In Mongolia, the provinces (or Aimags) of Bayan-Ugii, Khovd, Uvs, Gobi-Altai, and Zavkhan are known as Western Mongolia. Even though it is the furthest region of the country, provinces are accessible by paved roads from Ulaanbaatar, the capital city. Western Mongolia has a long history and is also Mongolia’s most ethnically diverse region. For some, it might be the most stunning part of the country because of the towering mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, and dunes. The region is home to the Altai Mountain Range, with the highest peaks in Mongolia.
History of Western Mongolia
For a significant portion of the nation’s history, Western Mongolia has been on the dividing line between civilizations, with Chinese-dominated Asian culture to the east and European cultures to the west, divided only by a small chasm directly south of modern-day Mongolia. The history of numerous cultures who either originated in these mountain valleys or passed through on their way to conquest has left the landscape in ruins due to this location near the crossroads of civilization. The Blue Turks, Scythians, Tuvans, Huns, Mongols, Uighurs, and Kazakhs all migrated out of the area or passed through it to conquer more settled populations throughout the past 10,000 years. The Altai Mountains were not completely under the authority of outside forces with defined borders until the 1930s, and even then only after many years of violent resistance. The heterogeneous population, which can be largely split into Kazakhs, Tuvans, Khalkha Mongols, and Oirat Mongols, still exhibits this independent legacy in their customs (which can be divided into roughly 10 distinct tribes). Due to the challenges of surviving in this harsh, arid, mountainous environment, several communities have modified their cultural practices. With the Altai Mountains in the west, the Gobi Desert in the east and south, the depression of the Great Mongolian Lakes in the north, and forests, steppes, and deserts scattered throughout, this area is home to some remarkable and rare wildlife. The area is home to numerous large and threatened species, including snow leopards, the Gobi Bear, Argali sheep, ibex, antelope, gazelles, falcons, golden eagles, wolves, and foxes. The numerous lakes serve as rest places for a large number of birds during their annual passage between Siberia and Southeast Asia.
Geography of Western Mongolia
- The Tannu Ola Range marks the border between Russia and the Uvs province, and the Khangai Mountains encircle much of eastern Zavkhan. The Altai Mountains form the border between China and the provinces of Bayan-lgii and Hovd, as well as covering most of both provinces. Together, these mountains, which include the 8 tallest mountains in Mongolia and 12 of the top 14 highest, entirely encircle Western Mongolia and produce some of the most breathtaking vistas. Tavan Bogd, the tallest peak and a border crossing between China and Russia, is 14,350 feet (4,370 meters) high.
- Western Mongolia’s rivers and lakes come together to form the Great Lakes Depression, a self-contained watershed that empties into a number of sizable freshwater and saltwater lakes, principally in the provinces of Hovd and Uvs. The salty Uvs Lake in Ulaangom is the largest lake. Other sizable lakes include the Khyargas Lake, which is located in Uvs as well, and the interconnected Dorgon, Khargas, Khar, and Airag lakes, which make up the Khar Us Nuur National Park east of Hovd. The Tesiin, Zavkhan, and Khovd rivers all provide water to these lakes.