Central Mongolia is a region in Mongolia. Central Mongolia Central Mongolia is where most visitors begin their adventures, arriving byplane or rail in Ulaanbaatar. The nation’s capital and largest city, Ulaanbaatar contains an intriguing combination of the traditional and modern, where nomads’ gers and wooden temples sit side by side with concrete apartment buildings and modern high-rises.
The steppes of Central Mongolia, beginning only a short distance from the avenues of Ulaanbaatar, are home to many of the nomadic families who travel the plains with their livestock, as well as small towns and ger settlements. However, like much of Mongolia, most of the region is characterized by seemingly endless expanses of uninhabited countryside.
In addition to its natural wonders, there are many historical sights to be explored in Mongolia’s heartland, particularly in the Orkhon River Valley, which contains archaeological remains dating back several centuries. Few traces remain of Kharakhorum, the 13th-century capital of the Mongol Empire, but the nearby temple of Erdene Zuu was reputedly built from its ruins. The wall surrounding this vast monastery complex, which houses spectacular Buddhist art and architecture, is made up of over one hundred white stupas.
Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape
The Orkhon Valley, west of Ulaanbaatar, along the Orkhon River in the Övörkhangai and Arkhangai Provinces, was the center of the Mongol Empire, the center of the Uighur Empire, and the birthplace of Mongolian Buddhism. Today, the cultural heritage of the valley constitutes a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Karakorum was the capital of the Mongolian Empire between 1235 and 1260, and the Northern Yuan in the 14–15th centuries. Erdene Zuu monastery stands near Karakorum. Various construction materials were taken from the ruin to build this monastery.
Dening Hall built in 1270 during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty closely resembles the lost palace architecture of Mongol Dadu (Beijing) and Karakorum.
The actual location of Karakorum was long unclear. First hints that Karakorum was located at Erdene Zuu were already known in the 18th century, but until the 20th century there was a dispute whether or not the ruins of Karabalgasun, or Ordu-Baliq, were in fact those of Karakorum. In 1889, the site was conclusively identified as the former Mongol capital by Nikolai Yadrintsev, who discovered examples of the Orkhon script during the same expedition. Yadrintsev’s conclusions were confirmed by Wilhelm Radloff.