Khövsgöl Nuur

Khövsgöl Nuur information

Known as the Blue Pearl of the Mongolia, Khövsgöl Nuur is an extraordinary lake that stretches 136km deep into the Siberian taiga. The lake and mountains that surround it form the basis for this popular national park, a major destination for both Mongolian and international tourists.

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. But Khövsgöl Nuur (sometimes transliterated as Hövsgöl or Hovsgol) is Mongolia's deepest lake (up to 262m) 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, ibex, bear, sable, 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.

The lake water is still very clean but a rise in livestock using the area for winter pasture has led to some pollution of the shore and feeder rivers, so you are better off purifying your water.

If you love fishing, then you'll get excited about Khövsgöl Nuur. If you don't have fishing gear already, you can buy some at the shops in Khatgal (Buren Khaan shop has the best selection). Around a dozen species of fish inhabit the lake, including salmon, (bony) sturgeon, grayling and lenok. A fishing permit costs around Tug100 and is valid for three days or 10 fish, whichever comes first. You can get them from the park rangers, Khatgal's Government House or MS Guesthouse. Fishing is not allowed between 15 April and 15 June. The fine for fishing illegally is US$40.

Khövsgöl Nuur is a pristine but increasingly heavily visited part of Mongolia. Please minimise your impact on this beautiful region.