Gurvan Saikhan National Park
Gurvan Saikhan National Park is in southern Mongolia on the northern edge of the Gobi desert. Its name is derived from the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains in the eastern part of the park, and translates as the ‘Three Beauties’, referring to the three subranges: the Eastern, Middle and Western Beauty. The Eastern Beauty is the highest of the peaks at 2,846 metres (9,337ft). The park was first established in 1993, but was expanded in 2000 and now covers nearly 27,000sq km (10,425.5sq mls).
The Eastern Beauty holds one of the park’s main attractions, Yolyn Am Canyon notable for its deep blue-veined ice field, which is several meters thick by the end of winter and several kilometres long, but is now subject to a warming climate and does not last year round.
In the neighbouring hills is a collection of rock carvings known as the Khavtsgait Petroglyphs, which date from between 3,000BC and 8,000BC. Some depict many of the native animals such as antelopes, ibexes and mountain sheep; others show galloping horses, hunters, camels and riders, and wheeled carts.
As well as mountains the park holds areas of rocky and sandy desert, the most famous of which are the Khongoryn Els, sometimes known as the Singing Dunes from the sound the sand makes as it is blown by the wind. The dunes are up to 300 metres (984ft) high, 12km (7.45mls) wide and 100km (62mls) long.
Vegetation in the park is sparse but varied and supports a wide variety of and animals, many of them endangered including the snow leopard and the Gobi camel, or the Wild Bactrian camel. Other animals to be seen are the argali sheep, ibex and gazelles. Birds abound but the most spectacular is the lammergeier or bearded vulture which inhabits the mountains. It has an impressively large wing span of 2.31–2.83 m (7.6–9.3 ft) and is the only known animal whose diet is almost exclusively bone.