Ulaanbaatar is an enormous city characterized by a bohemian counter-culture, pulsating commerce and thriving nightlife. New buildings are thrown up seemingly daily, yellow taxis fight for road space with Landcruisers and tourists, and fashionable locals shop for bargains in the high street boutiques. These chaotic scenes are broken up by patches of serenity. Tranquility can be found in quiet monastery courtyards, the cool riverbanks and in the calm public squares. As the political, cultural, social and economic hub of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar has it all. Explore the excellent museums, soak up the city’s eclectic vibe, indulge in the great restaurants, and be prepared to be surprised by the city’s wonderful offerings.
One of the country’s biggest tourist attractions is the Gandhan Khiid monastery. The name means “the great place of complete joy,” and it is hard to not feel a sense of peace and contentment when you walk through the courtyards and temples. The main path takes you past the Ochidara Temple, a statue of the Gelugpa sect’s founder and the two-story Didan Lavran temple, once home to the Dalai Lama. The main path ends at the magnificent Migjid Janraisig Sum, the main attraction of the monastery. Hundreds of images of the Buddha line the walls of the temple, and the centerpiece is an awe-inspiring statue of Migjid Janraisig. The 26-meter high sculpture is made of dazzling copper covered with gold. Inside the hollow statue are 334 sutras, 27 tons of medicinal herbs and over 2 million bundles of mantras.
There are a number of fine museums in the city, and one of the best is the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery. The large and impressive collection highlights uniquely Mongolian sculptures and paintings, mixing impressionistic, nationalistic and nomadic expressions in the three floors.
The Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. The superb collection features carvings, paintings and sculptures by the celebrated artist Zanabazar but also contains a fascinating display of religious artifacts. Most of the captions are in English, giving visitors insight into everything from tsam masks to scroll paintings.
At the National Museum of Mongolian History, visitors can walk through the country’s past from the Stone Age through today. Highlights of the first floor include burial sites from the Uighur and Hun eras, petroglyphs and stone sculptures. The second floor boasts an outstanding collection of jewelry, hats and costumes that represent most of the country’s ethnic groups.
Although it is little-known, the Victims of Political Persecution Memorial and Museum is a must-see in Ulaanbaatar. The haunting displays tell the story of the bloody communist purges that plagued Mongolia during the 1930s. During the aggressive campaign, many of the country’s intellectuals were rounded up, sent to labor camps or murdered. Through the vivid exhibits, visitors fully feel the loss of so many thinkers, writers and scientists.
Other sights worth exploring in the capital include the Zaisan Memorial, the Bakula Rinpoche Sum monastery, the Soviet-style Museum of Natural History, the incredible Winter Palace of Bogd Khan and the Choijin Lama Temple Museum, a hidden gem of history and architecture in the city center.
Ulaanbaatar Geographical Location
Ulaanbaatar is located in northeast central Mongolia on the Tuul River. It is the largest city in Mongolia with a population of approximately 1,190,000.
Khalkha Mongol is the official language and is spoken by the majority of Mongolians while Turkic and Russian are also common.
Ulaanbaatar Predominant Religion
- 50% Buddhist Lamaist
- 40% None
- 6% Shamanist and Christian
- 4% Muslim
Shamanism was the traditional belief of nomadic Mongolians but Buddhism has gradually become the predominant religion.
The Tögrög, also spelled Tugrik, is the official currency of Mongolia.
Ulaanbaatar experiences a short and warm summer but the winters are bitterly cold due to high elevation and latitude.
Ulaanbaatar Main Attractions
- Terelj National Park
- Sukhbaatar Square
- Gobi Desert
Other Attraction in Ulaanbaatar
- Gandan Monastery
- Hustai National Park
- National History Museum
- Zaisan Memorial