Make your trip memorable in Mongolia
There is so much to see when travelling to Mongolia, from mountains to monasteries. Take a look at the breath taking sights listed below before you plan your trip.
1. Ulan Bataar
Ulan Bataar is the capital city of the country and home to about a third of the Mongolian population. The population swells during the frigid winter months, where the city outskirts turn into a mass camp as nomads seek to get closer to the amenities of civilisation as temperatures drop to below -30.
For a cultural experience, visit the Mongolian Museum of Natural History to view an excellent collection of dinosaurs that once roamed the Gobi Desert. The museum also showcases other interesting artefacts discovered in this great desert region. The National Museum of Mongolian History is worth a visit to find out everything you need to know about Genghis Khan and the Mongol rule of the 1200s. The Winter Palace of Bogd Khan is home to Mongolia’s last-living Buddha and is truly spectacular. Otherwise, relax over a Chinghis Beer in the open air cafes on the main streets and watch life go by.
2. Bogd Khan Mountain
This majestic mountain towers over the south side of Ulan Bataar. In 1783, the Mongolian government made it a national park to protect its beauty and this makes it the oldest national park in the world. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage site for its natural and cultural significance.
A short drive away, you will find the ruins of Manjusri monastery. It was returned to the Buddhist church and the surviving objects are housed within the monastery complex, which includes the restored temple, the remains of walls and buildings, images of Buddhist deities and sacred inscriptions on the rocks. It is a popular tourist and hiking destination, being close to the natural wonders of the area.
3. Gandan Khiid
One of Mongolia’s most important monasteries and one of its biggest tourist attractions, is Gandantegchinlen (full name), translated as ‘the great place of complete joy’. Only a handful of more than 100 süm (temples) and khiid (monasteries) survived the religious purges of 1937. Today more than 600 monks belong to this monastery.
The northeast building is Ochidara Temple, where the most significant ceremonies are held. A large statue of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa sect, is housed behind glass. However, the main attraction is the magnificent white Migjid Janraisig Süm. The walls of the temple are lined with hundreds of images of Ayush, the Buddha of Longevity.
4. Gobi Desert
The desert occupies roughly the southern third of Mongolia and is sparsely populated, home to small pockets of Nomads who tend their herds of camels. The area is characterised by majestic sand dunes, mountain ranges and narrow canyons, including Yolyn Am (Vulture Valley). However, the Gobi is more than just sand and is rich in desert wildlife, including the world’s only desert bear. Wild camels, lynx, wolves, lizards and other creatures have adapted to live in the harsh conditions.
A typical trip into the desert involves hiring a jeep, a driver and translator and heading into the wilderness for an extraordinary camping experience. The days are extremely hot but temperatures at night can plummet so be well-prepared to enjoy the magic of this famous desert.
5. Yolyn Am
The region was originally established to conserve the birdlife in the region, but it is now more famous for its dramatic rocky cliffs and narrow, heavily-shaded canyons that allow sheets of blue-veined ice to survive well into the summer. The valley is named after the Lammergeier, an Old World vulture, which is ‘Yol’ in Mongolian. It is therefore often called the Valley of the Vultures.
Yolyn Am is located within the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, in the Gobi Desert. It gets little precipitation but surprisingly has a deep ice field that becomes several meters thick by the end of winter, and is several kilometres long.
This area is a 3 to 4 days drive from Ulan Baatar or can be reached by plane. The main attraction is a beautiful lake, bordering Siberia, and considered Mongolia’s most scenic province. Located at an altitude of 1 560m, it sits among the taiga forest and the high mountain range of far northern Mongolia. The lake is fed by more than 90 rivers and is world-renowned as home of the Taiman, the biggest salmon in the world. If you’re not there to fish, trekking and walking along the lake are the next most-popular drawcards.
Visit nomadic families with their herds of yaks, including the remote Reindeer people found along the Russian border and who still live in wigwam-styled tents. On the way to Khovsgol, visit Amarbayasgalant Khiid, an ancient Mongolian Buddhist monastery.
Khanggai is a green and partly-forested mountain range in central Mongolia. The ancient capital of Karachoram, the seat of the Great Khans, is located here. There is little that remains of this ancient city but it is a wonderful stop-off to soak in the beauty and history of its time, and what once represented the central ruling point for the world.
The whole area is a scenic wonder and attractions include the Orhon waterfall (Mongolia’s largest waterfall) and the hot springs of Shargelshuult en Tsenkher. Popular treks take you to the beautiful naiman nuur (Eight Lakes) high in the mountains and the Otgon Tenger Uul, the holy snow-capped, highest mountain of the Khanggai. A treat is a home visit with local nomads who tend to their yaks in the remote mountain ranges.
Khanggai is also home to the oldest and most famous Buddhist monastery, Erdene Zuu, which is located in Karachoram.
This area comprises the most barren and highest mountain range of the country, the Tibet of Mongolia. Main attractions are the big lakes, including the salt lake of Uvs Nuur, and excellent hike trekking and mountaineering. It is home to the Islamic Kazakh people, with some of them still hunting with eagles and falcons. A special treat is to hear the Shamens practising what is known as ‘khoomi’, a traditional form of throat singing.
Many wild and rare animals live in this region, including the elusive Snow Leopard. Growing up to 1 meter in length (another 70cm for the tail), they are capable of attacking and bringing down Ibex three times their size. The Snow Leopard is highly endangered and sought after by poachers for its luxurious and beautiful fur.
This area, starting just northeast of the capital, is a lush, mainly-forested mountainous area with historical sites linked to Genghis Khan. In summer, the scenery is magnificent with a carpet of colourful flowers blooming on the alpine fields. It is close to Ulan Baatar with accommodation available at many luxury tourist camps. Horse-riding, trekking and birdwatching are the main attractions. It is also home to the National Park for the Rehabilitation of the Przewalskis Wild Horse.
10. Orkhon Valley
This is one of the most important cultural regions in the world and was recognised by the UNESCO World Heritage as a cultural landscape in 2004. The extensive area encompasses the pastureland on both banks of the Orkhon River and includes numerous archaeological sites dating back to the 6th century.
The Orkhon Valley cultural landscapes includes sites such Khakhorin, the 13th century capital of Genghis Khan’s Empire. It was the centre of the Mongolian Empire and reflects a particular Mongolian variation of Turkish power. The Tuvkhun Monastery is worth a visit, it is located on a rocky mountain hill surrounded by forests elevated 2 300m above sea level.
Experience the sights and sounds of Mongolia. Lekker Adventures specialises in providing you with the complete travelling experience to Mongolia. Click here to find out more about travelling to Mongolia with the assistance of Lekker Adventures.