A journey through eastern Mongolia clockwise

12 Apr 2021Updated: 4 hours ago | 52 people are reading

A journey through eastern Mongolia clockwise

© Lonely Planet A journey through Eastern Mongolia clockwise

Loneliness, seclusion and a sense of boundless space: that attracts most adventurous travelers to the little-visited hills, mountains and grasslands of Eastern Mongolia .

The far east of the country is so hostile to human habitation that you even sporadically encounter a ger of nomads. Here you can gallop across endless seas of greenery, camp at remote lakes and climb sacred mountains. Or, with the Secret History of the Mongols in hand, following the trail of the most famous son of Mongolia, an important influence on the course of Asian and European history.

A land of mountains, lakes and forests

To start your journey through Eastern Mongolia clockwise, take the road that leads from Ulaanbaatar to the east and then to the north to go to a landscape full of hills, lakes and forests. You are now in Khentii, the peaceful province that has produced one of the greatest warlords of history. In the far east you will find Khökh Nuur, the lake where Genghis Khan first proclaimed himself the khan of the Mongol tribes. You will also find here, closer to Ulaanbaatar, Baldan Bereeven Khiid. This special temple was recently restored after it was destroyed during the communist cleansing of the 1930s.

In Binder you can prepare horses for an expedition to Burkhan Khalduun, the supposed burial place of Genghis Khan, although climbing the sacred mountain is not possible for foreigners. The attractive village of Dadal is the presumed birthplace of the great man and the place is marked with a large ovoo (a shamanic cairn covered with religious ribbons). You can drink something from the same source as the Khan and view his family tree in a small museum dedicated to Temujin.

Head east and you are in the north of Dornod, where the view of the steppe is sometimes interrupted by passing herds of gazelles. The mysterious ruins of a temple can be found in the mountains near the village of Bayan-Uul; its origin is unknown. This is also one of the few parts of the country where true shamanism is still practiced, so you might just come across a ceremony.

© Offered by Pijper Publishing BV A trip through Eastern Mongolia clockwise

Camping far away from civilization

Head south until just before you reach the Russian border and camp far from civilization next to another Khökh Nuur (blue lake), a bird-rich wetland that marks the lowest point of Mongolia - 500 meters above sea level. On the way to Choibalsan, the bustling regional capital where you can enjoy a hot shower and some variety of camping life, you will pass fragments of the Genghis Khan Wall. However, the ruins are pretty eroded, there is not much more than a road left.

The far east of Mongolia consists of grassland; it extends to the horizon, sometimes interrupted by an ovo or a stray ger. In the easternmost corner lies the vast lake Buir Nuur, beautiful in its isolation. Camp near the northern tip of the lake and watch the sun set over China, far away over the water.

The Khalkhiin Gol River flows east of the lake . Few people know that some of the most important battles of World War II were fought on these banks in 1939 - the outcome of the war would have been very different if Japan had succeeded in conquering Siberia. The combined Soviet-Mongolian armed forces deterred and defeated the Japanese. The banks of the river are lined with numerous memorials.

In the neighborhood, the slope at Ikh Burkhant is blessed with a huge lying statue of the deity Janraisag, guarded by terrifying stone statues- with two extra ones above his head, entwined in a stone embrace. If you travel through the southeast, through grasslands and new oil fields, you will pass Nömrög and Dornod, very protected areas in Mongolia. They were built to preserve all that is left of the indigenous moose and gazelles, which are threatened by local poachers and Chinese who go hunting illegally.

© Offered by Pijper Publishing BV A journey through Eastern Mongolia clockwise

Sacred places and tent cities

In the The southern part of Eastern Mongolia is the province of Sükhbaatar, which is strewn with balbals (anthropomorphic stone pillars, presumably memorials to worship the deceased). The village of Dariganga lies at the foot of the Altan Ovoo - a former crater with a stupa on top - that is sacred and forbidden to women. The deities are more like-minded about the nearby holy mountain of Shiliin Bodg Uul; Women can indeed climb to the top of the extinct volcano here. These slopes are covered with banners of black horsehair, which spread a pungent odor through the sacrifices of food and milk. Leave the high mountain peak and head into the depths of the nearby icy cave, Taliin Agui. This cave is said to have positive energy and wrestlers come here to make sacrifices.

On the way back to Ulaanbaatar you take a detour to the south. To Delgerkhaan, an old tent city that was said to precede Karakorum as the first capital of the Mongolian Empire. It is still a gerstad, which lies on the banks of the round Avarg-Tösön Lake, with a sanctuary on one side and a large ovoo on the other. There is a camping holiday atmosphere; the locals bathe in the water, which would have healing properties. To the south of Avarg-Tösön, near another obelisk dedicated to Dzjengis Khan, you can fill your bottle with salt, carbonated water from a natural source.

How to get there?

Exploring East Mongolia takes a lot of time, patience, and planning. The main cities - Chinggis Khan City, Baruun-Urt and Choibalsan - are connected to Ulaanbaatar through reliable, daily buses. Smaller settlements such as Dadal and Dariganga can be reached through less frequent jeeps and minibuses.

But to reach the remote sights of the region, you need your own wheels or hooves. It is easiest to rent jeeps with drivers in Ulaanbaatar. Driving yourself is difficult because the vast majority of the roads are rough and muddy and if you are unlucky you really have to rely on yourself. But if you want, you can rent a jeep from Happy Camel. Jeeps and drivers can also be rented in other cities, but there you will have to deal with a language barrier. Most camps can rent horses and guides. A GPS is invaluable for finding non-roadside sights.

Finally, before you leave Ulaanbaatar, you must get permission from the State Frontier Guard Authority ( border control) to visit border areas such as Dadal, Khalkh Gol and Dariganga. You may need to specify the order in which you intend to visit these locations and you will need to register with military missions en route. You can pick up basic facilities in villages and traditional hospitality requires that when you stop at a ger, you will be treated to tea and bread. Yet it is useful to be self-sufficient and therefore be equipped with an abundance of food, water, a stove and a tent. Camping is never a problem; in better visited areas you can also stay in ger camps, or stay in the simple hotels in the cities.

Opening image: loca4motion / iStock