Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Nalaikh, Mongolia
GPS: 48.153980776656, 107.68593235652
Founded in 1993, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is the third largest protected area in Mongolia. It takes its name from the Terelj River and the Khentii Mountains. The 3,000 km² of park is part of the huge Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area (more than 12,000 km² spread around the sacred Burkhan Khaldun mountain). With plains stretching as far as the eye can see, granite rocks and immense windswept steppes, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park concentrates the most beautiful landscapes in Mongolia.
The main entrance to the site is about two hours’ drive from the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. Very sparsely populated, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is inhabited by nomads and farmers living at an altitude of 1,600 metres. Composed of rock formations shaped by erosion, forests, hills and meadows rich in wildflowers, the park lands are also famous for their crystals and precious stones. Its grassy and wooded steppes are the cradle of the Mongol horse, a small saddle horses the size of a pony. The Mongol horse is both hardy and resilient and has not been kept in the wild since the 1970s and is an integral part of the daily life of nomadic populations. It is used for breeding, kumis or airag (a drink made from fermented mare’s milk), transporting people or heavy equipment, agricultural work and the organization of traditional races.
Historically, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is the place of origin of the supreme chief Genghis Khan (real name Temüjin). At the beginning of the 13th century, this great conqueror waged a series of fierce wars to unify nomadic tribes. His successive victories made him the ruler of the gigantic Mongol Empire. At its peak, his territory was the largest continuous empire of all time. By the end of the 13th century, it covered an area of more than 30 million km², stretching from Central Asia to the gates of Europe. The landscapes of Gorkhi-Terelj National Park are today considered to be the last great wilderness area on the Asian continent.