Ulaanbaatar is also known as Ulan Bator or simply just UB. It is the capital of Mongolia with a population of around 1.2 million and is also the largest city in Mongolia. It is located in north central Mongolia with an elevation of about 1,310m in a valley on the Tuul River. The cultural, financial and industrial heart of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar is connected by rail to both the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia and the Chinese railway system.
In contrast to Mongolia’s pristine countryside Ulan Bator is an enormous city of thick traffic, sinful nightlife, bohemian counter-culture and pulsating commerce. It is shocking and exciting. Buildings fight for space and vehicles battle for a spot on the roads whilst one can find oases of quiet in the monastery courtyards, public squares and occasional beer patios. Four holy mountains surrounding the city provide an awe-inspiring backdrop.
The forests and mountains surrounding Ulan Bator are composed of evergreen pines, deciduous larches and birches while the riverine forest of the Tuul River is composed of broad-leaved, deciduous poplars, elms and willows. It is the coldest national capital in the world. The city has warm, brief summers and long, bitterly cold and dry winters.
UB was founded in 1639 as a Buddhist monastic centre, which was movable. In 1778 it settled permanently at its present location, the junction of the Tuul and Selbe rivers. Prior to it settling, it changed location 28 times. Each location was chosen ceremonially.
Ulan Bator is the most logical base for travelers wanting to do trips into the countryside. While you’re there planning your trip, take some time to eat out n great restaurants and explore some excellent sites and museums. There are few historic buildings owing to the fact that it is a relatively young city. During Socialism several temples and monasteries were also destroyed. Most tourist guides recommend the Gandan monastery with the large Janraisig statue, the socialist monument complex at Zaisan with an amazing view over the city, Bogd Khan’s winter palace and Sukhbaatar square as well as the nearby Choijin Lama monastery. There are many museums in Ulan Bator: the Museum of National History and the Museum of Natural History are the two most popular. Day trip destinations are Terelj national park, the Manzushir monastery ruins and a large equestrian statue of Genghis Khan which was erected in 2006. If it’s shopping districts that you are looking for, pay a visit to one of the following: the Narantuul Black Market, Peace Avenue around the State Department Store and 3rd Microdistrict Boulevard. There are numerous bus lines around the city and the trolleybus system. Ulan Bator also has over 4000 taxis.
The cuisine – not many (if any) people travel to Mongolia for the food but you will find a good range of Western, Asian and Mongolian options and the prices are very reasonable. A fancy night out at a fancy French café is unlikely to cost more than $20. Fresh vegetables (especially in Winter) are hard to come by and expensive. The city is dominated by Korean and Chinese restaurants.