Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape Harhorin Reviews
An experience of a lifetime Aug 31, 2004
If the Unesco World Heritage list made any sense, all of Mongolia would be on it. But as it is, there are only two regions listed. I'm not quite sure which places are included exactly in either, but generally speaking, the Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape is the area around Kharkhorin, the ancient capital of the Mongolian empire (and there are plans to make it the capital again).
One of the most significant sights in Kharkhorin is the Erdene Zuu monastery, the most important Buddhist site in the country. To be honest, I was more impressed by Gandin Khiid in Ulaan Bataar and Ivolginsk Datsan near Ulan Ude in Buryatya (Russian Federation) but this one is still pretty cool to visit.
Kharkhorin (aka Kharkhorum) was the capital of the Mongolian empire in the 13th and 14th century, the age of Ghenghis Khan. When I was there in the summer of 2004, they had just begun excavating, not sure how that's proceeding.
Nature in the area, as anywhere in Mongolia, is stunning. Another attraction near Kharkhorin are some rocks carved into shapes, all seemingly located in the middle of nowhere. There are turtles and stuff, but the one that nobody wants to miss is a giant penis. Though I'm not sure if Unesco meant to include that in their "cultural landscape" ;)
Besides Kharkhorin, there are a whole lot of other archeological remains in the area, dating as far back as the 6th century. One of them is the ruined 17th century monastery of Kharbukhin Balgas, next to which is a small museum.
But the real gem of Mongolia are its people, who've managed to hold on to their ancient culture, only allowing some modern inventions in. Most of them still live in gers, round felt tents, and herd sheep, goats, horses, cows, and in some areas yaks or camels.
Lucky for the visitor, hospitality is a very important part of their culture. You can show up anywhere and be given food, drinks and if needed a place to sleep for the night. You should take presents to exchange for this, and pay the equivalent of 4 USD if you stay the night.
Part of the Travel photos from past trips travel blog
Part of the list Unesco World Heritage sites I've been to
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