Alkhanay National Park

This is the youngest Russian national park that was created in 1999 in order to preserve the Trans-Baikal treasures located in the Alkhanay territory including unique ecosystems and sacred ancient sites.

The park represents mid-mountain lands with absolute altitudes of 1000-1200 meters. The main mountain chain is formed by the Mogotuysky Range. The highest point of not only the range but the entire territory is the Alkhanay Mountain (1662 metres above sea level) located at the range’s south-western part. The mountain-tops of the Alkhanay massif are dome-shaped and sporadically covered with stone fields.

The most famous place among tourists and pilgrims is the area of a natural arch, so-called Gates Temple, at the place Ubzhogoye. The park is situated in the territory of the Aginsk Buryat Autonomous District. The park’s boundaries go alongside the Daursky Range (in the north and in the west); alongside the Bortschevsky Range (south and south-west) and the federal highway Chita-Darasun-Duldurga-Mongolia (in the east).

The area of the park is 138.2 thousand hectares; it is surrounded by a 500 metre wide protective zone. You can get to the park by motor transport from Chita to Duldurga village (by federal highway A 167 – 250 km) or from Aginskoye village to Duldurga village (by common road – 90 km).

Rivers, Lakes and Mineral Springs

The park territory belongs to the basin of the Upper Amur River and occupies most of the Ilya River’s (left tributary of the Onon River) catchment area. There are 37 large and small streams flowing across the park. The main river is the Ilya. It begins in the valley between Daursky and Mogotuysky Ranges and passes around the Alkhanay massif from west, north and east. The river’s length is 153 kilometres. The tributaries of the Ilya are mostly streams of 10 km in length and 1-2 metres wide. The most significant of Ilya’s feeders situated within the park are Lower Niksnda, Baysen, Shinogda, Ubzhogoye and Amitkhasha rivers.

The lakes of the park are few. The biggest ones are Lake Balzino, Lake Krasnoyarove and three Alkhanay lakes.
Alkhanay’s mineral springs are highly valued not only by locals but tourists and pilgrims. Surface and underground waters belong to cold sweet waters of the hydro-carbonate calcium type.

The Plant Life

The distribution of vegetation within the park area is subject to the laws of altitudinal climatic zones. The forest steppe is predominant at the massif’s base changes into forest zone and higher – to cedar-larch open forest. The most common types of plant association are: cedar-larch open forest, larch forests with undergrowth of Dahurian rhododendron, mixed forests (larch-birch, poplar-birch), sedge bogs and steppe vegetation.

Unfortunately the park’s flora is not sufficiently studied. At the present time over 340 plant species are discovered at its territory. The actual number of species is estimated to be around 700-800 species. Over 180 species are widely used in official and traditional medicine (including oriental medicine).

The Animal Life
The park’s fauna is notable for its species diversity which is typical for taiga, forest-steppe, steppe and tundra climatic areas.
More than 120 vertebrate species are registered within the park territory, including 2 amphibian species, 4 reptiles, 95 birds and 23 mammal species. There are 18 fish species living in the park’s lakes.

Natural Attractions
The park’s main natural points of interest are various geological formations: the remains of ancient volcanoes, mountain benches and small mud volcanoes. The Onon-Turinsky tectonic-type Fault is related to the formation of a volcanic system with its centre at Alkhanay during Jurassic period. The Fault’s length is about 600 km, the width is up to 10 km. The Alkhanay volcanic petrographic dome consists of a central paleo-volcano and its peripheral satellites spreading across 100 square kilometres.

History and Culture

The Alkhanay massif was long ago (long before Buddhism appeared in the Trans-Baikal region) considered by locals as the dwelling place of great and awful spirits – the masters of mountains, rivers, rocks, gorges, waterfalls and healing springs. The massif was worshipped as a sacred place with unusual strength capable of healing people from various diseases and charging them with positive energy.

Alkhanay is not only a unique natural object but it’s also a historic-religious centre of Buddhism. It is one of the five sacred places of northern Buddhism. In 1991 the Alkhanay was visited by the head of the Buddhist clergy, His Holiness Dalai Lama XIV Danzan Zhamtso.
“The path to the top of the Alkhanay”
Alkhanay is one of the few places in Russia where the unique natural and sacred objects combine in harmony. Historically it was the place where the system of natural cultic monuments of Buddhist religion was formed which is deservedly acknowledged as the treasure of material and spiritual culture of Buryatia’s people.

There are 16 natural cultic and sacred objects situated in the park. They are especially worshipped by those who follow Buddhism and Shamanism. These are: the Gates Temple and Alkhanay mountain-top; 2 Buddhist stupas; a number of oboos including the main one – the Alkhanay oboo; tiled graves of Hunnish era dating back to 7th—8th centuries B.C.; cave drawings of ancient men; numerous “Maanin shuluun” – the stone stelae with carved inscriptions of the Buddhist mantra, “Om mani pad me hum” in the Tibetan language.

Alkhanay attract believers like a magnet. Many people come here in order to worship the holy place or perform religious rites. It is the place where men and women hope to find healing from diseases, receive kindly advice, find spiritual excellence and peace of mind. But most of people come here to take a break from city life and everyday concerns in the natural environment, to accumulate positive energy for the future.

The Alkhanay oboo is a natural and cultic complex that has a central place in the system of Buddhist rites. It is situated at the top platform of the hill at a height of 985 metres. The hill is located 14 km north-west from the Alkhanay village, 1 km north from the Arshan road. The Alkhanay oboo consists of 53 stone structures that breaks into 2 categories typologically. The first category is oboo itself – various-sized oval stone bunches composed of pebbles and crude stone attached to each other with the aid of mortar and covered with the layer of lime paint (“munhana”). The second category accounts for rectangular stony structures (“baypurs”) required for ritual fires and tiled of crude stone in the shape of a well.

The main rite associated with the oboo is a field-meeting, a so-called khural, performed by lamas (Buddhist monks) and local people every year on the 13th day of mid-summer-month, according to the lunar calendar. The aim of this rite is to pray for the well-being of all inhabitants of the Aginskaya steppe.

The Gates Temple – is a massive rock with a cavity formed as a result of weathering. Through these gates people ‘enter’ the world of the Dimchig god. In 1864 the stupa was erected at the order of the famous Lama Namnay-Bagsha. The worshipers walk around the stupa three times reading prayers and mantras. Every year on July 29 the Lamas of Aginsk monastery hold the thanksgiving service devoted to the Lord of Alkhanay – Dimchig.

Hunting and Fishing
Hunting and fishing are strictly prohibited throughout the park. trans siberian railway