Another weekend, another destination! This week we take you to a land far far away from mainstream travel bucket-lists — the Khovd Province of Mongolia. Formerly known as Khobdo and officially known as Jargalant sum, it is situated on the foothills of the Altay Mountains, and also home to many ethnic groups.
Also considered as the land of the eternal blue sky, it is blessed with breathtaking views of rivers, lakes, and mountains (including stunning glacial peaks) — a paradise for nature and outdoor lovers!
As is customary with our virtual travel blog series, we browsed through Instagram, YouTube, TripAdvisor, and travel blogs to curate a New York Times-inspired 36-hour itinerary for Khovd.
36 Hours in Khovd
9:00 AM: Cave Paintings
Start your exploration of Khovd with a visit to the famous Khoid Tsenkher caves, located in Mankhan soum at the foot of Chandmani mountain. Approx. 100 km (takes about 2 hours by road) from Khovd city center, the caves contain paintings from the Stone Age (i.e. 15,000 years old) discovered by a Soviet Mongolian archeological expedition in 1967. The rock paintings feature bulls, ibex, mouflons, gazelles, camels, elephants, ostriches, or snakes, trees, and are painted in red.
2:30 PM: Mongolian Lunch
Head over to Elite Restaurant for some traditional Mongolian lunch, although their Korean fare is supposed to be equally good.
3.30 PM: Hike Up A Mountain
Barely 6 km from the main city center, the Baatar Khairkhan Mountain is a historical site that is not to be missed. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a snow leopard!
The site is also known to have a number of petroglyphs (rock carvings) and is sure to be a fun experience for mountain lovers and hikers.
6:30 PM: Souvenir Shopping
Head back to the city to unwind for the day. Stroll through the marketplace and take home some beautiful Kazakh embroidery from the Kazakh Embroidery Shop. Purses, traditional Kazakh men’s hats, pillowcases, and carpets are typically on offer at very reasonable prices.
7:30 PM: Irish Pub & Karaoke
Unwind at an Irish Pub and Karaoke in Khovd — this is sure to be an experience!
8.00 AM: Museum Morning
Kick-start the day early with a visit to the Khovd Aimag Museum that boasts of a great collection of Buddhist and Kazakh art, ethnic costumes, stuffed wildlife, and even a snow leopard pelt on the wall. There are also stone painting replicas amongst its 3500 exhibits, and although the museum may not be as breathtaking as ones in the West, it’s worth a visit to understand more about the local culture.
9.30 AM: Buddhist Monastery
Next up, visit Gandan Puntsag Choilon Khiid, the largest Buddhist Monastery in western Mongolia, containing 108 stupas.
10.30 AM: Mineral Springs
Make your way to the Mineral Springs located in the northeast of Khovd City. These mineral-rich natural springs are known to cure skin (and other) diseases and can make for a great way to relax.
12.30 PM: Khar Us Nuur National Park
After a relaxing time by the spring, head over to the Khar Us Nuur National Park, located outside Khovd city. It is an 850,000-hectare wide nature reserve covered by Itai, Khangai, and Tangyn mountain ranges. It is home to numerous endangered species including Swan Goose, White-tailed Eagle, Mongolian Saiga, and the Snow Leopard. The entrance fee is 300 Tugrik for Mongolians and 3000 Tugrik for foreigners. In case you have more time to spare, you can camp here.
Further, the Khar Us Nuur Lake is stunning and worth spending a few hours around. Make it a picnic by carrying some basic sandwiches and a drink. We promise you won’t have enough of the view (and solitude)!
4.30 PM: Visit Historical Ruins
Visit the historical ruins of Khovd in the northern end of the city at Sangiin Kherem built by Manchu (Qing dynasty) warlords in 1762. The 40,000 sq. meter compound once contained several temples, a Chinese graveyard and the homes of the Manchu rulers — although now only the boundary wall remains.
7.30 PM: Theatre Time
End your day (and trip) to the tunes of traditional Mongolian music at the theatre which periodically hosts musical and dance performances, including throat singing.
8.30 PM: Last Supper
Enjoy the last meal at Aravt restaurant, known for Mongolian cuisine.
How to get there
Khovd Airport is situated 4 km away from the city center. Khovd is also well-connected with other major cities of Mongolia, such as Ulan Bator, Moron, and Bulgan.
When to go
May to September is the ideal time to visit Khovd, especially for the Khar-Us Lake and Khar Us Nuur National Park.
All visitors to Mongolia require a visa unless they come from one of the countries that are exempt from a visa or have the option of obtaining a visa on arrival. More details can be found here.
The Mongolian unit of currency is the tögrög (T) — pronounced (and sometimes spelled) as tugrik.
Mongolian is the primary language spoken in Khovd, Mongolia.
A taxi around Hovd costs approx. 700T/km and is perhaps the most comfortable way of going around. Shared transport is also available from the main junctions, although frequency and cost vary based on the route.
Watch out for our virtual travel blogs every Tuesday on Quilt.AI :)