At one of Mongolia's Eagle Festivals
Mongolia’s Eagle Festivals
September 25, 2019
Khogno Khan Nature Reserve during our Modern Nomads Mongolia winter tour
Mongolia Winter Trip – Modern Nomads
December 30, 2019

Mongolia Winter Trip – Orkhon River Valley

If you’re considering a Mongolia winter trip then think about visiting Mongolia’s Orkhon River Valley – located near the centre of Mongolia, within the large massif of the Khangai Mountains.

The Orkhon River Valley is one of Mongolia’s four UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is listed as a cultural site and represents the evolution of nomadic pastoral traditions in Mongolia and provides a rare slice of tangible Mongolian history. This area is rich in history relating to the Hunnu, the Turks and the Mongol Empire as well as the founding of Buddhism in Mongolia with Erdene Zuu Monastery (Mongolia’s oldest) being constructed in 1586, leading to the region being called the cradle of Mongolian civilisation.

The Orkhon River Valley World Heritage Site encompasses an area of approximately 121,967 hectares of extensive pasture land on both banks of the Orkhon River and includes numerous archaeological remains dating back to the 6th century (including Kharkhorin – the ancient capital of Ogodei Khan).

The region, with its broad, shallow river valley, has provided water and shelter for not only nomadic, pastoral societies but also larger settled administrative and commercial centres. Collectively the remains in the site reflect the symbiotic links between nomadic, pastoral societies and their administrative and religious centres, and the importance of the Orkhon valley in the history of central Asia.

The Orkhon River Valley in deep winter during a Mongolia winter trip

The Orkhon River Valley - frozen in winter - taken during a Mongolia winter trip
Although the Orkhon Valley was at the centre of traffic across the Asian steppes and became the capital of first the Uighur Empire and then the Mongol Empire, the night skies have changed little over Millenia with very little light pollution to impact on them.
The Milky Way

The Milky Way as captured by our guest Ann Ang

The Orkhon River Valley makes a perfect destination for a winter experience as you can easily access it from Ulaanbaatar. Why not consider combining it with the following locations:

Khongo Khan Nature Reserve and the Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dunes

The Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes at Khogno Khan Nature Reserve

The Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes form part of the Khogno Khan Nature Reserve – a sacred granite mountain within an area of secluded valleys, freshwater springs and open steppe. You can explore the hidden interiors of the mountain on a hike to the small working temple of Erdene Khambiin Khid and the ruined Ovgon Khiid Monastery. A birch bordered path leads to this location and offers one of the most beautiful panoramas of the region. You can combine this with a camel trek – as the region is home to numerous herders – relying on the essential water source from the small but vital Tarna River. 

The mighty Ulaan Tsutgalan – Orkhon Waterfall

The Orkhon Waterfall in the Orkhon River Valley - good as a location for a Mongolia winter trip

The Orkhon Waterfall in the Orkhon River Valley - good as a location for Mongolia winter trip

The area surrounding Ulaan Tsutgalan was created by a series of volcanic eruptions (there are often different types of igneous rock lying on the surface – such as basalt and pumice stone which solidified from molten Magma after reaching the surface). The 20-meter high waterfall is formed by a series of small streams and rivers including the Ulaan Gol.

If you’re lucky enough you may come across some of Mongolia’s wildlife – such as this Gray Wolf as captured by our guest Tammy Ruddick during her Mongolia winter trip. For more ideas, look at our Mongolia winter tours website page.

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.
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