Guide to Ulan Bator, Capital of Mongolia

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Ulan Bator is Mongolia's capital city, and has the dubious title of coldest national capital in the world.Situated in the north of the country, it lies along the 1,000 km long Trans Mongolian Express route, a sub route of the larger Trans Siberian Express

Mongolia is a vast country situated in central Asia with a total land area of 1,564, 100 sq km and a population of only 2,726,800, making it the world's most sparsely populated country, with a population density of only 1.75 people to every square kilometre.

Mongolia shares a 3,543 km border with the-russian-federation in the north and is surrounded by the-peoples-republic-of-china to the south, east and west with a 4,677km border.

Politically made up of 21 provinces,most of the population is centred in and around the country's capital city Ulan Bator, situated in the north of the country. which has the dubious title of coldest national capital city in the world. owing to it's 1,310m high elevation. 



Mongolia is a country little known in the west, gaining most of it's notoriety from it's history, mainly centered around the exploits of the founder, ruler and first emporer of the Mongol Empire ( 1206 - 1368 ), Genghis Khan ( 1162 - 1227).



Other commonly known facts about Mongolia are it's inhospitable steppe landscape, the yurt - a round tent used by it's nomadic herdmen - and the 1,000 km long Trans Mongolian Express, a sub branch of the 7,000 km long Trans Siberian Express that runs from Moscow in Russia to Beijing in China..

The country is little known on the tourist trail, although it does have an up and coming Winter sports industry, located just outside it's capital Ulan Bator.   



The city is located in a low lying valley nestled between the majestic Mount Bogd Khan Uul, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the stately, once considered sacred, 704 km long River Tuul.

Because of it's high elevation, high altitude, being situated hundreds of miles form a coast and suffering from the effects of Siberian anti - cyclones the city is classified as the world's coldest capital city,enduring very long, dry Winters and brief warm, wet Summers.

With a population of only one million people, the capital is classified as the smallest inhabited capital city in the world, in regards to it's generous size of 4,704 sq km.. 



 The city's roots go back to the 15th century, when the city was first inhabited by Buddhist monks.

The city remained a small and sparsley populated one for centuries right up until the 1940's, when the Russians expanded the city with it's dour and unspectacular ' breeze block ' Soviet architecture.

Thankfully many of these buildings are interspersed with colourful Buddhist Temples and majestic royal palaces, many of them hundreds of years old, which give the city it's true Mongol identity.

Modern Mongol architecture found it's way into the city during the 1990's, with many of these buildings having a definate modern Chinese influence to them. 


The name Ulan Bator means ' Red Hero ' a name attributed to soldier Damdin Sukhbaatar ( 1893 - 1923 ), whose army liberated Mongolia from both the Russians and the Chinese in the early 1920's.

Upon his death at the age of only 30 in 1923, the capital, which was called Bogdiin Khuree at the time, honoured this noble warrior with his name.

He is remembered by way of a statue in a square that also bears his name, in the centre of Ulan Bator. 

His picture is also depicted on the nation's stamps and bank notes - known as tugrug - , along with the country's other national hero, Genghis Khan. 


                             1893 - 1923.


The city is served by the Ghengis Khan International Airport - the only international airport in Mongolia - which accepts flights from Russia, China, Germany, Japan and the-korean-peninsula.The airport is situated 18 km south west of the city and is the main hub airport for the national flag carrier airline, Aero Mongolia.

The city is also served by the Ulan Bator railway station, the largest railway station in Mongolia, which is situated along part of the 1,000 km long Trans Mongolian Express route.

The city also has a 418 km road network, of which only 76 km are paved. 



The language of Mongolia is Mongol. The language is one of the Mongolic group of languages which has it's roots in the Altaic language family, the most common language of this family which is known in the west is Turkish, with which Mongol has many similarities.

The dialect of Mongol spoken in Ulan Bator is known as the Khalka dialect, and dates back to the 12th century.

The language uses the Mongol Cyrillic script in it's written form.

However English, Russian and Chinese ( Mandarin ) are all widely spoken in the city.  



Within the city, are all the usual service providors such as hospitals, bus terminals, shops and office blocks, as well as a myriad of museums dedicated to Mongolian heritage, history and culture, several well endorsed universities,a fine selection of international hotels,a large, well appointed sports stadium, and an internationally recognised opera house and national theater.

Because of the city's flat and lush terrain, the city is surrounded by parkland, national parks and pine forests, and because of it's cold climate, the city has just opened it's first winter sports complex, situated high up on Mount Bogd Khan Uul, aptly named The Sky Resort. 



Mongolian cuisine is heavilly influenced by it's extreme climate, with it's culinary emphasis on dairy products, meat and animal fats, with vegetables and herbs and spices little used in Mongolian cooking.

.Most of Ulan Bator's restaurants and hotels tend to have a Russian or Chinese influence to their international cuisine, although with the onset of a wider tourist market, more and more Western foods are appearing on their hotel menus. 








                                                            MAP OF MONGOLIA.







                                                                                  Images courtesy of wikimedia commons.

                                                                                             © D.B.Bellamy. June 2010.


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