The history of Khovd dates back about 240 years. At the north end of town there is a ruined fort where the Manchu dynasty viceroy lived with his troops. Mongolian revolutionaries chased them out in 1912. While the Manchus were ruling, they planted trees along the main streets that can still be seen.
Since 1912, Khovd has developed, acquiring a big hospital, a university for the youth of Western Mongolia, a quality airport, kindergartens, a cinema, and a theater.
Khovd is unique in its diverse ethnic makeup. It consists of 17 soums (similar to a county with each county containing one larger town that also bears the soum's name), some of which have their own ethnic groups including Kazakhs and seven different Mongolian ethnic groups. Many of the small ethnic groups represented in the city are from the surrounding Khovd aimag, and have their own unique dialects, clothes, dances, songs, musical instruments, and ceremonies. Uriankhais (an ethnic group concentrated in Munkhkhairkhan and Duut soums in the Altai Mountains) are of special note; their archery is unique and involves shooting rubber-tipped arrows at leather balls.
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- 1 Khovd Airport (HVD IATA).
- Hunnu Airlines (Building of Buyant Hotel, 1st floor), ☏ (Ulaanbaatar), (Khovd), firstname.lastname@example.org. Reliable airline that flies between Ulaanbaatar and Khovd, and sometimes other aimag capitals in Western Mongolia, and gives good service and prices. Flights regularly sell out, so book in advance. Timetable on Hunnu's website is not always correct. Check the website for updated contact information. Round-trip flights for foreigners are about US$280.
- AeroMongolia, ☏ (Ulaanbaatar), (Khovd), email@example.com. Khovd office is in the Zoos Bank building west of the main square. Timetable on website is not always correct. Up to US$324 round-trip for foreigners.
- Daily service between Khovd and Ulaanbaatar (UB) takes 24 hours or more and costs about USD30. It stops once for food, and for roadside pee breaks by request.
- Overcrowded vans ply the route between Khovd and Ulgii, and take about 7 hours, including a food break. Scheduled to depart from Ulgii at 15:00, but this is Mongolia so don't expect to get going until almost sundown. 20–30,000₮.
UB to Khovd: The bus to Khovd leaves from the Dragon Center in UB. In October 2012, the bus left three times a week around 13:00 from UB, most days, for 65,000 ₮ one way. You can purchase tickets up to three days in advance; speak to a driver about purchasing a ticket or approach the building behind the buses with an "автобус" sign on it. There are several ticket windows with destinations, one of which will be Khovd (Ховд) or you can ask any of the women behind the windows for guidance. Other vehicles leave from the Black Market (Naran Tuul) to Khovd. There are no scheduled times for these vehicles to leave, they leave when the driver thinks his vehicle is full. Prices for vehicles from the Black Market vary but are usually around 65,000 ₮ one way. Travel time can be anywhere from 36 hr to 58 hr, depending on the driver and vehicle.
Khovd to UB: Vehicles leave for UB from Khovd continuously, again you have to go and find a driver who has room and is leaving at approximately the time you want to be heading back to UB. You can find these drivers from a small enclosed area across from the southeast corner of Khovd's central market. The price should be about the same as UB to Khovd.
From China (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region):
- Buses leave daily from Urumqi to Qinghe county （青河县, a small town 150 km from Takeshiken and it takes 8 hours during the day, at night 11 hours – ¥160. Then it’s 15 km more to reach the border: it should be a quick ¥15 cab. After the border, a ride to the Bulgan shoud be easy to find.
There are four significant points in Khovd city: the central square, the "big boots", the market, and the airport. The big boots are at an intersection 2 blocks east of the main square. The market is 3 blocks south of the big boots. The airport is 6km south of the city, accessed by going straight west from the main square (the road quickly curves to point south).
A taxi around Khovd costs 500 ₮ for 1 km.
Transportation within Khovd Aimag - You can get a car, furgon (a 4×4 UAZ van) or jeep in the market to get around the aimag and to neighboring aimags. - Vehicles (jeeps/cars/pargons) for soums leave from two different places near the central market. The first is along the main road in front of the north entrance to the central market. The second is along the road behind the central market. Most of the vehicles don’t have signs so you have to ask around. Usually if you approach someone and they aren’t going to your soum they will know someone to send you to. Most of the vehicles to soums further away come in on the weekends so it can be difficult to leave during the week. Don't expect to leave on a Thursday because that is the day the central market is closed. Khovd aimag approximate soum prices (one-way):
- Bulgan, 25,000 ₮
- Must, 12,000 ₮
- Tsetseg, 12,000 ₮
- Mankhan, 6,000 ₮
- Durgun, 6,000 ₮
- Zereg, 10,000 ₮
- Chandmani, 12,000 ₮
- Munnhairhan, 12,000 ₮
- Uyench, 25,000 ₮
- Altai, 20,000 ₮
- Khovd, 2,500 ₮
- Buyant, 1,500 ₮
- Myangad, 2,500 ₮
It is possible Kazakh, Khalkh Mongolian and other Mongolian ethnic groups' customs and culture, as there are many ethnic groups living in Khovd.
