10 historical sites in Mongolia

by Alice

Mongolia, a land of vast steppes, rugged mountains, and vibrant culture, offers a wealth of historical treasures that reflect its rich heritage and diverse past. This article explores ten of Mongolia’s most significant historical sites, each providing a unique window into the nation’s history and the remarkable civilizations that have thrived in this extraordinary region.

1. Kharkhorin (Karakorum)

Kharkhorin, also known as Karakorum, was once the bustling capital of the Mongol Empire under the reign of Genghis Khan and his successors. Located in the Orkhon Valley, this ancient city was a melting pot of cultures and a hub of commerce and administration. Visitors to Kharkhorin can explore the remnants of the city’s stone foundations and the Erdene Zuu Monastery, the oldest surviving Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. Established in 1585, the monastery features beautiful temples, stupas, and wall paintings, reflecting the deep spiritual and cultural history of Mongolia.


2. Gandantegchinlen Monastery

The Gandantegchinlen Monastery, commonly known as Gandan Monastery, is a prominent center of Mongolian Buddhism in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Founded in 1809, this active monastery has survived through Mongolia’s turbulent history, including the religious purges of the 1930s. The highlight of the Gandan Monastery is the magnificent statue of Megjid Janraisig (Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara), standing at 26.5 meters tall and adorned with gold and precious stones. This site not only serves as a place of worship but also as a symbol of Mongolia’s resilience and dedication to preserving its religious traditions.


3. Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape

The Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is considered the cradle of Mongolian civilization. Spanning over 121,967 hectares, this area is rich with archaeological remains that date back to the 6th century. The valley was the center of various nomadic empires, including the Turkic, Uighur, and Mongol Empires. Key sites within the Orkhon Valley include Kharkhorin, the ancient city of Khar Balgas, and numerous burial mounds, stone inscriptions, and rock paintings. This landscape offers a comprehensive view of Mongolia’s nomadic heritage and the historical significance of the region.


4. Kharakhorum Museum

Located in the town of Kharkhorin, the Kharakhorum Museum provides an in-depth look at the history and culture of the Mongol Empire. Opened in 2011, the museum houses a vast collection of artifacts, including pottery, tools, and weapons, unearthed from the ancient city of Karakorum and surrounding areas. The museum’s exhibits highlight the economic, political, and cultural life of the Mongols, offering visitors a deeper understanding of Mongolia’s imperial past and the daily lives of its people during the height of the Mongol Empire.

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5. Gobi Desert

The Gobi Desert, one of the world’s great deserts, is more than just a vast expanse of sand and rock; it is a region steeped in history. This desert has been a crucial part of Mongolia’s landscape for thousands of years, serving as a home to ancient nomadic tribes and a key route on the Silk Road. The Flaming Cliffs, known as Bayanzag, are famous for the discovery of dinosaur fossils, including the first dinosaur eggs ever found. Visitors to the Gobi can explore ancient petroglyphs, ruins of ancient cities, and the natural beauty that has shaped Mongolia’s historical narrative.

6. Tsenkheriin Agui (Tsenkher Cave)

Tsenkheriin Agui, or Tsenkher Cave, located in Khovd Province, is a prehistoric cave that holds some of the oldest known rock paintings in Mongolia. These paintings, estimated to be around 15,000 years old, depict a variety of animals and human figures, offering valuable insights into the lives and beliefs of early inhabitants of Mongolia. The cave’s remote location and challenging access make it a less-visited site, but for those who venture here, it provides a fascinating glimpse into the ancient history and early human activity in the region.

7. Uushgiin Uver Deer Stone Complex

The Uushgiin Uver Deer Stone Complex, situated in Khovsgol Province, is one of Mongolia’s most remarkable archaeological sites. The site features a collection of deer stones, which are ancient megaliths carved with depictions of deer and other symbols. These stones date back to the Bronze Age (around 1,000 BCE) and are believed to have been used for ceremonial purposes or as markers for burial sites. The intricate carvings on the deer stones provide valuable information about the artistic and spiritual practices of early Mongolian societies, making this site a significant historical and cultural treasure.

8. Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue

The Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, located near Ulaanbaatar, is one of the most iconic monuments in Mongolia. Standing at 40 meters tall, the statue depicts Genghis Khan on horseback, symbolizing his leadership and the vast empire he established. Visitors can explore the museum housed within the statue’s base, which showcases artifacts from the Mongol Empire, including weapons, armor, and historical documents. The panoramic view from the top of the statue offers a stunning perspective of the surrounding countryside, allowing visitors to appreciate the scale of Mongolia’s landscape and the legacy of its greatest ruler.

9. Altai Tavan Bogd National Park

Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, located in western Mongolia, is not only renowned for its stunning natural beauty but also for its rich historical significance. The park is home to the Altai Mountains, where Mongolia borders Russia and China, and contains numerous archaeological sites, including ancient burial mounds, petroglyphs, and stone monuments. The most notable of these is the Tavan Bogd Mountains, where the highest peak, Khüiten Peak, stands at 4,374 meters. This area has been inhabited by various nomadic tribes for thousands of years, and the archaeological remains provide a glimpse into the ancient cultures that once thrived in this rugged region of Mongolia.

10. Burkhan Khaldun

Burkhan Khaldun, a sacred mountain in northeastern Mongolia, is believed to be the birthplace and burial site of Genghis Khan. This mountain holds immense spiritual significance in Mongolian culture and is revered as a symbol of the nation’s identity and heritage. The area surrounding Burkhan Khaldun is part of the Khentii Mountains and is protected as the Khan Khentii Strictly Protected Area. Pilgrims and visitors to Burkhan Khaldun can explore the lush forests, meadows, and rivers that make up this pristine landscape while reflecting on the historical and cultural legacy of Mongolia’s most famous leader.


Mongolia’s historical sites offer a rich tapestry of the nation’s past, from the grandeur of the Mongol Empire to the ancient traditions of its nomadic peoples. Each of these ten sites provides a unique insight into Mongolia’s cultural heritage, showcasing the enduring spirit and remarkable history of this fascinating country. Whether exploring the ancient capital of Karakorum, marveling at prehistoric rock art in Tsenkher Cave, or standing in awe before the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, visitors to Mongolia are sure to be captivated by the depth and diversity of its historical treasures.



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