Top Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar

Table of contents:

Top Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar

Ready to learn more about Top Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar?

As I navigated the vibrant streets of Ulaanbaatar, the capital city revealed itself as a hidden gem full of wonders. It wasn’t just about the historical sites or the stunning natural scenery; Ulaanbaatar offered a unique blend of experiences that catered to all interests.

From its deep-rooted history and cultural landmarks to the exquisite natural landscapes and delicious Ulaanbaatar local cuisine, there was an abundance of activities to immerse oneself in. Yet, as my exploration began, I was unaware of the additional hidden treasures Ulaanbaatar was ready to reveal.

Let’s dive into this lively city together, discovering the top activities that will undoubtedly captivate you.

Firstly, visiting the Gandan Monastery is a must. As the heart of Mongolian Buddhism, this active monastery lets you witness Mongolian Buddhist practices firsthand. The sight of monks in vibrant robes and the sound of chanting add to the spiritual atmosphere, making it a serene experience.

Next, exploring the National Museum of Mongolia offers insights into the country’s rich history, from the era of Genghis Khan to the present day. The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts that showcase Mongolia’s cultural heritage, making it an educational stop for history buffs.

For a taste of local life, the Naran Tuul Market, also known as the Black Market, is where you’ll find everything from traditional Mongolian attire to souvenirs. It’s a fantastic place to observe daily life and maybe even haggle for a unique find.

Nature lovers shouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, just a short drive from the city. The park’s stunning landscapes, with its rocky formations and green valleys, offer a peaceful escape from the city bustle. Here, you can enjoy activities such as hiking, horseback riding, or simply soaking in the natural beauty.

Lastly, indulging in Mongolian cuisine is an adventure for your taste buds. Dishes like buuz (steamed dumplings) and khuushuur (fried dumplings) provide a delicious introduction to the local flavors. Don’t miss out on trying airag, a traditional fermented mare’s milk, for a truly authentic experience.

In conclusion, Ulaanbaatar is a city that seamlessly blends history, culture, and nature, offering a rich tapestry of experiences for all who visit. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or a foodie, Ulaanbaatar has something special in store for you.

Let’s continue to uncover the myriad of activities this lively city has to offer, ensuring an unforgettable journey.

Historical Monuments

Exploring Ulaanbaatar reveals a treasure trove of historical sites that tell the story of its rich heritage. Among these, the Winter Palace and Sukhbaatar Square stand out for their historical and cultural significance, offering insights into the city’s past.

A highlight is the Bogd Khan Winter Palace Museum, once home to Mongolia’s eighth Living Buddha. Now a museum, it displays an impressive collection of Buddhist art and sculptures across its six temples, each richly decorated with lavish statues. Visiting the Winter Palace is like traveling back in time, offering a glimpse into the luxurious life of Mongolia’s spiritual leader.

Sukhbaatar Square, the city’s central square, is another landmark of great importance. It’s not just a historical site but also a vibrant hub for cultural and political gatherings. Dominated by the statue of Damdin Sukhbaatar, a key figure in Mongolia’s independence movement, the square is a popular meeting point for both locals and visitors, hosting various festivals and events throughout the year.

These monuments, among others in Ulaanbaatar, aren’t merely architectural wonders but symbols of Mongolia’s journey through history. They serve as a reminder of the nation’s rich cultural heritage and the pivotal moments that shaped its present and future.

Cultural Landmarks

Exploring Ulaanbaatar, I’m captivated by its cultural landmarks, each telling a story of Mongolia’s rich history and spirituality. The Gandan Khiid Monastery stands out, not just for its ceremonies but also for housing the tallest indoor Buddha statue, a symbol of peace and enlightenment.

Then there’s the Choijin Lama Monastery, a masterpiece of Mongolian Buddhist art, its walls narrating tales of divine guardians and ancient rituals.

Sukhbaatar Square, named after the revolutionary hero Damdin Sukhbaatar, is a hub for both cultural and political gatherings. It’s a place where history meets the present, under the watchful eyes of Sukhbaatar’s statue.

