One of the most popular travel routes in Mongolia is the Gobi desert, the habitat of the rarest animals and a unique natural landscape. Its desert and semi-desert ecosystems have hardly change in many years. The Gobi is often imagined to be a place of unbearable heat and lifeless sand dunes; similar to the inhospitable Sahara desert, but the reality is quite the reverse. The Gobi has high mountains, springs, forests, sands, steppes and a rich animal kingdom.
Occupying 30 per cent of the country’s vast territory and stretching from the east to the west through the southern part of Mongolia, it has a total of 52 mammals, 15 reptiles, 1 amphibian and 106 bird species and its plant kingdom comprises over 400 species including many valuable medicinal, folder and decorative plants.
Its numerous rare animal species include argali sheep, ibex, snow leopard, lynx, wild ass, gazelles, saiga, wild Bactrian camel and Gobi bear, just to name a few.
Dalanzadgad Town of Umnugobi aimag
Distance: 553 kilometers
Duration: 1 hour and 20 minutes by air
Accommodation: Local small hotels and tourist ger-camps
The administrative center of South Gobi aimag, Dalanzadgad is a starting point for trips to numerous destinations in the southern Gobi desert, including the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park, Yol or Lammergeir’s valley, Bayanzag flaming cliffs, Hongoryn els sand dunes, Borzongiin Gobi in the southern tip of the Mongolian territory, where one can find himself among herds of hundreds of wild ass and black-tailed gazelle. There is a museum where samples of local flora and fauna are displayed and basic hotel accommodation in the town.
Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park
Distance: 45 kilometers to the south western edge from Dalanzadgad town
Situated to the west of Dalanzadgad town, Gobi Gurvansaikhan (meaning “Three Beauties of the Gobi Desert”) National park encompasses the series of ridges and valleys that make up the eastern end of the Gobi Altai Mountain Range. Surrounded by low plains, the mountains rise to 2200-2600 meters above sea level, and include the “Three Beauties” (three adjacent ridges named Eastern, Middle, and the Western Beauty), Zuulun, Sevrei, Gilbent, and Nemegt ridges.
The park, which extends for more than 380 kilometers from west to east, has extremely varied landscape with rocky and sandy desert plains, precipitous cliffs and ravines, salt pans and oases. Gurvan Saikhan includes the highest diversity of plant and animal life in the Gobi Altai with over 620 species of flowering plants and all 52 species of mammals that are found in the Gobi desert region.
The Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National park features some of the most popular tourists’ destinations, including the picturesque gorge of Yol valley, and the Singing Dunes, a spectacular sea of sand dunes bordered by red sandstone formations, an oasis and a *saxaul* tree forest. The Nemegt, Hermen tsav, and Bayanzag flaming cliffs, the sites of numerous important dinosaur fossil discoveries, also lie within the park.
The Yol Valley
Distance: 45 kilometers from Dalanzadgad town
Activities: camping, mountain climbing, trekking, wildlife viewing
One of the best-known travel destinations in the Southern Gobi is Yolyn Am canyon, known as Lammergeier’s Valley.
*Yol* means Lammergeier, one of the most endangered bird species of prey. Through the canyon, which is nestled between ridges of Zuun Saikhan Uul mountain, part of the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park, small river flows. Sheltered by high cliff walls on both sides of the canyon, thick ice gorges remain frozen even on summer’s hottest days /till the beginning of July/.
Bayanzag – The Flaming Cliffs
Distance: over 90 kilometers from Dalanzadgad town
Duration: over 1hour by road from Dalanzadgad town
Activities: desert expeditions, camping, trekking, paleontology
First discovered by Roy Chapman Andrews, famous American explorer in the 1920, flaming cliffs of Bayanzag are an important site for both archeological and paleonthological finds. Complete dinosaur skeletons, including One-horned dinosaur (protoceraptors) and Egg-thief (Oviraptor) and numerous petrified eggs were excavated in ravines between the red flaming cliffs, which look like fire in the middle of the desert from distance.
Hongoryn Els Sand Dunes- Singing Dunes
Distance: 200 kilometers from Dalanzadgad town
Duration: 4-5 hours by road from Dalanzadgad
Activities: Desert expeditions, camping camel riding
Hongoryn Els sand dunes, the largest sea of sand stretch for 180 kilometers. The widths of the sand stretch exceed several miles and highest peaks tower up to over 250 feet. At the northern edge of the dunes one bank of Hongoryn gol river, there is an oasis, which is rich in plantation and supports drinking water of animal species in the region.