Where in the World is Lake Hovsgol?

Where in the World is Lake Hovsgol?

Mongolia looks a bit like a half-circle with a Gibralter-shaped pop-up in the middle of it. Lake Hovsgol is located in this pop-up, up near the border with Russia. A narrow lake deeply dug into land more than a mile high, it’s oriented nearly north-south, and stitches together the Mongolian steppe and the Siberian taiga. It’s probably more than a million years old, and has been considered sacred since people arrived on its shores. Most of the lakes in this region are salty, while Hovsgol is pure and fresh.

Sunset on Lake Hovsgol, Mongolia. Photo credit: Ana Filonov

Sunset on Lake Hovsgol, Mongolia
Photo credit: Ana Filonov

Hovsgol and BaikalCalled the “younger sister” of Lake Baikal, Lake Hovsgol was formed by the same tectonic activity as Baikal. Hovsgol and Baikal are both located in the same Rift Zone, and are connected by a river that flows into the Selenge and on into Baikal. It’s full of fish, including sturgeon and grayling. Although herds of animals are beginning to encroach upon its shores, its main environmental worry seems to be the vehicles that occasionally break though the ice in late winter and discharge their fuel into the lake.

Wildlife on the shores of Lake Hovsgol. Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Cattle wandering the shores of Lake Hovsgol
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Tsaatan Reindeer People at HovsgolThe Tsaatan people have lived north of the lake in the taiga for thousands of years, migrating as necessary to care for their animals. Their entire way of life revolves around the reindeer. They don’t live in the traditional Mongolia gers, but in structures more like Native American tipis covered in reindeer hides. They drink reindeer milk, which contains four times as much fat as cow’s milk, and break some of the animals for riding through the taiga forest of northwestern Mongolia.

The Tsaatan reindeer people live in tipis made of reindeer hide. Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

The Tsaatan people at Lake Hovsgol have traded in their reindeer hides for canvas on these tipis 
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

In the 21st century, several families of Tsaatan have migrated from the taiga south to the shores of Lake Hovsgol, where they have more interaction with travelers and with modern Mongolian culture. Often travelers can visit them in their homes and get an idea of their former way of life, living side by side with the reindeer.

Tsaatan Reindeer People at Hovsgol. Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Tsaatan reindeer herder in the taiga north of Hovsgol
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Travel to Lake Hovsgol with MIR

MIR has more than 30 years of experience handcrafting tours to Mongolia. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

Join MIR’s small group tour that travels to Lake Hovsgol:  Mongolian Explorer: The Gobi & Beyond with Naadam Festival.  Travelers explore Mongolia’s blue pearl, Lake Hovsgol, home to reindeer herds of the Tsaatan nomads. Travel by jeep to a ger camp on the shores of high-altitude Lake Hovsgol and visit a family of reindeer breeders.

You can also opt to travel on your dates and at your pace on a private journey to Mongolia, customized to your desired dates and style.

Chat with one of our destination specialists by email or by phone at 1-800-424-7289 to start planning your travels today.

(click on photo to see larger version)


(Top photo: A family of Tsaatan reindeer herders in the taiga north of Lake Hovsgol. Photo credit: Peter Guttman)

PUBLISHED: April 8, 2015

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