4 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Mongolia

Jul 22, 2021

In the very center of the continent lies Mongolia, a spectacularly untamed region of countless peaks, wide grasslands, and rugged deserts.

Most travelers will experience Mongolia only as they pass through its narrow, winding highways on their way somewhere else. But those with some extra time will discover that this land offers some of the greatest cultural and natural riches in Asia.

The Buddhist and tribal art of the nomadic tribes of the Mongolian steppe is reflected in the region's magnificent landscape, where it's impossible to feel far from nature, no matter where you are.

The vast empty expanses of grassland are home to hundreds of wildlife species, including the wild horses of the Mongolian steppes, which have survived by adapting to life in the wild. While the traditional lives of the Mongolians continue today, the modern-day inhabitants of Mongolia have a thirst for western culture. They live in cities, and their holiday homes often come with running water and electricity. Yet for travelers in search of authentic Mongolian culture, not far from the urban centers of the country are numerous Mongolian archaeological sites and traditional villages where you can take in traditional life today.

The following is our list of the top tourist attractions in Mongolia, along with those places worth going out of your way to see.

Gobi Desert

Photo of Gobi Desert
Gobi Desert: en.wikipedia.org

The Gobi Desert covers almost one million square kilometers of Mongolia and China. It has the world's largest single salt marsh, the Ailin Grasslands. The marshes stretch from Ulan Bator in the west through the republic of Mongolia to the Yellow Sea in the east. The most arid part of the Gobi is in China, and here the main trade route is from Beijing to the seaports of Erenhot and Urumqi. Waters of the marshes and the Ailin Basin of the Yellow River have given rise to lush grasslands and extensive wetlands, which are notable for their immense size and a high level of biodiversity. The Gobi Desert is very dry in most areas, but during the winter there is significant rainfall. The most arid areas tend to be the hottest, at approximately 40 C or higher. Travel to the Gobi Desert is difficult in winter as well as in the rainy season. The Trans-Siberian Railroad serves the small cities of Kharkhin and Hailar and nearby pasture lands and oases, the first being close to the Mongolian border. This is the route used by the train and bus lines to Ulan Bator in the west. Mongolian travel can be done by boat or air. To reach the country from North America, go by boat to the small border town of Tavan Bogd (Dulan Bogd) in Mongolia. The international air and rail station is at the Ulaanbaatar capital of the country, where air connections to cities in the west and east are available.

Bayan-Olgiy

Photo of Bayan-Ölgii Province
Bayan-Ölgii Province: en.wikipedia.org

Located near the western-most end of Lake Baikal, Bayan-Olgiy is Mongolian for "Farthest West." The town, however, is more often known simply as "Baga" and is the home of a monastery dedicated to the son of a 4th-century Mongolian king who tried to convert Buddhists in central Asia. With only about half a dozen traditional wooden buildings left, Baga, despite its impressive setting, is not a tourist destination, though it's only a 20-minute bus ride from the small town of Verkhnyaya Pyshma, a popular base from which to visit local Tibetan villages and attend Buddhist ceremonies and celebrations. Visitors will find locals to be friendly, and there are a number of art galleries and boutiques selling crafts.

Selenge River

Photo of Orkhon River
Orkhon River: en.wikipedia.org

The Selenge River is Mongolia's longest, originating in the west of the country and meandering its way southeast until it flows into the Shil-Dor goin, the major Mongolian border and railroad border with Russia. The town of Selenge in Western Mongolia is located in a narrow fertile valley and is a good stop along the way for travelers between Moscow and Beijing. Tourist attractions include Selenge's numerous cafes and restaurants, some of which are famous for their roast lamb. Be sure to try tsampa.

Kharkhorin

Photo of Kharkhorin
Kharkhorin: en.wikipedia.org

Kharkhorin is a famous and heavily visited historical site and the real name of the place is the Kherlen Monastery. Kharkhorin has an ancient history that includes the 6th century, when Kherlen Monastery was built, and from 1181 AD, when it was part of the Gedeng Khanid Khanate. The first part of Kharkhorin's history is documented, and is primarily located within the brick Kherlen Monastery. The Kherlen Monastery is a vast brick structure with six rectangular walls with many round corner towers, some which are habitable, and are decorated with various inscriptions and wall paintings, including Buddhist scenes, and the best known of which is the "The King of Peace," which is an image of Ksheshnagsky. Since 1934, the annual winter retreat to the Kherlen Monastery has been held. It is a celebration of the New Year where all the pilgrims make their way to Kharkhorin and take part in the special religious events. Kharkhorin, the name of the place, is located on the country's most popular tourist route.