- Baatar Khairhan Mountain - 6 km to the south of the city, and 1 km south of the Khovd Airport is Baatar Khairkhan Mountain. This mountain is an historical site because one of the famous Mongolian generals gave his command to his soldiers and attacked Khovd city and freed it from the Manchu troops in the 1912. There are also many ancient petroglyphs on this mountain (mostly on the south and southwest side).
- Cave paintings - Khovd aimag's best known attractions are the cave paintings at Tsenkheriin Agui in Mankhan soum, a little less than 100 km southeast of the aimag center. However, cave drawings are everywhere so if you don't want to waste the two days to go to Mankhan soum, the mountain behind the airport has a great set of pictures, and locals know where others can be found. These red-ochre paintings are believed to be 15,000 years old, which would date them in the Late Stone Age (or Upper Paleolithic Age). The drawings depict a wide variety of animals, some are readily identifiable, such as camels, sheep, bulls, and ibex, others are open to the interpretation of the viewer, such as a drawing of what appears to be an ostrich. Some of the drawings have been defaced by vandals, though copies of the drawings as they appeared before they were defaced are preserved at the Khovd Museum.
- Mineral springs - There is one big spring which is to the northeast of the city on the road to Buyant and Myangad soum. It is said that people who get poisoned seek treatment from the spring's water. There is another spring on the mountain directly behind the town, called "Drop Spring", about 5 km from the center of Khovd. People believe that it is good for your heart.
- Museum - The museum is in a yellow two-story building across from the police station. It's a place you'll certainly want to see during your time in the aimag center. One of the highlights of the museum's holdings are traditional costumes of the ten ethnic groups of Khovd--full-sized, complete outfits. The museum boasts an impressive collection of archaeological artifacts of nomadic life in Mongolia: bowls, tools, even traditional style thermoses. There are several displays of Buddhist relics and statuettes, and old documents and hangings in ancient Mongolian script. You can also see a rather large photo of the cave paintings at Mankhan sum, actually a better representation of their original appearance now that the actual paintings have been defaced by graffiti. There is also a collection of stuffed wildlife. Summer hours: Daily 09:00-17:00 (actual hours may vary slightly). Admission: 2,000 ₮. Fee for taking photos: 6,000 ₮. Fee for taking videos: 11,000-12,000 ₮.
- Statues - Three of western Mongolia's heroes are commemorated as statues near the government building: Ard-Ayush (1859-1939), was a common man from Khovd whose struggles against the Manchu rulers turned him into a revolutionary hero, his statue is located at the front end of the main square. Galdan Boshogt (1644-1697) was a Zuungarian King who in 1685 founded Khovd as a fort for Mongolian troops preparing for the coming battle against the Manchus; his statue is also in the main square, closer to the government building. A statue of Amarsanaa, a Zuungarian King who led the last battle against the Manchus before the fall of western Mongolia is in a secret park behind the government building.
- Theater - Perhaps Khovd's easiest landmark to find is the theater, a large, bright-red building opposite the square. It's the home of the Altain Tsuurai, a well-known group that plays traditional Mongolian music. The theater hosts many kinds of events, including plays, meetings, and concerts. It's the place to listen to khoomii (throat singing), long song, hear music played on the morin khuur, dombre, and other traditional instruments, or watch traditional Kazakh or Mongolian dancing, if you are lucky enough to be in town during an event. It is officially open on weekdays, but may be locked unless there is an event taking place.
- Swim - Khovd has two big rivers called the Buyant and Khovd Rivers. The Buyant River goes through the town and many people swim in it. During the summer, many residents move from their homes in the city to set up gers along the banks of the Buyant.
Most banks change dollars to togrog, but exchanging euros can be a major headache. A Khaan Bank near the Tushig Hotel might change euros to tugruk. You cannot withdraw money from ATMs with a Mastercard, but according to the banks, Visa should work. Western Union money transfer is not working.
- Kazakh Embroidery Shop - Khovd is a great place to buy Kazakh embroidered goods. There are two local women who make and sell these items: Marima (mobile 99438849) and Berdgul (0143222586), together they run the Kazakh Embroidery Shop. Their workshop makes everything from traditional wall hangings to purses, traditional Kazakh men's hats, pillowcases, and felt carpets. The purses and pillow cases are made with old Kazakh wall hangings so the colors are more subdued to fit the tastes of foreigners. Marima and Berdgul are very friendly and speak fantastic English. The building is on the main road, if you are at the square facing the theater turn right and walk down the right side of the street. You will see the shop's sign just past the apartment building, it is painted in English on the side of the shop.
