Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, Mongolia

The Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park in southern Mongolia is the largest national park in the country. Its scenic fascinations range from the semi-desert foothills of the Gobi to vast steppe areas and the rugged mountain ranges of eastern Mongolia, and are home to a variety of wildlife, including the snow leopard, the Gobi bear and wild camels.

The Gobi-Gurvansaikhan National Park is located in southern Mongolia in the Ömnö-Gobi Aimag province. Here the Gobi desert meets the flat steppe and the steppe meets the eastern mountain ranges. With an area of 27,000km2 , it is the largest national park in Mongolia and about twice the size of the US Yellowstone National Park.

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Gobi's beauties

Gobi-Gurvansaikhan translates as "Three Beauties of the Gobi". The national park, founded in 1993, lives up to this name. Referring to the three mountain ranges that cross it in the east, the Zuun Saikhan, the Dund Saikhan and the Baruun Saikhan (East, Middle and West Beauty), the landscape of the national park is characterised by rugged mountains and the semi-desert at the edge of the Gobi Desert. Mongolia 's largest dunes - the Khongoryn Els - are owed to it.

A flock of sheep and goats grazing in front of the foothills of the Gobi Desert, Mongolia - © Tersina Shieh / Fotolia
© Tersina Shieh / Fotolia

Forests are found in the Zuun Saikhan, especially sade tree and saxaul stands. The latter are threatened because of their unique firewood properties and grow to an average height of only 1.5 metres due to early clearing. Small willow and birch groves can also be found in the national park.

Siberian ibex roam the rocks of the mountain ranges, and in the east of the Gobi-Gurvansaikhan National Park Kropg and Mongolian gazelle have settled, with herds of up to 1,000 animals. Wild half-assed donkeys and the rare sheep-like argalis with their mighty curved horns can also be seen grazing time and again on the semi-desert foothills of the Gobi, while wolves prowl around their herds.

There are even snow leopards in the mountains and every now and then one of the rare wild camels or a Gobi bear from the desert gets lost in the national park. Equally wild but much easier to spot are the red-winged wallcreeper and the giant lammergeier. Wapitis and Przewalski's horses, the original form of today's horses, have been wiped out.

Snow leopard in Gobi-Gurvansaikhan National Park, Mongolia - © ellenamani / Fotolia
© ellenamani / Fotolia

Tip: The best time of year to visit the Gobi-Gurvansakhai is between May and September. At this time, temperatures range from about 8°C to 28°C (in the hottest month of July). Rain is almost non-existent.

On the road in Gobi-Gurvansakhai National Park

The Gobi-Gurvansakhai National Park can be reached via the nearest city, Dalanzadgad, which can be reached by plane from the capital Ulan Bator. The national park can be explored either on a guided tour or on your own. Tours naturally stick to the well-known must-sees of the national park, while individual travellers can experience the fascination of the national park at their own pace and visit areas that are otherwise not frequented by tourists or nomads.

Sights in Gobi-Gurvansakhai National Park

The most popular sights in the national park are the already mentioned dunes Khongoryn Els, Bayanzag and Yolyn Am. Khongoryn Els are not only the largest dunes in Mongolia, but also known as the "Singing Dunes". When the wind passes over the top of the dunes at a certain angle, the sliding sand emits an organ whistling sound that can be heard for kilometres. Anyone who tries to climb a dune in the Hongor Sands knows what feats the camels perform as a proven means of transport on sand.

The Bayanzag region, also known as the "Flaming Cliffs", is a rocky desert area whose glowing red rock formations offer fantastic photo opportunities. With a bit of luck, you might find a dinosaur fossil or two.

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Moving from fire to ice, one continues on to Yolyn Am. This is a rugged valley that contains an ice field for most of the year amidst the desert-like steppe of the national park. Even though the ice has fallen victim to the sun in summer - the cool air of the canyon offer a welcome change from the sweltering heat of the Gobi.

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