Mongolia’s Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park

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Mongolia’s Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park

A natural highlight,  Mongolia’s Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park (also written Khorgo-Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park) encompasses an area of wild nature – volcanic craters, rugged mountains, river valleys, and rolling steppe.

A panoramic view of Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park in central Mongolia

Located in Arkhangai Aimag (province) Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park is part of the central Khangai Mountain chain that dominates Mongolia’s central heartland. One of Mongolia’s three major mountain chains, the Khangai extends for roughly 800km in a northwest-southeast direction, culminating in the highest point of 4021m sacred Otgontenger in Zavkhan Province.

Terkhiin Tsaagaan Nuur translates into Great White Lake and at the centre of this national park is a large freshwater lake – the largest in the Khangai Mountains. Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur forms part of the Tariat volcanic field together with the lava terraces of the Chuluut and Suman Rivers. Within the area, there are six cinder cones, including the most well-known – Khorg. There is a footpath leading to the 180m wide crater of the Khorg volcano and it is possible to walk around it. The lava flow from Khorg was radiocarbon dated at about 4930 years ago and dammed the Chuluut River, forming Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur.

Although the lake is relatively small (it is approximately 16km long, east to west, and around 4km-6km wide, north to south) Mongolia’s Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park has 10 tributary rivers and over 6000 hectares of wetlands of international importance leading to it being included in the list of the Ramsar Convention of Wetland Protection in 1997. As well as a number of smaller lakes to the west, the numerous bays and peninsulas on the northern shore are home to Bar Headed Geese, Ruddy Shellducks, and Northern Lapwings. It is one of 70 Important Bird Areas (IBA) in Mongolia (designated by Bird Life International) and part of the East Asian Australasian Flyway protecting migratory water birds.

There are populations of Siberian Marmots on the open steppe and Grey Wolves mainly in the larch-dominated coniferous forest on the northern slopes of the mountains. On the southern side of the mountains you will find an array of steppe and alpine plants including edelweiss.

Don’t be put off by the development of ger camps in the area or by influencers or tour companies saying White Lake is ‘touristy’. The hinterland is spectacular and perfect for an extended trek where the remote wilderness allows for self-discovery and personal reflection. The solitude and connection with nature can be a transformative experience. We offer both foot and horse treks at Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur through our long-term local community partnerships and the treks act as a supplementary source of income further supporting the economic sustainability of our partnering herding families.

Horse trek at Mongolia's Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park

Image: EL guest Justine Shanti

For those with an interest in geology, you can explore volcanic craters, lava formations, and unique geological features that tell the story of the region’s volcanic past.  The area is also a haven for bird enthusiasts.

Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park sunset

Mongolia’s Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park’s landscapes offer valuable pastures for herding families with the availability of grass and water sources essential for the well-being of their livestock. For many herding families, their way of life is a source of cultural pride and identity. They have an intrinsic connection to the land and a vested interest in maintaining the health of the ecosystem, as it directly impacts their livelihoods. There are challenges in terms of balancing conservation with human activities including tourism and the way of life of the herding families that call the national park home.  Sustainable management strategies that consider the needs of tourism, herding families, and the conservation goals of the national park are crucial to strike the right balance and protect the area’s natural and cultural heritage. The impact of tourism on the area was one motivation in why we set up our annual National Park community clean-up at White Lake. You can learn more here –


For those looking to visit Mongolia’s Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park, we ask you to do so responsibly. This not only allows you to experience the raw beauty of the area but also empowers you to be a custodian of its unique ecosystem. With respect and environmental consciousness, you can ensure that your journey leaves a positive impact, contributing to the preservation of this region for future generations to explore and appreciate.


A Reminder To Travel Responsibly

  • Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park’s landscapes offer valuable pastures for herding families with the availability of grass and water sources essential for the well-being of their livestock. Visiting a Mongolian herding family can be a rewarding cultural experience, but it’s important to do so responsibly and respectfully. When interacting with these local communities, respect their privacy and boundaries. Seek permission before taking photos and be mindful of local norms.
  • Practice Leave No Trace principles when exploring the area. Carry out all your trash and dispose of it responsibly. Minimise your physical impact by staying on designated trails and avoid disturbing wildlife. And, Mongolia, like many countries, is dealing with plastic pollution. Bring a reusable water bottle and refill it at local water sources, if safe to do so. Minimise your use of disposable plastic items and bring your own reusable options.
  • Smaller tour groups have a smaller environmental footprint. Consider traveling in smaller groups to reduce the impact on the area and allow for a more intimate experience.
  • Support organizations and initiatives dedicated to the conservation of Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur and other protected areas in Mongolia. Advocate for policies that promote responsible tourism and environmental protection.


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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