The city of Ulaanbaatar is hard to pin down – an ever-changing, chaotic muddle at the heart of one of the world’s most remote and beautiful countries. The city was founded as a nomadic monastery that moved around the country a good few times before settling in its current location in 1778. Today it offers stark contrasts of shabby old and shiny new as it develops both industrially and socially – the prevailing bohemian atmosphere makes discovering its many secrets a laidback affair.
Mongolia’s largest and one of it’s most important monastery, Gandan’s full name ‘Gandantegchinlen’ means ‘Great Place of Complete Joy’. Founded in the mid-19th century Gandan is one of the few religious institutions to have survived the religious purges of the communist government of the 1930s. It wasn’t until the 1990s that Mongolians became free to practice Buddhism again, and it was then that the monastery was revitalised – today there are over 600 monks here. Visit the magnificent gilded statue of Migjid Janraisig – this re-casting of the original destroyed in the 1930s was paid for by contributions from the Mongolian people.
It was in 1921 at the centre of what is now Chinggis Khan Square that Mongolia’s independence from China was announced. It was renamed for the founding father of the nation in 2003, a great expanse of open space surrounded by some of Ulaanbaatar’s most important buildings. Look out for the statues of Chinggis, Ogedei and Kublai Khan in front of the Government Palace whilst the Soviet-style Cultural Palace houses the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery.
Completed in 1903 the winter palace is the only remaining of the four residences of Bogd Khan, the final king of Mongolia. Now a museum, the six temples dotted throughout the grounds are full of Buddhist artworks whilst the palace itself houses a fascinating collection that includes personal possessions of Bogd Khan, including an unusual stuffed animal collection and gifts that he received from visiting foreign dignitaries. The ceremonial ger is a must see.
Located in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, just two minutes stroll from Chinggis Khan Square, the Tuushin Hotel has modern rooms fitted to a high standard and a staff that are proud of their attentive service. The hotel also features three restaurants, a beauty spa, a sauna, and a fitness centre.
An international luxury hotel in the centre of Ulaanbaatar, the Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace offers elegant rooms boasting a European charm, a wonderfully relaxed ambiance and an indulgent spa in which to unwind - perfect after a day of exploration. Dining options include Mongolian, European and Japanese cuisine.
Opened in June 2015 as one of Ulaanbaatar's first high end hotels, the Shangri La brings its usual elegance and luxury to the city. Located right in the heart of Mongolia's capital, overlooking Chinggis Khan Square and Nayramdal Park the hotel's design blends international and traditonal Mongolian features, its range of restaurants and bars offering both a local and worldwide ambiance and fare.
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