Khentii aimag is the birthplace of the Great Emperor Chinggis Khaan. It is situated in a region of great natural beauty, yet only a day’s (331 km) drive from the capital city Ulaanbaatar. It borders in the north with the Russian Federation.
Hentii is one of the 21 aimags (provinces) of Mongolia. The aimag is set up in 1923 initially as the
Khan Khentii Mountain aimag with the administrative units consisting of 25 khoshuus, 2 shavis, 109 soums, and 328 baghs (the smallest administrative unit).
At present Hentii aimag has 20 soums and 3 towns with more than 70 thousand population in total. The ethnic groups Khalkh and Buryad live in this locality. The territory of the aimag extends over
80 thousand square kilometers. The aimag administrative centre is Underkhaan, which is ideally located as a gateway to the Eastern Mongolia.
Hentii aimag accommodates part of the giant Khan Khentii Protected Area covering over 1.2 million hectares of the rugged Hentii mountains, being bordered with Terelj National Park to west. There are several peaks that rise over 2000 meters above sea level, with the highest one being Asralt Khaikhan (2,800 meters).
Khan Khentii mountain range has preserved its original features, and is located between Eurasian coniferous forest taiga and Central Asian arid steppe. There are over 70 rivers of a various size, including the three large ones the Tuul, Onon and Kerulen that have their sources from numerous springs at Hentii range, where lies the world watershed of three huge drainage basins: the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and the Inland Basin of Central Asia. The Tuul flows northward across the Russian border and into Lake Baikal and on to the Arctic Ocean, the Onon and Kerulen both flow eastward to join Amur before emptying into Pacific Ocean.
The climate, soil and landscape change as one goes from the West to East, The annual perception is about 8-12 inches (200-300 mm).
Hentii aimag is rich in therapeutic hot & cold springs such as Gurvan nuur, Ono, Avarga toson, Tars and others, used for medical purposes.
The prime sector of its economy is agriculture, including animal husbandry. Horses, cows and sheep prevail in the husbandry. The area, specifically the town of Galsher in the south of the aimag is famous for its fast horses. The racehorse from this place, known “Elbeg” won the nation-wide horseracing competition 17 times.
The aimag land exhibits the richest diversity of plant and animal life. It is rich in wild berries, such as red and black current, strawberry, blue berry as well as different kinds of medical herbs. Hentii is home to endangered musk dear and moose, brown bear, wolf, lynx, badger, wolverine, weasel, sable, roe-deer, elk and squirrels. White gazelle, fox, steppe fox, marmots and hares come across in plenty in the steppe and grasslands.
There are many species of birds, including whooper swans, spoonbills, and great white egrets and raptors are found here. The land contains mineral resources such as gold, silver, smoky quartz, asbestos, tungsten, flour spar, coal, and iron ore, tin and copper.
Nowadays, Hentii aimag represents one of the tourist attractions. It has many historical places, especially related to the life of Chinggis Khaan as he was born, grew up, raised to power, was crowned, and considered to be buried here. These attractions include Khokh Nuur (Blue Lake)–place where Temujin was crowned as Chinggis Khaan in 1206, Ikh Aureg (Palace) of Chinggis Khaan–the site closely connected with the historical work “The Secret History of the Mongols” (Mongolyn Nuuts Tovchoo) written in 1240, Doloon Boldog in Kherlen Khuduu-Aral, often mentioned in this masterpiece, Gundgavirlan monastery built in 1660 and reopened in 1990s, an impressive Chinggis Khaan Statue in the Gurvan Nuur, built in 1962 to commemorate the 800th anniversary of his birth, the Galtai Agui ( a 80 meter deep cave), and others.
In addition, there are other places of interest such as stone pictures, ruins of 13th and 14th century towns, Stone Walls of the Kidan Dynasty, Hajuu balug and Oglogch walls, Hermen-zam. Baldan Breiven, a Buddhist Monastery rebuilt in the 1990s, which is very similar to the famous Utai Gumban in Tibet.
