The Darkhad Valley
The beautiful, mountainous Darkhad Valley, watered by countless rivers and containing 300 lakes, is located in the Far North of Mongolia next to the border with Tuva in Siberia and a four day drive along a dirt track from the capital Ulaanbaatar. It is home to the Darkhad minority people who, like 50% of Mongolians, like in felt tents called gers or yurts and, in the very Far North, the Dukha or Tsaatan reindeer herders who live in conical tents similar to the North American teepee. The area is home to some of the most powerful shamans in Mongolia.
To get to the Darkhad Valley, sometimes known as the Darkhad Depression, you must first get to the town of Moron (stress on the second syllable!). This is a two day drive from Ulaanbaatar along a road that is just a pair or wheel ruts cutting across the steppe. Public transport is irregular and limited to cramped, uncomfortable minivans so you may want to hire your own vehicle and transport from the capital (see the Ulaanbaatar page). Once in Moron you need to get a permit for the Darkhad Valley from the police, which can be done in a matter of minutes and which your driver will facilitate if you have hired your own vehicle.
From Moron to the last village in the north of Mongolia, Tsagaannuur, it is another day and a half or two day drive along an even worse, in fact almost non-existent, “road”. In Tsagaannuur, show your permit to the local military outpost. If you don’t have a tent there is a very basic guest house here. There is also an English-speaking guide called Ultsi who has lots of very good contacts among the Dukha / Tsaatan reindeer herders and the most powerful local shamans and can take you to them.
From Tsagaannuur it is possible to drive through country dotted with the gers of the Darkhad minority people to within a half-day walk of the first encampments of the reindeer herders. It’s beautiful scenery though and the locals are very friendly so it’s well worth walking all the way instead if you have a few spare days. From the first encampments of the reindeer herders to the last it’s about a day’s walk.
The Darkhad Valley can also be accessed on a long trek from Lake Khovsgol.
Click here for my blog about the drive from Ulaanbaatar to Tsagaannuur. It’s 3170 words and 10 photos.
Click here for my blog about the Darkhad Valley, Darkhad people and Dukha / Tsaatan reindeer herders. It’s 5123 words and 24 photos.
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