Ulaanbaatar / Ulan-Bator

Ulaanbaatar/Ulan-Bator/ the mongolian capital

Ulan-Bator is the gate to Mongolia. The mongolian capital is the home of the third of the Mongolia’s population. The city is the cultural, economical, and political centre of Mongolia and is known for circus, theatre, museums and academy. Being the gate of Mongolia, you’ll discover a society in transition on quest for modernity. Come and discover this unknown part of the mongolian culture. The fall of communism, at the beggining of the 90th century changed many countries related with the sovietic world. From 1990, the funding that USSR gave to Mongolia felt from 60%. The impact was big on every side of the mongolian society. The field of social protection dropped and stopped many social program. The shock was intense on the economy. A big recession bean... During more than 75 year,s the mongolian governement took care of the survival of the mongolian people. When the funding stopped, many persons became all by themself. An incredible number of herder come in the mongolian capital hoping for a better life and nice work possibilty. But the population is crowding together so fast in the suburbs of Ulan-Bator that poverty is a major social problem. Many international NGO are now in Ulan-Bator trying to work and help those people. The actual mongolian capital was established in 1639 and was called Örgöö (Urga). At this time, Urga was situated in the province of Arkhangäi at 420 km from his actual place. There was a monastery called Da Khuree where Zanabazar (5 years old) the leader of the Buddhism in Mongolia lived around 1649. The monastery was destroyed during the 18th century by the Djungar (Jüngar, westerns mongols). But most of the building were felt tent and the people had a nomadic tradition, the city moved along the Orkhon, Selenge and Tuul river between 1719 to 1778. It’s at this moment that the mongolian capital found his today’s location. The name of the mongolian capital changed very often. Urga was the first that we know and is more a Russian transliteration from Örgöö. During the 19th century, the mongolian capital became a commercial and administrative center while being at the cross road of the tea road between Russia and China. The population was about 50 000 people. Temples and monasteries were built. The most famous one is Gandan monastery and was built in 1840. It’s now part of the Ulan-Bator religious heritage and is a nice attraction to visit. In 1911, when Mongolia proclaimed his independance from China the capital was called Niislel Khuree (Camps capital). When the independence was proclaimed the government changed into a theocracy ruled by Bogdo-Gegen (8ème and last reincarnation of Dalai-Lama to be found in Mongolia). There was a big try to modernise the mongolian capital. We tryied to open laic school but the pressure of the religion was very high and the project was forgotten. After the death of Bogdo-Gegen on November 26 of 1924, Urga (Örgöö) stayed the capital of Mongolia. The theocracy was abolished and it has been forbidden to search the reincarnation of Bogd Khan in Mongolia. It’s at this time that they switched to Tibet in China. The year of his death, the name of the mongolian capital was changed for Ulan-Bator (Ulaanbaatar). This name is related to the communist revolution that happened in 1921 and means Red Hero. In 1933 the autonomy of Ulan-Bator became bigger when separating from the Töv province. Ulan-Bator became the only municipality of the country and won some special executive and legislative power. At this period of the history of Mongolia people were living in their tradition yurt (felt tent) surrounded by woods fence. The Russian urbanisation began to give the look that we know now. Resident were transferred in high buildings but most of them kept there yurts and animals. There was about 3500 horses in Ulan-Bator. After the transfer most the resident preferred to go back in their traditional mongolian habitation during winter. Since the fall of communism in the 90th some individual house begin to be built. The shape of Ulan-Bator is now changing since the last 5 years. Some restaurants and nice cafes are opening and give a European style to the capital of Mongolia.

Money in Ulan-Bator (Ulaanbaatar)

Since the new millenary 2000, many things have changed in the mongolian capital. There is now some ATM machine and you can get some cash with your credit card (only VISA). The situation is quite different then 5 years ago where only the Trade and Development Bank of Mongolia gave cash advance to your card. For travelers cheques, bring it in US dollars or Euro. If your looking for ATM machine there are at the entrance of those hotels: Bayangol, Ulaanbaatar et Chinggis Khaan. Be sure to change your mongolian Tugrik before leaving the country. There is no other place where you can do it...