Nearby, the imposing Chinggis Khaan Statue commemorates the 800th coronation anniversary of Mongolia’s iconic leader, surrounded by a circle of monuments that pay homage to the Mongol Empire’s legacy.

These landmarks aren’t just tourist attractions; they’re the heartbeats of Ulaanbaatar, echoing Mongolia’s journey through centuries. Each visit offers a deeper understanding of the Mongolian way of life, its traditions, and its people’s resilience.

It’s a journey through time, revealing the layers of Mongolian culture and the enduring spirit of its people.

Iconic Buddhist Monasteries

Visiting Ulaanbaatar offers a unique opportunity to delve into Mongolia’s rich spiritual heritage through its famous Buddhist monasteries. These sites aren’t just architectural marvels but also serve as gateways to understanding the country’s deep-rooted religious traditions.

A prime example is the Gandan Khiid Monastery, renowned for housing the world’s tallest indoor Buddha statue. The daily rituals performed here are mesmerizing, drawing both locals and tourists into a serene ambiance. It’s a living testament to Mongolia’s enduring faith and spiritual practices.

Another significant site is the Choijin Lama Monastery, now a museum. Here, visitors can marvel at the intricate decorations and an impressive collection of Mongolian Buddhist art. This museum offers a window into the spiritual and artistic legacy of Mongolia, making it a key spot for those eager to learn about the nation’s cultural identity.

The Gandantegchinlen Monastery further illustrates Mongolia’s religious heritage with its stunning 26.5-meter Migjid Janraisag Buddha statue. This active monastery is a beacon of peace and spirituality, inviting visitors to reflect and find solace.

Lastly, the Choijin Lama Temple Museum enriches one’s understanding of Mongolian Buddhism and art through its religious artifacts and traditional artworks. This museum not only educates but also inspires with its deep connection to Mongolian spiritual life.

National Museum Exhibits

Delving into Ulaanbaatar’s wealth of cultural and spiritual gems, we focus on the National Museum’s exhibits, which provide a fascinating glimpse into Mongolia’s storied past and vibrant cultural tapestry.

  1. The National Museum of Mongolia is a cornucopia of knowledge, housing over 50,000 artifacts that trace the evolution of Mongolian civilization from the Neolithic period to modern times. These artifacts serve as windows into the myriad facets of Mongolia’s heritage, showcasing the unique blend of cultures and epochs that have shaped the nation.
  2. The Choijin Lama Temple Museum stands as a testament to Mongolia’s spiritual legacy, with its intricately adorned interiors and a vast array of Mongolian Buddhist art. It offers a profound look into the spiritual practices that have been a cornerstone of Mongolian culture, inviting visitors to step into a world of religious devotion and artistic beauty.
  3. Once the abode of Mongolia’s eighth Living Buddha, the Bogd Khan Palace Museum now reveals the religious artistry of the era through its collection of Buddhist art and sculptures housed in six temples. This museum not only highlights Mongolia’s religious significance but also showcases the exquisite craftsmanship of its artists.
  4. Dedicated to a revered spiritual leader and artist, the Zanabazar Fine Art Museum is home to unique and irreplaceable works of art. It provides an in-depth exploration of Mongolia’s artistic heritage, celebrating the country’s creative spirit and the profound impact of its artists on the cultural landscape.

Visiting these exhibits in Ulaanbaatar is essential for anyone keen on immersing themselves in Mongolia’s rich historical narrative and artistic excellence. From ancient relics to sublime pieces of Buddhist artistry, these museums offer a treasure trove of experiences that enrich our understanding of Mongolia’s multifaceted culture.

Traditional Performing Arts

Discover the heart and soul of Ulaanbaatar through its traditional performing arts and significant cultural sites, which stand as testaments to Mongolia’s rich heritage.

Dive into the enchanting world of traditional folklore concerts, where the ancient technique of throat singing takes center stage. This remarkable skill allows performers to produce multiple pitches at once, creating an unforgettable auditory experience.

Venues such as the Tumen Ekh Theatre and the National Dance and Musical Grand Theatre are key places to witness the vibrant fusion of music, song, dance, and contortion. These performances, steeped in generations of tradition, offer a window into Mongolia’s cultural soul.

