Ulaanbaatar International Marathon (Central Square, Ulan Bator) – this Marathon, co-organized by Ulan Bator city governor’s office and the Physical Culture and Sports Authority is held every May in the Mongolian capital, with over 30,000 participants (ages 2-87 from 30 countries and regions). This athletic event has six categories, including half marathon (21.975 km), full marathon (42.195 km), family marathon and wheelchair marathon. This marathon is held in part to promote healthy lifestyle and sports to the local population. Would-be participants are encouraged to register for the next marathon at: http://ulaanbaatarmarathon.mn/
Ongi River and Temple (Saikhan-Ovoo district, Dundgovi Province) – located 7 hours (415 km) southwest of the capital, the Ongi Monastery refers to two monasteries on opposite banks of the Ongi River, which stretches for over four hundred kilometers throughout the country. The monasteries are home to many ruined temples, one of which was once one of the largest in Mongolia. Originally built in the 17th century, these monasteries were destroyed by communists in the 20th century, although since the 1990s, efforts have been made to rebuild and restore the Buddhist communities in the area. Today, visitors can see the rebuilt temple and explore two small museums that contain artifacts from the original structures.
Mother Tree (Sükhbaatar, Selenge province) — a shrine to worshipers of the Shaman religion, The Mother Tree, or Eej Mod, is located in northern Mongolia. Once an actual tree that was struck by lightning until a fire in 2015 burned it nearly to the ground, the shrine now consists of a ceremonial stump where the tree once stood, a “ger” (yurt), and all the offerings left by Shamans. Offerings like milk, vodka, bricks of tea, and a sea of blue ceremonial scarves turn this eerily beautiful place into something like an art installation, and the worshippers who make the pilgrimage to the Mother Tree continue to add to it as tribute for their prayers.
Manzushir Monastery — the imposing ruins of Manzushir Monastery lie just an hour’s drive south of the capital. Built in the 18th century by Buddhist monks, the monastery was destroyed in 1937 by communists, and today the ruins of this large stone temple stand within a forest of birch trees like a scene from a fantasy movie. Visitors to the Monastery can wander amongst the remains of the stone building to find paintings and carvings of Buddhist deities, a huge bronze cauldron that dates back to the 18th century, and see the way that nature has reclaimed this beautiful place. Entrance fee: 1,000₮ per person.
Lake Khövsgöl — near the Mongolian border with Russia at the base of the Sayan Mountains is Khuvsgul Lake, a 136 kilometer long lake that contains approximately 70% of the fresh water in Mongolia. It is the second largest lake in Asia by volume, and it is the titular feature of Khuvsgul Lake National Park, which also includes the surrounding mountains and forests. The area is packed with wildlife, including bear, ibex, wolverines, and moose, and the lake itself is full of sturgeon, Siberian grayling, and lenok, among other species. The lake and the park are a haven for fishing and nature enthusiasts, and the beautiful vistas of the mountains reflected in the waters of the lake are not to be missed.
Khustain-Nuruu National Park – this park is about 60 miles west of the capital, and it is home to the takhi, an endangered subspecies of wild horse. These stout, sandy colored horses are the only truly wild horses left in existence, and they were once extinct in the wild, their numbers diminished down to an astonishing thirteen, until scientists and conservationists made efforts to save the species and increase the population. In the 1990s, they were reintroduced to Khustain-Nuruu National Park and now there are over 1,500 of them roaming the hills and steppes. Besides these remarkable horses, there is an abundance of other wildlife within the park, including gazelles, grey wolves, and the Eurasian lynx.
Khogno Khan Natural Reserve – located six hours west of the capital (est. 400 km), this natural reserve is named for the mountain Khogno Khan, a sacred mountain of granite, that lies within the bounds of this 181 square mile park. The sight of the rocky mountain protruding from the desert grasslands at its base is a breathtaking one, and hikers will enjoy a number of short hikes in the reserve, including ones over rocks and boulders and up to the summit of the mountain. There are also several old Buddhist temples in the reserve that are accessible for exploration, including several old ruins and also some active temples as well.
Khangai Mountains – this is an old mountain range in central Mongolia (located 400 km. west of the capital), known for its broad, warped dome-shaped mountains covered with grass and trees. The area encompasses several natural zones including mountain and mountain steppe areas, Siberian taiga and forests. Fertile soil and numerous rivers, streams and lakes support a variety of plants and the area habitat to a huge array of animal species.
Khangai has become a generally used term by Mongolians to describe the entire lush forest-steppe area to the north as opposed to the southern desert, which is called Govi. The intermediary steppe area is called Kheer or Tal. The word Khangai is composed of the verb “khanga-” which means “provide, supply with necessities” and the Mongolian nominalizing suffix “-ai”. The word Khan (King) is also a possible root, probably even related to the verb “khanga-“. Therefore, Khangai is usually interpreted as provident lord, munificent king, generous gracious lord or bountiful king. The ancient name denotes the sacredness of the mountain and the special place it holds in the hearts of those who depend on it.
Khalkhiin Gol Battle anniversary – from May to September 1939, Japanese forces based in Manchukuo (a Chinese mainland puppet state controlled by Tokyo) attempted to invade Mongolia (and eventually Russian Siberia) through the river Khalkhiin Gol (which divides Mongolia and Manchukuo). However, a joint Soviet-Mongolian force repelled Japan’s repeated attempts to invade these territories, resulting in a cease fire on September 15, 1939 (freeing the Russians to focus their attention on the Eastern European front and the Nazis). Every late August, festivities are held in Ulan Bator (the Mongolian capital), including musical events, to commemorate that victory for Mongolia and Russia.
Horseback Riding Expeditions – since Mongolia is still horse country (supported by its long-standing nomadic way of life), some visitors will likely want a horseback riding experience. Tour outfit Stone Horse Expeditions & Travel offers visitors the opportunity to explore various parts of Mongolia on horseback. Such excursions take place at the Khentii Mountains, and Gorkhi Terelj National Park – where participants can explore these areas as a native, and appreciate the natural beauty that the country has to offer, all on horseback. More info at: https://stonehorsemongolia.com/