Gorkhi - terelj national park. Gorki terelj. Hiking. Turtle Rock. Horse Riding. Old Man Reading a Book.
THE REGIONS OF MONGOLIA
SIGHTS OF INTEREST IN MONGOLIA
THE GORKHI-TERELJ NATIONAL PARK
Terelj, about 80km north-east of Ulaanbaatar, is a deservedly popular destination. At 1600m, the area is cool and the alpine scenery is magnificent, and there are great opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, swimming (in icy water), rafting, horse riding and, for hard-core extreme sports fanatics, skiing in the depths of
winter. Most visited is the turtle rock and the dinosaurs park.
Terelj was first developed for tourism in 1964 and 30 years later it became part of the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. To the
north-east, the park joins into the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area, comprising over 1.2 million hectares of the
Tov, Selenge and Khentii aimags. The Khan Khentii park is almost completely uninhabited by humans, but it is home to endangered species of moose, brown bear and weasel, to name but a few, and to over 250 species of
birds. Parts of the tiny section of the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park developed for tourism are a bit touristy: some ger camps have concrete car parks, ugly electricity poles, TV antennae and discos at night; and locals overcharge for goods and services. But you can easily get away from all this if you want.
In later summer, the mosquitoes at Terelj can be appalling - at times, the worst in the country - so make sure you have insect repellent with you.
Surrounded by magnificent forests, not far from the lovely river, the Baruun Bayan Gol, the temple was built in 1740 by Efu Dondovdorj to commemorate the death of his Manchurian
wife Amarlangui. Once part of a huge monastery containing about 70 sq metres of blue walls, five other temples and a tower, Gunjiin
Sum is one of the very few - if not the only - Manchurian-influenced
temple in Mongolia to survive over the centuries.
Unlike most other monasteries in Mongolia, Gunjiin was not destroyed, but just fell into ruin from neglect, vandalism and theft. Only the main temple, and some of the walls of the
monastery, remain. Although you wouldn't know it, extensive restoration has been carried out - and is still being carried out
- which gives you some idea of how damaged it must have been.
The temple is not a must - there are several better and more accessible temples and monasteries in
Ulaanbaatar and Tov - it's more of an excuse for a great overnight trek,
on horse or foot, from the ger camps at Terelj, or as part of a longer trip around the national park.
Gunjiin is about 30km (as the crow flies) North of the main area where most of the ger camps are situated in Terelj. With a guide you can hike directly over the mountains, or take the easier but
longer route along the Baruun Bayan Gol to get there. You can reach it in a day on horseback, while trekkers should allow two days each way for the journey.
Hiking. If you have good maps, a compass and some experience (or a proper guide), hiking in Terelj is superb in summer, but be careful of the very fragile environment, and be
aware of the mosquitoes and unpredictable weather. The fact that helicopters are sometimes used by travel agencies to start or finish treks in this area shows you how remote the terrain can be.
For more sedate walks around the Terelj ger camp area, just follow the main road and pick a side valley to stroll along at your leisure. From the main road, look out for two
interesting rock formations: Turtle Rock (Melkhi Khad), in a side valley, which really looks like one at a certain angle, and the Old Man Reading a Book, on top of a hill.
Some suggested easier hikes are to Gunjiin Sum or along the Terelj or Tuul rivers towards Khentii Nuruu. This is a great area for wildflowers, particularly rhododendron and
Places of interest on more difficult, longer treks in Khentii Nuruu are:
- Khagiin Khar Nuur. A 20m-deep glacial lake, about 80km up the Tuul Gol from the ger camps at Terelj.
- Yestii Hot Water Springs. These springs reach up to 35∞C, and are fed by the Yuroo and Estiin rivers. Yestii is about 18km North of Khagiin Khar Nuur.
- Altan-Olgii Uul (2656m). The source of the Akhain Gol.
- Baga Khentii Nuuru. North of Akhain Gol.
Horse Riding. Travelling on a horse is the perfect way to see a lot of the
park, including Gunjiin Sum and the side valleys of the Tuul Gol. To travel any long distances,
you will need to have experience, or a guide, and to bring most of your own gear. Horses can be hired through any of the ger camps, but you'll pay high tourist prices. A mob of horse boys hang outside
the UB2 ger camp complex offering horse ride. Alternatively, approach one of the Mongolian families who live around the park and
hire one of their horses.
Rafting. Tuul Gol, which starts in the park and flows to Ulaanbaatar and beyond, is one of the best places in the country for rafting. The best section of the river is a 40km
stretch from an area known as Dorgontiin Gatsaa, North of the Terelj ger camp area, to Gachuurt, near
Skiing. If you're unlucky enough to be in Mongolia during the -30∞C winter, and can stand leaving your heated hotel, you might as well make the most of it and enjoy some outstanding
cross-country skiing around Terelj. There are no set trails, so just take your own gear and ask the locals, or any ger camps that are operating, for some good, safe areas to try.
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