Mongolia opened to the western world in 1990; the ‘Land of Blue Sky’ is one of the few places on earth where travelers can walk on the undiscovered ground and explore with a sense of adventure. Home to one of the greatest conquerors of all time, Genghis Khan. Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator), is the capital and one of the largest cities in Mongolia. It is located between Russia and China. Mongolia is roughly the same size as Alaska and is completely landlocked. The vast landscape and Gobi Desert can be discovered on horses or camel-back or in the comfort of a four-wheel drive.

A visit to the Southern Gobi Desert is a must for adventurers with limited time. It provides the typical vision of Mongolia, complete with Mongol Ger (the Mongolian word for yurt). Aside from photography, full of excitement, such as riding camels on the steppe, adventuring through the dunes, visiting dinosaur digs, interacting with local families, and setting up camps for the evening.

Ulan Batar, Mongolia
Mongolian landscape along the Trans-Mongolian Rail route

Helpful Information

Best Time To Visit

Best Time To Visit – The best time of year to visit is June to August, as the Naadam Festival is a highlight in July, with the weather being warm and mostly dry. Those who wish to see the Golden Eagle Festival should travel in October. The low season lasts from October to April. Most ger camps close when the weather gets cold. July sees the celebrated Naadam Festival when Mongolia’s three national sports (wrestling, riding, and archery) are showcased; the procession to the special Naadam stadium, south of the city, starts outside UB’s main Sukhbaatar Square.

How To Get There

There are no direct flights to Mongolia from the USA, so either take the scenic route (five days on the Trans-Mongolian Railway from Moscow or a day-and-a-half from Beijing) or fly using local airline MIAT Mongolian Airlines from Russia or China.

I took train #06 at 8:14 AM from Irkutsk and arrived in Ulan Bator the next day at 8:00 AM. Since my travel plan was relatively tight and flexible, I wanted peace of mind considering that it was an international route, so I did not find any other option but to go through a travel agency in Moscow. I paid US$ 195 for a second-class sleeper (including a bunk, blankets, and meals).

Krugozor Travel Bureau, Attn: Ines Abalova, 27/1 Lubyansky Proezd, Moscow. email:

From Beijing By Train

From Beijing, a single train ticket would cost much cheaper than coming from Irkutsk, and it’s a better option if you don’t have any intention to take the Trans-Mongolian trip towards Moscow/St. Petersburg. You can buy tickets from the China International Travel Service in Beijing (Tel: 010 6515 0232) at the International Hotel.

Getting Around in Ulan Bator

Ulan Bator is a small city, so a brisk walk from the station into town takes 20 minutes. But the best thing about the capital is the taxi system. Nowhere else can you hail a passing BMW or Mercedes-Benz and have it take you a couple of miles for less than a dollar. Nearly every car will stop for you, and there is a standard rate of 250 tugriks (US$ 1 = 2150 Tugriks) per kilometer. The only difficulty is making yourself understood by the driver.

Even though there are plenty of buses, you should never take the chance to avoid pickpocketing and consider language issues. Mongolia is a vast landscape, and getting from one place to another requires much driving. Roads are rough, and most road systems are not paved. Sometimes one-hour drives may often feel closer to three. So the best way to travel throughout the country is to work with a ground operator for all your transportation logistics. As many recommended, if you are going on town trips, hire a 4×4 Jeep plus guide.

Ulan Bator is a vast spread-out city with multiple islands; therefore, finding a suitable area to stay in requires prior experience or expert recommendation. Here are a few hotels where I stayed:

Search Hotels in Ulan Bator

Visa Requirement

Visa Requirement – Holders of US passports who travel to Mongolia for official, private business, or tourism for up to 90 days are exempted from visa requirements. For more on Mongolia visa requirements, click here.

Check out iVisa for visa services

Top Things To Do In Ulan Bator (Ulaanbaatar)

Visit Terelj National Park

The Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is connected to Ulan Bator by a motorway. If you love walking and hiking, you will love Terelj National Park. Here you can wander for hours, hike to a Monastery, and horse ride through the forests and rocky hilltops. Make sure you check out ‘Turtle Rock’ too. You may think it looks like something else from a certain angle!

Terelj National Park, Mongolia
A View of Terelj National Park, Mongolia

The Gandantegchinlen Monastery

The Gandantegchinlen Monastery is a Tibetan-style Buddhist monastery in the Mongolian capital of Ulan Bator. The Tibetan name translates to the “Great Place of Complete Joy.” It is home to a huge golden Buddha surrounded by thousands of smaller statues perched in the glass cases that line the main hall’s walls.