- Ih Buyan Zah/Pink Market (Их Буян Зах) - This market is a two-story pink building just east of Khovd University. The lower level is mostly for food, there are small sections for meat and produce towards the back. The second floor is loaded with clothing vendors, including some traditional Mongolian deel (traditional clothing) makers (to find them, go straight at the top of the stairs). A traditional deel should cost about 35,000-40,000 ₮ including materials and labor. There are a few surprising shops interspersed amongst the more traditional vendors, including a toy store (2nd floor), a bookstore with English language books (2nd floor), several electronics vendors, and a good stationery store that also sells some souvenirs (1st floor, separate entrance from rest of market, 1st set of doors after the guanz).
- Nomin - M-F 09:00-21:00, Sa Su 10:00-21:00. Nomin is Khovd's big supermarket. There are items in Nomin that can't be found anywhere else in town, particularly in the pricey imported foods section near the front. While they mostly sell food and drinks, they also sell appliances, home furnishings, and have a separate section where people can buy clothes and traditional Mongolian and Kazakh souvenirs. The souvenirs in this section are a bit pricey, as the items are brought in from other parts of the country. They have Chinggis Khaan key chains, wallets, wall hangings, felt slippers, and morin khuurs. For about 25,000 ₮ you can buy vodka that comes in a glass bottle the shape of a ger.
Eating out in Khovd is predictable. Most places serve variations of the same dishes. However, just because an item is on the menu doesn’t mean it is available that day. If you want to eat like a real Mongolian, order milk tea (сүүтай цай suutai tsae) with your meal.
The timetables are official opening and closing times. However, opening and closing times tend to be more flexible in Mongolia versus other places in the world.
- 1 Khovd coffee shop, ☏ . 08:00-21:00 daily.
- 2 Erka Egchiin Guanz. 08:00-19:00 everyday except Tuesdays. On the left as you enter the market gate. Doesn't look like much from the outside, but great huusher.
- 3 Altai Fast Food.
Restaurants offer more expensive, less traditional Mongolian food. Usually comes with sides of rice with ketchup, mashed potatoes and pickled or mayo-ed veggies. Most larger restaurants offer sides like rice with milk or eggs for vegetarians. Most restaurants also have packaged snacks sold at marked-up prices. Beer, wine and vodka are also available.
- 4 Buyant (Minj) Restaurant, ☏ . 07:00-20:00. The sign's name is in English, right next to the Buyant Hotel. It sometimes holds special events, but it is usually pretty quiet. They have a chicken dish menu in addition to its menu of more traditional Mongolian dishes. Seats around 40.
- 5 Winners, ☏ . M-Sa 10:00-22:00. With a central location, right off the square, the restaurant is busy during lunch time, but you can usually find a seat. The large chicken soup is an meal for 4-6 at 15,000 ₮, just ask for more rice. The more expensive dishes are meant to be shared. Soup 3,500 ₮, 2nd course 4,500-14,000 ₮.
- 6 King Restaurant (Elite Restaurant), ☏ . 10:30-23:00 daily.
- 7 Aravt restaurant, ☏ . 09:00-17:00 daily. Very clean.
Mongolian people usually drink salty milk tea. There many different types of beverages and drinks are available in the market such as Coke, juices, and instant coffees and hard liquors as well. In spring time, you can taste traditional beverages such as the fermented mare's milk, health beneficial camel milk and other milks as well.
- Airag - Fermented mare's or camel's milk. Mongolian herders make it during the summer time. If you have a chance to go to out of town, local people may offer you above mentioned drinks and beverages.
There are about ten bars where people spend their free time singing karaoke, dancing, and listening to music.
Hotels in Khovd are mixed-rate generally, meaning that budget, mid-range, and splurge-level rooms can be found in each hotel. Gers tend to be more budget-level in terms of amenities, although that is due to the generally spare nature of ger living in general.
- 1 Buyant Hotel (Minj Hotel) (Буянт) (Southeast of the main square, next door to Winner's cafe), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Though it used to be regarded as the best hotel in town, some newer hotels have challenged the Buyant for the top spot. The three-story brick hotel has 15 rooms.
- 2 Grand Hotel (South of the main square, 2nd floor above Winner's Cafe), ☏ . The bright orange and white Grand Hotel is on the second floor above the popular "Winner's Cafe." It can be accessed through a side entrance; the main office is at the top of the stairs on the left. There are 7 Simple Rooms in the Grand, containing a total of 22 beds. It is debatable if this establishment is even still open. Foreigners 30,000 ₮ per bed.
