Mongolia’s Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve

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Khogno Khan Nature Reserve Mongolia

Mongolia’s Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve

Often described by tour companies as the ‘mini-Gobi,’ Mongolia’s Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve (also known as Khugnu Khan, Khugnu Tarna, and Khogno Tarna) is situated in the southern part of Bulgan Aimag. Its close proximity to Ulaanbaatar—just 280 km west of the capital—makes it a popular destination for both domestic and international visitors. However, this region offers much more than convenience. The true charm of Khögnö Khan lies in its diverse landscapes and rich interior, best appreciated at a slower pace. Here’s why it’s worth your time.

As you approach the region, the immense granite massif of Khögnö Khan Mountain rises above the surrounding steppe and the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes, which include the Mongol Els in the south and the Khogno Tarnyn Els in the north. The 841.43 km² Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve, part of Mongolia’s protected area network, was designated for state protection due to its unique ecosystems. This includes specialized taiga (coniferous forests primarily composed of pines, spruces, and larches) and diverse steppe plants that thrive in the area.

Ground squirrel Mongolia

The small Tarna River provides an essential water source for the local herders, their livestock, and wildlife in the area. Most of the land is used as pasture for livestock breeding and grazing. However, the increasing number of livestock and vehicles—owned by both herders and visitors—is causing soil erosion and threatening the steppe habitat. Additionally, climate change is leading to the expansion of the sand dune area.

In response, we have established a long-term partnership with the Davaasuren family, who are local to the area. Our support helps to supplement their income, providing them with greater financial security. Although the accommodation offered by the Davaasuren family is simple, what it lacks in amenities is more than compensated for by the natural beauty and the harmonious pace of life that follows the rhythm of the seasons.

Mongolian herding family Lunar New Year

Ger at Mongolia's Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve

 

Camel Trekking At Mongolia’s Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve

Bactrian camels Mongolia

 

The Bactrian camel, native to the steppes of Central Asia, is one of the five main livestock animals owned by Mongolia’s herders, alongside horses, cattle, sheep, and goats. These camels have adapted to Mongolia’s harsh conditions, demonstrating remarkable tolerance for extreme temperatures, high altitudes, sparse grazing, and limited water sources. Their natural habitats include rocky mountain massifs, arid deserts, stony plains, and sand dunes, making Khögnö Khan an ideal location for them.

However, the rise in domestic tourism—especially with Ulaanbaatar-based families seeking extended summer holidays away from the city—and the influx of large tour groups have turned this area into a ‘hot spot.’ More herders are bringing camels to the roadside to rent for camel treks, creating a makeshift parking lot filled with cars, 4x4s, and minibuses, which may detract from the area’s natural appeal.

We take a different approach. Our camel treks are organized through the Davaasuren family, who live about 10 kilometers away from the main road. This distance, combined with our maximum group size of six and our commitment to not running the same tour repeatedly, helps us minimize our impact on the region. By partnering with the Davaasuren family, we ensure a more sustainable and authentic experience for our guests.

Horse herder Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve Mongolia

In addition to its spectacular granite mountains and sand dunes, another compelling reason to visit Mongolia’s Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve is the historic Khögnö Monastery. Built in the early 17th century at the foot of what was then known as Bat Khan Uul, the monastery originally comprised two sites: Erdene Khamba Khiid at the base of the mountain and Övgön Khiid, just over a mile further up a southeast valley. Both were destroyed in the late 17th century, and it is believed that some resident monks were captured and killed, tied up by the neck using a knot traditionally employed by herders for goats or sheep. In recognition of this tragic event, Bat Khan Uul was renamed Khögnö Khan, after the Mongolian verb “khögnökh,” which loosely describes the manner of their deaths.

The temples at the Erdene Khamba Khiid site were later rebuilt after being destroyed again during the Communist purges. Among them, the Jamsran Temple and the Five Kings Temple are particularly worth visiting. A birch-lined path connects Erdene Khamba Khiid to Övgön Khiid, offering one of the most beautiful panoramas in the region.

Erdene Khamba Monastery Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve Mongolia

Although most travelers visit Khögnö Khan for one or two nights, the area’s diverse landscapes provide opportunities for longer treks by foot, horse, or camel. While the region is popular with summer visitors, local families live here year-round, making winter treks a possibility as well. If you’re interested in exploring Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve, take a look at the range of experiences we offer or get in touch with your own ideas.

Panoramic view of our campsite at Khogno Khan Nature Reserve in southern Bulgan Province, central Mongolia

Khogno Khan Nature Reserve during our Modern Nomads Mongolia winter tour

Jess @ Eternal Landscapes

 

 

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I'm Jess Brooks, the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia and the voice behind EL's blog posts. For more than a decade, since 2006, I've been based in Mongolia, working closely with my beloved Mongolian team to advocate for a tourism approach that brings about positive change.. What sets our blog apart is our deep understanding of Mongolia—our home. Unlike content from influencers or creators, our posts prioritise authenticity and firsthand knowledge as guiding principles.
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