Although the snow and the cold temperatures made us cancel our trip into the mountains of northern Mongolia, we chose instead to explore Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and hike up to the Ariyabal Meditation Temple, where we crossed the “Bridge of Heaven” and climbed 108 stone stairs that lead to the main temple with 108 small stupas and 108 prayer wheels around the temple.
For our third day in Mongolia we decided to visit the Genghis Khan Statue Complex on the bank of the Tuul River at Tsonjin Boldog, where according to legend, he found a golden whip. The monument was completed in 2006 in time for the 800th anniversary of Genghis Khan’s coronation. The statue is symbolically pointed east towards the birthplace of Genghis Khan. The 36 columns around the visitor center represent the 36 khans from Genghis to Ligdan Khan. Once inside, you can also climb to the top for a panoramic view!
To finish our evening in Ulaanbaatar, we attended a performance of Mongolian National Song and Dance. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we loved it! The seating was first come, first serve and we arrived early enough to get front row seats. My favorite part was the horse dancing!
Our guide suggested we visit the National Museum of Mongolia during our trip to Ulaanbaatar. This museum is responsible for preserving Mongolian cultural heritage as well as defining the guidelines for museums in the rest of the country. The museum has a wide scope of history, beginning in prehistory up into the present. The biggest highlights for me were the section on Mongolian traditional dress and the 1990 Mongolian Revolution.
If you plan on taking the Trans-Siberian or Trans-Mongolian Express and plan to stop in Siberia, Irkutsk is the city most recommended. Irkutsk is full of history and is just an hour away from Lake Baikal. It’s also nicknamed the “Paris of Siberia”.
This defiant island of Russian modernity and Europeanness is a vibrant arts centre filled with cool bars, restaurants and galleries. With an aptly revolutionary name, the former Red October chocolate factory looks straight into the Kremlin’s eyes – a vivid reminder that Russia is not all about totalitarian control and persecution.
Of course you cannot visit Moscow without visiting Red Square. I was especially excited to see St. Basil’s Cathedral in person! Long, long ago when my family first had internet my icon was the St. Basil’s Cathedral. I didn’t know then that it was in Russia, but I was drawn to the tulip shaped domes and bright colors! If you’re visiting Red Square, I definitely recommend you have lunch or dinner at Grand-Café Dr. Zhivago for a Soviet-style meal.
There are 2 Arbats in Moscow – the Old and the New. By far the Old Arbat is much more beautiful, but just for comparison’s sake I wanted to see both! Plus White Rabbit is located in the neighborhood, so we took the New Arbat to lunch, and left taking the Old Arbat.