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Canyons, Cliffs and Wildlife: Mongolia’s Gurvan Saikhan
What makes #Mongolia fantastic are all the opportunities to see different landscapes. It's not all deserts and open area like I'd imagined. We went on an #active tour of the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park, which has one of the most #unique landscapes I've ever seen. Here are several photos of the out-of-this-world landscape.
Before my trip to Mongolia, I’d imagined vast swathes of deserts and empty steppes. It therefore came as quite a surprise when I found myself traipsing through varied landscapes that ranged from beautiful canyons to networks of caves and majestic mountain ranges.
An eerie landscape so out-of-this-world, you may feel as if you’ve landed on Mars.
Here in the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park, a surprise awaits at every corner. One minute we’re driving through giant sand dunes, another minute we’re weaving our way into narrow canyons, and then turning around a bend to find imposing snow mountains right before us. With its diverse landscapes, this is understandably one of Mongolia’s most popular national parks. Most people just see the Khongoriin Els sand dunes, but make sure to take time to visit the remote western area – an eerie landscape so out-of-this-world, you may feel as if you’ve landed on Mars.
The national park was actually named after the mountain range, Gurvansaikhan (The Three Beauties of the Gobi), that stretches for 27,000 square kilometers. The protected area covers a largely undisturbed part of the Gobi desert. It safeguards the flora and fauna of Central Asia, protecting over 620 species of flowering plants and more than 240 bird species. The park is also packed with wildlife such as snow leopard, ibex, different species of vultures, and the Gobi bear.
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My favorite place to visit in the national park is Yolyn Am, translated to mean “Valley of the Eagles”. Besides the dramatic landscape, it’s an excellent spot to observe vultures, wild Argali sheep and golden eagles. It was first established to conserve the regional birdlife but eventually became a popular site to visit for the deep ice field that forms in winter and remains well into summer (although it had melted by the time we got there in August). The hiking trail that weaves through the gorge is still gorgeous in summer, flanked by colorful flowers and rocky outcrops. You get to wade through the icy water while traipsing along the pebbled bed and observing birds that fly overhead.
Near Yolyn Am is another site worth visiting: The Flaming Cliffs, locally known as Bayanzag, is an important archaeological site where the first discovery of dinosaur eggs was made. It was given its name by American paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews who came here in the 1920s and dug up some dinosaur skeletons. Chapman himself was said to be the man on whom the film character 'Indiana Jones' was based. He lived an adventurous life across much of this part of the world. At Bayanzag, it is the landscape that truly impresses, especially so during sunset. As the name implies, the cliffs take on a vivid shade of red in the evening when the sandstone turns vermilion under the sun’s rays.