Hovd or Khovd (Mongolian: Ховд) 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.
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 special note; their archery is unique and involves shooting rubber-tipped arrows at leather balls.
phone: +976 11 331111 (Ulaanbaatar), +976 7043 8889 (Hovd)Reliable airline that flies between Ulaanbaatar and Hovd, 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.
phone: +976 11 330373 (Ulaanbaatar), +976 99164050 (Hovd)Hovd office is in the Zoos Bank building west of the main square. Timetable on website is not always correct.
- Daily service between Hovd and Ulaanbaatar 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 Hovd 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 Hovd: The bus to Hovd 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 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 65,000 ₮ one way. Travel time can be anywhere from 36 hr to 58 hr, 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.
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.
OrientationThere are four significant points in Hovd 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).
TransportA taxi around Hovd costs 500 ₮ for 1 km.
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, 25,000 ₮
- 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 ₮
- Hovd, 2,500 ₮
- Buyant, 1,500 ₮
- Myangad, 2,500 ₮
- Baatar Khairhan Mountain - 6 km to the south of the city, and 1 km 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 - 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. 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 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 5 km 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 Hovdfull-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 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 ATMs with a Mastercard, but according to the banks, Visa should work. Western Union money transfer is not working.
- 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. 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 35,000-40,000 ₮ 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 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, 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.
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.
Pink Market guanzOn the left as you enter the market gate. Great huusher.
Naran Bakeryphone: +976 91436272Baked goods are ready between 14:00 and 15:00. 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.
HuragA 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.
Mid-rangeRestaurants 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 TovNear 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 21:00. 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.
OchirNext to the Red Floor, second floor. Great food and staff. You maybe able to get the summer free wifi from the square as you eat.
Buyant Restaurantphone: +976 99439043The 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 have a chicken dish menu in addition to its menu of more traditional Mongolian dishes. Seats around 40.
Winnersphone: +976 99034045With 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.
Ikh Mongolphone: +976 14 22386,This restaurant looks like a themed chain restaurant trying to look authentic. Popular when everywhere else is closed. Ikh Mongol’s food selection is a bit more unique. Many dishes can be shared. Staff could not have more dislike for customers if they tried. Known for food poisoning and never telling customers their dish is unavailable.
Naran TuvThis 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. Seats around 40.
- 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.
HotelsHotels 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 Hotelphone: +976 43 23860Though 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.
Grand Hotelphone: +976 99 034045The 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.
Tsambagarav Hotelphone: +976 99 432424The best hotel in Hovd. 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.
Strawberry Ger Hostelphone: +976 99 437488 (Amraa), +976 95 742361 (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.
- In the summer, camping near the Buyant river is an option.
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 Parkphone: +976 01432-22334This 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
To ChinaThe Bulgan border crossing to Takeshiken (塔克什肯镇) links the province of Hovd 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 Hovd 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 repellants.