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Oulan Bator

By Amy Adejokun Amy Adejokun Section editor

Our Editorial team's advice

With its typically Stalinian architecture, Ulan Bator, the Mongolian capital city, is not particularly attractive, but the four sacred mountains surrounding it and the presence of numerous yurts in the suburbs give it a particular atmosphere. But it conceals especially many interesting sites and historical monuments, although not much remains of the time when, in the 19th century, its name was still Urga. Miraculously spared by the communists, Gandantegtchilin monastery is the city's most impressive site. You will see several tiled-roof temples, built in the 19th century, such as Vajradara's for example. It is not possible to visit the library which holds thousands of ancient manuscripts but you may attend the religious services, held every morning. In the southern part of the town, Bogdo-Khaan winter palace (1905) was built for Russian tsar Nicholas II. Now transformed into a museum, it displays fur clothing, gifts given to the last Mongol hierarch, as well as a collection of stuffed animals. Tchoidjiin Lam museum-monastery (1904-1908) is one of Mongolia's most beautiful. This group of five temples, restored in the 1960's displays objects of worship dating from the 17th century to the 20th. Much more recent, since it was inaugurated in 1995, you can also visit Narokhajid monastery which houses the first Buddhist school for women. The museum of Natural History gives you a good introduction before visiting the rest of the country. Indeed, you will see some specimens of rare plants, but mostly the gigantic skeleton of a dinosaur, found in 1948 in the Gobi desert. Other than the master pieces of a great sculptor who gave it his name, Zanabar fine arts museum exhibits religious objects such as thangkas, the Buddhist banners.

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