Mongolia is a country with deserts in the south and alpine lakes in the north. The vegetation in the Gobi desert in the southern parts of Mongolia is very sparse. There is not much sand desert, it is mostly dry land with a very sparse cover of grass and herbs. There is one large sand dune in the Gobi desert. And large is the operative word here: The sand dune is about 5 km (3.1 miles) wide, 180 km (112 miles) long, and 600 m (1,970 ft) high at the highest point. It is one big dune! There are essentially no trees in the southern part of Mongolia. The areas of the Gobi desert that we saw are mainly mountainous, with some dry flat plains in between.
Going further north, the climate becomes colder and wetter. In central Mongolia trees start to grow and the land has more grasses. The type of vegetation in the northern parts is alpine. The trees there are almost exclusively larches. What was quite impressive there were the wild flowers. There are lots of different types. What I did not expect was the fact that there are lots of Edelweiss and Enzian. I knew these flowers from the Alps in Germany and Switzerland. Edelweiss is by now almost completely exterminated in the European Alps. In Mongolia all the meadows in the northern part are full of Edelweiss.
What really surprised me was the amount of wildlife that I saw. I didn't expect that many animals. They are everywhere! We saw many Ibex and Argali sheep (a type of mountain sheep) in the Gobi desert mountains. These sheep also live in the European Alps, but are very rare there. In the north we didn't see that many animals. There are supposed to be elk and moose in the area around Lake Khövsgöl, but we didn't see any.
The scenery is quite spectacular, from the Flaming Cliffs and the big Sand Dune in the south, to Lake Khövsgöl in the north. Following are some of the pictures of Mongolia's scenery, fauna and flora.
Pictures of birds in Mongolia and other nature pages are separate:
I saw this fault line on the flight from Seoul to Ulaan Baatar. It was an impressive sight even from 30,000 ft (9,000 m) up. (1202k) These are the Bayanzag Els, the Flaming Cliffs. (1332k) During the rainy season in August the desert is not completely dry, there are small rivers flowing through the Gobi. (957k) River in northern Mongolia. (1143k) In the central and northern parts of Mongolia there are forests. The mountains have forest cover on the north side, the south side is bare. (1319k) Part of the 180 km (112 miles) sand dune Khongoryn Els. (1014k) The sand dune Khongoryn Els in the foreground with a mountain range in the back. There were a bunch of horses in the sand dune grazing. There is a little bit of grass in some places. I don't know why the horses decided to graze on the few blades of grass in the sand dune and not on the lush grass 200 m (660 ft) away, but they made a nice picture. (739k) The sand dune with morning shadows. You can see the grass land in front of the dune. It was a strange contrast. (979k) Wind-eroded sandstone formation. (832k) Red sandstone cliffs. (1125k) Narrow gorge. (989k) Rugged mountain valley. (939k) Waterfall. (1236k) Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur, the White Lake in the rain. On the right is one of the many ovoos (see Mongolia's people). (900k) Lake Khövsgöl. This lake is close to the border between Mongolia and Russia. It is very clear, deep blue water, and very deep. (1268k) Sunrise over Lake Khövsgöl. You can see the planet Venus in the upper left corner in the still dark sky. (901k) Light streaming through the clouds. (707k) This is a picture of the sky just after sunset opposite the sun direction. You can see that the lower part of the sky is dark, with the upper part still sunlit. The dark part is earths shadow projected onto the sky. I have seen this phenomenon in Africa as well. You need clear air, no light pollution and flat terrain to see it. (1048k) Sunset. (1141k)
Lichen. (1.5M) There were lots of mushrooms in the northern parts of Mongolia. (813k) Mushroom. (960k) Mushrooms. (729k) Succulent plant. (1100k) Thistle flower. (888k) Thistle flower. (752k) Flowers. (857k) Flowers. (1041k) Flowers. (761k) Flowers. (651k) Flower. (745k) Flower. (731k) Flower. (801k) Flower. (980k) Flower. (1239k) Flowers with a very deep rich blue color (Gentiana sp., german: Enziane). (957k) Gentian (Gentiana sp., german: Enziane). (781k) Alpine Forget-me-not (Myosotis alpestris, german: Alpen-Vergissmeinnicht, french: Myosotis des Alpes). (861k) Edelweiss, I believe it is (Leontopodium nivale, german: Alpen-Edelweiß, french: Edelweiss) and Enzian (a species of Gentiana sp. (german: Enziane), I don't know which). (836k) Edelweiss (Leontopodium nivale, german: Alpen-Edelweiß, french: Edelweiss). (906k) A tree in the central part of Mongolia that is still close to the Gobi desert. It looked like some kind of acacia. (1031k) Tree. (1441k) In the northern parts of Mongolia you see almost exclusively Siberian Larch (Larix sibirica, german: Sibirische Lärche, french: Mélèze de Sibérie). (1210k) A Siberian Larch (Larix sibirica, german: Sibirische Lärche, french: Mélèze de Sibérie) in the rain. (808k)
A bumblebee visiting a wild flower. (851k) A bee visiting a flower. (721k) A Hoverfly (Syrphidae gen., german: Schwebfliegen, french: Syrphides) visiting a flower. (624k) Grasshopper. (826k) Dragonfly (Order Odonata, suborder Anisoptera). (735k) Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia, german: Kaisermantel, french: Tabac d'Espagne). (759k) Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae, german: Kleiner Fuchs, french: Petite tortue). There were not as many butterflies as I would have expected with all the wild flowers. (769k) Erebia Butterfly (Erebia neriene). (877k) A beetle trekking through the sand in the big sand dune. (1.7M) Pine Sawyer Beetle (Monochamus sutor, german: Einfarbiger Langhornbock). He was rasping loudly on the log table he sat on. (649k) Mongolian Toad (Strauchbufo raddei, german: Mongolische Kröte). (1396k) Tuvan Toad-headed Agama (Phrynocephalus versicolor) in the Gobi. They were pretty well camouflaged. (1009k) A Pika (Ochotona sp., german: Pfeifhasen, french: Pika), a small relative of the rabbit. (832k) Rodent. (1397k) Rodents were quite common everywhere. These are Mongolian Gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus, german: Mongolische Rennratte, french: Gerbille de Mongolie). (1034k) Mongolian Gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus, german: Mongolische Rennratte, french: Gerbille de Mongolie). (1076k) A Siberian Chipmunk (Eutamias sibiricus, german: Burunduk, french: Tamia de Sibérie). (1088k) A Long-tailed Ground Squirrel (Urocitellus undulatus, german: Langschwanzziesel, french: Souslik de Parry). (701k) Mongolian Gazelle or Zeer (Procapra gutturosa, german: Mongolische Gazelle, french: Gazelle à queue blanche) in the Gobi desert. (1326k) Goitered Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa, german: Kropfgazelle, french: Gazelle à goitre). (1067k) Female Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica, german: Sibirischer Steinbock, french: Ibex de Sibérie) in the mountains of the Gobi Nature Reserve. This is another species that is very similar to one living in the European Alps. (989k) A herd of Mongolian Argali (Ovis ammon darwini, german: Argali, french: Argali). (806k) Mongolian Argali (Ovis ammon darwini, german: Argali, french: Argali). This is the largest sheep in the world. (658k) Mongolian Argali (Ovis ammon darwini, german: Argali, french: Argali). (676k) Skull of a Mongolian Argali. (1262k) Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus, german: Rentier, french: Renne). (1093k) Bactrian Camel (Camelus bactrianus, german: Trampeltier, french: Chameau de Bactriane). This was a domesticated camel, not a wild one. (739k)