Yolyn Am Mongolia: Exploring the Ice Canyon in the Gobi Desert

Discover Yolyn Am, the Ice Canyon in Mongolia's Gobi Desert. Experience stunning landscapes and unique natural beauty. Plan your adventure today!

Yolyn Am, Mongolia, is an ice canyon in the Gobi Desert. This unique place features a thick ice field even during warm months. Discover its natural beauty, wildlife, best visiting times, and tips for a memorable trip to Yolyn Am Mongolia.

Key Takeaways

  • Yolyn Am, also known as Vulture Valley, is a significant natural ice field located in the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains of the Gobi Desert, where thick ice layers persist even through warmer months due to a unique microclimate.

  • The valley is a habitat for diverse wildlife, including bearded vultures, ibexes, and the elusive snow leopard, making it a prime destination for wildlife observation and birdwatching.

  • The best time to visit Yolyn Am is between late spring and early autumn, with the period from late May to early June being ideal for witnessing the ice field, and visitors can enhance their experience by staying in traditional ger camps and possibly joining a self-drive guided tour like LIQUI MOLY Extreme Offroad or a private fully organized self drive trip with a digital guide with SIXT Offroad.

Discovering Yolyn Am (Vulture Valley)

Tourists hiking in beautiful green Eagle Valley or Yolyn Am also known as Vulture Gorge

Nestled in the embrace of the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains, Yolyn Am greets visitors with its awe-inspiring beauty. Known to the locals as Vulture Valley, it’s a natural gallery showcasing the artistry of the elements. The valley, named after the majestic Lammergeier or the bearded vulture, is a testament to the resilience of life in the face of harsh climates. The bearded vulture, an Old World vulture, circles the skies, its presence lending the valley a feeling of timeless wilderness.

Amidst the rugged allure, the Yolyn Am ice field presents a stark contrast to the arid surroundings. Heavily shaded canyons cradle a microclimate that preserves a thick layer of ice, defying the desert heat and global warming. Even during the warmer months, adventurers can tread across the frozen surface of this beautiful gorge, where the ice can reach several meters thick after the winter. This phenomenon is not just a sight to behold but a natural puzzle that intrigues scientists and travelers alike.

Wildlife of Yolyn Am

A picture depiction of diverse wildlife in Yolyn Am, including bearded vultures

The gorge’s cliffs and crevices are a sanctuary for an array of wildlife, making it a premier destination for spotting some of Mongolia’s most elusive and majestic animals. Some of the wildlife you may encounter include:

  • Bearded vultures, with their impressive wingspans, dominating the skies

  • Ibexes scaling the steep rock faces with astonishing agility

  • The snow leopard, a symbol of the untamed spirit of the Gobi, roaming freely in the valley’s rugged terrain.

Birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts can revel in the diversity of Yolyn Am’s avian residents, including scavenging birds. Rare birds such as the Altai snowcock and wall creeper add splashes of color and melody to the landscape. With a bit of patience and a keen eye, visitors may also spot the ibex or wild sheep, which often graze in the higher elevations, completing the picture of a thriving ecosystem within the confines of the gorge.

Best Time to Visit Yolyn Am

Timing is key when planning a visit to Yolyn Am. The transitional period between late spring and early autumn is optimal for experiencing the grandeur of the ice field. The sweet spot for witnessing the frozen wonder is late May to early June, when the temperatures are moderate, and the ice is still a commanding presence in the valley. This is also the season where the balance between accessibility and natural spectacle is at its best.

Mornings offer a tranquil experience, allowing visitors to enjoy the gorge without the typical crowds. The light of dawn casts a soft glow on the ice, creating a captivating scene for photographers and nature lovers alike. As midday approaches, so does the warmth, making the cooler hours of the morning particularly appealing for a comfortable trek.

Visiting the Provincial Museum

A visit to the Provincial Museum in Dalanzadgad offers a profound glimpse into the heart of the Gobi. Located a stone’s throw from Yolyn Am, this museum is a treasure trove of knowledge, showcasing the rich tapestry of the region’s history and culture. The exhibits unfold the story of the Gobi, from its prehistoric past with dinosaur fossils to the present, represented by a collection of stuffed animals from the national park.

The museum doesn’t just preserve the remnants of the past; it also celebrates the living culture of Mongolia. Displays of traditional clothing and artifacts provide an intimate look at the lives of the nomadic peoples who have roamed these lands for centuries. After exploring the museum, visitors can peruse the souvenir shops nearby, offering handicrafts and memories crafted by the hands of local artisans.

Accommodations: Tourist Ger Camps

Tourist ger camps near Yolyn Am provide a comforting retreat and a cultural immersion after a day of exploration. These traditional Mongolian dwellings are more than just a place to rest; they are a bridge to understanding the nomadic way of life. Equipped with basic amenities such as hot showers and electricity, the ger camps offer a balance between rustic charm and modern convenience.