Ulan Bator, Mongolia
Tibetan-style Buddhist monastery in the Mongolian capital
ulaanbaatar, mongolia
Inside The Gandantegchinlen Monastery complex

Visit The Choijin Lama Temple

The Choijin Lama Temple is a Buddhist monastery in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. The complex consists of four temples originally occupied by the brother of the ruler Bogd Khan.

A Buddhist monastery in Ulaanbaatar

Explore Chinggis Square

Grand Chinggis Khaan Square, previously known as Sukhbaatar Square, is the central square of Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar. In July 1921, in the center of Ulaanbaatar, the ‘hero of the revolution,’ Damdin Sukhbaatar, declared Mongolia’s final independence from the Chinese. This is the center of the City and is occasionally used for rallies, ceremonies, even for rock concerts.

ulaanbaatar, mongolia
A view2 of Chinggis Square on a rainy day

Visit The Genghis Khan Complex

The Genghis Khan Statue, part of the Genghis Khan Complex, is a 40-meter (131 ft) tall statue of Genghis Khan on horseback. It is 54 km (33 miles) from UB by the Tuul River.

Genghis Khan complex, Mongolia
Genghis Khan complex

On our way from the Genghis Khan complex to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, we enjoyed a beautiful view of the Tuul River.

Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, mongolia
A beautiful view of the Tuul River

Climb The Zairean Hill

The Zaisan Memorial is a memorial in the southern area of the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar that honors Soviet soldiers killed in World War II. From the top of the hill, you will be able to enjoy a nice panoramic view of Ulaanbator.

A view of Ulaanbaatar skyline from the Zairean hill.

Experience the Gobi Desert

Gobi Desert is definitely a place that must be experienced. Ideally, it’s about a 7 – 8-day package tour from Ulan Bator. 8 days is perfect because that gives you enough flexibility and freedom to stop anywhere you like. You will need a reliable 4×4 jeep, most of the tour operators use the cool looking van UAZ (Russian made van).

During this tour, you will experience the national forest, wild horses, camels, and be able to trek through the incredible sand dunes called Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes which is one of the largest and most spectacular sand dunes in Mongolia. You can Also experience the gorgeous view of Tsagaan Suvarga Canyon on a dark night when no one around, hike at the Gobi Desert National Park, then get to witness the place where the first dinosaur egg was discovered in Mongolia.

Yurta, mongolia
Yurta- traditional dwelling of mongolian nomads
Mongolia. Sands Mongol Els, sandy dune desert

One of the most exciting things about this trip is to experience the daily life of traditional nomadic families. Sleeping overnight in a Gar, waking up to the noise of household animals like goats, sheep, camels and of course yaks and trying out traditional Nomadic food prepared by the hosting family is something you will never forget. If you are staying in Golden Gobi Guesthouse in Ulan Bator they offer a Golden Gobi Desert Tour. I have seen many recommendations for their good and reliable service.

Mongolian Ger
Mongol Ger (the Mongolian word for yurt)
Gobi Desert in Mongolia
Gobi Desert in Mongolia

Where to stay in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Zaluuchuud Hotel Ulaanbaatar

Zaluuchuud Hotel Ulaanbaatar is a 5-minute walk from Sukhbaatar Square, a 6-minute walk from Chinggis Khan Statue, and a 7-minute walk from the National Museum of Mongolian History. The hotel is located in the heart of Ulaanbaatar and offers a restaurant and free bikes. In addition, it offers a fee-based shuttle service from the airport or train station. Featuring a bathtub, the private bathroom also comes with a shower. Day trips in the city or surroundings can be arranged at an extra cost. In addition, an all-day laundry service is provided on-site. Chinggis Khaan International Airport is 25 minute drive away.

Ramada Ulaanbaatar City Center

Boasting a spa and wellness center, fitness center, and gourmet cuisine across 2 stylish restaurants and bars, the 4-star Ramada Ulaanbaatar City Center is located in the city center of Ulaanbaatar. Guests can relax in the sauna or hot tub, enjoy soothing massage treatment, use the facilities at the business center, or rent a car to explore the surroundings. In addition, staff can offer various services, including currency exchange, laundry, and dry cleaning. For anyone who fancies singing, there are karaoke rooms available. Ramada Ulaanbaatar City Center is a 10-minute drive from Ulaanbaatar Railway Station. Chinggis Khaan International Airport is a 30-minute car journey away.

My Opinion and Last Word

Have you been to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia? Any cool tips to share?

loved being in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and want to go back again. I hope my story has motivated you to visit Mongolia.

Please leave a comment below! I’d love to hear from you to improve my knowledge. 

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Hasan Mahmud

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