"Hard Ride in Mongolia" - National Geographic Oct. 2003 -
this excellent article on nomads in the Hovsgol area is well worth while
tracking down - the photos are stunning!
Brief History of Mongolia
In the 13th century, the Mongol Empire founded by Ghengis Khan stretched
from Korea, China, India and Vietnam to the Middle East and into the
heart of Central Europe. Moscow and Budapest were among the conquered
cities. Beijing was founded by Genghis Khan'grandson. To this day
it was the largest Empire ever built.
The extreme violence and calculated tactics by which this was achieved
are an intriguing contrast to the friendly and nomadic Mongolia of
today. The Mongolians remain a fiercely proud and independent people
who have effectively managed to preserve their sovereignty and cultural
identity despite being enveloped by two huge neighbors, Russia and
China. Mongolia experienced an extended period of control by China
from the 15th century to the 1910s and most recently with satellisation
by Soviet rule. Mongolia achieved true independence in 1993 with the
coming to power of the Democratic Coalition that won the elections
over the old Communist Party. Mongolia is now a multiparty democracy
showing an astonishing mix of free press, private ownership and old
This landlocked country is three times the size of France and has
an average elevation of 1,500 meters (5,000 feet). It supports a population
of 2.5 million, half of which lives in urban areas, with the rest
following a nomadic lifestyle that has not changed since the time
of the Great Khans. With the exception of mineral resources (mainly
copper, uranium, gold and oil), the economy is based on agriculture
and some natural textile activities (cashmere, leather).
The Mongolians follow the Tibetan Buddhist faith and age-old Shamanistic
beliefs. They are amazingly generous and have a deep appreciation
for the natural environment that has traditionally supported their
Mongolia today is fast becoming one of
the world's premier adventure and eco-tourism destination - wild,
immense, beautiful and pristinely clean. Much of the country is still
relatively unknown and unexplored except by the sparse population
of friendly steppe and mountain nomads.
How Lake Hovsgol Came To Be Named
According to traditional oral history recounted in the Lake Hovsgol
"Many years ago, what is now known as Lake Hovsgol was a large lake
surrounded by beautiful mountains and lush forests and fields full
of flowers. The people who lived there thought it was the best place
in the whole world. One bad day, a huge one-eyed ogre came to the
lake. He did not like water, he did not like flowers, and he did not
like people. He ate all the people and animals and drank all the water
from the lake.
The ogre left, but without water, everything died and there wasn't
anything left even to make shadows. Then one day and old woman came
to the area. She had only her shadow and her horse for a friend. As
she traveled around looking for water and a place to live, she stumbled
across a small child. A very small boy who was no bigger than a thumb.
The old lady and child decided to become a family and together they
traveled looking for water and a home.
three days and three nights they traveled without resting. They traveled
over an ocean of sand until they spied a big, angular rock. The old
lady lifted the rock and a little water trickled into the sand. The
old lady and the boy decided to make their home near the water. She
dug some of the sand away from under the rock to make a well and she
was always careful to replace the rock, so the water would not escape.
The child grew amazingly fast and very soon became a normal sized
boy. There wasn't much to do and he was a little bored so he sang
songs every day. Once while he was singing, a beautiful girl appeared
and then suddenly vanished. The boy wished he could find this girl
and hoped that she would come. Finally, after three years had passed,
the girl appeared again and this time she stayed with the old lady
and the boy.
They were a happy family until one day they forgot to cover the well
with the rock and water poured out causing a flood. This flood caused
another ogre to arrive (ogres hate water) and he drank up all the
water. The boy, who was very strong, killed the ogre and cut off a
mountaintop to cover him up. The water still poured from the well,
so the old lady dove down under the water and put the rock back over
the well. Unfortunately, this took all her strength and she couldn't
make it back to the shore and she drowned. The lake stopped getting
bigger thanks to the old lady. The boy and the girl were very sad
and they started to call the lake "Mother" in honor of the old lady.
Today in Lake Hovsgol, you can still see the mountain top which covers
the ogre as it is the biggest island in the lake. The smaller island
is the rock that covers the well. So, Lake Hovsgol is the Mother Lake."
Hovsgol National Park Map
Lake Hovsgol National Park
A Visitor's Guide (Discovery Initiatives)
Hovsgol National Park - A Visitor's Guide
We highly recommend this excellent booklet which provides a very comprehensive
introduction to Hovsgol National Park and includes background information
on the lake, local culture and color plates of local flora and fauna.
The guide is available for £7.50 for UK postage and US$12.00 for international
postage. UK account holders can make checks payable to Discovery Initiatives
Ltd. Please contact:
21 The Bakehouse
119 Altenburg Gardens, London, SW11 1JQ (insert Visitor Guide image)
Tel +44 20 7978 6341
Fax +44 171 738 1893
The guide can also be purchased in Mongolia.
Lonely Planet Travel Survival Kit: Mongolia
Second edition, June 1997.
Click here for the
Lonely Planet Guidebook "upgrade" for Mongolia and here for the
Lonely Planet Web Site Mongolia Page.
Lonely Planet Mongolian Phrasebook
Click here for the
Lonely Planet Web Site Mongolia Page.
Mongolia in Transition. Old Patterns, New Challenges
Ole Brunn and Ole Odgaard - collection of essays about social change
in Mongolia since 1991
Hilary Roe Metternich - provides great insight into Mongolian culture
The Modern History of Mongolia
C.R. Bawden - academic history of Mongolia since 1910s
Men and Gods in Mongolia
Henning Haslund - fascinating account of a 1935 trip through Mongolia
(now back in print)
The Last Disco in Outer Mongolia
Nick Middleton - great account of visits to Mongolia in the late 1980s
and early 1990s
Very well made documentary on life and crafts of Mongolia.
Mongolian On-line Resources
Click here to access our links