10 Best National Parks You Must Explore in Mongolia

Picture of 10 Best National Parks in Mongolia

photo by Sarah Lachise on Unsplash

There are dozens of great national parks and strictly protected areas to visit in Mongolia, but we've narrowed it down to the ten best, based on giving travellers unique experiences, for ease of accessibility, adequate service and facilities, and good road infrastructure.

  • Bogd Khan Uul National Park
  • Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
  • Khustain Nuruu National Park
  • Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain and Surrounding Landscape
  • Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape
  • Khuvsgul Lake National Park
  • Khyargas Nuur National Park
  • Khorgo Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park
  • Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park
  • Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

01. Bogd Khan Uul National Park

Located south of the capital city Ulaanbaatar, the majestic Bogd Khan Uul (Saint Khan Mountain) and its surrounding national park can be seen anywhere from the city. The closest most people have come to experience the beauty of this sacred mountain is usually atop the Zaisan Hill Memorial Complex.

The mountain at its peak rises to 2,261 metres altitude, which gives amazing panoramic views over the city and surrounding area and valleys. Hiking up the mountain is for the outdoor enthusiast’s dream as you will walk through the forest, see small streams, get a glimpse of various wild animals and birds, and smell wild fauna and flowers.

The mountain has a varying level of steepness suited for all levels and the hike up is usually around 2 to 3 hours. The mountain is accessible all year round, and especially during the winter, it makes for a great escape out of the city for crisp clean air.

Why you should visit Bogd Khan Uul Natonal park:

  • Go all the way to the top of Bogd Khan
  • Picnic in the woods
  • Panoramic views of the Ulaanbaatar city atop of the Soyombo Mountain (don’t climb up the mountain with the portrait of Chinggis Khan.)
  • Go Skiing in the winter at Sky Resort
  • Play golf in the summer at Sky Resort
  • Sledging at the foothills of the mountain
  • Ice Sledding and Skiing on the Tuul River in the winter

Read our comprehensive guide about the Bogd Khan National Park.

02. Gorkhi-Terelj National Park

Perhaps the most popular national park in Mongolia, and quite rightly so. Located just 50km from the capital city, most of the park is within the city of Ulaanbaatar (UB).

Terelj is a popular destination for day trips and weekend getaways for the local UB residents, and a glimpse into Mongolia for tourists.

Not only does it boast some of the most beautiful and unique landscapes in the country, but it also offers travellers a wide range of things to do. These include outdoor activities, places of cultural interest, top-quality amenities, and a great place to relax your mind and body.

Terelj is accessible for all ages and all group types, and there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Terelj National Park

Why you should visit Gorkhi-Terelj National Park:

  • Aryabal Temple and the panoramic views of Terelj and Turtle Rock
  • Terelj Turtle Rock
  • Horse and Camel riding
  • Taste of traditional Mongolian food at Ayanchin Lodge and
  • Relax and get pampered in style at the 5 Stay Terelj Hotel
  • Wild camping near the Tuul River
  • Go Lodge, Camp or Resort hopping to sample different types of food and drink.
  • Go Hiking

Beautiful landscape, meditation, outdoor activities, luxury and relaxation. Most developed park in Mongolia

03. Khustain Nuruu National Park

Khustai (Hustai) Nuruu National Park is famous for its conservation of the last remaining truly wild horses in the world, known as Takhi in Mongolia and better known as Przewalski's horse around the world. Takhi was once considered extinct in the wild until captive horses were reintroduced to their natural habitat during the early 90s in Mongolia. Since then the population number has grown and now boasts the largest number of wild horses in the world.

The Khustain Nuruu National Park covers an area of 506 square kilometres and it is a specially protected area. It is home to several wild animals such as red deer, wolf, ibex, gazelle, wild sheep, and a wide range of plants, fauna and fungus.

Getting around to Khustai Nuruu is roughly 100km (2-3 hours) from Ulaanbaatar and most of the trip is on tarmac road. Only the last 5-10km is on a dirt road as you turn into the park.

Our top picks include Khustain Nuruu National Park:

  • Seeing the wild horses
  • Hiking up the hills and trying out the different trails
  • Camp overnight outside the park
  • Spot other wild animals and different species of plants and fungus

Read the visitors guide to Khustain Nuruu National Park.

04. Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain and Surrounding Landscape

Located in the North East of Mongolia's Khentii Mountain range in Khentii province, Burkhan Khaldun is one of the most important national parks in Mongolia. It covers roughly 12,000 square kilometres (4,600 sq mi) and it reaches 2,2362 metres (7,749 ft) above sea level, making it the highest mountain in the Khentii region.

The site is famous for its religion and its historical importance, as it's believed to be the birthplace of Ghenghis Khan and the hidden burial site. Also, it is the birthplace of Subutai, the most decorated military general of the Mongol Empire. The mountain and the surrounding landscape has long been a sacred place for religious activities for over a thousand year.