Khuduu Aral is a plain about 30 kilometres long and 20 kilometres wide on the meander of the Kherlen river, west of the Kherlen Toono, and south of the mountain of Kherlen Bayan Ulaan , at the altitude of 1.300 m above sea level. The site of Ikh Aurug (palace) of Chinggis Khaan is on this plain. This site is closely connected with the historical work “The Secret history of the Mongols” because it was finished exactly here. To honour the 750th anniversary of this event , a historic monument was erected here in 1990. Hereabouts are places such as Doloon Boldog and Shilhentseg, mentioned in ” The Secret history of the Mongols ” .
The Khan Khentii State Protected Area is situated in the territory of Erdene and Mungunmort soums of Tuv aimag, Batshireet and Umnudelger soums of Khentii aimag, and Yeruu and Mandal soums of Selenge aimag, with the rivers Kherlen, Onon, Tuul, Minj and their tributaries. The area encompasses 1,227,074 hectares of the rugged Khentii mountains, streching from just north-east of Ulaanbaator to the Russian border. It has been protected since 1992. Khan Khentii mountain range has preserved its original features and is located between Eurasian coniferous forest taiga and Central Asian arid steppe. The sources of three major river systems spring from the protected area: the Tuul which flows to Russia’s Lake Baikal and on to the Arctic Ocean, and the Onon and Kherlen, which flow East to join Amur before emptying into Pacific Ocean. The Khan Khentii mountain range represents basic characteristics of a natural zone and includes 5 kinds of landscapes of real taiga. It’s also the ancestral home of Chinggis Khaan.
The peak of Tsogt Chandmana Uul, at the end of the Khentii Mountain Range, is the world watershed of three huge drainage basins: the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and the Inland Basin of Central Asia. This mountain is located only 80 kilometres south of Ulanbaator, with an elevation of 1,854 meters above sea level.
The Avraga is a small river which takes it’s source from the mountain of Kherlen Bayan Ulaan, and falls to the south into the river Kherlen. There is a spring on the valley of the river Avraga, with a composition including bicarbonate and carbonic gas. The river was named the Avraga because of the palace of Chinggis Khaan which was built on it’s bank.
It is considered that a hill, at an altitude of 1,231 meters above sea level and located north-west of the center of Binder soum, is the place where Chinggis Khaan was born.
The lake of Gurvan Nuur Rashaan is located in the center of Dadal soum, at an altitude of 800 metres above sea level. The waters include sulphur, sodium, potassium and magnesium. For this reason a health resort has been opened for people who suffer from cardiovascular, digestive, skin and venereal deseases. Gurvan Nuur Rashaan is also famous for the first monument to Chinggis Khaan, erected in 1962.
The small City Museum, North of the park, was recently renovated. Apart from the normal exhibits, the museum has a huge mastodon tusk (an extinct elephant-like’ mammal) and some Chinggis Khaan armor.
Dashdeejetliin Khiid. This small monastery is in an 18th century building next to the Ethnic Museum. Originally part of the Tsetseg Khaan’s palace, it was converted into a temple in 1994. It is served by five lamas and opens sporadically.
The original Gundgavirlan monastery was built in 1660 and housed the first Buddhist philosophy school in Mongolia. At its peak, the monastery was home to over 1000 monks. In the spring of 1938, the Stalinist purge reached Khentii and the monks were all arrested. The buildings remained standing until the 1950s, when they were torn down.
In 1990 the monastery reopened in a ger. Two years later, the present monastery was opened on the original site. Although all photos of the original monastery were burned, some of the old people – relying on memory alone – worked with a painter during the 1960s to recreate a portrait of the monastery. This painting has been preserved and hangs in the temple. The monastery is about 300m South of the main street. The monastery has 30 lamas, and foreigners are welcome to see the ceremony that takes place most mornings.