Exploring further, the Gandan Khiid Monastery and Choijin Lama Monastery aren’t just architectural marvels but also pivotal cultural landmarks. These Buddhist monasteries serve as gateways to understanding Mongolia’s spiritual heritage, dating back to the Bronze Age. They house impressive statues, host daily ceremonies, and safeguard a rich collection of Buddhist art, offering insights into the spiritual practices that have shaped Mongolia.

For art enthusiasts, the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts is an essential stop. It showcases rare and extraordinary works that delve into the essence of traditional performing arts and their significance within Mongolian culture. This museum offers a detailed look at the artistic achievements that have contributed to Mongolia’s cultural identity.

Let yourself be drawn into the vibrant tapestry of Ulaanbaatar’s traditional performing arts scene. Its cultural landmarks not only celebrate but also preserve the rich heritage of Mongolia, offering a deep and meaningful connection to this unique country.

Natural Landscapes

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, is surrounded by an abundance of stunning natural landscapes that are sure to captivate any visitor. Among these, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park stands out with its impressive granite formations and verdant forests, offering a perfect backdrop for both adventure and relaxation. Similarly, Khustain Nuruu National Park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, home to the majestic Przewalski’s horse, a species once on the brink of extinction but now thriving thanks to conservation efforts. This park also showcases a wide variety of plants and animals unique to the region.

For those who find solace near water, the serene banks of the Tuul River provide an ideal setting for tranquil walks, while the Terelj River invites visitors to discover its serene beauty. Bogd Khan Mountain, a sacred site for many Mongolians, offers not only spiritual solace but also breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

These natural sites near Ulaanbaatar aren’t just visually stunning; they play a crucial role in the region’s ecosystem and cultural heritage. Gorkhi-Terelj and Khustain Nuruu, for example, are pivotal in maintaining biodiversity and supporting efforts to protect endangered species. The Tuul and Terelj rivers are vital water sources that sustain both the local wildlife and the communities living nearby.

When exploring these magnificent landscapes, it’s clear that Ulaanbaatar is more than just a city; it’s a gateway to some of Mongolia’s most precious natural wonders. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a wildlife enthusiast, or someone seeking a peaceful retreat into nature, Ulaanbaatar’s surroundings offer a myriad of opportunities to connect with the natural world.

Beautiful National Parks

Ulaanbaatar, nestled in the heart of the Mongolian wilderness, is home to some of the most beautiful national parks. These parks aren’t just about stunning landscapes; they offer a plethora of outdoor activities that allow visitors to immerse themselves in nature. Let’s explore four of Ulaanbaatar’s most breathtaking national parks:

  1. Gorkhi-Terelj National Park: This park is a feast for the eyes with its unique rock formations, dense forests, and the winding Terelj River. It’s a perfect spot for those who love to hike, enjoy horseback riding, or want to camp amidst nature’s beauty.
  2. Khustain Nuruu National Park: Here, you have the rare opportunity to see the majestic Takhi horses, which are an endangered species. The park is a sanctuary for diverse wildlife and plants, offering a peaceful retreat into the wild where you can experience the marvels of nature firsthand.
  3. Bogd Khan Mountain: Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this mountain holds sacred significance. It offers hiking trails through lush forests and provides stunning city views. The tranquility and majestic scenery of Bogd Khan Mountain are truly captivating.
  4. Tuul River: The serene Tuul River flows through Ulaanbaatar, offering a tranquil setting for picnicking, fishing, or simply enjoying the scenic views. It’s an ideal place for a peaceful day in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

These national parks in Ulaanbaatar are gateways to experiencing the untamed beauty and freedom of the Mongolian wilderness. They offer visitors a chance to connect deeply with nature and enjoy a break from the urban environment. Whether you’re an avid hiker, wildlife enthusiast, or just someone looking to find a peaceful spot to unwind, Ulaanbaatar’s national parks have something special for everyone.

Stunning Hiking Trails

Exploring national parks near Ulaanbaatar offers an unparalleled hiking experience, drawing me into the heart of Mongolia’s pristine wilderness. Among these, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park stands out for its breathtaking trails winding through vibrant meadows, imposing mountains, and sparkling streams, making it a prime spot for nature lovers.

