Travelling to Mongolia’s westernmost aimag gives one the distinct feeling of reaching the end of the road, if not the end of the earth. High, dry, rugged and raw, the isolated, oddly shaped aimag follows the arc of the Mongol Altai Nuruu as it rolls out of Central Asia towards the barren wastes of the Dzungarian Basin.
Many peaks here are more than 4000m high and permanently covered with glaciers and snow, while the valleys have a few green pastures that support about two million head of livestock, as well as bears, foxes and wolves.
Ethnic groups who call Bayan-Ölgii home include the Kazakh, Khalkh, Dörvöd, Uriankhai, Tuva and Khoshuud. Unlike the rest of Mongolia, which is dominated by the Khalkh Mongols, about 90% of Bayan-Ölgii’s population are Kazakh.