Things to see and do in Mongolia
Ministry of Environment and TourismAddress: United Nations Street 5/2, Mongolian Government Building - 2, Ulaanbaatar, 15160
Telephone: +976 51 266 171
Attractions in Mongolia
Altai Tavan Bogd National Park
Dotted with clear lakes, lush valleys and snow-covered peaks, this park near the Xinjiang (China) border is home to varied animal species such as ibex, mountain sheep, beech marten and Golden eagle. You can hike, rent a mountain bike, ride a horse or a camel to explore the park. Within and near the park, you can find three rock art sites, namely Tsagaan Salaa-Baga Oigor in Ulaankhus, as well as Upper Tsagaan Gol and Aral Tolgoi in Tsengel (together, they make up the UNESCO-listed Petroglyphs Complexes of the Mongolian Altai).
In this land without fences, you can pitch your tent at about any place that pleases you. Some of the best spots to do so are in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and Altai Tavan Bogd National Park. Car camping is also an option.
The vast steppes of Mongolia get plenty of snow in winter, making the country a great place for cross-country skiers. A good place to start is Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, which has ger camps operating in the winter months.
Genghis Khan Statue Complex
Outside the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park lies the gleaming 40m (131-ft) tall Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, the star attraction at the Genghis Khan Statue Complex. It is said that the statue faces east towards his birthplace, Delüün Boldog. Visitors can get up to the top of the statue and enjoy stunning views. There is also a small but wonderful museum on-site. Most visitors combine this with a trip to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park.
The vast Khongor sand dunes are what most people associate the Gobi region with, but in reality much of the Gobi consists of bare rocks and not sand dunes. The best way to experience the region is by visiting the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park and its two major attractions: Khongorinn Els (Singing Sands) and the ice-filled gorge of Yolyn Am.
At the edge of Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park is Bayanzag (Flaming Cliffs). It was here that explorer and zoologist Roy Chapman Andrews and his team found the fossilised remains of Cretaceous animals such as Protoceratops and Velociraptor in 1922. The massive red-tinted rocks rising from the ground are also attractive, particularly when the sun is low in the horizon and seems to intensify the shades of red and orange.
Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
About 65km (40 miles) northeast of Ulaanbaatar is the magnificent Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. This verdant corner of Mongolia is best for hiking, horseback riding and birdwatching in the summer, and cross-country skiing and dog-sledding in the winter. Popular attractions within the park include the 'Turtle Rock' (a giant rock formation that resembles a turtle), the Aryabal Meditation Temple (a relatively recent construction to harness the area's natural energies) and the protected Gunjiin Sum (the 300-year-old 'temple of the princess'). Most people combine this park with a visit to the Genghis Khan Statue Complex.
For a truly authentic experience, try to arrange a night in a traditional Mongolian ger or yurt (tent). Staying with a nomad family is a fascinating experience and full of surprises. You will get to taste local food, ride horses and help herd the sheep.
Khentii Province: Genghis Khan's birthplace
Delüün Boldog in Khentii Aimag or Khentii Province is said to be the birthplace of Genghis Khan. The place is marked by a large rock with an inscription in old Mongol script. The landscape of Khentii is beautiful, with beautiful lakes, rolling mountains and clear streams.
Khövsgöl Nuur National Park
The crown jewel of this park is Lake Khövsgöl, aka the 'Blue Pearl of Mongolia' or 'Dalai Ej', meaning Mother Sea. This lake is home to Sukhbaatar III, the single tugboat of Mongolian Navy which was privatised in 1997 (the country does not have a navy now). Today, the boat transports passengers and goods across the lake. In winter, tour companies offer skating and dog-sledding trips over the frozen lake.
Only a few monasteries survived the Stalinist Purges of the late 1930s and worthy diversions include:
• Erdene Zuu Monastery in Kharkhorin
• Amarbayasgalant Monastery in the Iven Valley near the Selenge River
• Tövkhön Monastery, 47km (29 miles) southwest of Kharkhorin
• Gandantegchinlen Monastery in Ulaanbaatar
Held every July 10 to 13, this nomad sports extravaganza features horse racing, wrestling and archery, as well as cultural performances of Khöömei overtone singing (aka Tuvan throat singing) and Biyelgee dance. It is a great time to see Mongolians decked out in their festive gear and taking part in traditional sporting events. The biggest naadam is in Ulaanbaatar but more intimate naadam festivals are held all around the country.
Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape
The UNESCO-listed Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape covers an extensive area of pastureland on both sides of the Orkhon River. The site was thought to be first settled by humans some 62,000 to 58,000 years ago. Throughout centuries, it continued to attract different tribes and cultures. Today, the most famous sites are the ruins of Karakorum, the ancient capital established by Genghis Khan in 1220, as well as the Erdene Zuu Monastery.
The capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, is changing at a drastic rate. Once a remote outpost, Ulaanbaatar is now a city with gleaming skyscrapers. It also boasts a string of museums and cultural highlights, including:
• National Museum of Mongolia
• International Intellectual Museum
• Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan (aka the Bogd Khan Palace Museum)
• Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs
• Fine Arts Zanabazar Museum
• Mongol Costumes Museum
• Choijin Lama Temple Museum
• Gandantegchinlen Khiid (aka Garden Khiid)
• Tumen Ekh Folk Song and Dance Ensemble
The State Department Store (Ikh Delguur) is a landmark along the Peace Avenue. Around the corner you will find a quirky site called Beatles Statue which is, needless to say, dedicated to the Fab Four.