Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Built in 1733 and dedicated to Manjusri as the permanent home of the Reincarnation of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, the Manjusri Monastery (Manzushir Monastery) was once home to 20 temples and some 300 practicing monks. But this historic and cultural destination was among the hundreds of religious structures that were demolished during communist rule in the 1930s.
Visitors can check out the monastery ruins, located in an open space outside the city, and tour the reconstructed museum that showcases the religious structure in its original integrity. The Togchin temple ruins, which were built in the mid-1700s, as well as a massive two-ton bronze cauldron are also located nearby.
The Manjusri Monastery (sometimes written Mandshir Khiid: Khiid is Mongolian for monastery) is an ideal stop for travelers who want to learn more about the history and culture of Mongolia’s diverse people, and perfect for exploring as part of a day tour of Ulaanbaatar.
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.