Khugnu Khan – Elsen Tasarkhai
Khugnu Khan Nature Reserve is located in 250kms west of Ulaanbaatar. It was being protected as a natural reserve by the state since in 1997 and formed as a national park in 2003. The national park has unique landscape that shows gobi desert, mountain steppe and forest steppe in such harmonized view. Khugnu Khan Nature Reserve covers 84,390 hectare land. It is comprised of Khugnu Khan Mountain range and Elsen tasarkhai (locals call it ‘mini-gobi’) which is a part of the Ikh Mongol sand dunes stretches through 80km with width of 5km.
Khugnu Khan mountain is situated in the region of Khangai Moutain Range, which of Quaternary sediments, and geologically compounded with mostly granite stones. It is said that the Khugnu Khan Mountain was formed during Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras so the area is covered with sediments such as sandstones, blunt slates, argillite, granite and marble and high potassium alkaline basaltic rocks related to those eras.
Forest area of Khugnu Khan Mountain is a southern part of Mongolian forest region and located in the mountainside and north parts, mostly larches, Populus tremula- betula wood and scots pines. And high steppes are covered with Caragana microphyla. Seeing from the landscape formation, it is obvious that the area has abundant of wild animals such as grey wolf, corsac fox, red fox, wild boar, steppe polecat, Pallas’ cat, red deer, wild sheep ‘Argali’, etc.,.
Places to Visit in Khugnu Khan
Apart from the natural beauty that attracts people, there are several temple ruins dated back to 10th century. There are Uvgun and Zaluu temple ruins (Old and Young temples) in the skirt of Khugnu Khan Mountain. According to historical records, A monk named Lhalambaldorj, who had possessed power and wisdom of Yamantaka after meditating for so long, took refuge in Mongolian Khugnu Khan Mountain after defeating his heretic king in Tibet around 10th century. So origin of the Old temple starts from here. Unfortunately, the temple was destroyed by Oirad Mongol soldiers of Galdan Boshigt Khan, who didn’t support Buddhistm in 17th century. It is located in the middle of the mountain, where you’ll have to hike about 2 hours to reach.
Ruin of the Young temple is situated in the foot of Khugnu Khan Mountain. To reach there you will drive up to a southern hillside the Mountain. You will see beautiful scenery of a small meadow in the middle of mountain with a small spring pouring down. The Young temple was built by Ungur Gegeen Zanabazar, who moved the Old Temple to this place and restored its Buddhist activities. By early 20th century, the temple became quite big.
There were more than 1000 monks practicing every kind of influential Buddhism. However, the temple was destroyed by communist authorities in 1937 and 1938. Over 30 high ranked monks were captured and sentenced during that time. Now there are only two temples remained, one is standing on a rocky hill of Khugnu Khan Mountain. And other one stood in the mountain foothill. Fortunately nun called Davaa restored the Young temple in 1992 and its activity also restored.
Things to Do in Khugnu Khan
No matter what kind of activity you do here you can’t stop thinking how beautiful the landscape is. Its picturesque scenery is worth visiting. Here you can ride a camel through sand dunes of Elsen Tasarkhai, absorbing an experience of Gobi desert. Also you can ride a horse through the rocky mountains of Khugnu Khan. You can even reach the temple ruin of Young temple riding a horse. Once you’ve settled at your camp or guest house it’s up to you to hike around the mountain. But please be aware to show some respect to the area. Khugnu Khan Mountain since the locals worship it greatly. Here you can stay at nomadic family and experience their lifestyle.
Above all the most favorable month to visit would be any month between June and September.