Jargalant Mountain overlooking Khar Us Nuur in Hovd aimag
Hovd is a city in the Hovd province of Mongolia.
The history of Hovd 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 today.
Since 1912, Hovd has developed, acquiring a big hospital, a university for the youth of Western Mongolia, a quality airport, kindergartens, a cinema, and a theater.
Hovd 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 Hovd 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 especial note—their archery is unique and involves shooting rubber-tipped arrows at leather balls.
- EZnis Airline, ☎ +976 11 331111 (Ulaanbaatar), . The most reliable airline that flies between Ulaanbaatar and Hovd. The Hovd EZnis office is on the 2nd floor of the bright yellow Xac Bank building near the central market, the staff speaks English and are helpful. All times local. Round-trip flights for foreigners are about $434.
- AeroMongolia, ☎ +976 11 330373 (Ulaanbaatar); +976 99164050 (Hovd), . Hovd office is in the Zoos Bank building near the main square. $424 round-trip for foreigners.
UB to Hovd: The bus to Hovd leaves from the Dragon Center in UB. At this time (October 2012) the bus leaves three times a week around 1 p.m. from UB, most days, for 65,000T 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 Hovd (Ховд) or you can ask any of the women behind the windows for guidance. Other vehicles leave from the Black Market (Naran Tuul) to Hovd. 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 65,000T one way. Travel time can be anywhere from 36hrs to 58hrs, depending on the driver and vehicle.
Hovd to UB: Vehicles leave for UB from Hovd 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 Hovd's central market. The price should be about the same as UB to Hovd.
A taxi around Hovd costs 500T for 1KM.
Transportation within Hovd Aimag
- You can get a car, furgon 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.
Hovd aimag approximate soum prices (one-way):
• Bulgan, 25,000T
• Must, 12,000T
• Tsetseg, 12,000T
• Mankhan, 6,000T
• Durgun, 6,000T
• Zereg, 10,000T
• Chandmani, 12,000T
• Munnhairhan, 12,000T
• Uyench, 25,000T
• Altai, 20,000T
• Hovd, 2,500T
• Buyant, 1,500T
• Myangad, 2,500T
Anything is possible to see in Hovd such as Kazakh, Khalkh Mongolian and other Mongolian ethnic groups customs and culture. It is a chance for every tourist because there are many ethnic groups living in Hovd.
The Entrance to the Cave at Tsenkheriin Agui
- Baatar Khairhan Mountain - 6 kilometers to the south of the city, and one kilometer south of the Hovd 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 Hovd 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 - One of Hovd 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. 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 in recent years, though copies of the drawings as they appeared before they were defaced are preserved at the Hovd 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 5km from the center of Hovd. 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 Hovd--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 grafitti. There is also a collection of stuffed wildlife. Summer hours: Daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Actual hours may vary slightly). Admission: 2,000T. Fee for taking photos: 6,000T. Fee for taking videos: 11,000-12,000T.
The Statue of Amarsanaa in the Secret Park
- Statues - Three of western Mongolia's heroes are commemorated as statues near the government building: Ard-Ayush (1859-1939), was a common man from Hovd 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 Hovd 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 - Hovd has two big rivers called the Buyant and Hovd 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 ATM's with a Mastercard, but according to the banks, Visa should work. Western Union money tranfer is not working at the time of writing.
- Kazakh Embroidery Shop - Hovd 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. Both 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 Hovd 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 makers (to find them, go straight at the top of the stairs). A traditional deel should cost about 35,000-40,000T 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: 9-9, S-Sun: 10-9. Nomin is Hovd'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, and wall hangings, as well as felt slippers and morin khuurs. For about 25,000T you can buy vodka that comes in a glass bottle the shape of a ger.
Eating out in Hovd 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 time tables are official opening and closing times. However, opening and closing times tend to be more flexible in Mongolia versus other places in the world.
