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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 (you’ll also see the name written as Khugnu Khan, Khugnu Tarna, and Khogno Tarna) is located in the south of Bulgan Aimag. Yes, its proximity to Ulaanbaatar – just 280km west of the capital city – makes it a popular destination with domestic as well as international visitors but the region is worth exploring and spending time in – especially if you slow down and take the time to explore the interior and the diversity of the landscapes. Here’s why.

As you approach the region, the immense granite massif of Khögnö Khan mountain rises over the surrounding steppe and the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes (comprised of the Mongol Els in the south and the Khogno Tarnyn Els in the north). Part of Mongolia’s protected area network, the 841.43 km² Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve was taken under state protection partly due to the specialised taiga (coniferous forests consisting mostly of pines, spruces and larches) and steppe plants that grow in this area.

Ground squirrel Mongolia

The small Tarna River provides an essential water source for herders that live within the area and their livestock as well as wildlife. A majority of the land area is used as pastureland for livestock breeding and grazing although an increase in livestock as well as an increase in the number of vehicles – owned by herders as well as visitors – is causing soil erosion and threatening the steppe habitat. Also, the impact of climate change is causing the sand dune area to expand. This is one reason we work in long-term local community partnership with the Davaasuren family. Local to the area,  our support helps to supplement their income giving them more financial security. And although the accommodation provided by Davaasuren is simple, what it is lacking in amenities is amply compensated by nature and the pace of life that is a rhythm with 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 is native to the steppes of Central Asia and is one of the five main livestock (along with horses, cattle, sheep and goats) owned by Mongolia’s herders. Bactrian camels have adapted to Mongolia’s harsh conditions and have a tolerance for Mongolia’s extreme temperatures,  high altitudes, sparse grazing, and limited water sources. Their natural habitat includes areas of rocky mountain massifs, arid deserts, stony plains, and sand dunes and Khogno Khan makes a perfect location for them.

However, an increase in domestic tourism – especially Ulaanbaatar-based families taking an extended summer holiday away from the city – and large tour groups has created a ‘hot spot’ with more herders bringing camels to the roadside to rent for camel treks to generate revenue. This area has essentially become a large car park of cars, 4×4, and minibuses and will make you want to continue your journey.

We do not arrange camel treks from the roadside. Our camel treks are organised through the Davaussren family and they live around 10 kilometers away from the main road. This together with our maximum group size of six and that we don’t run the same tour on a repeat cycle means we’re helping to limit our own impact on the region.

 

Horse herder Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve Mongolia

As well as the spectacular granite mountains and the sand dunes, another reason to visit Mongolia’s Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve is Khögnö Monastery, built in the early 17th century at the foot of what was then known as Bat Khan Uul. There were two monastery sites – one at the base of the mountain (now known as Erdene Khamba Khiid) and one just over a mile further up a southeast valley (now known as Övgön Khiid). Both were destroyed in the late 17th century and it is believed that some of the resident monks were captured and killed – tied up by the neck using a type of knot used by herders when tying up goats or sheep. Bat Khan Uul was then renamed Khögnö Khan in recognition of the event (and after the Mongolian verb khögnökh which also loosely describes how they were killed).

Temples at the Erdene Khamba Khiid site were rebuilt (having been destroyed again during the Communist purges) and the Jamsran Temple and the Five Kings Temple are worth visiting. A birch-lined path leads between Erdene Khamba Khiid and Övgön Khiid and offers one of the most beautiful panoramas in the region.

Erdene Khamba Monastery Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve Mongolia

Although most travellers visit Khogno Khan for one or two nights, the diversity of the area allows for longer treks – whether by foot, horse, or by camel. Also, although popular with summer visitors, local families remain in the area all year round and winter treks are also a possibility. If you’re interested in exploring Khögnö Khan Nature Reserve then look at the range of experiences we offer or get in touch with your 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. I 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. I have been based in Mongolia since 2006 and together with my beloved Mongolian team, we focus on tourism that makes a positive difference. 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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