Similarly, the Khustain Nuruu National Park captivates with its array of wildlife and scenic paths across undulating hills, providing a unique opportunity to observe Mongolia’s natural heritage up close.

For those seeking serenity, a hike along the Tuul River’s banks presents a peaceful escape amidst lush surroundings, while the Terelj River trail amazes with its verdant foliage and striking rock formations.

Additionally, the trails on Bogd Khan Mountain offer unforgettable views over Ulaanbaatar, enriching your hiking journey with panoramic vistas of the city and its vast landscapes.

Embarking on these trails, you connect deeply with nature, embracing a freedom that revitalizes the spirit. The experience isn’t just about physical activity but also about understanding the importance of preserving these natural wonders.

Hiking in these parks is more than a leisure activity; it’s a journey through Mongolia’s heartland, offering insights into the country’s rich biodiversity and geological marvels.

Scenic Countryside Drives

Setting out from Ulaanbaatar for a drive through the Mongolian countryside offers a captivating glimpse into the country’s vast natural beauty, characterized by undulating hills, endless grasslands, and awe-inspiring mountain views. Here’s why such a drive should be a priority for anyone visiting Ulaanbaatar:

  1. Stunning countryside visuals: The Mongolian countryside presents a canvas of natural beauty, with its hills and grasslands creating a panorama that stretches to the horizon. This picturesque setting isn’t just a feast for the eyes but also a photographer’s dream.
  2. Rich wildlife and birdwatching: Driving through Mongolia’s landscapes, you have the chance to spot an array of wildlife, including wild horses and a variety of rare birds. This opportunity for wildlife observation adds a thrilling dimension to the drive, making it a must-do for nature enthusiasts.
  3. Exploring Terelj and Khustain Nuruu National Parks: These national parks are jewels in Mongolia’s natural crown. Terelj offers a spectacle of rock formations, pristine rivers, and verdant landscapes, while Khustain Nuruu is renowned for its population of wild horses, known as Takhi. Both parks provide a splendid backdrop for nature walks and photography.
  4. The allure of majestic rivers: The Tuul and Terelj Rivers, with their tranquil flows, enhance the scenic drive’s charm. Their presence highlights the serene beauty of Mongolia’s countryside and provides spots for relaxation and reflection.

A scenic drive through the Mongolian countryside from Ulaanbaatar isn’t merely a journey through nature but an immersive experience into the heart of Mongolia’s vast landscapes. The drive offers a unique blend of visual delights, from the rolling hills and wide-open grasslands to the towering mountains.

Along the way, the chance to observe wildlife and birds adds an exciting element to your exploration, while visits to Terelj and Khustain Nuruu National Parks immerse you in the area’s distinctive natural beauty. Driving alongside the serene Tuul and Terelj Rivers, take a moment to appreciate their peaceful beauty.

This experience connects you with Mongolia’s natural wonders, offering a sense of freedom and tranquility that’s both refreshing and inspiring.

Culinary Delights

Dive into the heart of Ulaanbaatar’s culinary culture and discover the rich, authentic flavors of Mongolian cuisine. The national dishes of Mongolia aren’t just meals; they’re a reflection of the country’s deep-rooted heritage and vibrant culture.

One standout dish you must try is Buuz, which are steamed dumplings filled with juicy meat and seasoned with a blend of aromatic spices. Biting into these tender dumplings, you’ll experience a burst of flavors that are truly unforgettable.

Another iconic dish is Khorkhog, which combines mutton and vegetables cooked with hot stones, giving the dish a distinctive smoky flavor and making the meat exceptionally tender.

For a genuine taste of Mongolian tradition, you can’t miss Airag, a fermented mare’s milk with a unique tangy flavor. It’s a central part of the Mongolian diet and pairs wonderfully with Boortsog, deep-fried dough cookies that are crispy and often enjoyed with tea or as a dessert.

If you’re looking to explore the modern side of Mongolian cuisine, Mongolian barbecue is a must-try. This cooking style involves meats and vegetables grilled on a hot metal surface, resulting in a sizzling, flavorful feast. The marinated meats and fresh vegetables combine to create a meal that’s both delicious and satisfying.

