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Explore Central Mongolia: A Rich Cultural and Natural Haven

Updated: May 17, 2023

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Central Mongolia is a treasure trove of history, culture, and breathtaking natural wonders. Located in the heart of the country, this region offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to both nature enthusiasts and history buffs. From the majestic landscapes of the Orkhon Valley to the fascinating ruins of the ancient city of Karakorum, Central Mongolia is a destination that should be on every traveler's bucket list. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the top attractions, activities, and practical information to help you plan your Central Mongolia adventure.

1. Central Mongolia's Natural Beauty:

Central Mongolia boasts a remarkable blend of landscapes, showcasing the country's diverse natural beauty. From rolling steppe grasslands to stunning mountain ranges, this region offers a myriad of outdoor opportunities. Some of the must-visit natural attractions in Central Mongolia include: - Orkhon Valley: Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Orkhon Valley, renowned for its magnificent waterfalls, meandering rivers, and lush greenery. Take in the stunning views, hike through picturesque trails, or horse ride across the vast grasslands. - Khustain Nuruu National Park: Witness the endangered wild horses, known as Przewalski's horses, in their natural habitat at Khustain Nuruu National Park. Marvel at the pristine landscapes, encounter other wildlife species, and learn about ongoing conservation efforts. - Hustai National Park: Immerse yourself in the serene beauty of Hustai National Park, famous for its population of wild Mongolian horses, known as Takhi or Przewalski's horses. Embark on a wildlife safari, hike through scenic trails, or simply enjoy the tranquility of this pristine wilderness.

2. Cultural and Historical Gems:

3. Outdoor Adventures and Activities:

Vegetation of Zorgol Khairkhan Mountain
Central Mongolia -Zorgol Khairkhan Mountain

Khangai Mountain Range

The Khangain Nuruu Mountain Range in central Mongolia is the second highest mountain range in Mongolia. The range extends for about 800 kilometres, and its average altitude is 2500-3000 meters above sea level. Most of the ancient Mongolian states’ histories connect to this area. Khangai mountains are well-watered, covered with abundant forests, lovely meadows and plenty of fresh streams. The Khangai zone is home to diverse species of flora and fauna including elk, red deer, musk deer, wild boar, brown bear, wild sheep, ibex, wolf, fox and more. Horseback and camel riding, fishing, boating, bird watching and trekking in spectacular nature are all available here.

Golden Angel on the silver tree in Kharakhorum
Central Mongolia - Kharakhorum


The Karakorum was established in 1220 and was the capital city of the Great Mongolian Empire. Chinggis Khaan and his descendant Khaan Ugudei, Guyug, and Munkh lived here ruling the empire. Soldiers of the Chinese Ming Dynasty destroyed the town in the 14th Century. The ruins of Karakorum have been protected since 1961 and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. There are several interesting sites to visit in the Karakorum including the Erdenezuu Monastery, the Great Khan’s monument, the legendary Turtle of the Karakorum and the Phallic Rock statue.

three temples of Erdenezuu
Central Mongolia - Erdenezuu Monastery

Erdenezuu Monastery

Erdenezuu is the first Buddhist monastery of Mongolia established in 1585 by Abtai Sain Khan on the ruins of Karakorum. The Erdenedzuu Monastery has a rectangular shaped perimeter wall of 420 meters. One hundred eight beautiful stupas are surrounding the monastery. The monastery has been protected since 1944 and has also been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. The museum of the monastery has unique exhibits such as the cast image, clothes and musical instruments that were created by Mongolian craftsmen in the 16-18th Centuries.

Oasis of Semi Gobi
Central Mongolia - Semi Gobi

Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dunes

Elsen Tasarkhai is one of the most picturesque places of Mongolia and is part of the 80 km long Mongol Els Sand Dunes. This place is a beautiful combination of beautiful dunes, majestic granite mountains, green grassland, bright, fresh spring and a tiny lake. Indeed, here you can enjoy seeing the combination of The Gobi and Khangai Natural Zones. Camel riding and trekking on steppe and dunes are available.

Paintings of Monastery
Central Mongolia - Erdene Khamba Monastery

Erdene Khamba Monastery

Beautiful Erdene Khamba Monastery is on a magnificent range of mountains Khugnu Khan Mountain to the east of Elsen Tasarkhai. The first Mongolian Buddhist saint established the monastery, Zanabazar and its construction work continued through the 1660s and early 1680s. Zanabazar dedicated this monastery to one of his teachers, Erdene-Tsorj and when Erdene-Tsorj became head of the monastery, it became known as Erdene Khamba Khiid. The Monastery was primarily demolished by late 1937. The restoration began in the early 1990s. The Jamsran Temple, Bazarsad Shrines, and the Five Kings Temple, on a high shelf of the mountain, were reopened. This is a great place for meditation, hiking and taking pictures.

