Khövsgöl Nuur National Park

National Park in Khövsgöl

Cupped in the snowcapped fist of the Sayan and Khoridol Saridag mountains, this national park is anchored by the shimmering blue sweep of the ice-cold, eponymous Khövsgöl Nuur. Buffeted by gusts of northern winds and ensconced in endless miles of trackless taiga, the region merges the raw beauty of the Siberian wilderness with the fascinating cultural tapestry of the world's largest nomadic nation. Popular activities in the area include trekking, horseback riding, fishing and camping.

The lake – the largest freshwater lake in Mongolia, and second largest lake in the nation – and surrounding national park is popular with both Western and Mongolian tourists, who flood into the area from June through September. Note that many tourist ger camps and guesthouses are closed outside of these months. On the flip side, note that it is prudent to book accommodation ahead of time during these months, and be prepared for crowds. Said crowds will grow further when a planned paved road (and electricity) extends up the western shore of Khövsgöl Nuur.

The lake effectively has four areas for exploration: Khatgal, the western shore, the eastern shore, and Khankh. Khatgal, on the southern edge of the lake, is connected to Mörön by paved road and is the main point of entry to the park. The western shore of the lake contains the majority of the area's tourist accommodation and infrastructure. The lake's eastern shore is barely developed compared to the opposite banks; the road here is a rough, poorly maintained dirt track, and it can take hours to drive the just a few kilometres. Khankh, on the northern end of the lake, is only accessible by a day-long drive up the rough eastern shore, and is rarely visited by tourists coming from Mörön; by dint of geography and road connections, Khankh is better connected to Russia than to Mongolia.

Khövsgöl is frozen over for much of the year, and you'll find ice flows buffeting the taiga bogs well into June. The lake's popularity may yet be its downfall; for now, increasing crowds seem to be outstripping ecological minded infrastructure. If you visit, do your best to minimise your impact.