Although not really a salty "sea", the "Khövsgöl Dalai" ("Khövsgöl Ocean"), which is the northernmost lake of Mongolia, is so huge that it forms the second-largest freshwater reserve of Asia, only topped in volume by gigantic Lake Baikal. The 136 km long and 262 m deep, sacred and protected Lake Khövsgöl is located in the wilderness of the remote Mountain-Taiga-region just South of the Mongolian-Russian border, at an elevation of more than 1,600 m above sea level. On its Western and Northern shores, the up to 3,500 m high, snow-capped peaks of the Eastern Sayan Mountain Range tower into the sky. These mountains are home to one of the world's last populations of snow leopards but also bears, wolves, eagles, moose and wild reindeer live here. Winter holds a firm grip on the area for more than eight months a year – with temperatures regularly dropping as low as -50°C. No wonder, the thick ice on the lake usually doesn't break up before early June.
This majestic scenery will be our home for almost three weeks. After our arrival in Mörön (domestic flight from Ulaanbaatar) we'll spend a night in the very comfortable and lovingly-made yurt-hotel of our friends Esee and Möögii. The next day, we'll go shopping and drive on to Khatgal, a small but busy town on the southern tip of the lake. Here we'll spend another night before we start our paddling the next day.
For the next 14 days, we'll be paddling and camping – and that's it. We are planning to do a full circle around the lake, starting and ending in Khatgal. This will be around 300 km in total. Sticking to Mongolian custom, we'll probably do our circle clockwise, which means we'll paddle up North on the West coast where we will first pass a couple of luxury ger camps (yurt hotels) that have been set up here in recent years. However, the further away we'll get from Khatgal, the less such infrastructure we'll encounter. Soon enough there will be only a few solitary yurts and yaks grazing on remote and peaceful pastures. And much of the time just mountain meadows and Taiga forest. Peace and tranquility. We'll be camping and cooking on lonely gravel beaches or under old, phenomenal larch trees. And on the next day, we'll set off to do just the same thing again.
After a week of paddling we should reach Khankh, the little bordertown near the northern tip of the lake. Here we can stock up some supplies. From here we'll turn south again, along the Eastern shore of the lake.
On our way south, there may be the option (weather permitting) to paddle out to the islands of Modyn Khüü or Khadan Khüi. The first one is a rather big island far out in the lake – the second a steep rock occupied by a huge flock of seabirds in summer.
Back to Ulaanbaatar
After spending the night in Khatgal, we'll drive back towards Ulaanbaatar. This 1000-km-drive will take us through the Selene-valley and the beautiful forest-steppes of Bulgan aimag. On the way, we'll sleep in a small guesthouse at Amarbayarsgalant, one of the most famous Buddhist monasteries of Mongolia.
In Ulaanbaatar remains enough time to enjoy the city, go shopping for souvenirs and of course our obligatory farewell-dinner party.