The Gobi Nomad Lodge and similar establishments provide a full-board service, ensuring that guests are well-fed with local cuisine and well-rested in the cozy confines of the gers. As night falls, the camp becomes a place of camaraderie and cultural exchange, where stories are shared under the vast Mongolian sky. Staying in a tourist ger camp is an unmissable aspect of the Yolyn Am experience, allowing visitors to connect deeply with the landscape and its people.

Experience Yolyn Am on a SIXT Offroad Self-Drive Tour

The SIXT Offroad self-drive tour beckons the brave-hearted for an adventurous journey. Starting from Ulaanbaatar, this expedition invites you to take the wheel and navigate through Mongolia’s diverse terrains. As you traverse high rocky mountain massifs, the Gurvan Saikhan mountain range, and the Zuun Saikhan mountain, the Yolyn Am ice field becomes a highlight amidst a journey filled with natural and cultural wonders.

The Gobi Sands tour, spanning 6 days, offers a concentrated dose of Mongolian beauty in the heart of the Gobi Desert. Each day unfolds new adventures, including:

  • Hiking up dormant volcanoes

  • Kayaking in untouched waters

  • Camel rides across the Flaming Cliffs

  • Nights spent around a campfire under a crystal-clear sky

These experiences, even those involving dead animals, are sure to etch themselves into memory.

With practicalities taken care of, including local SIM cards and the FollowTheTracks app for guidance, the self-drive tour is as seamless as it is exhilarating. The varied terrain, graded level 3 for its moderate challenge, ensures that every traveler can find their own pace and pleasure in the journey. This type of tour epitomizes the freedom and awe that Mongolia’s landscapes inspire, making it an unforgettable way to visit Yolyn Am.

What to Expect During Your Visit

A saddled tourist horse grazing in the mountains of Eagle Valley aka Vulture Gorge in Yolyn Am, southern Mongolia

Upon arriving at Yolyn Am, the very wide entrance to the canyon welcomes you into a realm of natural splendor. A scenic hike through the gorge awaits, offering a medley of sights, sounds, and sensations. The path, suitable for various skill levels, meanders through the beautiful gorge, inviting you to discover its secrets at your own pace.

Photographers will find themselves in a paradise of vistas, where each turn presents a new opportunity to capture the interplay of light and shadow, ice and rock. The landscape of Yolyn Am is a canvas that changes with the angle of the sun, ensuring that every visit is unique and every snapshot a treasure. This location truly embodies the essence of eastern beauty and offers a glimpse into the natural history of the region.

Essential Tips for Travelers

Several handy tips can enhance your enjoyable and memorable adventure in Yolyn Am. Dressing in layers is advisable; despite the desert surroundings, the temperature can dip, especially during the transition from day to night. Warm clothing will keep you comfortable as you explore the shaded canyons and marvel at the ice.

Robust hiking boots are a must for the rocky terrain, safeguarding your journey through the narrow and sometimes challenging trails. Crossing the stream that winds through the gorge requires sure footing, and quality footwear will be your best ally. Don’t forget to pack a supply of water to stay hydrated during the two-hour hike, as well as sunscreen and insect repellent to protect against the elements.

Lastly, consider the benefits of hiring a local guide. Not only will a guide enhance your understanding of the gorge’s geological and cultural significance, but they can also aid in spotting the more secretive residents of the valley. With these tips in mind, your visit to Yolyn Am will be a harmonious blend of preparedness and spontaneity, leaving you free to fully engage with the wonders of the Gobi.


From the ethereal ice fields of Yolyn Am to the rich history and culture of the Gobi region, this journey has revealed the multifaceted beauty of Mongolia. Whether it’s the thrill of wildlife spotting, the serenity of a hike through the gorge, or the warmth of a ger camp under the stars, Yolyn Am offers an experience that resonates with the soul. Let the spirit of adventure guide you to this magnificent canyon, where the whispers of the earth and the dance of the vultures await.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What is the best time to see the Yolyn Am ice field?

    The best time to see the Yolyn Am ice field is between late May and early June when temperatures are moderate and the ice is still present in the valley.

  • Can I experience local culture during my visit to Yolyn Am?

    Yes, staying in the tourist ger camps near Yolyn Am offers a great opportunity to experience Mongolian culture and try traditional local cuisine.

  • What kind of wildlife might I see in Yolyn Am?

    In Yolyn Am, you may encounter diverse wildlife such as bearded vultures, ibexes, snow leopards, and a variety of other birds and mammals.

  • Are there any guided tours available for exploring Yolyn Am?

    Yes, you can book a self drive tour with SIXT with a digital guide or join guided tour like LIQUI MOLY Extreme Offroad self-drive tour to explore Yolyn Am and other incredible locations in Mongolia.

  • What should I pack for a hike through Yolyn Am?

    When hiking through Yolyn Am, be sure to pack warm clothing, sturdy hiking boots, sunscreen, insect repellent, and enough water to stay hydrated.

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