When we open our Mongolian compass and check the cardinal directions, we see the desert in the south, and the great, grassy steppe to the east. What lies around the northern aimags? The taiga, a pine-scented quilt of coniferous forest that blankets the boggy ground from northern Mongolia to the edge of the Arctic circle.
But it’s not only forest here. Indeed, much of the land is wild, rugged steppe country, or a transition zone, where fuzzy grasslands are riven by clumps of dark birch and larch. In other places, rocky mountain spines spread their snowy fingers into natural barriers, boundaries and basins, cupping ice-cold freshwater lakes that are as fiercely blue as the wide open Mongolian sky. The most famous body of water here is Lake Khövsgöl, the ‘Mother Sea’ of the nation, but beauty abounds across the region, especially in the Shangri-La-like isolation of the Darkhad Valley.
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