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Mongolia

Main attractions

Bogd Khan Uul national park, Mongolia
Bogd Khan Uul national park - the oldest national park in the world, officially established in 1783 / yeowatzup, , CC BY 2.0

This enormous country is sparsely populated - but quite rich with natural and man made heritage. Highlights of Mongolia are:

  • Fossil finds - the legendary dinosaur graveyards of Mongolia were like Eldorado to paleontologists. Secluded valleys and canyons near Gobi desert are packed with fossilized bones of extinct reptiles and amphibians. State of preservation often is surprising - this was the first place in the world where dinosaur eggs were found, world famous "fighting dinosaurs" (Velociraptor and Protoceratops) were found here in 1971.
  • Rock art - thousands of cliffs, rocks and shelters in Mongolia are adorned with old drawings and etchings, often showing extinct animals - mammoths and rhinos, and often showing amazing skills of prehistoric artists. Unique are deer stones - standing stones adorned with intricate, fantastic designs.

Natural landmarks

Melkhii Khad, Mongolia
Melkhii Khad - Turtle Rock / Brücke-Osteuropa, / public domain

Cliff formations

  • Khorgo basalt yurts (Basalt Gers) - Arkhangai. Unusual formation - up to 1.7 m tall, solidified lava bubbles on the southern slope of extinct volcano.
  • Melkhii Khad (Turtle Rock) - Töv. Enormous monolith - rock, which resembles a turtle.
  • Taikhar Chuluut - Arkhangai. Granite monolith, abruptly rising from the ground, 25 m tall. Sacred place.
Orkhon Falls, Mongolia
Orkhon Falls / Chelsea Hicks, / CC BY 2.0

Waterfalls

  • Arsain Falls (Arsain Khurkhree) - Khövsgöl. Tallest waterfall in Mongolia, some 70 m tall.
  • Orkhon Falls (Ulaan Tsutgalan) - Uvurkhanai. 22 m tall and 10 m wide waterfall - vertical plunge over basalt cliff. Formed on Orkhon River.

Fossil finds

  • Bayanzag (Flaming Cliffs) - Ömnögovi. One of the richest and most interesting fossil finds on Earth. This was the first site where dinosaur eggs were found, here have been found remnants of Velociraptor and other Cretaceous dinosaurs.
  • Bugiin Tsav - Ömnögovi. This area is very rich with fossilized dinosaur (including Tarbosaurus) finds, found also fossils of fish, turtles and other animals.
  • Khermen Tsav - Bayankhongor. Gorgeous canyon with amazing, up to 30 m tall cliff formations. Very rich find of Cretaceous dinosaur fossils, dinosaur eggs and other fossils.
Khongoryn Els singing dunes, Mongolia
Khongoryn Els singing dunes / Alastair Rae, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Other natural landmarks

  • Khongoryn Els singing dunes - Bayankhongor. Impressive system of dunes, several hundred metres tall. Dunes emit eerie, humming sound in the wind or when walking.
  • Shargaljuut hot springs - Bayankhongor. Geothermal area with numerous hot springs. Water from the springs is up to 90.5 °C hot. For several centuries used for healing.
  • Tabun Khara Obo - Dornogovi. Impressive, very well preserved impact crater, which has formed in Proterozoic rocks. Diameter - 1.3 km, visible depth - up to 30 km.
  • Taliin agui (Steppe Cave) - Sükhbaatar. One of the largest caves in Mongolia, 193 m long, adorned with fine speleothems.
  • Tsagaan Agui (White Cave) - Bayankhongor. In this 40 m long cave approximately 0.7 million years ago lived human ancestors Homo erectus, people lived here later as well. Cave is adorned with calcite crystals.
  • Yolyn Am - Bayankhongor. Impressive, narrow gorge with up to 200 m tall cliffs. Ice field persists in this gorge throughout most of the year, although lately it disappears at the end of summer.

Man made landmarks

Sites of rock art

  • Bayangiin Nuruu Petroglyphs - Bayankhongor. Rich find of prehistoric cliff engravings. Many locals consider that some of drawings show aliens in helmets.
  • Bichigt Khad - Bayankhongor. Some 3 km long canyon - rich site of rock art with thousands of drawings, many drawings are made in Bronze Age.
  • Khoid Tsenkher Cave - Khovd. Cave with very old (approximately 20,000 years) paintings of mammoths, lynx, ostriches. Style of drawings is unusual, not characteristic for this region.
  • Rashaan Khad - Khentii. Site of Paleolithic - Middle Age rock art. Drawings show such extinct animals as rhinos and mammoths. Contains numerous writings in diverse old scripts.
  • Tsagaan Salaa rock art - Bayan-Ölgii. Rich collection of Neolithic and Bronze Age rock art with some 10,000 drawings. Most drawings show herds of wild animals and livestock.
  • Upper Tsagaan Gol rock art - Bayan-Ölgii. Some 5000 groups of prehistoric drawings, each depicting a certain scheme. Many drawings seem to be oriented towards the sacred mountain - Shiviit Khairkhan.
Tallest deer stone in Ulaan Tolgoi, Mongolia
Tallest deer stone in Asia, Ulaan Tolgoi / Brian Dearth, / CC BY 2.0

Stelae, deer stones

  • Binder’s Deer Stone - Khentii. Interesting archaeological site with several enormous deer stones, 12 square graves, 2 tumulus.
  • Khurgiin Khundii Valley - Sükhbaatar. Valley which once contained 7 stone sculptures, which were erected in the 13th or 14th century. Only three statues remain.
  • Orkhon inscriptions (Steles of Tonyukuk, Bayn Tsokto) - Ulaanbaatar. Monuments - two standing stelae erected in 722 AD to commemorate the deeds of Tonyukuk - great statesman of the past. Stelae are covered with Orkhon-Turkic script and tell the history of Turks, are similar to epics.
  • Ulaan Tolgoi - Khövsgöl. Site with five deer stones, including the tallest one - 3.8 m tall.
  • Uushigiin Uver (Moron Deer Stones) - Khentii. One of the most impressive groups of deer stones and other monuments. 14 standing stones with beautiful carved deer on their surfaces. Constructed in 1000 BC (?).

