffs"? It's a classic desert of rock, red sands, scrub, sun and awesome emptiness. It's a place where American paleontologists found complete skeletons of dinosaurs and the first nest with their eggs. You can see them in the Museum of Natural History in UlaanBaator. 

South Gobi is a home to one-quarter (93,000) of domesticated camels of Mongolia. Mandal - Ovoo or Sharkhulsan Village is renowned for the quantity (about 14,000) and quality of camels living here. It's also a place where the annual festival, the Holiday of Ten Thousand Camels takes place. It happens just before the beginning of the Tsagaan Sar (Lunar New Year), that starts in January or February. The highlight of this festival is family occasion. It's 18km camel race across the nearby region called the Ongiin-Tal Steppes. You can watch the way of life of nomads, observe the camel breeding. What about trying camel milk? You can drink it here.

The rare animals such as wild horses, wild sheep, ibex, wild camels exist here. The aimag is famous of the black tailed antelopes, white antelopes, lynxes, foxes, corsas, rabbits and badgers. Over 250 species of flora grow in the territory of the Umnugovi aimag. Many medical herbs, such as astragalus, gentian, flavor nitracia, cynomorium, agriophyllium, and trees such as saksaul, oleaster, populus diversifolia and elm are found in Umnugovi.

There are many cold and hot springs in the province. In the territory of the aimag there are many places of interests such as the mirror rock, and salt lake, beautiful oasis with groves of elm, populus diversifolia, cleaster and vast valleys of sand dunes. Popular destinations are Gurvan Zeerd, Dulaan buut huge caves, the famous national park Yoliin valley, refered to as "Khangai in the Gobi", Dungeneegiin valley, and Kherem hillock. The South has bright soil, and in the North soil is brown semi-desert. This aimag is well-known for dinosaur fossils as old as 60 - 80 million years, and finds from Stone Age, and Bronze Age. Also there are ruins of ancient cities, fortifications, and ancient graves, and monuments. The main section of the economy is animal husbandry. 

Gurvansaikhan National Park

Unlike other national parks in the Gobi Desert, the Gurvansaikhan National Park contains mountains, dinosaur fossils, extraordinary sand dunes, rock formations and a valley that has ice for most of the year. This park is the highlight of the aimag. The park is home to over 200 species of birds, including the Mongolian Desert Finch, Cinerous Vulture, Desert Warbler and Houbara Bustard. Spring brings further waves of migratory birds. 

There are about 600 types of plants here. The majority of them bloom after the heavy rains only that happens very seldom. The sparse vegetation manages to support numerous types of animals such as black-tailed gazelle, snow leopard, ibex, argali sheep and endangered species of wild camel. 

The Yolyn Am Valley (Vulture's Mouth) was originally established to conserve the bird life of the region. But now it's famous for its dramatic and very unusual scenery - it is a valley in the middle of the Gobi Desert with gorge full of meters-sick ice all year round. In winter, the ice is up to 10m high, and continues down the gorge for another 10km. It remains frozen for most of the year, except lor about a month starting in late August.

The small nature museum at the gate on the main road to Yolyn Am, 20 km away from it, has a collection of dinosaur eggs and bones, stuffed birds and a snow leopard. There is also an ethnography museum in a ger, which is worth visiting.

Yolyn Am Valley is about 62 km to the northwest of Dalanzagdad. Look out for the remarkable petrified wood lying by the roadside. 

Khongoryn Els. The Khongoryn Els are some of the largest and most spectacular sand dunes in Mongolia. Also known as the duut mankhan (singing dunes), they are up to 800m high, 12km wide and about 100km long. The largest dunes are at the north-west corner of the range. The views of the desert from the top are wonderful. There is an information ger near the parking area at the base of the dunes. 

Gurvansaikhan is located in Omnogov Aimag, 590 km south-west of Ulaanbaatar, not far from the Chinese border, near the town of Dalanzadgad, the administrative center of South Gobi. Most travellers to the Gobi fly into Dalanzadgad and then rent a jeep. There's also a weekly bus between Ulaanbaatar and Dalanzadgad.

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