In 2015, UNESCO added the area to its list of World Heritage Sites under the title of ''Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain and its surrounding sacred landscape".

Why should you visit Burkhan Khaldun Mountain:

  • Beautiful Scenery
  • Great for Hiking in the winter and summer
  • Place of cultural and religious importance
  • Place of historic significance related to the development of Mongolia

05. Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape

Orkhon Valley and surrounding area are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s a must-visit place in Mongolia because of the rich history, cultural importance and natural beauty. It is located near the Orkhon River, 320km west of the capital city Ulaanbaatar in Central Mongolia. The current day area encompasses the southern tip of Arkhangai and the northwestern tip of Uvurkhangai province.

The area around Orkhon Valley is most famous for Kharkhorin (Karakorum), the ancient capital city of the Mongolian Empire and Erdene Zuu, the oldest surviving Buddhist monastery. Also, it was the site of many Xiongnu, Goturk and Uighurs empires, where you will find Turkic stone inscriptions called Kul Tigin steles (Orkhon Inscription) and Khar Balgas ruins, the ancient capital of the Uighur empire.

Why should you visit Orkhon Valley:

  • Visit Kharkhorin for Erdene Zuu Buddhist Monastery and step inside the temples, marvel at ornate statues, stupas and the outer walls.
  • See the Orkhon Inscription (Kul Tigin monument) memorial written in the old Turkic alphabet in honour of the Turkic princesses, Kul Tigin and Bilge Khagan.
  • See the remains of Khar balgas ruins, the ancient capital of the Uighur empire
  • Visit the 17th-century beautiful Shankh Monastery, only 25km south of Kharkorin.
  • Visit the 17th scenic Tuvkhun Hermitage monastery, built 2300 meters above sea level on top of the Shireet mountain with amazing panoramic views.
  • Orkhon Waterfall (Red Waterfall), the most famous waterfall in Mongolia.

Read the visitors guide to Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape & Kharkhorin.

06. Khuvsgul Lake National Park

Khuvsgul Lake and the surrounding National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Mongolia and it is suitable for all types of travellers for all seasons. It is located in the northwestern area of Mongolia in the Khuvsgul province near the Russian border.

Lake Khuvsgul was formed over 2 million years ago and it is one of the seventeen ancient lakes in the world. After Lake Vostok, the water is the most pristine in the world and it is the largest freshwater lake and second-largest body of water in Mongolia.

Did you know Lake Khuvsgul is also known as:

  • Blue Pearl of Mongolia
  • Younger Sister of Lake Baikal
  • Khuvsgul Ocean
  • Ocean Mother

Khuvsgul Lake

The area around Khuvsgul Lake is great for camping, hiking, climbing, horseback riding, kayaking, and a great place to simply relax and take in nature. Areas around Hatgal at the southern tip of the Khuvsgul Lake is well developed and offers tourists a wide variety of camps and resorts with a good level of amenities and services comparable to Terelj National Park.

The lake and park is home to many different types of mammals, birds, fish, plants, trees, flora and fauna. Some of the popular animal sightseeings include the eagles, swans, crane, musk deer, ibex, wolf, wolverine, brown bear, and the lake are home to fishes such as salmon, grayling, lenok, perch, sturgeon and burbot.

Why should you visit Khuvsgul Lake National Park:

  • Stay in a traditional Mongolia ger camp and listen to the sound of the waves
  • Jump on a private boat for a tour of the Khuvsgul Lake and visit the Khusliin Khad (Wishing Rock Island) to make a wish.
  • See the Tsaatan, reindeers herders.
  • Hike up the nearest mountain for a scenic view of Khuvsgul Lake
  • Walk along the shores and admire the crystal clear waters
  • Take a dive or tip your toe into the icy water, or experience scuba diving in the lake

07. Khyargas Nuur National Park

Khyargas Nuur (Khyargas Lake) is the second-largest salt lake after Uvs Nuur Lake and the fourth largest lake in Mongolia. Khyrgas Nuur protected area includes Airag Lake, a freshwater lake on the southern tip which drains into the Khyargas Lake through a 5km long and 200-300 meter canal.

Both lakes are within the Great Lakes Depression zone and it covers an area of 100,000 square kilometres (39,000 square miles) spanning the provinces of Uvs, Khovd, Bayan-Ulgii, Zavkhan and Gobi-Altai. The depression forms part of the six main lakes of the Western and Khangai region of Mongolia, including the Uvs Nuur, Khyargas Nuur, Airag Nuur, Dorgon Nuur, Khar-Us Nuur and Khar Nuur.

Why you should visit Khyargas Nuur:

  • 2-for-1 experience of visiting saline water and freshwater lake, and a chance to see several lakes along the way.
  • Dive into the saline water and cover yourself in the mud for natural skin care remedy
  • Visit Khetsuu Khad (Difficult Rock), the enormous white rock formation sticking out of the southern tip of Khyargas Nuur
  • See the migrating birds nest on the Khetsuu Khad, showstoppers include Dalmatian pelican
  • Visit the cold springs located at the northwest and stay at the Khyargas Nuur Resort eco-camp.