Your best budget option is the many guanzes, or hole-in-the-wall fast food canteens that offer more traditional Mongolian fare. Typically only open during the day, most simply offer a dish until it runs out. Often guanzes are located behind unmarked doors in spaces with just enough room for a table and the cook. If you are unsure if it is a guanz, just open the door and peek inside - that's what the locals do!
- Zochin Buuz (Зочин Бууз). Open Everyday. Everything on the menu is usually available at this popular market guanz. Usually have ketchup, soy sauce and hot pepper sauce. Friendly owner. Receive a piece of gum at the end of the meal. At market right before the right turn to the vegetable section. Seats about 40. 600-1500T.
- Pink Market guanz. 8-7 everyday except Tuesdays. On the left as you enter the market gate. Great huusher. Huusher 170T buuz 150T.
- Naran Bakery (Наран Бейкери), ☎ +976 91436272. everyday except Sat 9-9.. Baked goods are ready between 2PM-3PM. Won local award for bakeries. This bakery’s food stuffs are sold around town, but here you can sit in an orange cafeteria seat and drink a cup of instant coffee with your treat. Friendly staff, small, empty place; good place to sit. From 100₮ for individual goodies; cakes 20,000-30,000T.
- Police guanz. M-F. This unmarked guanz is a popular lunchtime spot for local police. Across from the post office, a great place to eat a quick lunch after using the Internet. The friendly owner usually makes 2-3 dishes a day. Meals under 1,000T.
- Brick guanz. M-Sat. The friendly owner and his hardworking staff usually update the white board with available dishes. Down the street from the square. Meals under 1,000₮.
- Hurag (Хураг Зоогийн Газар). M-Su 9-5. A little more expensive than a guanz but cheaper than a restaurant. This guanz's chef serves stir-fry dishes typically found at restaurants. You need to purchase rice separately but usually has hot pepper sauce. Down the aisle toward the vegetables in the big market on the right. Seats about 20. 1000-2500T.
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.
- Beleg Tov (Бэлэг Төв). Mon-Wed, Fri 10-9, Thurs 10-4, Sat from 4PM. Near the market, white building in between Haan (Хаан) Bank and a yellow apartment building Near Tushing Hotel. The restaurant is on the 2nd floor and turns into a bar at 9PM. There are a couple of private rooms for large parties or those wanting to escape the disco. The only restaurant in town with an English menu. Soups 1,500T, Main dishes 1,800T.
- Winners, ☎ +976 99034045. Mon-Sat 10AM-10PM. With a central location, right off the square, the restaurant is busy during lunch time, but you can usually find a seat. The service can be a bit slow. The more expensive dishes are meant to be shared. Soup 1,500T, 2nd Course 1,500-4,000T.
- Tsomorlig Cafe (Цоморлиг), ☎ +976 99087503. Mon-Sat 10AM-9PM. This small restaurant with a green sign opposite the police station is always packed during the lunchtime rush. There are traditional Mongolian meals on the menu, as well as many kinds of salads. The main meals are served on cow-shaped iron skillets. Soup: 1,600T, Main Dishes: 1,500-3,500T.
- Buyant Restaurant, ☎ +976 99439043. 7AM-8PM. The sign's name is in English, right next to the Buyant Hotel. It sometimes holds special events, but it is usually pretty quiet. It is the only place in town that serves breakfast, and they recently added a chicken dish menu in addition to its menu of more traditional Mongolian dishes. Seats around 40. Soup: 1,500T, Huurag: 1,800-4,000Tь Average meal price: 2,500T.
- Ikh Mongol (Их Монгол), ☎ +976 14 22386,. Mon-Sun 9AM–midnight.. This restaurant looks like an American chain restaurant trying to look authentic. Popular local place for dinner parties and karaoke. Outdoor seating available during the summer. There pictures of main dishes on menu to assist those who cannot read Mongolian. Ikh Mongol’s food selection is a bit more unique and varied than other restaurants but is hampered by slow service. Many dishes can be shared. Chinese food, 3,000-6,000T; 2nd course, 1,200–4,000T.