Abandoned cities

  • Karakorum ruins (Kharkhorin) - Övörkhangai. Ruins (mostly underground) of the former capital of Mongol Empire, established by Ghengis Khan around 1220. Even European artisans came here to build wonderful buildings and create artworks, including the legendary Silver Tree and, possibly - Xanadu palace. Destroyed in 1388. Now only two large sculptures of turtles - former adornment of city gates - remain.
  • Ordu-Baliq (Kharbalgas) - Arkhangai. Ruins of the first capital of Uyghur Khaganate. Established in 744, flourished until 840, when it was ruined by Yenisey Kyrgyzes. City had 10 m tall city walls, sentry towers, was 25 km² large. Statue with runic inscriptions found.

Buddhist monasteries

Amarbayasgalant monastery, Mongolia
Amarbayasgalant monastery / einalem, / CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Amarbayasgalant monastery - Selenge. One of most interesting monasteries in Mongolia, built in 1727 - 1736. Constructed in a green site rich with Mongolian cherries and diverse archaeological landmarks. Remain 28 temples on 207 x 175 m large platform. Temples have interesting engineering solutions.
  • Erdene Zuu monastery - Övörkhangai. The oldest existing Buddhist monastery in Mongolia, founded in 1585, reportedly built from ruins of Karakorum. It was almost completely destroyed by Communists in 1939.
  • Gandantegchinlen monastery - Ulaanbaatar. Principal centre of Buddhist learning in Mongolia, the only monastery which persisted during the Socialist times. Founded in 1727. Contains 26.5 m tall statue of Migjid Janraisig, covered with gold and 2 286 gemstones.
  • Shankh monastery - Övörkhangai. One of oldest monasteries in Mongolia, established by Zanabazar in 1647. Destroyed in 1937, now reconstructed.
  • Tuvkhun monastery - Övörkhangai. Important monastery, established by Zanabazar in 1654 in spectacular mountaintop location. Heavily damaged by Communists in the 1930s but revived. Site of legends.
  • Zayayn Gegeenii Süm - Arkhangai. One of the few preserved Buddhist monasteries in the country. The first temple was built here in 1586, in 1679 expanded to 5 temples. Now here are some 70 monks. Rich museum of Mongolian etnography and art items.

Other sacred sites

  • Burkhan Khaldun - Khentii. The most sacred mountain in Mongolia, the first mountain declared to be sacred by Genghis Khan. It is possible that he was born nearby and could be buried here as well.
  • Danzan Ravjaa's Caves (108 caves) - Dornogovi. Three rock-cut caves, according to tradition - 108 caves. Sacred Buddhist caves, which, accordingly to legend, are located at the base of Shambhala. Site where Danzan Ravjaa lived and meditated.
  • Ikh Khorig - Khentii. Somewhat mysterious, approximately 240 km² large area, which is carefully guarded for many centuries since the death of Ghengis Khan in 1227. It is possible that here is located tomb of Genghis Khan. This beautiful woodland was guarded by Darkhad, who killed anyone entering it. In Socialist times it was heavily guarded by armed forces, now opened only for scientific research. Many Mongols consider that disturbance to this place can cause a catastroph to mankind.
Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, Mongolia
Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, Ulaanbaatar / yeowatzup, , CC BY 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Genghis Khan Statue - Ulaanbaatar. The largest equestrian statue in the world, 40 m tall. Depicts Genghis Khan on horseback. Statue stands on the building of visitor centre. Constructed in 2008. Park and architectonic complex is arranged around the statue.
  • Kharkhorin Rock - Övörkhangai. 60 cm long statue of penis, located on stone platform. Possibly linked to nearby Erdene Zuu monastery in order to remind about the importance of celibate.
  • Natural History Museum - Ulaanbaatar. This museum contains unique collections of dinosaur fossils (including "fighting dinosaurs"), meteorites and other unique finds in Mongolia.
  • Noin-Ula kurgans - Tov. More than 200 burial mounds, some up to 2 m high. Excavations in 1924 - 1925 have shown that these are burials of Xiongnu, from the 3rd century BC - 0. Burials contain rich array of artefacts, including goods of European (Greek) origin and samples of early writing.
  • Öglögchiin Kherem - Khentii. 3.2 km long and approximately 3 m tall stone wall, built in the time period from the 8th to 10th centuries. Near this wall are more than 60 old graves - possible royal graveyard.
  • Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan - Ulaanbaatar. The only remaining palace of the emperor of Mongolia, Bogd Khan. This complex of buildings includes six temples, nature and art collections of Bogd Khan.

List of described attractions by provinces

Mongolia is divided into 21 provinces (aimags) and capital city Ulaanbaatar. Here below they are listed in alphabetical order:

Arkhangai
Bayan-Ölgii
Bayankhongor
Bulgan
Darkhan-Uul
Dornod
Dornogovi
ArrowTabun Khara OboImpact craters
Dundgovi
Govi-Altai
Govisümber
Khentii
Khovd
Khövsgöl
Ömnögovi
Orkhon
Övörkhangai
ArrowErdene Zuu monasteryBuddhist shrines
Selenge
Sükhbaatar
Töv
Ulaanbaatar
Uvs
Zavkhan

Map of Mongolia

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