Mongolia is one of the few countries in the temperate belt of the Northern Hemisphere with vast territory, perfect ecosystem and virgin land. Its remarkable variety of natural contrasts consists of upland steppes, semi-deserts, and deserts, although in the west and north forested, high mountain ranges alternate with dry, lake-dotted basins. It is a highland country. About 80% of the entire territory is 1000 meters above sea level.
Features of Geography
The geography of the country is characterized by great diversity. It can be divided into mountain-forest steppe, mountain steppe, and in the extreme south, semi-desert and desert. Mountains and dense forest are prevalent in central and northern Mongolia. The present relief of Mongolia is the result of transformation of mountains in the south of Siberia into the Central Asian plains. The mountains. Much of the country's territory is mountainous. There are three major mountain ranges: the Mongol Altai, Hangai and Hentii. The highest and the longest range is the westernmost, the Mongol Altai Mountains, which sweeps in from the northwestern tip of the country and thrusts toward the southeast for 600-650 kilometers. The Mongol Altai is mainly composed of rocky mountains and there are many glaciers along high ridges. There are a number of clean water lakes along the range and hundreds of streams in the valleys. Some of the largest rivers in the country including Hovd, Buyant and Bulgan are made up of hundreds of small springs of the Altai Range.
The Mongol Altai has many summits reaching 4000 meters above sea level. Over 20 peaks are capped with eternal snow in the Altai Mountain Range. These include Tavan Bogd's Huyten Peak (4, 374 meters), the highest point in Mongolia. A smaller range splitting off to the southeast is theGobi Altai sub-mountain range. Its southeastern extremities also split into a number of smaller hills, disappearing in the expanses of Gobi. The Hangai Mountains form a solid mountain mass in the central part of Mongolia. Its highest peak is Otgon Tenger (4021 meters). A characteristic feature of this area is the gentle slopes, and crests, often covered with fine pastures.
The Hangai Mountains are the largest of the three major mountain ranges. It extends 800 kilometers from the west to the east. The Hangai Mountains' landscape is different from the Altai Mountains. While high rocky cliffs and deep basins are dominant in both Mongol Altai and Gobi Altai, the Hangai Mountain Range is featured by broad, warped dome-shaped mountains covered with grass and trees. The area encompasses several natural zones including mountain and mountain steppe zone, Siberian taiga and forest. Fertile soil and numerous rivers, streams and lakes support a variety of plants and the area is habitat to a huge array of animal species.
The great divide, separating waters that flow into the oceans and into the interior basins, runs along the crest of the Hangai Mountains. Mongolia's greatest river, the Selenge with its main tributary, the Orkhon, drains northward the Russian border and into Lake Baikal. The rivers running along the crest of Hangai Mountains are swift and the rapids in the rivers result in picturesque waterfalls such as Orkhon Waterfall with a height of 20 meters, locally known as Ulaan Tsutgalan. The third mountain block is the Hentii Mountain Range. It is smaller and lower than the Altai and Hangai Mountain Ranges. The Hentii Mountain Range starts from just east of Ulaanbaatar and stretches to the great eastern plains. There are several peaks that rise above 2,500 meters above sea level, with the highest one being Asralt Khairkhan which keeps ancient mountain glacial traces. The Hentii Mountains are covered by forests, wetlands, alpine tundra, and permanent snow and ice fields; the core of this remote wildness area is totally uninhabited.
The Depression of the Great Lakes. A scenic basin complex known as the Depression of the Great Lakes is located in the northwestern Mongolia between the Mongol Altai and Hangai Mountain Ranges. Several fresh and salt-water lakes make up the depression. Many of these lakes are salty, highly variable in area, and without outlets. The largest one is the saline Lake Uvs (3,350 sq.km), and the deepest lake is Huvsgul which is the 14th largest freshwater lake in the world. Lake Huvsgul shares many similarities in origin with Russia's Baikal Lake which lies 200 kilometers to the east and connected to Huvsgul by Egiin River.
Eastern Mongolia/The Great Plains. Stretching from the Hangai and Gobi Altai Mountain Ranges to eastwards lies the great plains of central, eastern and southern parts of Mongolia which extends for 1200 kilometers. The eastern Mongolia encompasses the Hentii Mountain Range and the Great Eastern Plains. Most of the southern part of the country is a vast gently rolling oasis-dotted plain, forming the northern fringe of the Gobi, which is predominantly stony. The lowest point is the Hoh Nuur (Blue lake), lying at an altitude of 532 meters above sea level. The flat relief is occasionally broken by low, heavily eroded ranges. Several spectacular natural features are found in Gobi region. Huge basalt columns arranged in clusters are found in eastern and central regions. The southern Gobi contains three mountain ranges, known as the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan Mountains (three beauties of the Gobi) and “Eagle Mouth” gorge surrounded by towering rocky cliffs.