Western Mongolia is a region in Mongolia covering the provinces (or Aimags) of Bayan-Ulgii, Hovd, Uvs, and Zavkhan. It is the most remote region of the country with paved roads from the capital, Ulaanbaatar, ending 320 km before reaching the eastern most point of Zavkhan. It is also the most ethnically diverse, mountainous, and scenic region of Mongolia, with thousands of years of history. The region is home to the Kazakhs, a Muslim tribe from near the Caspian Sea, and Oirats, or western Mongols, which can be divided into 10 different tribes, as well as Khalkhs, or eastern Mongols. In addition to the ethnic diversity, the region is home to the Altai Mountain Range, with the highest peaks in Mongolia, Lake Uvs, a large saltwater lake, and many smaller lakes, mountains, rivers, forests, and steppe. Spread throughout the region are countless archeological sites with petroglyphs, cave paintings, standing stone monuments, monasteries, and ancient forts that date back as far as 10,000 years.
Altai Tavan Bogd National Park has some of the most stunning scenery in all of Mongolia with towering white mountains, glaciers, deep lush valleys, and large lakes. The park is divided into 2 regions, the Tavan Bogd Mountains in the northwest and the Lakes Region to the southeast. The park stretches along the Chinese border from the Russian border to 200 km south following the Altai Mountains, which form the borders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. Glacial melt and annual snow fall supplies 3 large lakes inside the park that form the head waters of the Hovd River.
Tavan Bogd Mountains are the highest mountains in Mongolia, with Khuiten Uul (‘Cold Peak’) at 4374 m (14,201 ft) being the highest. These permanently snow capped mountains form a bowl around the Pontuninii Glacier, which covers 23 square km. The other peaks are Nairamdal (‘Friendship’, 4180 m), Malchin (‘herder’, 4050 m), Bürged (‘Eagle’, 4068 m) and Olgii (‘Craddle’, 4050 m). From the peak of Kuiten Uul, it is possible to see Kazakhstan 30 km away on a clear day. Khuiten Uul was renamed Ikh Mongol (‘Great Mongol’) by President Enkhbayar when he climbed it in 2006, though this is widely ignored and possibly reversed by the new government. There is still a monument at the base commemorating the accomplishment. There are many endangered species inside the park including argali sheep, Beech marten, ibex, grey wolves, red deer, black vulture, elk, snow leopards, Altai snowcock, golden eagles, and many others.
Lakes Region is a beautiful area surrounding 3 large fresh water lakes. Khurgan Nuur and Khoten Nuur are attached by a small channel with a many small creeks flowing into the lakes from surrounding mountains. Two of these creeks form waterfalls of 7 to 10 m in height. A small bridge crosses the channel. These lakes are full of fish and many species of bird. Dayan Nuur is a smaller lake 20 km south of the 2 larger lakes.
Tsagaan Gol, or White River, is the main valley flowing from the Tavan Bogd Mountains to Tsengel village and the center section of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Depending on water levels, this may be the valley you take to get to Tavan Bogd. There is a ranger station in the valley after you pass the Shveet Khairkhan Mountain, which is a popular and relatively place to climb at 3320 m. It overlooks the valley below with its large mass of petroglyphs, Turkic stone men, and khirigsuur. The inhabitants of the valley are Tuvan, a Mongol tribe renowned for their throat singing and unique arts.
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