Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia Cruise Port

With the intriguing name that translates to mean "Red Hero," the cruise port of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia started off as center for nomadic Buddhist monks when it was founded in 1639. Also called Ulayanbayatur, Ulan Bato, or just UB, this city of over one million residents is Mongolia's capital. Tucked inside the Tuul River valley (where the Tuul meets the Selbe River), its extensive road network connects travelers to both the Chinese railway system and Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia. The country's religious past was all but wiped away when Soviets took control in the 20th century, destroying monasteries and temples. Once Mongolia began the transition to democracy, this trend reversed; today, you'll find numerous temples intermingled with leftover Soviet-era constructions. If you walk the city, you might want to get a map; getting around the districts can be puzzling. Here are some of our favorite experiences when cruising to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia:
 
  • One of the country's most scenic places and away from the city (which can be easily reached by bus), Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is extremely popular among tourists, although it remains unspoiled. Along with the unique rock formations such as Turtle Rock, there are ample opportunities for mountain climbing, horseback riding, and simply enjoying nature.
     
  • Sukhbaatar Square (or Chinggis Khan Square) is where you'll find both an equestrian statue of Damdin Sükhbaatar, one of the leaders of Mongolia's revolution in 1921, along with large colonnade monument to Genghis Khan, Ögedei Khan, and Kublai Khan. Near the Government House, it's also where you may encounter state ceremonies, cultural events, and exhibitions.
     
  • Behind the Government House is the huge National History Museum, opened in 1956. Here you'll find all manner of exhibits charting Mongolia and its long history, from ancient volcanoes to ancient and contemporary botany to flora and fauna (and just about everything in between).
     
  • The Tibetan-style Gandantegchinlen Khiid or Gandan Monastery has been revitalized since 1990 and is one of the few religious structures that escaped the Soviet purge. With a name that means "Great Place of Complete Joy," it's an excellent place for reflection as well as enjoying the architecture.

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