Head to where the desert meets the plain and where the plains meet the mountains. To where wildlife is protected and where nomadic cultures thrive. Head towards a microcosm of Mongolia. Head to the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park.
Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park
Mongolia’s largest national park is located to the west of the small town of Dalanzadgad. Bordering China, the park encompasses an area stretching from the Gobi desert to the Altai mountains.
A trip to the park can be made worthwhile either by traveling independently or as part of an organized group. While a planned tour will stick to the ‘must-see’ spots, an independent trip can encompass many more of the seldom traveled regions.
Gobi Gurvansaikhan’s Hot Spots
While the 16,800 square miles (27,000 sqkm) of terrain can prove intimidating to navigate, there are a few fail-safe locations for making the most of your time in the park. Consider using these for a general itinerary and leave some room to divert to other areas that you might find interesting.
The Hongor Sands offer an ideal spot to get your fill of the desert. Struggle through the sand and up towards the top of a dune, where you’ll be able to view the surrounding landscape.
Once you’ve tired yourself out, stumble back downhill to get up close to camels belonging to a group of nomads. Should the opportunity arise, take a quick ride on the camels, a tried and tested method of desert transportation. These rides will be easier to acquire should you be traveling in an organized tour.
Staying in the desert, a visit to the Bayanzag area of the Gobi is worthy of a photo-op. Known more commonly as the Flaming Cliffs, the rocky desert terrain will give some stable footing for those looking to lose the loose sands. Keep your eyes peeled as you wander around. There are a plethora of dinosaur fossils in the area. As with any fossil site, ‘leave it where it lies’ is the general motto.
From the fiery heat of the desert make your way towards the icy base of Yolin Am, a craggy canyon on the edge of the Gobi. The canyon’s ice tends to thaw during the summer but the cool temperatures provides a welcome reprieve from Mongolia’s hot sun.
If there’s any hope of seeing non-camel wildlife, it’s likely to be found within the confines of the Gurvansaikhan Mountains. The mountains hold the illusive snow leopard, the Siberian ibex, and Argali sheep.
Only those with the keenest of eyes and best of luck will be able to see the creatures in their natural habitat so it might be more reasonable to reach the site prepared to do some bird watching. Look out for the red-winged wallcreepers and the fierce Lammergeiers.
Credit: Noel Reynolds
When To Go
Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park’s temperature ranges greatly between the summer and winter months. For outdoor adventuring, play it safe and stick to travel between May and September.
In neighboring Dalanzadga, May and September lows will be about 46°F (8°C). July is the hottest month with temperatures around 82°F (28°C). Rains are nothing to concern yourself with.
Getting There & Around
From Ulaanbaatar fly into the modestly sized Dalanzadgad Airport. It is here that you will begin your trip towards the park.
- Mid-range accommodations: $20-40
- Meal: $6-10
- Beer: $1.75
- Leave yourself room for improvisation on your trip.
- Stock up with supplies if you’re traveling alone.
- Turn down food or booze when it’s offered to you.
- Buy any fossils from local vendors. They are illegal to bring out of the country.
- Use your left hand to pass food, drink, etc. Sorry southpaws.
- Hold a cup by the rim.
- Mongolia at one point had the world’s smallest stock exchange. The title is now held by Cambodia.
- As of 2006, Mongolia had the lowest population density of any country in the world.
- Mongolian grammar puts the verb at the end of a phrase.
Feature Image Credit: Land Rover Our Planet