Must see attractions in Western Mongolia

  • Top ChoiceSights in Bayan-Ölgii

    Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

    Covering 6362 sq km, Altai Tavan Bogd National Park takes in the Tavan Bogd massif – which includes Khuiten Uul (4374m), Mongolia's highest mountain – and the stunning lakes of Khoton, Khurgan and Dayan. Fauna includes argali sheep, ibex, maral (Asiatic red deer), stone marten, deer, elk, Altai snowcock and eagles.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

    Khoton Nuur

    The southern shore along Khoton Nuur has excellent camping spots, especially around Ulaan Tolgoi, a spit of land that juts majestically into the lake. The northern tip of the lake is marked by Aral Tolgoi (Island Head), a hill surrounded by verdant pastureland and rocky escarpments. A border station at the northern end of the lake will check if your border permit is in order.

  • Sights in Bayan-Ölgii

    Tsambagarav Uul National Park

    Western Mongolia's second highest mountain – the permanently snow-capped Tsambagarav Uul (4208m) – straddles the border between Khovd and Bayan-Ölgii aimags; the national park (1110 sq km) is accessible from either side. The park protects glaciers and a snow leopard habitat.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Uvs

    Üüreg Nuur

    Üüreg Nuur (elevation 1425m) is 20km long and 18km wide, with an average depth of 27m. Surrounded by mountains of 3000m-plus, and almost entirely devoid of people, it's one of the most beguiling bodies of water in western Mongolia.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Tsenkheriin Agui

    Tsenkheriin Agui

    This huge cave looks deceptively small from the parking area. But once you scramble up the loose rock path, you realise its true size and how it must have afforded considerable shelter to the prehistoric humans who lived here. Unfortunately, the Palaeolithic art (c 13,000 BC) has inspired others, with recent graffiti (c AD 2001) destroying much of it. In 2005 the area was incorporated into the Khar Us Nuur National Park, and some of the paintings ‘restored’.

  • Sights in Kharkhiraa Uul & Türgen Uul

    Khökh Nuur

    This pretty alpine lake is surrounded by mountains and makes a great destination on foot or by horse from Tarialan; the trip is about 15km up Davaan Uliastai (one valley north of Kharkhiraa Gol). It’s possible for a car to reach the lake in a very roundabout manner (120km), though only an experienced driver could do it; the route involves driving up Ulaan Davaa (from Ulaangom), sweeping around the mountains close to Üüreg Nuur, and then heading southeast.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Üüreg Nuur

    Waterfall

    High up in the protected area of mountains north of Üüreg Nuur, a 14m waterfall cascades over black rocks. It's a 10km slog (most people drive this bit) up from the lake's shore to the start of the river valley (What3words: whacked.strikeout.neared), and then a 4km hike over rough ground to the waterfall. En route you'll pass through 'Love Street' (What3words: stepson.tasteful.fierce), where snow leopards come to mate – try to spot the claw marks on the trees here.

  • Sights in Tolbo

    Tolbo Nuur

    The bleakly inviting teal expanse of Tolbo Nuur unfurls for 20km beside the paved Ölgii–Khovd City Rd. Despite being 2080m above sea level, the lightly saline waters are warm enough for swimming in summer, and mosquitoes aren't a problem. On a clear day, the treeless shore offers views of Sairyn Uul (3981m), a glacier-capped peak to the east. Wild ibex are occasionally sighted in the rocky hills north of the lake.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Otgon Tenger Uul Strictly Protected Area

    Dayan Uul Rock Tower

    Crowning a level platform of boulders atop Dayan Uul is this 30m-high sedimentary rock tower, draped with blue cloth and encircled by prayer wheels. The viewpoint takes in Otgon Tenger Uul, associated with the Bodhisattva Ochirvaani, making it a place of pilgrimage for Mongolian Buddhists. It's a one-hour trek uphill from the ranger station : you'll pick up the trail if you keep right of the 4WD track. You can drive part of the way, but you'll need a sturdy 4WD.

