Ulaan Baatar was founded in 1778 in a broad valley near the River Tuul, flanked by hills carpeted in pine forests, and was made up of thousands of felt tents or gers, and several temples. Although gers still fringe the city today, Ulaan Baatar is now a bustling metropolis with a good range of accommodation and there is an interesting selection of restaurants, shops, art galleries, theatres and nightclubs.
The Soviet influence is apparent in the style of architecture and town planning with plenty of space, long straight avenues and factories lining the outskirts. Despite the post war concrete, the city has a laid back atmosphere and there are some fascinating places to explore, including the Natural History Museum with a famous collection of dinosaur exhibits including two complete dinosaur skeletons and Gandan Monastery, one of the few temples to survive Stalin’s purges since the Russian soldiers used it to stable their horses.
Many plan their visit to coincide with the National Naadam Festival held on the 11th July each year, during which the locals compete in the three manly sports of archery, horsemanship and wrestling in the capital’s national sports arena.