• independent hike at the khovsgol area

Travel guide for independent hiking at Khovsgol

For an independent trekking, we decided to head north, to the Khövsgöl area. The Lonely planet describes it as the lovechild from Switzerland and Montana. The landscape is very harsh: taiga vegetation combined with deep lakes and rugged mountains. The region is habitated with very few, but very special people, for instance, the Tsaatan. They live from their flock of reindeer in the most Northern part of Mongolia, where living conditions are ideal for the reindeer, but les ideal for human beings (cold biting temperatures of to -30° in winter). It’s also the home of sheep, ibexes, moose, wolves and bears.

But enough about the region, let’s talk about the most terrific natural wonder this region has to offer: the Khövsgöl lake. It is incredible large (2760 km², the max. length is 136 km) and deep (depth is 267 m). And if that’s not enough, it holds almost 1% of all the fresh water in the world.

independent hiking at the khovsgol lake

The impressive Khovsgol lake

What did we do?

Mongolia is just like a big camp site. You spotted a nice place? Put up your tent and start a campfire! No horse, no sheep, nor Mongolian that won’t let you. As we are rather new to independent trekking, we decided to give it a go in Khövsgöl, as you can easily follow the shores of the lake, and getting lost and running out of water is rather difficult here. We spent a total of 5 days in the wild. Our trip started in Khatgal, a village on the southern tip of the lake, where we stocked up on supplies (mainly oatmeal, noodles and Snickers). We followed the west shore and had amazing vistas over the lake.

camping spot during independent hiking at khovsgol lake

A perfect camping spot with an amazing view over the lake

We followed a horse trail until we reached Toilogt where we made our way back to Khatgal. Our trek counted approximately 75 km in total (climbing mountains, river crossings and swamps included). We highly recommend this trip to everybody who likes hiking. If you plan to do an independent hike as well, get more advice from our complete independent hike and guide.

toilogt endpoint of independent hike

The endpoint of our hike was Toilogt, a small village where the landscape becomes even more rugged

How to get there?

Starting from Ulaanbaatar you have to make the trip to the lake in two steps
First take a bus from the Dragon bus terminal to Mörön (~13 hours, 32 000 MNT ~ 13 EUR). We recommend taking the night bus that leaves Ulaanbaatar at 6 pm as the busses are more comfortable and less crowded. But you can’t be allergic to plaster, concrete and other building materials as Mongolian men like to stuff the whole bus with their DIY supplies. Flying is also an option, but more expensive.

When arriving in Mörön the second part of your journey starts. You need to take a taxi for about 90 km who drops you off at Khatgal. Prices are reasonable, we paid 30 000 MNT one way (after bargaining).

Have you ever been to the Khovsgol are? If you have any comments or thoughts, just leave a message below!

Happy hiking!

Matthias & Mieke

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6 Comments

  1. Lies October 19, 2016 at 1:48 am - Reply

    Bears??!! Were you afraid, hiking and camping with bears around?

    • pack to life October 19, 2016 at 4:27 am - Reply

      Funny that you mention it, because we were not afraid untill the last night… We went to sleep but I think we left some food outside. In the middle of the night the two of us heard some noise that was just next to our tent, followed by crawling on the tent of some sort of animal. Long story short, we didn’t sleep anymore and had the most scary night ever :). Afterwards we read that there were no bear reports in the past and that they don’t come near the hiking trails, so I think it was just us being scaredy cats.

  2. Tais June 10, 2018 at 10:28 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing this, we are going tomorrow to hike by ourselves and we actually dont find any information about how hard or easy or even possible to do it without a tour.
    I tell you later if we see a bear ahhaha =)

    • pack to life June 11, 2018 at 10:54 am - Reply

      You’re more than welcome :)! Indeed, not much info to find about Mongolia in general, but that’s half of the adventure 🙂 ! Enjoy the hike!!

  3. Max June 13, 2018 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    Awesome information thank you so much for the post! I am considering taking 9 days and hiking from Turt in the north of the lake back to Khatgal via the western side.
    The distance for me is possible in that time (I have done longer hikes and faster hikes) but I am not sure what the terrain is like, from what you saw do you have any advice on the terrain? It seems slightly mountainous from what I can gather?

    • pack to life June 15, 2018 at 7:09 am - Reply

      Hi Max, awesome idea!
      The terrain is indeed slightly mountainous. The part from Toilogt to Khovsgol has some path markings (look for blue signs on trees). After Toilogt I’m not sure what the condition of the terrain is, but we met another hiker that walked all around the lake. So it is absolutely possible and a lot of fun / adventure! Enjoy!

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