Mongolia’s vast countryside is widely inhabited by nomadic herders who consider their native landscape sacred. This ‘last wilderness nation’ entered the 21st century with its heritage largely intact, and it remains one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth. From some of the world’s wildest mountain ranges—the Altai, Sayan, Khangai and Khentii, with peaks reaching 14,000 feet—to the heart of the fragrant conifer forest’s Lake Hovsgol, the Gobi and beyond, the magnificence of the land of Chinggis Khan remains largely as it began thousands of years ago.
Oceanic grasslands carpeted in the summer in swaths of yellow cinquefoil, pink primrose and blue iris extend south of the mountains to the far east, across the Russian and Chinese borders, forming the largest continuous steppe in the world – 10 times the size of the Serengeti. In the lowermost region of Mongolia’s expanse, past these vast plains, there lies an immense region of desert: the Gobi.
The mention of the Gobi Desert universally draws up images of the remote, the exotic, and the formidable, and not without good cause. The scale of the Gobi Desert’s landscape is indeed breathtaking, but first time visitors may be surprised at the great variety and beauty of the desert. The towering sand dunes of Hongoryn Els, the craggy juniper-clad peaks of the Gobi’s Altai mountain range, the saxaul ‘forests,’ colorful desert flora and bird-filled lakes are all equally enchanting, as are the red sandstone spires of the Flaming Cliffs—where Roy Chapman Andrews began the Mongolian dinosaur rush by bringing to light the first Oviraptor eggs the world had ever seen.
Along with its magnificent scenery and the rich cultural history that survives in the land’s welcoming, big-hearted nomadic herders, Mongolia is home to some of the most spectacular wildlife on Earth. Mountain regions throughout the country harbor healthy populations of Argali, the largest of the world’s bighorn sheep, as well as Ibex, the agile mountain goat. Gazelle, wild Bactrian Camel, the Gobi Bear, and various bird species (including the Bearded Vulture, known as the lammergeier, and raptors such as the Steppe and Golden Eagle) all exist in the wilds of Mongolia’s Gobi Desert.
We offer extensive tours in and around Mongolia’s Gobi Desert through our sister company,
Nomadic Expeditions, most of which are day tours throughout the area inside and outside of the Lodge’s 12-mile radius. Available activities are as follows: biking, hiking, experiencing the many different famous sites of the Gobi Desert via guided tour, stargazing, musical and dance performances held at the Lodge, and meetings with local nomads.
We find that this contributes greatly to solidifying the local community by engaging them in efforts to educate visitors, as well as in allowing visitors to engage in the daily life of nomads.
Cradled in the foothills of the Altai Mountains and located in the northern part of the Gobi Desert, this green valley is a surprisingly lush region. Carved by an ancient river, its remnant streams create ice formations at the base of the valley that can last as late as July, and hiking in this region is an adventurous and rewarding activity.
These 600 foot sand dunes ‘sing’ when a storm is blowing in from any direction. Running 60 miles alongside the Gobi Altai mountain range, they are the Gobi Desert’s most magnificent sand dunes.
This exceptional valley holds hundreds of ancient rock drawings, all of which were created by early Gobi settlers.
The town of Bulgan is a settlement near a natural spring. Its population sells produce thanks to its many farms, which grow organic fruits and vegetables.
The Flaming Cliffs
In the early part of the 20th century Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews of the American Museum of Natural History undertook an expedition through the heart of Central Asia, discovering some of the most beautiful and little-visited areas of the world. He came across what he named the Flaming Cliffs in 1923, christening them so due to their brilliant orange glow at sunset and sunrise. Here, he discovered the first nest of dinosaur eggs the world had ever seen, cementing the Gobi Desert as an area rich in significant paleontological findings where expeditions continue to unearth archaeological evidence of the past.
First explored by Polish expeditions in the late-1960s to early-1970s, Tugrugiin Shiree is best known for its famous fossil find, the ‘Fighting Dinosaurs,’ which contains the two skeletal remains of a Protoceratops and Velociraptor locked in deadly combat.
Gegeet Am (Gegeet Valley) & Gyalaan Am (Gyalaan Valley)
A beautiful pass-through on the way to the Hongoryn Els sand dunes, this region—along with Gyalaan Am (Gyalaan Canyon)—is the habitat of the elusive snow leopard. Each region also houses at least 52 unique species, including Argali mountain sheep and ibex which appear on the cliffs above. In addition, Gyalaan Am hosts the richest localities of late Cretaceous dinosaurs found.