08. Khorgo Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur National Park

The picturesque Khorgo-Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur is one of the most popular destinations among locals and tourists alike of all ages and abilities. The park covers 8 square kilometres (3 square miles) and it is located in the Tariat district of Arkhangai province, approximately 650km east of Ulaanbaatar.

The national park includes the extinct volcano Khorgo Uul Mountain, the freshwater lake Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur (White Lake), the volcanic fields of Tariatyn Chuluut, the rocky river valleys of the Chuluut River & Gorge and a nearby lump of granite rock named Taikhar Chuluu which has hand-carved writing from 6th century.

Within the park, there are many traditional ger camps with a good level of amenities and services, and it is one of the best places to camp in Mongolia if you want to experience it. There is a wide range of activities on offer such as horseback riding, hiking, trekking, rafting, fishing, bike and cycling.

Why you should visit Khorgo-Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur :

  • Unique landscape not found anywhere in Mongolia and the views from the volcanic mountain is fantastic on a clear day.
  • Many attractions in a relatively small area by Mongolia’s standards
  • Easy to reach with the fully paved road from Ulaanbaatar
  • On the way pass-through Kharkhorin, Erdene Zuu, Orkhon Valley
  • Detour and treat yourself at Tsenkher and surrounding hot springs near Arkhangai’s capital city Tsetserleg. And, grab a barista coffee, a burger, a pizza and a full English breakfast from Fairfield Guesthouse & Cafe Bakery in Tsetserleg. You will be amazed at how home comforts can taste so much better in the wild. Check out the Fairfield video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwgTnNwMga0

09. Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park

Gobi Gurvansaikhan (Three Beauties) National Park is the largest national park in Mongolia, covering 27,000 square kilometres (10,425 square miles), almost the size of Belgium. The park is located about 600km from Ulaanbaatar in Umnugobi province, south of Mongolia.

The park is most famous for being rich in dinosaur fossils, the beautiful Singing Sand dunes, two-humped Gobi camel (Bacterian camel), home to many endangered animals like snow leopard, wild takhi horse (Przewalski's horse) argali sheep, Siberian ibex and the Gobi bear (Mazaalai). Other natural beauties include the Bayanzag flaming cliffs, Khermen Tsav canyon, and Yolyn Am (Eagle Valley) ice fields.

Why you should visit Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park:

  • Follow the footsteps of Roy Chapman Andrews for a true Adventure
  • Feel the vastness of the Mongolian outback
  • Admire the Flamings Cliffs of Bayanzag at sunset and the experience of being on Mars.
  • Slide or tumble down the Singing Sand Dunes of the Khongoryn Els
  • Go for a ride on a two-humped camel and get that cosy feeling.
  • Bring along your best binoculars for a spot of endangered animals in their natural habitat.
  • Watch the Gobi sunset and imagine you are in Serengeti.

10. Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

Located far west of Mongolia in the province of Bayan-Ulgii rests the majestic Altai Tavan Bogd (Five Saints) mountain, covering the area of 6,362 square kilometres (2,456 square miles) and it marks the natural western boundaries between China and Russia.

Altai Tavan Bogd has five peaks and the highest is known as the Khuiten Uul (Cold Mountain/Peak), and it’s also the tallest mountain in Mongolia, reaching 4,356 meters above sea level. The four other peaks are known as Nairamdal (Friendship), Malchin (Herder), Burger (Eagle), Ulgii. The national park has 3 great freshwater lakes named Khoton, Khurgan and Dayan, numerous waterfalls and 34 glaciers, and Potanin Glacier is the biggest and most well-known glacier covering an area of 23 square kilometres.

Altai Tavan Bogd National Park is great for adventure travellers who want to hike up in the mountains and see the glaciers and waterfalls. There are many activities available including trekking, horseback riding, mountain climbing, staying with a nomadic Kazakh family, meeting the eagle hunters and camping at the foothills of the mountains and just enjoying the most epic scenery.

Why you should visit Altai Tavan Bogd National Park:

  • Climb to the top of Mongolia
  • Visit the 14km long Potanin Glacier and the Alexander Glacier
  • See the Tsagaan Gol (White River), mixed glacial meltwater and sediments
  • Camp at the beautiful lake sites of Khoton Nuur and Khurgan Nuur.
  • Meet the local ethnic Kazakh people and try the local cuisine
  • See the Kazakh eagle hunters in action at the Golden Eagle Festival
  • Visit the 15 km2 UNESCO World Heritage site of Tsagaan Salaa Rock Paintings, containing 10,000 petroglyphs dating back to the Neolithic to the Bronze age.
  • Great location for photographers and videographers
  • Wide range of outdoor activities available from local tour operators