The Orkhon Valley of Mongolia

November 3, 2022

By Haagii


Location and Direction

Have you ever heard of Orkhon Valley before? If not, I promise that this place will be at the top of your travel list after you read this! The Orkhon valley is located in Mongolia, between the Khangai and Altai Mountains. It’s about 350km from the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, and it can be reached by car.

This place was once home to the capital city of the Mongol Empire, and there are so many important historical sites of Mongolia. Such as many significant cultural things including burial mounds, rare and precious monuments, and valuable archaeological finds. This shows the history and culture of the nomadic people who lived there long ago.

The Orkhon valley provided a glimpse into Mongolia’s rich history. And the valley has many rivers, including the Orkhon River. The locals believe that this river flows through the heart of the valley.

Also, just to let you know, The World Heritage Committee registered the Orkhon Valley as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 1, 2004.

Today, this place is a popular tourist destination, known for its beautiful nature and ancient historical views. Me, I had always wanted to visit the Orkhon Valley. It was a place that I had heard about for years. And now I’m here to share my experience with you!

Attractions in Orkhon valley

The ruins of Karakorum city of the Mongol Empire: 

The most famous place in the Orkhon Valley is the ruins of Karakorum city. This city was once the capital of the great Mongol empire. Karakorum was founded by Genghis Khan in 1220 and became the official capital during the time of Ogodei Khan. After that, the city became a center of trade, communication, culture, and economy.

Even though the Karakorum city was destroyed by the Ming dynasty in 1380, some parts still remain today. Being able to see the ancient city of Karakorum with your own eyes is a very excellent opportunity. It’s amazing to think about how strong they must have been after you see a glimpse of the ancient city!

Read more: Karakorum: The Capital city of the Mongolian Empire”

Best Places to Visit in Mongolia karakorum

Khar Balgas /The Black Ruins of Mongolia/: 

Khar Balgas was the capital of the Uighur Kingdom in ancient times. It was founded by King Pelo in 761 and served as the administrative center of the Uighurs, as well as a center of trade, economy, and culture. The city was very large with a royal palace measuring 412×491 meters and covering an area of 50 square kilometers.

There were temples, citizens’ quarters, and artisans’ and merchants’ streets within the city. However, the Kyrgyz destroyed it after they destroyed the Uighur state. Today, only the walled part of the Black Ruins remains. Even though those walls are aged and collapsed over time, they still keep their historical looks.

The walls are about 12 meters high, with a 14-meter-high guard tower in the center. It will be a cool experience to walk through the ruins and imagine what life must have been like here in ancient times.

Khar Balgas Black Ruins of Mongolia

Erdenezuu Monastery:

Erdene Zuu Monastery is the oldest Buddhist temple found in Mongolia! This place was founded in 1586. And the most exciting part is that the locals said that the Erdene Zuu Monastery was built by the stone walls that were left on the ruins of Karakorum.

Back then, there were more than 60 temples at the monastery, but most of them were destroyed during the great Mongolian repression of the 1930s. Now there are only 18 temples left and are used as a national Buddhist museum.

It has 400 x 400-meter huge gates on four sides with 108 small stupas, it was pretty cool to see. Of course, there are many famous and beautiful works of art at the monastery, including hand paintings, patterns, carvings, sculptures, stupas, pots, bells, diamonds, trinkets, and precious stones. I promise that you won’t be disappointed in this place!

Erdenezuu Monastery

Ulaan Tsutgalan:

Ulaan Tsutgalan is the biggest waterfall in Mongolia. It’s a trendy spot for tourists. The waterfall is 24 meters high and 10 meters wide. The legend of the Ulaan Tsutgalan waterfall is an exciting one.

There was no water here at first – only the cliff. It’s said that during the war, a Mongolian soldier was chased by enemies and climbed over a cliff. But when he saw that he was about to be captured, he screamed “Let my red river flow red”.

Suddenly, water started flowing from the cliff and carried away the enemies. Since then, it has been called the Ulaan Tsutgalan waterfall – meaning “Red Waterfall” in Mongolian.

Ulaan Tsutgalan

Tibkhan Monastery:

The Tibetan Tibkhan Monastery is one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in Mongolia. It was founded by High Saint Zanabazar when he was just 14 years old. He chose a spot on Shireet Red Mountain, which is 2600 meters above sea level because he liked the surrounding nature. In 1651, he built a meditation monastery in the place, which is the present Tibetan monastery.

This monastery has always been a place of learning and growth for Buddhists from all over the world. Visitors are always welcome to come and learn about this ancient religion and meditation. If you are seeking inner peace, this is a place for you!

Tibkhan Monastery

Things to do in Orkhon valley

  • Hike in the mountains – There are many hikes to choose from, each with different levels of difficulty and amazing views. 
  • Go horseback riding – the perfect way to explore the stunning wild nature of the Orkhon Valley. 
  • Simply enjoy the beauty of Mongolian nature- Orkhon Valley is a great place to relax and take in the fresh air.
  • Take a tour of the valley – There are so many other amazing places that I haven’t mentioned here! 
  • Take a picture of rare animals- Orkhon valley is a home to so many endangered animals. Such as hedgehogs, lynxes, wild boars, red deers.
  • Try some traditional foods- Just saying, the Mongolia is a meat lovers paradise!

Important essentials of the trip in Orkhon Valley

  • Dictionary- However, English is also widely spoken, so you might have trouble communicating with locals.
  • A backpack- You’ll need a good backpack or travel bag to carry all your stuff while on the road. 
  • Warm clothes- Make sure to pack enough clothes for the weather, as it can be quite cold and windy in Mongolia during certain times of the year.
  • Cash- It’s also a good idea to have some cash on hand in case you need to purchase anything during your trip!
  • A good camera- Do not miss your chance to document a glimpse of ancient history on your camera! 
  • Other essentials- You’ll also need to bring along a sleeping pad, flashlight, sun cream, power bank, and insect repellent.


At last, I hope my little advice will help you out. And now stop hesitating and pack your things up. Life is too short to wait!

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