Important sites to visit in the mongolian capital (Ulaanbaatar)

National history museum of Mongolia

This nice museum was founded in 1924. Exhibits on Mongolia's history, culture and economic development as well as natural wealth are on display here. Sometimes called the State Central Museum, the Museum of Natural History is worth a quick visit. It has exhibits featuring Mongolia's geography, flora and fauna, including the requisite section with stuffed and embalmed animals, birds and even fish. Geologists will like the geology section (especially the awesome meteorites). Likewise, the birders will want to check off what they've seen at the Ornithological Gallery, stuffed (literally) with over 200 species. More impressive are the two complete dinosaur skeletons, which were found in the Gobi - the giant flesh-eating Tarbosaurus, 15m tall and four to five tons in weight, and the little duck-billed planteating Saurolophus at 'only' 8m. You can see them from above on the 3rd floor, or enter room 22 on the 2nd floor (ask for it to be opened if it's locked). The gallery next door is full of interesting knick-knacks like petrified wood, dinosaur eggs and huge leg bones, which look like something out of the Flintstones. There is also a camel museum on the second floor. The museum is old and rambling, with doors and corridors going all over the place, so trace your route using the map given out free with your ticket. The museum is on the corner of Khuvsgalchdyn Orgon Choloo and Sukhbaataryn Gudamj, one block north-west of the Square. It's open daily in summer from 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. (closed Monday and Tuesday in winter). Photography costs T 2000 per shot, except in the dinosaur hall which charges US$5 per person.


Above the city lies the Zaisan memorial. From the top of the hill you've got a nice view of Ulaanbaatar, but the stairs are very steep so be ready to climb. The monument itself is for the remembrance of the unknown Mongolian and Russian soldiers. On the backside you will find another ovoo and you'll get an idea about the looks of the hills behind the mongolian capital.

Sükhbaatar Place

In July 1921 in the center of Ulaanbaatar, the 'hero of the revolution', Damdin Sukhbaatar, declared Mongolia's final independence from the Chinese. The Square now bears his name and features a statue of him astride his horse. The words he apparently proclaimed at the time are engraved on the bottom of the statue: 'If we, the whole people, unite in our common effort and common will, there will be nothing in the world that we cannot achieve, that we will not have learnt or failed to do. Sukhbaatar would have been very disappointed to learn that the Square was also where the first protests were held in 1989, which eventually led to the fall of communism. Today, the Square is occasionally used for rallies, ceremonies and even rock concerts, but is generally a serene place where only the photographers - standing in a straight line selling their services - are doing anything. As you face North from the statue, the large grey building is State Parliament House, commonly known as Government House - which, like every ger, was built to face south. Directly in front of it is a mausoleum, built in 1921, which contains the remains of Sukhbaatar, and possibly Choibalsan. To the North-East is the tall, modern Palace of Culture, a useful landmark containing the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery and several other cultural institutions. At the south-east corner of the Square, the salmon-pinkish building is the State Opera & Ballet Theatre. On the north-western corner of the Square, the bright yellow building houses the Golomt Bank, with the gray National Museum of Mongolian History behind it. South of the Golomt Bank, the clay-red building (now with bright blue patches around the windows) is the Mongolian Stock Exchange, which was opened in February 1992 in the former Children's Cinema.

History museum of Mongolia

This interesting museum gives a quick look to each step of the mongolian empire until our days. It opens from 10h to 16h30 pm and has 3 floors. The Mongolian National Museum was first established in 1924 with the aim of introducing the history, culture, and natural environment of Mongolia to its visitors. From 1940 to 1941, the museum was known as the Museum of Local Research and then from 1956 to 1991 as the State central Museum. The State Central Museum moved into its own building in 1956, with galleries for history, natural environment, paleontology, and Mongolian art. In 1964, the History Gallery was enriched by new exhibits of ethnography. In May 1991, the State Committee of Culture and Art decided to improve the museums throughout the country and it established the National Museum of Mongolian History by merging the historical collections from the State Central Museum with the Museum of the Revolution, which had been founded in 1971. The National Museum of Mongolian History is now located in the facility built for the Museum of the Revolution. The Memorial Museum of the Victims of Political Repression (also in Ulaanbaatar) is a branch museum of the National Museum of Mongolian History. The National Museum of Mongolian History is a cultural, scientific, and educational organization that presents Mongolian history and culture from the dawn of humanity to the present day. The museum has been implementing different projects related to museum research work in cooperation with foreign and domestic museums as well as scientific organizations. In the last ten years, it has organized exhibitions in Germany, Japan, the U.S.A., Korea, Italy, Norway, China, and the Netherlands. The National Museum of Mongolian History is a cultural, scientific, and educational organization that presents Mongolian History and culture from the dawn of humanity to the present day. The museum has been implementing different projects related to museum research work in cooperation with foreign and domestic museums as well as scientific organizations. In the last ten years, it has organized exhibitions in Germany, Japan, the U.S.A., Korea, Italy, Norway, China, Georgia and the Netherlands.

