Tuv aimag (Central Province) surrounds Ulaanbaatar, though the city itself is administered separately. The province runs from the Siberian taiga (forest) to the Gobi steppe and desert, and its capital is Zuun mod (One Hundred Trees) is located some 40 km south of Ulaanbaatar. With two museums and a monastery, the town is small and relaxing. The main attraction is the nearby ruins of the 18th century monastery Manzushir. Originally built in 1733, by 1867 it was expanded to over 20 temples on the rocky spur overlooking the wide pine forest valley that housed some 350 monks. Being situated in the Bogd Khaan National Park, one of the main temples was restored and contains a small museum that includes artifacts that were formerly used by the monks.
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THE TERELJ NATIONAL PARK
The Terelj National Park is perhaps Ulaanbaatar residents’ most popular play ground. Being located just an hour’s drive away from the city, it covers an area of around a quarter of a million hectares of scenic forested mountains, where one can partake in hiking, canoeing, river rafting, camping, mountain biking and horse riding. The forests are made of birch, larch, cedar, willow, pine and aspen, populated by squirrels, foxes and wolves.
THE HUSTAI NURUU NATIONAL PARK
The Hustai Nuruu National Parklies 100km southwest of Ulaanbaatar. It was established in 1993 to preserve Mongolia’s wild Takhi horses and the environment in which they live. The horses were a unique Mongolian phenomenon, but unfortunately they were totally extinct by the 1940’s. In 1992, these beautiful animals were re-introduced from captivity. Contrary to the common expectation, the horses had survived miraculously in their new home. As many visitors had visited them over the years, the horses are not particularly afraid of humans and you can approach the harems (a stallion and its mares) in quite a close distance.
Ovorkhangai aimag, meaning south of the Khangai Mountains, is home to the nation’s largest number of horses, cows and yaks. It has also played a very important role in Mongolian Buddhist history. Some 38 monastic centers and hundreds of temples were built in the area after the end of the Mongol empire and the waning of its capital Karakorum.
The revered city of Karakorum, the capital of the Mongol empire was founded in 1220. During the time of Chinggis Khaan and his son Ugedei Khaan, the city was the center of power for the whole empire. However, after Kublai Khaan’s decision to move the capital to Beijing, its importance had decreased. The city was ultimately destroyed in 1388 by Chinese troops after the collapse of the Mongol empire. What now remains of the city are the two giant tortoise statues with stele (stone tablets) that indicated to travelers that the city is at their helm. After the sacking of the city, the remains of the city’s bricks and stones were used to help build the revered Erdene Zuu Monastery in the 16th century. Even though the communist era proved to be fatal for Buddhism in Mongolia, a number of important temples survive that era. The temples are surrounded by 108 stup as that each represent a special event where some even contain the remains of important lamas. With the advent of democracy in Mongolia in 1990, Erdene Zuu had once again became an active place for worship per all over the country to gather.
Arkhangai Aimag (province) is one of Mongolia’s most scenically spectacular province with its forests, lakes and snowy peaks. The province once had 78 monastic centers with over 200 temples. Its center is Tsetserleg a town close to Tamir River and is located some 500 km from Ulaanbaatar. Tsetserleg could might as well be the greenest town in the country as the name could be translated as flower garden.
Bulgan Aimag is a place of interest. It is home to the largest carving of Buddha’s image. In the area, there plenty of hot springs and prehistoric deer stones.
THE KHORGO MOUNTAIN
The Khorgo Mountain is an extinct volcano. Having the highest of a number of craters in the Orkhon River valley, the height of 2,100 metres above sea level would give you a wonderful view of the whole valley. It is possible to reach the very top by foot or by horse.
TERKHIIN TSAGAAN NUUR
Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur (Great White Lake), and joining Khorgo Mountain, was formed when volcanic lava had stemmed to the Suman river. This astonishingly beautiful lake is 20 km long and 16 km wide, though it is only four to ten meters deep and ringed with sandy beaches. In the middle of the lake is a small island called ‘Head of the Lake’ which is an ideal place for bird watching. All year round, the surface of the lake is covered with fleets of geese, ducks and swans, while beneath the surface lurk shoals of Siberian salmon, pike, perch and gudgeon. Nearby is a 30 km fault gorge called Chuluutiin Gol (River of Pearls), where many Bronze Age rock carvings can be seen.
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