Mongolia is a landlocked country located in East-central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east, and west. Ulaanbataar, more commonly known as Ulan Bator, serves as its capital and largest city, and is home to about 45% of the population. The country has passed many different civilizations, and conquerors, making its history very colourful and vibrant. At 1.5 million square kilometres, Mongolia is the 19th largest country in the world, and the second largest landlocked country next to Kazakhstan. It is the also the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, with a population of only 2.9 million people. Approximately 30% of this population are nomadic or semi-nomadic, while the prevailing religion is Tibetan Buddhism.
What to see & do
Gorkhi-Terelj National Park – the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is one of the many national parks located in Mongolia. Although somewhat developed for the convenience of tourists, the natural beauty of the park is still intact: rock formations, rolling hills, and plateaus all in their original positions and barely (if not) touched. Jumpstart your visit form the Nalaikh Duureg district in Ulan Bator, the nation's capital, towards the rest of the protected area beginning to the north of the Terelj River. A Buddhist monastery can be found in the vicinity as well, along with some hot water springs and a wildlife sanctuary which boasts of its brown bears and some 250 species of birds.
Erdene Zuu Monastery – probably the oldest surviving Monastery in Mongolia, the Erdene Zuu Monastery is one of the country's most valuable treasures. It was commissioned by then ruler of Khalkh Mongols Abtai Sain Khan in 1585 after his meeting with the 3rd Dalai Lama and the declaration of Tibetan Buddhism as the state religion of Mongolia. It was damaged in 1688 during one of the many wars between the Dzungars and the Khalkh Mongols, and locals have dismantled its wooden fortifications. It was rebuilt in 18th century, and by 1872, had full 62 temples that housed approximately 1,000 monks. Within the vicinity, travellers may see various types of temples and symbols of Tibetan Buddhism, including stupas, and figures of Buddha.
Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan – home to the enthroned Khagan of Mongolia Bogd Khan, the palace is the only one left from originally four residences of the great Khagan, and is preserved purposefully for its historical and architectural value. The complex has six temples in total, and on display are many of the ruler's possessions, including his bed, throne, collection of art and stuffed animals, his ornate ceremonial ger, and a pair of ceremonial boots gifted to the Khan by then Russian Tsar, Nicholas II.
Naran Tuul Market – a traditional shopping arcade East of Ulan Bator, the Naran Tuul Market has everything from food items, to novelty items, local delicacies, and even faux branded clothing. Shop for souvenirs and memorabilia here, which are sold for cheap prices.
Khuiten Uul – the Khuiten Uul is the highest point in the Tavan Bogd range, measuring about 4,374 metres. It is particularly visited by travellers who dare conquer the Tavan Bogd. Those who take the challenge and delve into the thick and lush mountains must bring their own equipment as there are no rental shops or stores to get items here. The best time to climb is within the months of August and September, when the worst of the summer rains end.
How to get around within Mongolia
Within the capital, roads are pretty much in good shape, although outside, most roads can be dangerous and have not been paved, so driving outside Ulan Bator should be done with precaution. A better and more enjoyable way to explore and get around is by motorcycle, which is available for rent within the capital and other centres. Riding a bus is also an option, although buses only connect the provincial capitals to Ulan Bator and will not explore destinations. The railway network is poorly-maintained and is a bit old, but if travellers are up for some lax travel time to enjoy this surviving treasure of Communism, then the train is for you. Other means include chartered private jeeps, taxis and minivans, and even horses – which are actually popular in Ulan Bator and the surrounding vicinity.
How to get there
The Chinggis Khaan international Airport is the main international airport serving Ulan Bator and the rest of the country, linking many other nations to the state. Airlines that travel to this destination include Aero Mongolia,
Aeroflot, Air China, Hunnu Air, Korean Air, MIAT Mongolian Airlines, and Turkish Airlines, while departure points include Thailand, China, Russia, Hong Kong, Japan, Turkey, Germany, and many others.
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