Orkhon Valley is located North of the province of Ovorkhangai, in the central part of Mongolia, about 360 kilometres (224 miles) Southeast of Ulan Bator. Located at the foot of the Khangai range, this site protected by UNESCO since 1992 covers 121.967 hectares along the Orkhon River. A buffer zone of 61.044 hectares is protected too.
The basin of the Orkhon River has many historical vestiges, because many successive nomads had been living in the valley since the prehistoric period. This area is often considered as the cradle of the nomadic civilization of the steppes and was a real forum of civilizations during the last millennium because it bound East to West in the middle of the large Eurasian continent.
In the course of the centuries, many nomadic tribes lived in Orkhon Valley. The first proof of living were found on the sites of Moiltiin Am and Orkhon-7, and allow us to think that the valley was inhabited 60.000 years ago. Afterwards, the valley was still inhabited during the prehistoric period and the Bronze Age, then was successively inhabited by the Huns, the Turkish-speaking people, the Uyghurs, the Kidans and at last by the Mongolian people.
Consequently, we find today many archaeologic vestiges, such as Turkish memorialsdating back from the 6th and 7th centuries, Khar Balgas that was the Uyghur capital during the 8th and 9th centuries, and of course Kharkhorin, the Mongolian capital during the 13th and 14th centuries, founded by Genghis Khan.
We can also visit many monasteries, such as Erdene Zuu Monastery that is the oldest Buddhist monastery of Mongolia, Tovkhon Hermitage, or Shankh Monastery. All these places show the religious traditions of the Mongolian nomads.
Today, Orkhon Valley is a large place of nomadism where many breeders usually set up their camp. The picturesque steppes’ landscapes, surrounded by the verdant Khangai Massif, the rich fauna and flora, make this area the perfect place to discover the nomadic Mongolia in an enchanting leafy setting. It’s also very pleasant to ride horses and the valley is the point of departure for many hikes or treks in the surrounding mountains. It’s possible to fish or to bike in the mountains.
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