December 05, 2009
Mongolia's most northern aimag, Khuvsgul (Khovsgol) is - with the possible exception of Arkhangai - the most scenic in Mongolia. This is a land of tall taiga forest, crystal-clear lakes, icy streams and lush grass. It does rain a lot during summer, but this only adds to the scenery: rainbows hang over meadows dotted with white gers and grazing horses and yaks. The best fishing is in the south, where the Ider, Bugsei, Selenge, Delger Moron and Chuluut rivers converge.The aimag is dominated by the magnificent Khovsgol Nuur, one of the most scenic spots in Mongolia. The lake is surrounded by several peaks of almost 3000m in height. To the West, there is the Darkhadyn Khotgor Depression, with plentiful forests and lakes. In this region, around Tsagaan nuur, live the fascinating, but fast disappearing, Tsaatan people, whose lives revolve around domesticated reindeer. Other ethnic groups include the Khaikh, Buryat, Uriankhai and Darkhad.
Moron. Population 28,000. Elevation 1283m. This rather scruffy aimag capital is cooler than most Mongolian cities, and has relatively few gers because nearby forests supply abundant timber. Moron (which means river) has few sights and most travellers just drive through en route to Khatgal at the southern end of Khovsgol Nuur. Museum. Given the variety of wildlife in the aimag, stuffed animals are, not surprisingly, the main feature of the museum. There's a large tusk from a woolly mammoth, but you won't see one of those in the flesh - they haven't inhabited this region for over 40,000 years. Photographic exhibits of the Tsaatan people are also intriguing.Danzandarjaa Khiid. The history of this khiid (monastery) is unclear, but the original monastery (Morongiin Khuree) was built around 1890 and was home to 2000 monks. It was rebuilt and reopened in June 1990, and now has 30 monks of all ages. It's a charming place, designed in the shape of a concrete ger, and contains a great collection of scroll paintings (thangka). Lake Hovsgol – 1645m above sea level, frozen from January until May, is located in the most northern province and called the „ Dark Blue Pearl“ of Mongolia. Untouched by industry and modern urban life, the Lake Hovgol’s water is unbelievable clear and clean. The scientists have announced that the lake contains 2% of world’s fresh water resources. The second largest fresh water lake in Central Asia is the home of the Tsataan Reindeers herders which live in this taiga and forest steppe since centuries. The best and fastest way to come to this area is by plane to Moron and then by four wheel cars.
Tsagaan Nuur. About 50km west of Khovsgol Nuur, in Renchinlkhumbe sum (district), is a large depression called Darkhadyn Khotgor, often referred to as Tsagaan Nuur (White Lake), after the main village in the area. The Darkhadyn Depression is roughly the same size as Khovsgol Nuur and was indeed originally formed as a glacial lake.The difficulty in reaching the region ensures that the unique Tsaatan people who inhabit the valleys are able to continue their traditional lifestyle - but tourism is slowly making an impact. Darkhadyn is one of Mongolia's strongest centres of shamanism.This is one of the best-watered regions in Mongolia: the aimag has about 300 lakes and 200 of them are in this area. The lakes are a vital part of Mongolia's very limited commercial fishing industry - white carp and trout are packed in salt and flown out to Ulaanbaator to be served in the fancier hotels. Salmon and huge taimen can also be found in the region.One definite drawback to visiting the region is the insects that invade the area.
Chandiman-Ondor & Surround. The village of Chandiman-Ondor, a day's drive East of Khatgal, is in a beautiful area, which would make a good exploratory trip for hardy travellers. The town also has a decent museum and dining rooms.Surrounding sites include the Bulnai hot springs, about 50km north-west of town, which offers simple cabins around a former Soviet resort. Further East, 30km south-east of Tsagaan-Nuur, is the Dayan Derkhiin Agui cave, considered holy by local Buddhists and shamanists, and a nearby ruined monastery. Many Buryats live in this area. With a few days up your sleeve this could make a rough but beautiful alternative route from Khovsgol to Bulgan. In the north-east of the aimag, the area around the Khokh, Arig and Kheven rivers, is particularly good fishing. Five rivers. About 50km South of Moron, on the border with the Arkhangai aimag, is an area where the Ider, Bugsei, Selenge,Delger Moron and Chuluut rivers converge. In September and October this is one of the best fishing spots in the country.