  • Sights in Uvs

    Uvs Nuur Strictly Protected Area

    Uvs Nuur Strictly Protected Area (7125 sq km) consists of four separate areas: Uvs Nuur, Türgen Uul, Tsagaan Shuvuut Uul and the Altan Els Strictly Protected Area. The national park covers everything from desert sand dunes to snowfields and marsh to mountain forest. Snow leopards, wolves, foxes, deer and ibex are among the animals protected. Part of the Man and the Biosphere Unesco programme, and the Ramsar Wetland Convention.

  • Sights in Dara

    Dara Nine Lakes

    Spread through the mountains of the Dara region are nine freshwater lakes varying in size from 100m to 2km in length. The easternmost lake, known locally as White Lake, is the only one accessible by 4WD, and the highest point in the valley that Kazakh nomads make camp. If you're hiking to the lakes and mountains west of here, you can count on being totally alone.

  • Sights in Khar Us Nuur National Park

    Dörgön Monastery

    Several brightly painted Buddhist temples have been erected on this hilltop in Dörgön sum (district) on the northeastern shore of Khar Us Nuur; the temples serve as a monastery. The site was established by Megjin, an elderly local woman who spent years here planting trees and shrubs and clearing out charnel ground said to be infested with demons. For her efforts, she was officially recognised as a Green Tara (Buddha of enlightened activity) in 2006 by the Mongolian Government.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Khyargas Nuur National Park

    Khetsuu Khad

    The lake's main attraction Khetsuu Khad, an enormous rock sticking out of the water that attracts migratory cormorants. The birds arrive in April and hatch their young in large nests built on the rock. When the chicks hatch, their squawking is constant and deafening. The aura created by the white cliffs, shrill birds, and waves hitting the rocks in windy conditions – not to mention the prevailing smell of guano – makes you feel as if you’ve arrived at the ocean.

  • Sights in Khovd City

    Khovd Aimag Museum

    This museum has the usual collection of stuffed wildlife, plus excellent ethnic costumes, Buddhist and Kazakh art and a snow leopard pelt on the wall. One of the more interesting exhibits is a replica of the cave paintings of Tsenkheriin Agui. There are also several examples of the many deer stones (upright grave markers from the Bronze and Iron ages, on which are carved stylised images of deer) scattered around the aimag, plus a model of Khovd's original fortress.

  • Sights in Zavkhan

    Otgon Tenger Uul Strictly Protected Area

    Encompassing rivers, lakes and rocky peaks in the Khangai range, this protected area (955 sq km) wraps around Otgon Tenger Uul (meaning 'youngest sky'), one of Mongolia’s three most sacred peaks. Though crested with a glacier, the mountain (4031m) was almost entirely green at the time of research, with locals noting that snow levels have receded steadily over the last ten years. The Strictly Protected Areas office in Uliastai sells tickets for the park.

  • Sights in Bayan-Ölgii

    Khökh Serkh Strictly Protected Area

    Meaning 'Blue Goat' in Mongolian, this mountainous area (659 sq km) on the border with Khovd is a haven for snow leopards, argali sheep and ibex. This is the only strictly protected area in Bayan-Ölgii, making it one of the best places to spot wildlife. It is also the site of the new Spring Eagle Hunting Festival.

  • Sights in Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

    Khuiten Uul Base Camp

    The Khuiten Uul Base Camp (3092m) offers stunning views of all the five peaks as well as the 12km-long Potanii Glacier, which tumbles out of the range. It's possible to walk onto the glacier, but be careful of deep snows and crevasses. The Malchin Peak (4050m) climb begins from here. Camping is permitted.

  • Sights in Üüreg Nuur

    Balbal Graves

    These two graves, plonked incongruously on the grassy plain that runs down to the shore of Üüreg Nuur from OT Tour Camp, are each marked by a balbal (stone figure believed to be a Turkic grave marker).

  • Sights in Bayan-Ölgii

    Develiin Aral Nature Reserve

    This remarkable habitat (103 sq km) straddles the Bayan-Ölgii/Uvs border and centres around Develiin Island in the Usan Khooloi and Khovd rivers. It is home to pheasants, boars and beavers.

  • Sights in Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

    Tsagaan Sala

    The best petroglyphs in the area, if not all of Central Asia, can be found at Tsagaan Sala, in a river valley between Ulaankhus and Tavan Bogd. The carvings, more than 10,000 of them, are scattered over a 15km area; you’ll need a guide to find the best ones.