Mongolia has 21 provinces and we’re introducing Bayan-Olgii province. The province borders with Uvs, Khovd provinces along with Russia and China. And the whole province is elevated above 1600m and the highest point of Mongolia, Mt. Khuiten is in the majestic Altai Tavan Bogd National Park. The 93% of total population are ethnic Kazakhs with the other 7% consists of ethnic groups such as Durvud, Uriankhai, Tuvan and Khalkha Mongols. The centre of the province is Ulgii town – located at 1760km from Ulaanbaatar.
Due to the fact that majority in Bayan-Ulgii people are sunni-Muslim Kazakhs, the province offers a distinctive cultural experience in Mongolia compared to the other regions dominated by the Mongols. The Kazakhs are a nomadic people of Turkic origin, who belonged to the Great Mongol Empire but later went under Russian control from the 15th century. The brief story of today’s Kazakhs settling in Mongolia started with 400 Kazakh households seeking a sanctuary in Mongolia in 1912, when the VIII Bogd Khan granted them a place to live in the Altai Mountains. Since then Mongolian Kazakhs have lived in Mongolia in a harmony with the Mongol ethnic groups practicing their own cultural traditions and speaking their own language. Compared to the Kazakhs in Kazakhstan and China, Mongolian Kazakhs have a tendency to speak the Kazakh, and practice their traditions best.
Having a homestay at a Kazakh family is a great travel experience, and often female travellers rave about learning the beautiful Kazakh embroidery during their homestay. And an unforgettable cultural experience in Bayan-Ulgii is hunting with trained Golden Eagles (however, this experience is not for the faint hearted as there’s real hunting and killing involved). Aisholpan, the 14-years old Kazakh girl, a native of Bayan-Ulgii is the world’s only eagle huntress, and a film about her premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in New York this winter. Likewise, the Uriankhai people in Bayan-Ulgii are famed for their archery skills and hardworking nature, and staying with an Uriankhai family is an experience not to be missed too!
Bayan-Ulgii offers some of the best adventure travel experiences in Mongolia starting from mountain climbing in the spectacularly beautiful Altai Mountains to sport fishing on the crystal clear lakes, and some travellers even claim that horse riding in the beautiful Lake region of the Altai Mountains is the best travel experience they’ve ever had in Asia!
Thanks to the diverse culture, varied terrain and picturesque landscape, Bayan-Ulgii is a wonderful destination for both cultural and adventure travel, and the spirit of the Western Mongolia is best experienced when culture and adventure are well combined.
PLACES TO VISIT: Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, Tsagaan Gol, Potanin Glacier, Khoton Lake, Achit Lake, Tsagaan Salaa petroglyphs, Lake Tolbo, and many more.
NOTABLE EVENTS: Ulgii Naadam is usually on 10-11 July annually with soum Naadams taking place in the first half of July; Altai Eagle festival is in September, and the Golden Eagle Festival is in October (please enquire Mongolian travel companies for exact event dates).
BEST TIME TO VISIT: We’d recommend travellers visit to Bayan-Ulgii all year around due to the plentiful travel activities that can be appreciated in the province. For example, hunting with Golden Eagle experience is best in winter. And for mountain climbers and trekkers certainly the warm months (mid June till mid September) are good.
HOW TO GET THERE: Both AeroMongolia and Hunnu Airways have flights to Bayan-Ulgii. If you drive it takes a few days to reach Bayan-Ulgii (the road partially paved).
WHERE TO STAY: There are several hotels in Ulgii town, and a motel or two (mostly with no running water facilities) in most soums.
For a wonderful Bayan-Ulgiii tours and travel experiences, please contact us – we offer tailor excellent tours especially for you and your loved ones.
Photos by Crystal Batdorj
The blog is prepared specially for Gogo.mn by Zolzaya Ulzhiisaikhan (A co-founder of Premium Travel Mongolia)