Travelling from Ulaangom to Olgii, both regional capitals, is an awesome offroad adventure. In fact there are several places that google maps won’t tell you about that were just cool to stumble across. So here are 3 unexpected places to visit when you go to Bayan-Olgii along your journey.
To begin the journey you to see these unexpected places you will have to go off-road. There is a road but you may get lost on it a little along the way. We had to stop to ask for directions a few times. It’s the kind of road that you know roughly that you are going the right way but you are not 100 per cent sure. To learn more about what kind of roads to expect in Mongolia, check out this blog post here. However, the trip is part of the journey as the scenery changes so drastically!
So you will start from Ulaangom and head towards Tsagaanuur. Make sure you take the most direct route. From Ulaangom you will come to your first stop; Uureg Lake. From here you will head inland from the lake, driving through some impressive scenery of valleys and gorges before coming to a semi-arid desert. Here you might start to feel a little lost but just head straight through the desert. The powerlines are a good indication that you are on the right track.
Stop 1: Uureg Lake
Although it doesn’t compare in size to Uvs lake it is still some awesome scenery and even a good place to have a picnic along the way. The lake is roughly 100kms from Ulaangom, stretching of 19.5 kilometres and having 65 kilometres of shoreline. There is a ger camp located at the lake if you want to stay the night too. If you are a bird lover you may want to be on the lookout for the threatened Swan Goose or Pallas’s Fish-eagle.
Stop 2: Bashint
This cute little town was really holding a surprise for us. Bashint is located 178kms from Ulaangom on a rocky outcrop once you pass through the semi-desert plain. This small town really does make you feel like you are in a desert, with sandy cliffs and a surprising amount of vegetation and a fantastic rest area to have lunch or an early dinner.
The locals here are also very friendly, especially for asking directions. A few things that we noticed here though. It is a small town so things do shut here early. If you are looking for a cold drink make sure you get it early. If you need to fill up the gas tank make sure to have cash too. There are two petrol stations but only one was open at the time and it only accepted cash.
While driving through the desert, keep a keen eye out for the local wildlife. As we travelled through we got a really good look at some wild Gazelles before they pranced away, an awesome sight to see!
Okay, this next one was absolutely fantastic! It really blew us away how beautiful the drive-through here made a great day epic! My regret here was not taking more photos (or good ones). Leaving Bashint, you will head to the town of Nogoonnuur. To get to this town you will have to cross several river crossings. Now, these were fine when we crossed, even a normal car could cross them carefully. However, the locals told us that if it rains they are dangerous to cross and you should use extreme caution so make sure to check the weather forecast before starting your trip. We got lucky as we had no idea it was there but it hadn’t rained. If it had it would have been a long way back to Ulaangom.
After crossing the river its a clear drive to the much larger, yet small town of Nogoonnuur. From here you will want to turn right from the town entrance and follow the road towards the mountains.
As you enter the mountain pass the view is breathtaking. You will enter the pass, leaving the desert behind you with the feeling like you are entering an entirely different world. I really didn’t think I was in Mongolia. The road will narrow as you feel like you are slowly being wedged between both sides of the valley. The river flowing peacefully below with herds of animals adds to the tranquillity of the driving experience and as you drive you will be greeted by friendly locals which gives you a real feeling that this part of Mongolia is very untouched. There are plenty of places to camp here as well.
After the mesmerizing journey through the pass, you will come to the back entrance of Tsagaanuur from where you can drive to Olgii, which is only about an hour and a half drive away. However, you may wish to stop at Tsagaanuur and head to Siiilkhem Nuruu National Park. To learn more about it take a look at this post here.
If you are in Ulaangom and planning to go to Ulgii, why not be adventurous and see some of these amazing places. If you take this direct route you won’t be disappointed.
Safe travels everyone!