Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar
By far Mongolia’s most recognizable landmark and one of the world’s largest equestrian statues, the 131-foot-tall (40-meter-tall) Genghis Khan Statue Complex (Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex) towers over the surrounding landscape. Ride the elevator up inside the horse, learn about the Mongols at the museum, shop for souvenirs, or enjoy a snack at the café.
Known for its picturesque alpine scenery, interesting rock formations, and plentiful outdoor activities, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is one of the most popular attractions in Mongolia. Located about 43 miles (70 kilometers) northeast of Ulaanbaatar, it’s also one of the most accessible national parks in the country.
Hustai National Park (Khustain National Park), a UNESCO-recognized biosphere reserve, is home to the tahki (Przewalski wild horse), the only truly wild horse population left on the planet. The park’s proximity to Ulaanbaatar makes it a popular day trip and overnight destination for visitors to see wildlife and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities.
Founded in 1838, Gandantegchinlen Monastery (Gandan Khiid) is a classic Tibetan Buddhist monastery and one of the most important monasteries in Mongolia. Partially destroyed under Communism then restored in the 1990s, today the monastery is home to several hundred monks and contains one of the most famous Buddhist statues in Mongolia.
In the heart of downtown Ulaanbaatar, the National Museum of Mongolia is an informative, modern museum. It covers Mongolian history from the Stone Age to the 1990 democratic revolution (although, sadly, not the dinosaurs). Highlights include ancient treasure, elaborate costumes, armor from the Genghis Khan era, and Buddhist artworks.
Once home to the Bogd Khaan, Mongolia’s spiritual leader and last king, the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum (Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan) combines a European-style winter palace with a series of Chinese-style pagodas. Besides Buddhist artworks, the museum features a wealth of taxidermied animals, unusual royal gifts, and an exhibition hall showcasing Mongolian culture.
Located on top of a hill in south Ulaanbaatar, the Zaisan Memorial was built to commemorate Mongolian and Soviet soldiers killed in World War II. Featuring a circular mural depicting scenes of friendship between the people of Mongolia and the USSR, the memorial also offers stunning panoramic views over the Mongolian capital.
Once known as Genghis Khan Square (Chinggis Khaan Square), Sükhbaatar Square is Ulaanbaatar’s epicenter. Named for Damdin Sükhbaatar, who declared Mongolian independence from China in 1921, it houses statues of Genghis Khan, Sükhbaatar, and Sanjaasürengiin Zorig, who helped lead the democratic revolution of 1990.
Spelled a bewildering number of ways, the Manjusri Monastery (Manzushir Monastery dates back to the 18th century, although Stalinist forces reduced it to rubble during the 1930s. Today, the mountainside site, which once comprised 20 temples, is home to yurts, a shop, an eatery, a vast cauldron, rock paintings, and two small museums.
In the heart of Ulaanbaatar, the Choijin Lama Temple Museum (Choijin Lama Monastery) houses five attractive temples with elaborate paintings, colorful masks, and ornate statuary, including several sculptures engaged in tantric sex. The monastery was built between 1904 and 1908 for the Choijin Lama, a brother of the Bogd Khaan who became Mongolia’s state oracle.