Apart from the springs at Khujirt, the main attraction in the area is the Orkhon waterfall. The waterfall is situated in the historically significant Orkhon Valley, whose river flows an incredible 1120km to the north before it joins the mighty Selenge Gol. Also called Ulaan Tsutgalan, the waterfall was formed by a unique combination of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes about 20,000 years ago. The fall is naturally most impressive after heavy rain.
High in the mountains marking the north side of the Orkhon Valley lie the ruins of this ancient temple and retreat. Zanabazar founded the site in 1653 and lived, worked and meditated here for 30 years. Several pilgrimage sites have grown up around the temple and hermit’s caves, including one that is said to be Zanabazar’s boot imprint. The remains of the temple are hard to reach. There is an indirect road which runs around 30km from the north bank of the Orkhon Gol, but you might be better off on horseback. The ruins are around 50km from the centre of Bat-Olzii sum centre.
In 1220 Chinggis Khaan decided to move his capital from Onon Valley in Khentii to Kharkhorin , 373km south-west of modern day Ulaanbaatar. Building only began after Chinggis death by his son Ogedei Khaan. Kharkhorin served as the political, cultural and economic capital of the Mongols for only 40 years, before Khublai Khaan moved it to Khanbalik, in what is now Beijing. Following the move to Beijing, and the subsequent collapse of the Mongolian empire, Kharkhorin was abandoned and then destroyed by vengeful Manchurian soldiers in 1388.
Erdene Zuu Khiid
Erdene Zuu (Hundred Treasure ) was the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. The monastery was started in 1586 by Abtai Khaan, but wasn’t entirely finished until about 300 years later. It had between 60 and 100 temples, about 300 gers were set up inside the walls and, at its height, up to 1000 monks were in residence. Like Kharkhorin, the monastery was abandoned and then vandalized by invading Manchus. Attempts at restoration were made in about 1760 and again, in 1808 under the direction of the famous architect Manzshir, but then came the Stalinist purges of the 1930s.
With over one-third of the country’s population, Ulaanbaatar is by far Mongolia’s largest city. It is also the transport and industrial centre of the country. Often shortened to UB by foreigners (but not by locals ), Mongolia’s capital still has the look and feel of a neglected European city from the 1950’s – but not for long. The old Soviet cars and buses are being replaced by newer Japanese models, apartments are being convertedinto flashy shops and it seems that every young Mongolian now has a mobile phone. Despite being national capital and largest city, Ulaanbaatar retains a relaxed, small-town atmosphere. It is a very pleasant place to visit an to base yourself for trips around the country. The city has interesting monasteries and museums and excellent cultural shows, so try to spend some time here before heading out to the glorious valleys, steppes or dessert of Mongolia.
Khustai National Park
Established in 1993, this park, also known as Khustai Nuruu (Birch Nountain Range), is about 100km south-west of Ulaanbaatar. The 50,620 hectare reserve protects the takhi, Mongolia’s wild horse, and its steppe and forest-steppe environment. In addition to the takhi , there are populatons of maral (Asiatic red deer ), steppe gazelle, deer, boar, manul wild cat, wolf and lynx. A visit to the park has become a popular overnight excursion from Ulaanbaatar in recent years.
Bilge Khaan’s Monumental
When Chinggis Khaan decided to move his capital to Kharkhorin, he was well aware that the region had already been capital to successive nomad empires. About 20km north-east of Khar Balgas (as the crow flies) liest the remainder of yet another of these pre-Mongol emoires, the Turkic khaganate. All that’s left of the khaganate is the 3m high inscribed monuments Kultegin (684-731), the khagan (ruler) himself. Just over 1km away is another monument to Bilge Khaan (683-734), younger brother of Kultegin. Ten years after the death of Bilgethe Turkic khaganate was overrun by the Uighurs. The two monuments are 25km north-west of Khashaat in a region called Tsaidam, about 47km north of Kharkhorin and are hard to find.
Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape sprawls along the banks of the Orkhon River in Central Mongolia, some 320km west from the capital Ulaanbaatar. It was inscribed by UNESCO in the World Heritage List representing the evolution of nomadic pastoral traditions spanning more than two millennia. For many centuries Orkhon Valley was viewed as the seat of the imperial power of the steppes. The first evidence comes from a stone stele with runic inscriptions, which was erected in the valley by Bilge Khan, an 8th century ruler of the Gokturk Empire.
Mogoit hot spirings
Mogoit hot Springs are located in the sum of Bat-Olzii province of Ovorkhangai in the area inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List Orkhon Valley. Zanabazar discovered these springs his blessing is said to have given many virtues to the springs. According to the local believes, they still have many virtues they can relieve sore joints, nervous system diseases, gynaecologic problems, and allergies. The olders say that you have to drink the water to treat yourself. In 1944, Russina researchers tested the composition of the springs. There is notably sodium sulfate and fluorine. The springs have sixteen different origins, and their temperature vary between 33 and 72C.
Going towards West from Khogno Khaan, we can find sand dunes lost in the middle of a mountainous area. They’re called Eslen Tasarkhai “the sand fracture” and extend 80km in the South of the Khogno Khaan National Park. These dunes run along th Tarna River that is borded with willor trees. If you don’t have the time to visit the Gobi (where there are not a lot sand dunes anyway), these are certainly worth wandering around.
Terelj National Park
Terelj, About 80km nort-east of Ulaanbaatar, is a deservedly popular destination. At 1600m, the area is cool and the alpine scenery is magnificent, and there are great opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, swimming (in icy water), rafting, horse riding and for hard-core extreme sports fanatics, skiing in the depths of winter. Terelj was first developed for tourism in 1964 and 30 years after it became part of the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. To the north-east, the park joins onto the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area, comprising over 1.2 million hectares of the Tov, Selenge and Kentii aimags.