Ulaanbaatar’s culinary scene offers an array of taste experiences, from traditional Mongolian dishes that have been passed down through generations to more contemporary offerings. Whether you’re indulging in the classics or exploring new flavors, the city’s diverse culinary landscape promises to captivate your taste buds and leave you eager for more.

Shopping and Markets

Venturing through Ulaanbaatar, the heart of Mongolia, unveils a shopping paradise that beckons every visitor with its colorful and lively atmosphere. The city is a hub for retail enthusiasts, offering a wide range of shopping experiences that cater to all tastes and preferences. Let’s dive into some of the top shopping spots that are sure to enrich your visit:

  1. State Department Store: This landmark is more than just a shopping center; it’s a cultural experience. Here, you’ll find an extensive collection of modern apparel, accessories, and memorable souvenirs. The highlight is undoubtedly the top floor, which showcases items that celebrate Mongolia’s rich cultural tapestry, making it a must-visit for anyone wanting to connect with the local heritage.
  2. Narantuul Market: Referred to as the biggest open-air market in the city, Narantuul Market offers an authentic glimpse into Mongolian life. Wander through its bustling lanes to uncover a vast array of traditional Mongolian crafts, attire, and keepsakes. This market isn’t just a shopping destination but a place to immerse yourself in Mongolia’s vibrant culture and traditions.
  3. Cashmere Shops: Mongolia’s reputation for producing some of the finest cashmere in the world is well-deserved. Ulaanbaatar’s cashmere boutiques are the perfect spots to purchase luxurious, soft, and durable cashmere products. Whether you’re looking for a warm sweater or a chic accessory, the city’s cashmere offerings won’t disappoint.
  4. Souvenir Shops: Bringing a piece of Mongolia home is made easy with the city’s charming souvenir shops. These stores are treasure troves of items that reflect the soul of Mongolian culture, from miniature gers (yurts) to beautifully crafted ornaments. These keepsakes serve as a lasting reminder of your journey through Ulaanbaatar.

Exploring Ulaanbaatar’s shopping scene is an adventure that offers insight into the city’s rich history and cultural heritage. Whether you’re searching for the latest fashion trends, traditional crafts, or unique souvenirs, Ulaanbaatar’s markets and shops provide a memorable shopping experience that goes beyond mere retail therapy.

Traditional Performances

The vibrant culture of Ulaanbaatar truly comes alive through its traditional performances, a fundamental aspect of the city’s heritage. Among the top places to experience these cultural showcases is the Tumen Ekh Theatre. This venue is renowned for its presentations of Mongolia’s rich folklore, featuring an array of traditional music, songs, dances, and even the unique art of contortion. These performances not only highlight Mongolian traditions but also showcase the incredible talent and dedication of the artists involved.

Another key location for experiencing Mongolian traditional arts is the National Dance and Musical Grand Theatre. This theatre is a window into the soul of Mongolia, offering breathtaking performances of traditional music and dance. Each show is a deep dive into the country’s storied past and vibrant traditions, providing spectators with a visually stunning and emotionally resonant experience.

For those interested in the spiritual and cultural dimensions of Mongolia, the Gandantegchilen Monastery is an essential visit. Although not a conventional venue for performances, this monastery offers insight into Mongolian religious practices and is home to the majestic Migjid Janraisag Buddha statue. This site allows visitors to connect with the spiritual aspects of Mongolian culture in a profound way.

Ulaanbaatar is also home to several other cultural landmarks that provide deeper insights into Mongolian heritage. The Choijin Lama Temple Museum preserves a historical temple filled with religious artifacts and traditional artworks, while the Bogd Khan Palace Museum, once the winter residence of Mongolia’s last king, houses royal and religious treasures. Furthermore, the Zanabazar Fine Art Museum features an extensive collection of Mongolian art, spanning nine halls and offering a comprehensive overview of the nation’s artistic achievements.

Did you like reading about the Top Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar?
Share blog post:

Read the complete travel guide of Ulaanbaatar

Related articles about Ulaanbaatar