Mongolia is a landlocked country in Northern Asia, strategically located between China and Russia.
The terrain is one of mountains and rolling plateaus, with a high degree of relief. Overall, the land slopes from the high Altay Mountains of the west and the north to plains and depressions in the east and the south. The Huiten Peak in extreme western Mongolia on the Chinese border is the highest point (4,374 meters).
The lowest is 518 meters, an otherwise undistinguished spot in the eastern Mongolian plain. The country has an average elevation of 1,580 meters.
The landscape includes one of Asia’s largest freshwater lakes (Lake Khuvsgul), many salt lakes, marshes, sand dunes, rolling grasslands, alpine forests, and permanent mountain glaciers.
It extends for 2392 km long from west to east and 1259 km north to south. Total border line is 8158km and bordering with China 4677km and with Russia 3543 km.
The country lies between latitude 42° and 52°N and longitude 87° and 119°E.
The huge landmass of Mongolia is situated on the Central Asian plateau at the headwater of the river systems of Siberia and the Arctic, China and the Pacific, and the closed systems of Central Asia. Like the rest of the Central Asian plateau it has a highly distinct set of geographical features. Essentially these springs from the fact that is an ancient dry land with an average elevation of 1580m.
Mongolian total territory is divided into 4 main zones by geography.
• Snow-capped mountain ranges – WESTERN MONGOLIA
• Semi-desert Gobi – SOUTERN MONGOLIA
• Forested slopes – NORTHERN MONGOLIA
• Open high-plateau steppe land – EASTERN MONGOLIA
1.Snow-capped mountain ranges – WESTERN MONGOLIA
Western Mongolia is dominated by the Mongol Altai Mountains, which is stretched for 600-650 kilometers and were structured by thin hills, hollows and straight precipitous crags, which have a height of more than 4000 meters. The Great Lakes Depression is situated in the eastern part of the Mongol Altai and consisted of a few hollows with bigger lakes. The Altai mountain range stretching for 900 km across Russian, Mongolia, and China and the Tavan Bogd National Park have always stood out from any other part of Mongolia.
In Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, snow capped mountains, glacial valleys, forests and beautiful lakes and rivers create a majestic setting. In the north of the park, Khuiten peak (4374m, the highest point of Mongolia) of the Altai Tavan Bogd Mountains and the Potuninii Glacier (23km²) draw alpine enthusiasts from around the world. This park extends over 630.000 hectares of land, including Altai, Sagsai, Ulaanhus and Tsengel soums. There are about 35 glaciers in the Altai Tavan Bogd including Potaninii Glacier. Throughout the park fishing, hiking canoeing, camping and horseback and camel riding are possible.
In addition recreational activities, the Altai region is abundant with significant archaeological sites dating back to Paleolithic era, evidences of human habitation as far back as 40,000 and 12,000 years ago. Bronze Age petro glyphs, man stones from the later Turkic period and deer stones along with Khurgan or burial mounds can be found. Elaborate graves of Scythian warriors and princesses have also been discovered in this region rich in natural wonders and archaeology. This region is home to argali sheep, ibex, red deer, black vulture, elk, snow leopard, Altai snow cock and much other endangered wildlife species and rare medicinal plants. More than 100 herding families possess their own Golden eagle, used for traditional hunting. Different ethnic people such as Kazakh, Tuva and Uriankhai inhabit in this historical site in harmony with nature. In summer months nomadic herders graze their livestock within the park and provide visitors with the opportunity to observe traditional Kazakh customs and activities such as the training of hunting eagles and the making of handcraft.
2. Forested slopes – NORTHERN MONGOLIA
Mongolia is not a huge desert, but it is a country of fresh water lakes, rivers, magnificent mountains and heavily forested regions where hillsides and valley meadows are spangled with alpine flowers. Country covered by closed forests. The forests are mainly located in the north-central parts of the country, forming a transition zone between the Great Siberian boreal forest and the Central Asian steppe desert. Taiga zone which covers 5 percent of Mongolian territory occurs only in northern Mongolia, where it is found in the Khentii Mountains, in the mountainous terrain around Lake Khuvsgul, back part of Tarvagatai mountain range, first higher place near Orkhon river and some parts of Khan Khukhii mountain range.
The Mountains of Khuvsgul area are situated at the northern side of the Khangai mountain range and lifted 3491 meters of height above sea level. In Khentii and Khovsgol, the mountain slopes are clothed with boreal taiga forest. The taiga zone experiences more precipitation and lower temperatures than most of Mongolia, therefore plant growing period is comparatively short. It forms the most southern extension of the east Siberian taiga and consists mainly from Siberian Larch and Siberian Pine and rich in mosses and lichens.
Here are found a number of ungulates typical of Eurasian forests, among them Musk Deer, Elk, Roe Deer, and Reindeer. In northern Mongolia, a small number of families still herd reindeer in the traditional manner reminiscent of the Lapps of northern Europe. Forest predators include the grey wolf, brown bear, wolverine, and Eurasian lynx. Typical birds of these forests include great grey owl, boreal owl, black-billed capercaillie and pine grosbeak.
3. Open high-plateau steppe land – EASTERN MONGOLIA
Extensive grassland of steppe makes up the heart of Mongolia both geographically and economically. The entire far eastern part of Mongolia falls into this area extending west below Khangai range to the Great lake basin of Uvs province. This sea of grass covers rolling undulating land for as far as the eye can see. It provides most important grazing lands for Mongolian livestock herds. Most of the eastern steppe is largely uninhabited where thousands of migrating gazelle live undisturbed making the biggest attraction of this wild steppe stretches.
4. Semi-desert Gobi – SOUTERN MONGOLIA
Gobi dominates southern part of Mongolia. Although Gobi is known as a desert, it offers a startlingly diverse landscape, from grassy pastures to dinosaur fossil beds, lunar landscapes, red sandstone formations and white sand dunes and provides grazing for herds of camels, sheep and goats as well as some rare animals as snow leopard, ibex, wild sheep and goats, and antelopes. It also contains famous Gobi Gurvan Saikhan Mountains, a valley of which shelters a tiny ‘glacier’ in its surprising alpine-desert setting. Gobi is one of the richest fossil dinosaur sites in the world. It was at the Flaming Cliffs, in 1922, that Roy Chapman Andrews unearthed the first nest of dinosaur eggs the world had ever seen. Even today visitors can scour the area and come up with fragments of dinosaur eggshell or fossilized bones. Sand and sandy dunes occupy about 10% of the country’s territory.