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Introducing Khövsgöl Nuur National Park

The Khövsgöl Nuur is an extraordinary lake that stretches 136km deep into the Siberian taiga. As with its larger sibling across the border, Siberia's Lake Baikal, superlatives don't really do this immense, mountain-fringed lake justice. Its moody blue waters, ranging from midnight blue to tropical aquamarine, form the basis for this popular national park and attract thousands of Mongolian and international tourists every year.

In surface area, this is the second-largest lake (2760 sq km) in Mongolia, surpassed in size only by Uvs Nuur, a shallow, salty lake in the western part of the country. Khövsgöl Nuur (sometimes transliterated as Hövsgöl or Hovsgol) is Mongolia’s deepest lake (up to 262m deep) as well as the world’s 14th-largest source of fresh water – it contains between 1% and 2% of the world’s fresh water (that’s 380,700 billion litres!). Geologically speaking, Khövsgöl is the younger sibling (by 23 million years) of Siberia’s Lake Baikal, 195km to the northeast, and was formed by the same tectonic forces.

The lake is full of fish, such as lenok and sturgeon, and the area is home to argali sheep, ibexes, bears, sables, moose and a few near-sighted wolverines. It also has more than 200 species of bird, including the Baikal teal, bar-headed goose (kheeriin galuu in Mongolian), black stork and Altai snowcock.

The region hosts three separate, unique peoples: Darkhad, Buriat and Tsaatan (aka Dukha). Shamanism, rather than Buddhism, is the religion of choice in these parts.