Gandan Monastery

In XIII century, during the dynasty of Khubilai Khan the Wise, Buddhism was declared the state religion, and from the XVI century it became popular all over Mongolia and became known as the yellow religion. Small mobile monasteries functioned in Mongolia, and in 1838 the Gandantegchinlen monastery was founded as the religious center of Sutra-Tantra Buddhism at the site of Dalkha hill. It grew into a complex of colleges including a college of basic Buddhist teachings, departments of Astrology and Medicine, and as such was the largest center of the Mongolian Buddhism. The first temple of the Monastery was built at the initiative of the Mongolian living Buddha, the Fifth Incarnation Bogdo, Chultem-Jigmid-Dambijantsan. It was constructed by Mongolian masters and made mostly of wood and earth following Mongolian national architectural designs, with gold plated roofes and topmost Buddhist symbolic - decorations. Many of the Boddhisattyas statues and images established in Gandan temple are of significance. In the temple there are a bronze statue of the Lofty Noble Rimpoche Dzanabazar - the Mongolian living Buddha of the First Incarnation sculpted by himself at the behest of his mother; the collection of the Buddha's fundamental teachings, the Tripitaka (Gangiur) in 108 volumes; the silver statue of the famous Tsong (Khapa) of Amdo made in XVI century in Western Oirat Mongolia. Vajra-Tara temple was built in 1840-1841, of stone and brick with ceramic rooves and goldplated decorations. The main altar in this temple is the Vajra Tara's statue crafted by the lofty Noble Rimpoche Dzanabazar in 1683. The main altar of Dzu temple is a statue of the standing Buddha with his two disciples, made in Dolon Nuur, Inner Mongolia, in the early XIX century.. The two storey building "Didinpovran" was built as a library for the Fifth Incarnation of the Mongolian living Buddha, Chultem-Jigmid-Dambijantsan, with ceramic rooves and goldplated topmost decorations. The fifth building now serves as the library of the Gandantegchinlen monastery, containing over 50,000 books. Additionally the temples house the "Eight Noble Decorations", "Damdin Choijil", images of Mahayana, Hinayana Lord and Bodhisattyas and sixteen arhats crafted by Mongolian, Tibetan and Indian artists, embroidery, masterpiece images of Bodhisattvas made by Mongolian women artists as well as a number of satirical and humorous feature drawings. The monastery was severely damaged during the repression of 30s and only few buildings remained among them. There is a chapel for 25 meters high statue of Megjid Janraisag god erected in 1911 as a symbol commemorating the Mongolia's independence. During the WW II the statue of Megjid Janraisag god was taken to Russia to be used as scrap metal for shells. In 1990 the statue was rebuilt with nation wide donations. The Gandan monastery is the central place for major religious ceremonies and festivities, including tsam dance, a kind of theater performance. Roughly meaning 'the great place of complete joy', Gandantegchinlen Khiid is commonly referred to as Gandan Khiid. Still the largest and most important monastery in Mongolia, this is one of Ulaanbaators most impressive sights. Today there are over 150 monks in residence. As you enter the main entrance from the South, a path leads towards the right to a courtyard containing two temples. On the left is the Ochirdary Sum and to the right is the smaller Golden Dedenpovaran Sum. At the end of the main path as you enter is the magnificent white Megjid Janraisig Sum, the monastery's main attraction. Lining the walls of the temple are hundreds of images of Ayush, the Buddha of longevity. There is a voluntary US$1 entry charge to the temple. To the East of the temple is a small temple dedicated to Kalachakra, a wrathful Buddhist deity. To the West of the temple is the Ondor Geegen Zanabazar Buddhist Monastery, established in 1970. If you have a genuine interest in Buddhism, you can visit the university and it's library. The souvenir shop, to the left as you enter the main southern gate of the monastery, sells non-touristy religious artefacts, including miniature copper bowls, incense and scroll paintings, as well as items like Mongolian felt hats. You can take photographs around the monastery, but not inside the temples. The monastery, at the end of Ondor Geegen Zanabazaryn Gudamj, is open from about 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and there is no entrance fee. Try to be there for the captivating ceremonies - they usually start at around 10 a.m., though you may be lucky and see one at another time. Most chapels are closed in the afternoon.