- Naran Tuv (Наран Төв). This bright yellow restaurant is clean, neat, spacious, and has ok service. Near the main market between the light green "XAAH" Bank and the light yellow "XAC" Bank buildings. A popular place to take visiting VIPs, it is farmous in Hovd for its variety of food and beverages. A World Top 40 mix plays on a boom box, and a popular disco bar is on the second floor. Seats around 40. Soup: 1,500T, Main Dishes: 1,300-3,800T.
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 Hovd 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.
- Buyant Hotel (Буянт), (Southeast of the main square, next door to Winner's cafe), ☎ +976 43 23860 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Though historically regarded as the best hotel in town, some recent additions to the cityscape have challenged the Buyant for the top spot. The three-story brick hotel has 15 rooms. Lux Rooms 35,000T, Half-Lux doubles and triples 18,000-21,000T per bed, Simple Rooms with 5 beds each 6,000T per bed.
- Grand Hotel, (South of the main square, 2nd floor above Winner's Cafe), ☎ +976 99 034045. 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. Foreigners 7,000T per bed, Mongolians 5,000T per bed.
- Myangan Ugalzat Hotel (Мянган Угалзат), (10 minute walk west of the main square, across from Progress School). Opened in 2003, this plain white, sprawling two-story hotel is clean and comfortable and has 16 rooms with a variety of bed combinations (mostly double and triple). Lux (includes hot water) 18,000T, Half-Lux double 10,000T per bed, Simple double/triple rooms 8,000T per bed.
- Tsambagarav Hotel (Цамбагарав), (5 minute walk west of the main square; bright blue hotel at the three-way intersection), ☎ +976 99 432424 (fax: +976 01 43 222260). The newest hotel in Hovd opened in November 2007. The three-story bright blue Tsambagarav has 20 rooms, a restaurant, a full-size snooker table, and is planning to open a pub, internet cafe, and karaoke room soon. 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. Master lux 30,000-40,000T, Lux doubles and triples 12,000-15,000T per bed, Half-lux triple/double/single 12,000-15,000T per bed, Simples 8000T per bed.
- Tushig Hotel (Түшиг), (10 minute walk south of the main square; set back from the road on the west side of the road), ☎ +976 01 43 222245. Opened in 2007, the Tushig is easy to miss, but travelers who overlook it will be overlooking a very comfortable and economical place to stay. The three-story, mint-green Tushig has a friendly staff and a manager that speaks some basic English. The hotel has 5 rooms - 1 Lux Room, 1 Half-Lux Room with 2 beds, and 3 Simple Rooms: 2 are doubles, the other is a triple. Lux 25000T, Half-lux 12500T per bed, Simple 6000T per bed.
- Ger Camp, (five kilometers from the center of the town). 25 USD$ per person per night, with meals 40 USD$ per night.
- Strawberry Ger Hostel, (5 minute walk from center of town), ☎ Amraa +976 99 437488 or Jennifer +976 95 742361. 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 5000T per bed, single ger 15,000T.
- In the summer, camping near the Buyant river is an option.
The Internet Cafe in the Post Office charges 700T an hour. There are also several other Internet Cafes in the center.
There are seventeen soums (governmental divisions) in Hovd 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, 976 01432-22334 (fax 976 01432-22334). 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 3000 tugriks for foreigners and 300 tugriks for Mongolians. The Jargalant Orgil Community Group, tel. 976 9943 8855, 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 tugriks (about $20). This includes three meals per day. The group offers other services at an additional charge including:
- Horse riding, 1,000T per hour
- Camel riding, 1,000T per hour
- Mini Naadam, 120,000T
- Khorkhog (traditional meal of goat or mutton) 30,000T
- Panjig (traditional game) 5,000T
- Boating on Khar Us Nuur, 5,500T per hour
- Throat singing and long song performances, 5,000T
- Local Guide 2,000T per hour
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