Ulaanbaatar is the gateway to Mongolia. Not only all international flights land there but also the country road system start from the capital. Whether you are recovering from your flight or preparing your trip, make sure to spend some time in Ulaanbaatar proper. Or in UB as travelers and Mongolian call it.
Top Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar
Several sites are interesting and worth a visit. We visited a couple of them and were glad we did. Seeing these sites take about two full days. Also, you can count for a whole day if you head out of town as well for one of the recommended day trips.
By far my favorite in UB, the Gandan Tegchenling Monastery is one of the most interesting sights in the city. The 19th-century monastery, known as the Gandantegchinlen Khiid, is the largest in Mongolia. It is also one of the most significant and was the only monastery that continued to hold Buddhist services under the Communist era. About 150 monks currently provide religious services which start between 9 am, and 10 am to 12 pm noon. One of the main elements of the monastery is the 26-meter high golden statue of Migjid Janraisig (Avalokiteśvara in Sanskrit). Though the original statue was destroyed in the 1930s, the new statue built in 1996 is beautiful and quite impressive. Today it represents of Mongolia’s independence and its path to democracy.
Zanabazar Fine Art Museum
The museum is named after Zanabazar who was a pre-eminent religious leader as the First Bogd Gegen, and a famous artist of the 17th century. The museum has nine halls presenting over 10,000 objects across different collections. An antique hall covers from the Stone Age to the modern 20th-century a gallery featuring Zanabazar’s creations spreading from the “White Tara” and the “Bodhi Stupa.” Halls are displaying paintings drawn with natural colors or “tanka” and including one of the largest tanka scroll in Mongolia, appliqués, Tsam religious dance items, fine arts. As a result, 50 of the 200 rare and unrepeatable artistic creations on the Treasure’s Fond of Mongolia lists are on display in the museum.
Choijin Lama Temple Museum
The 20th-century Buddhist temple was Bruno’s favorite site in UB. The home of Bodg Khan’s brother, Luvsan Haidav Choijin, the temple was active until the 1930s when the communists closed it. Soon after, in 1942, it became a museum featuring over 5,000 pieces in four separate temples. Today, these heritage items include paintings, carvings, and silks, as well as the coral mask of Begtse, made with over 6,000 coral pieces, Tsam dancing masks, and unique pieces created by Mongolia artist Zanabazar making the museum one of the most impressive displays of Mongolia history.
Genghis Khan Sukhbaatar Square
The former Genghis – or Chinggis as the Mongolian call him – Khan Square is now Sukhbaatar Square. It is one of the largest squares in Asia and is the heart of Ulaanbaatar. The square is the seat of the Government House with a giant bronze statue of Chinggis Khaan standing front and center, between statues of his two sons. In the heart of the Square lies the statue of Sükhbaatar on his horse. He was a military general who led the People’s Revolutionary Movement in 1921. During the summer time, especially around mid-July, a variety of rock and folklore concerts, as well as parades and other cultural events, take place regularly.
Mongolian National Museum
The Mongolian National Museum was built in 1971 and replaced the previous Museum of the Revolution. The ten halls present the best examples of Mongolian history, from the Stone Age, pre-Mongol and Mongol Empire, to contemporary time. These include prehistorical items, cultural elements about the nomadic lifestyle, horse riding warriors, jewels and military gear.
Tumen Ekh Ensemble
The popular Mongolian folk concert presents famous throat singing performances, contortions, drawling songs, Tsam mask dance, a shaman ritual dance, and other traditional songs. The artists are accompanied by musicians playing traditional instruments including the morin khuur (horsehead fiddle). As such, the Ensemble is credited to keep the traditions authentic.
Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan
The 19th-century Bogd Khaan Palace was the house of the 8th Bogd Jabuzandamba, Mongolia’s last king who lived there for over 20 years. It became the first national historical museum for the country in 1926. The museum features many notable items: Silk paintings, bronze casts, and art pieces from the famous first Bogdo Javzundamba Zanabazar. Royal clothes from YIII Bogdo Javzundamba and his wife queen Dondogdulam, thangkas, and other religious items are also presented. The palace of ten temples is also known as the Green Temple for the color of the green glazed roof tiles.
Naran Tuul Market (Black Market)
The famous black market offers everything from cutlery, horse tack, clothes, kitchenware to furniture. Wander the narrow, packed hallways to shop around for souvenirs. Most noteworthy, shop for clothes made of camel wool reputed for its warmth. I can attest to this as my Camel socks and beanie kept me warm during cold nights in the Altai.
Day Trips from Ulaanbaatar
Go hiking or horseback riding in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, or observe the Przewalski horses in Hustai National Park. Both make for an easy day trip. Similarly, the Genghis Khan Statue is reachable within a couple of hours drive from UB. Longer but fantastic day trips include Manzushir Monastery, Erdenezuu Monastery, and Kharkhorin, and Amarbayasgalant Monastery are worth the long days.
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