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Geography

Location and Topography

With its 1.5 million square kilometers Mongolia is 37 times larger than Switzerland, or, three times the size of France. However, there are three times less people living in this country than in Switzerland with a population of 7 millions. The forests, called Taiga, extend from Siberia to deep into the heart of Mongolia. The desert Gobi reaches from China into the south, and in the west, the mountains of the Altai influence the weather of the whole country. In the east flat hills form an undulating landscape. Most parts in Mongolia lie higher than 1000 m above sea level.

Boundaries

Remarkably long frontiers with the Russian Federation and China: 4,673 km with China and 3,485 km with the Russian Federation. The total length of its borders is 7.678 km.

Area

Lying in the centre of the Asian continent, Mongolia covers an area of 1,566,5 sq.km. Vast country - nearly 3 times the size of France and more than 4 times the United Kingdom. Mongolia is the 6th largest country in Asia and the 18th largest in the world.

Altitude

One of the highest countries in the world with one of Eurasia's highest capitals. Average altitude: 1,580m above sea level. Ulaanbaatar: 1,350m above sea level. The highest point is the Huiten peak (4,653m) in the west and the lowest is the Khokh Nuur lake depression in the east - a more 532m above sea-level.

Wild Life

Nearly 10% is forest, mainly conifers in the northern region next to Siberia. Most of Mongolia is wide open 'steppe' grasslands in transition with the arid lands of the Gobi Desert. The forests support wolf, wild boar, elk, moose, deer, caribou, antelope and brown bear. The steppes and forest margins support marmot, muskrat, fox, steppe fox and sable. Remote mountains support wild cats such as lynx and snow leopard. Mongolia is the home of the wild ass, wild camel, wild sheep and also nocturnal yellow gobi bear. The wild horse (takhi) is being reintroduced from captive herds abroad. Bird life is rich and includes golden eagle, bearded vulture and other birds of prey, while the 2,000 lakes are a magnet for water birds including storks and even herring gull and relict gull. The 2,000 lakes support 50 species of fish unique to Mongolia.

The Landscape

Forests covering plains and mountains, steppes, desert regions, salt lakes, they are all fascinating forms of the diverse landscape. The river Selenga, traversing the north of the country, may quickly turn into a turbulent river during the summer months. It embodies the largest water catchment area of the magnificent Lake of Bajkal, situated only 200 km north of Mongolia.

The Climate

Mongolia's highly continental climate is characterised by very cold and long winters, often with little snow. Average daily temperature may easily drop below -30 C. The exceptionally hard and unusually snowy winter of 2000/2001 has been very difficult for the Mongoliens. During that winter temperatures were at times below minus 50 degrees C. The summers are short, quite warm and occasionally very wet. Spring and autumn last rarely more than 5-6 weeks.

The Transport System

The most important railway line, linking Moscow and Peking, crosses Mongolia after Irkutsk and Ulan Ude, the capital of Buryatya. Mongolia can also be entered by air from Russia or China. The beginning and end of touristic tours is in most cases Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. Other economically important centres are linked by air with the capital. Since few roads in the interior of Mongolia are sealed, four-wheel drives are necessary when travelling. Most people living far away from the cities use the horse as the common means of transport.

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