Ulaanbaatar is the capital city of Mongolia, a landlocked country in between Russia and China. Ulaanbaatar offers the following points of interest for tourists and photographers;
- Choijim Lama Temple
- Gorkhi – Terelj National Park (Stay in a Ger Camp)
- Winter Palace of Bogd Khan
- Sukhbaatar Square (Chinggis Square), Palace of Independence and Genghis Khan Statue
- Gandantegchinlen Monastery (Gandan Monastery)
- Zaisan Momorial
- Various museums
- The Children’s Palace
Ulaanbaatar offer a wide range of hotels from basic to luxury, with a little bit of searching you can find some very good deals. You can often organize with your hotel a trip out to Gorkhi – Terelj National Park where you can stay in a Ger camp.
Sukhbaatar Square (often referred to as Chinggis Square) is the central square of Ulaanbaatar. On this square there is a columned structure, the Palace of Independence (above) with a statue of the Mongolian hero Genghis Khan inside. In the center of the square you’ll see a statue of a man on horseback, this is Damdin Sukhbaatar, a leader during the Mongolia’s revolution of 1921. Chinggis Square is clean and well kept making it perfect for photography.
Right next to Sukhbaatar Square is where the Choijim Lama Temple is located. The Choijim Lama Temple is a complex of 6 temples, all over 100 years old. The Gandantegchinlen Monastery (Gandan Monastery) is a walk away from Sukhbaatar Square, this is over 200 years old and it’s claim to fame is that the 13th Dalai Lama stayed there.
Another stunning monument in Ulaanbaatar is the Winter Palace of Bogd Khan, this is located in the south of the city, a taxi ride away. The Children’s Palace is a theme park you may want to consider if you are traveling with kids.
Ulaanbaatar is perfect for museum lovers as it’s home to a high amount of museums including;
- National Museum of Mongolia
- Zaisan Museum
- Mongolian National Modern Art Museum
- The Fine Arts Zanzibar museum
- Internationl Intellectual Museum
- Mongolian Theater Museum
- Ulaanbaatar City Museum
- Mongolian Military Museum
- The Marshall Jukov House Museum
- Mongol Costumes Museum
- Hunting Museum
- Memorial Museum of Victims of Political Persecution
- State History Museum of Mongolia
- Museum of Geology and Mineral Resources
I have to recommend a restaurant as the Mongolian BBQ I ate at there was delicious and the service brilliant. The restaurant is called Altai Mongolian Grill 2 restaurant. For dessert they serve ice cream with a shot of vodka which is a delicious mix.
On the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar you’ll see lots of Gers which to this day, Mongolians use as houses. Terelj National Park is the place to go to stay in a Ger (a glamping experience). Each Ger comes with it’s own fireplace which will keep you warm at night. The Gers at the camp I stayed at were all set up traditionally with Mongolian style interiors. Generally in these Ger camps you go to the Ger when it gets dark as you are in the middle of nowhere, with the fire lit and the Mongolian interior you truly are in another world!
Teralj National Park is located a short drive away from Ulaanbaatar. In the park there are many unique rock formations, the most famous being ‘Turtle Rock’ and ‘Old Man Reading a Book’. You should research the names of the different rock formations in Teralj National Park before going to make viewing them more interesting! What does the rock formation above look like?
With all the unique rock formations, Rock Climbing has become a popular sport at Teralj National Park. Another activity which is popular in the park is bird watching as there are over 250 species of birds.
It’s possible to rent a horse to take you around the unique rock formations of Teralj National Park (above). It’s possible to hire a camel if you have a desire to ride a camel, a camel would make a more Instagrammable picture nowadays!
In the National Park 80 km from the Ger settlements is Khaglin Khar Lake which is 20 meter deep glacial lake and Yestii Hot Water Springs are located another 20 km away. If you plan to visit, there is no road, so plan well!
The train from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing is an overnight service. I was in a first class carriage sharing with an older German man who had dreamed of taking the Trans Siberian / Mongolian all his life. On this service there is a shower which is shared with the cabin next door, so that 4 people per shower, I must confess I waited until arriving at my hotel in Beijing to take a shower!
The standard gauge of the railway lines in China is 1435 mm, the same as Europe. Tracks in the former Soviet Union countries (and Mongolia) are Russian gauge which is 1520 mm. When the train reaches the border of China and Mongolia it must be lifted up and the bogie changed to fit on the Chinese gauge tracks. The Chinese have built a huge machine to do this and the process is performed very quickly.
You’ll need a Chinese visa in your passport before arriving at the border in China. If you have a valid Chinese visa then you’ll have no problem at entering China, the stamping of passports was done very efficiently on the train.