Horseman is standing front of lake
Central Mongolia - Naiman Nuur

Naiman Nuur –“Eight Lakes”

Khuisiin Naiman Nuur, known as “Eight Lakes”, with a 116 square km area, has been protected as a natural monument since 1992. The lakes of Naiman Nuur lie at an altitude of 2200 meters above sea level. Red deer, wild Argali sheep, Siberian ibex, musk deer, wild boar, duck and other birds have been sighted here. There are nine freshwater lakes, notably Shireet, Bugat, Khaliut, Khaya, Khuis, Shanaa, Duruu, Baga and Shanaga, the last one is pretty small. Groundwater channels interconnect these freshwater lakes. The surrounding mountains have a forest belt some 300-400 meters wide while there are no trees at the tops. The reflections of larch forests and majestic mountains on the lake water are fantastic. This is a beautiful place for relaxing, walking and bird watching in untouched and exotic nature.

Museum of Khushuu Tsaidam
Central Mongolia - Khushuu Tsaidam

Khushuu Tsaidam - a Turkic inscribed monument

This is an ancient Turkish State King’s burial site with inscribed monuments of this Turkic State. One huge pillar is 3.3m high and 1.3m wide, and the inscription consists of 68 lines that were written in 732 A. D. by the grandson of Kulemin and devoted to the Bilge King of Turkish origin and his old brother Kulitegin. It is noteworthy that the “Orkhon Inscription” has both a historical and scientific significance. It is the first time the Turkish people were referred to as Turks. There are more than 40 inscribed monuments of Turkic origin in Mongolia, and more than 10 of these are in the Orkhon Valley. The memorial was cited as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 and is found north of Karakorum.

Night of Taikhar Rock
Central Mongolia - Taikhar Rock

Taikhar Rock

The mysterious Taikhar Rock, over 10 meters high, is a subject of many local legends. There are more than 150 ancient inscriptions created on the rock over the centuries. These inscriptions include poems, praises, wishes and historical notes written in Uigar, Kidan, Tibetan and Mongolian script.

Waterfall in Mongolia
Central Mongolia - Ulaan Tsutgalan

Ulaan Tsutgalan Waterfall

Ulaan Tsutgalan Waterfall on the Ulaan River flows through basalt rocks formed by a unique combination of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes around 20000 years ago. The Ulaan Tsutgalan Waterfall cascades from an impressive height of 20 meters with a width of 10 meters and extends for 100 meters from the Orkhon River. The waterfall is naturally most impressive after heavy rain but disappears in dry seasons.

Central Mongolia - Tuvkhun Monastery

Tuvkhun Monastery

Tuvkhun Monastery is located on the top of the 2312 meter high Undur Shireet Mountain overlooking the most beautiful scenery in the Khangai Mountains. The monastery was established by the first Mongolian Buddhist saint, Zanabazar, in 1654. Zanabazar lived, worked and meditated here for 30 years. He created his famous letter “Soyombo” here in 1686. There are 14 small temples, a hermit’s cave, several pilgrimage sites as well as Zanabazar’s boot imprint on a rock. This temple has enjoyed state protection since 1998 and was cited as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Hiking up to the temple, visiting the monastery sites and views of the natural surroundings from the peak are incredible experiences.

Aerial view of Khorgo volcano
Central Mongolia - Khorgo volcano

Khorgo - Terkh National Park

Khorgo – Terkh National Park has been protected since 1965 and covers an area of 773 square km. Khorgo Mountain was an active volcano just 8000 years ago, and Khorgo is covered with basalt. Red deer, Siberian deer, wild boar, ruddy shell duck, great cormorant, reddish and black ducks are found in the park. During the summer great cormorants commonly nest at Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake. The lake is beautiful with crystal clear fresh water that supports pike & other fish. Torrents of lava issuing from the Khorgo Volcano dammed the Terkh River in the north and south forming the lake at an altitude of 2060 meters above sea level. Other exciting sites to visit in the park are Khorgo extinct volcano, the Yellow Dog’s Hell, the Ice Cave and Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake. Also enjoy swimming, bird watching, fishing and hiking by the lake shore.

Gers next to the Ugii Lake
Central Mongolia - Ugii Lake

Ugii Nuur Lake

The lake covers 25 square km and is at an altitude of 1337 meters above sea level in Ugii Nuur Sum, Arkhangai Province. Ugii Lake is rich in perch and pike and renowned for its fishing. The annual catch from the lake of Ugii is 50 tons. A lake is also a beautiful place for watching Mongolian birdlife. Crane, duck and other species migrate to this area beginning in May. Swan, geese, white spoonbill, Dalmatian pelican and others have also been sighted. A boating journey, bird watching and walking by the lakeshore are also available.

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