As the pace of globalization grows and humanity stretches its presence into seemingly every inch of the globe, few true wildernesses remain. We live in a world where an estimated 25,000 people climb Kilimanjaro each year; where so many hikers walk the Inca Trail daily that there are fears of erosion, where the tranquility of Buddhist monks in Luang Prabang, Laos, is now disturbed by the constant pop of tourists’ flashbulbs.
However, there is hope for those looking to immerse themselves in pristine, unspoiled landscapes populated by indigenous peoples still following centuries-old traditions. This is Mongolia, home to dozens of protected areas and national parks where few from outside the country have trodden.
Mongolia offers a true experience off the beaten track. You can wander among the soaring peaks of the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area, which contains the sacred Burkhan Khaldun mountain—the suspected birthplace of Chinggis (Genghis) Khan and a rumoured location of his undiscovered tomb. Fringed by craggy mountains and wide-open steppes, the Great Gobi offers hundreds of miles of undulating sand across which caravans following the Silk Road once wound. For several months of the year the tranquil waters of Khovsgol Lake are frozen solid, allowing you to ride on a horse-pulled sled across ice so reflective it feels like you are floating across the sky.
In every location, there are rare and endangered species that have often found their last refuge in the wilds of Mongolia, such as the Przewalski Horse—once extinct in the wild but now reintroduced to the Hustai National Park.
A trip to Altai Tavan Bogd National Conservation Park means an adventure hiking through a diverse terrain of glaciers, alpine lakes, lush forests, and tundras. Sitting in the shadow of the Tavan Bogd, the highest mountain in Mongolia (Khuiten Uul), the park is also noted for its lakes Khoton, Khurgan and Dayan.
The Altai Snowcock, ibex, golden eagle, and Saker Falcons are among the animal species inhabiting the park’s protected area. The park’s name Altai Tavan meaning “Five Saints” was inspired by the five peaks of the Altai mountain range which stretches across Russia, Mongolia and China.
Find out more about Altai Tavan Bogd National Park.
This year, World Environment Day is being celebrated in Mongolia to recognize its efforts to create a sustainable future that will see these rare treasures conserved even as the country’s economy expands.
Try accessing Protected Planet, a Google Earth product developed by UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre and partners, to pick a protected area in Mongolia that might just provide a unique holiday experience. Then post your vacation along with photos and comments on the Protected Planet Facebook page. This isn’t just a way of telling family and friends where you have been; it is a way of boosting local livelihoods and assisting park authorities with sustainable management.
Join us and explore one of the Earth’s final wildernesses.