Mongolian gers in the snow. Notice the traditional 'ulzii' pattern on the nearest door - a symbol of protection and longevity.
Winter In Mongolia
November 18, 2018
Mongolia Horse Sleigh Expedition – Khovsgol
December 5, 2018

The (Eternal) Landscapes Of Mongolia

When people ask me why did we choose the name Eternal Landscapes I typically show them a photograph. I don’t have a particular one I use. I just grab one from my photo gallery …

Tsambagarav Mountain is located in western Mongolia - one of the main five geographical regions or landscapes of Mongolia

Tsambagarav Mountain stands tall on the border of Khovd and Bayan Ulgii Aimags in western Mongolia. It is a stand-alone mountain and its 4193m permanently snow capped peak forms part of the Mongolian Altai range.

 

The mountain forest landscapes of Mongolia

Khentii Aimag in north-eastern Mongolia is named for the Khan Khentii Mountains that dominate this province. As you travel further eastwards, so you leave the mountain forest landscapes of Mongolia behind and the vast Mongolian steppes start to unfold before you.

 

 Bayanzag - red sandstone rock formations - in Mongolia's southern Gobi Desert. Another example of the landscapes of Mongolia

Bayanzag – the red sandstone rock formations also known as the Flaming Cliffs of Mongolia’s southern Gobi Desert.

 

The Orkhon River in central Mongolia just before it passes through the town of Kharkhorin. Another example of the diversity of the landscapes of Mongolia

The Orkhon River Valley in central Mongolia is one of Mongolia’s four UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

If you’re looking for an adjective to describe Mongolia then vast is a good place to start. Completely landlocked between Russia to the north and China to the south, Mongolia’s land area is roughly equivalent to that of all the countries of Western Europe. This leads to a diversity in both land types and landscapes.

Ask someone about the landscapes of Mongolia and there’ll  be a variety of answers. Go on, try it. Answers will probably include ‘it has mountains doesn’t it?’ ‘There’s desert I think.’ ‘Isn’t there grasslands?’ And we can say yes to it all.

Mongolians typically divide their country into three landscapes – the Gobi, Tal and Khangai (desert, steppe and mountain) but for this post, I’ve divided the country into the five main geographical regions.

Mongolia’s Gobi Desert

The Gobi is a fossil-rich mid-latitude desert that occupies much of southern Mongolia and north-eastern China. Within Mongolia, it covers five of Mongolia’s 18 provinces – Gobi Altai in the west through to Bayankhongor, Ömnögobi (Southern Gobi), Dundgobi (middle Gobi) and Dorngobi (East Gobi).

A Mongolian ger surrounded by the immensity of Mongolia's middle Gobi landscapes. This is an example of the diversity of the landscapes of Mongolia

Mongolians say there are 33 types of Gobi and there is a remarkable variety – everything from vast gravel plains to 2800m mountains, dunes and oases. These areas provide habitat for many of Mongolia’s threatened species, including the wild camel, Black Tailed (Goitered) Gazelle, the Gobi bear and the Mongolian wild ass.

Mongolia’s Central Heartland

The Khangai Mountains are one of the three main mountain chains in Mongolia and form the backdrop to the central heartland along with river valleys (the Khangai give rise to  Mongolia’s major rivers) and both forest and alpine meadow steppe. This area is also rich in history relating to the Huns, the Turks and the Mongol Empire as well as the founding of Buddhism in Mongolia.

Altai Mountains and Western Mongolia

Western Mongolia is dominated by the Mongol Altai Mountains. This major mountain chain – Mongolia’s highest – is a region of intensive mountain building and high seismic activity. It is a continuation of the Altai Mountains of Siberia and summits reach 4000m plus and are covered with permanent snow, ice and glaciers. Western Mongolia is also home to one of Mongolia’s ethnic groups – the Kazakhs.

Northern Mongolia

The northern region consists of dense coniferous forests of pine and larch – where the southern edge of the circumpolar boreal forest meets the steppe of Central Asia. It also has vast depressions including Khovsgol Nuur and the Darkhad Depression.

The western shore of Khovsgol Nuur National Park in northern Mongolia

The western shore of Khovsgol Nuur National Park in northern Mongolia

Mongolia’s Grasslands

Eastern Mongolia is dominated by the history of Chinggis Khan, the Khan Khentii Mountains (stretching 200km across Khentii Province to the northern border with Siberia) and extensive stretching grassland (steppes) – one of the largest expanses of unspoiled, temperate grassland in the world.

A beautiful view of the summer grasslands of Mongolia - taken on a blue sky day in the central Khangai Mountains

Look at the Mongolia country profile page of our website for  more of an introduction to the landscapes of Mongolia. Or, if you want to experience them for yourself with us, why not look at the Mongolia tours and experiences we offer. Remember, we offer a range experiences all year round and through the network of local families we work with (as part of our responsible travel philosophy – it’s a more sustainable approach).

Jess @ Eternal Landscapes

 

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I’m Jess Brooks. I have been based in Mongolia since 2006 and am the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia - a registered Mongolian business and social travel enterprise that focuses on providing travellers with a real 21st Century insight into Mongolia that supports local communities. I'm also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society - awarded for my work in Mongolia and a published guidebook author - having worked together with World Adventure Guides to produce a digital interactive guide to Mongolia. http://www.jessbrooks.co.uk/
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