- 3 Myangan Ugalz Hotel (5 minute walk west of the main square; bright blue hotel at the three-way intersection), ☏ . The three-story bright blue Tsambagarav has 20 rooms, a restaurant, a full-size snooker table, and karaoke room. There are 7 Lux Rooms in the hotel, including 2 Master Lux Rooms and Lux doubles and triples. There are a total of 7 Half-Lux doubles and triples, and 1 Half-Lux single. There are also 5 Simple Rooms.
- 4 Hotel Khovd, ☏ .
- 5 Steppe Hotel, 4th street 4-2 Ховд, ☏ . Seems to be the best lodging option in Khovd. Modern, clean, functional, with restaurant/bar, wifi, free breakfast, kitchenettes, room service.
- Ger Camp (5 km from the center of the town). USD25 per person per night, with meals USD40 per night.
- Strawberry Ger Hostel (5-minute walk from center of town), ☏ (Amraa), (Jennifer). Ideal for budget travelers looking for an authentic experience of Mongolia, it offers accommodation in traditional Mongolian gers (felt tents used by nomads). Pick-up from the airport is available, as well as tea, coffee, and simple Mongolian meals. Groups can also arrange for an authentic Mongolian barbeque by the Buyant River, just outside of town. shared ger 5000 ₮ per bed, single ger 15,000 ₮.
- In the summer, camping near the Buyant river is an option.
The Internet Cafe in the Post Office charges 700 ₮ an hour. There are also several other Internet Cafes in the center.
There are seventeen soums (governmental divisions) in Khovd province (including the aimag center). Some of them are home to different ethnic groups. Please see the Hovd (province) page for more information on the soums and things to do in the surrounding countryside. Most of the true attractions are in the countryside not in the city.
- Khar Us Nuur National Park, ☏ , fax: . This 850,000-hectare nature reserve is surrounded by the Altai, Khangai and Tangyn Mountain ranges, west of the three connected lakes of Khar Us Nuur, Khar Nuur, and Durgun Nuur. The park is filled with wetlands of tall reedbeds, the last of their kind in Central Asia. The park is home to a wide variety of unique bird and mammal species including the Swan Goose, the White-tailed Eagle, the Mongolian Saiga, and the Snow Leopard. Fortunately, the most sensitive areas, the habitats of these animals are off-limits to visitors. The World Wildlife Fund gives considerable support in preserving this unique landscape. Tourists can camp and hike in all but the three restricted areas of the park. Daily fee costs 300 ₮ for foreigners and 300 ₮ for Mongolians. The Jargalant Orgil Community Group, ☏ , offers guided excursions where you can stay in a ger camp on the east coast of the lake if it’s a dry summer, or up in the mountains if there’s been a lot of rainfall. Tourists have the option of exploring several areas around the park including:
- The east coast of the lake, where you can go boating
- Rashaantyn Am Valley, where you can see the highest waterfall in Mongolia
- Ulaan Shiree, where there is nice swimming
- Bayan Khairkhan, meet herders and see traditional culture
- The cost of each night in a ger is 20,000 ₮. This includes three meals per day. The group offers other services at an additional charge including:
- Horse riding, 1,000 ₮ per hour
- Camel riding, 1,000 ₮ per hour
- Mini Naadam, 120,000 ₮
- Khorkhog (traditional meal of goat or mutton) 30,000 ₮
- Panjig (traditional game) 5,000 ₮
- Boating on Khar Us Nuur, 5,500 ₮ per hour
- Throat singing and long song performances, 5,000 ₮
- Local guide 2,000 ₮ per hour
The Bulgan border crossing to Takeshiken (塔克什肯镇) links the province of Khovd with the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (新疆维吾尔族自治区) in the far west of China. This crossing is less frequented by all kinds of travelers, although it’s gaining more popularity owing to its geographical and cultural location.
It traverses the ever impressive Altai Mountains, a cordillera that gives name to the (rather disputed) ethno-linguistic group, the Altaic people. It is a broad term that frames together the Mongolian, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Turks.
Start from Khovd city, go to the bazaar or market and see whose van is taking people to the town of Bulgan. Price is 25,000 ₸ per person and journey time is around five hours. Much less then what it’s mentioned in other online sources, due to a new paved road that has been built (by the Chinese). It is still another few kilometers to get to the actual border crossing so ask the same driver that took you here or somebody else in town take you there. It’s another 5000 ₸ to get there.
There is a town half way to the border, called Jargalant. Beware if you get stuck here, there are a million mosquitoes waiting to suck your blood and it’s quite an unpleasant experience. Prepare repellents.