Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
Gorkhi-Terelj National Park east of Ulaanbaatar
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Located east to Ulaanbaatar, 50km away from the city, Gorkhi Terelj is the closest National Park to Ulaanbaatar. Beautiful green area and fascinating rock formations with numerous ger camps, five star hotels and restaurants will welcome you to the top destination for tourists in Mongolia.
The national park covers the southern part of the Khentii Mountains, North and south Gorkhi, Zaan-Terelj river basin and Tuul River source. With 2929km square area Gorkhi-Terelj National Park has a lot to offer in terms of attractions. The main attractions include Turtle Rock, Khuukhen Mountain, 100 Monks Cave, Ariyabal Temple, Bolor Cave, Gunjiin Temple and Terelj Zuun Mod.
And the most famous one is Turtle Rock and most of the ger camps and hotels surround this area. The Turtle Rock is approximately 24m tall and shaped like a turtle. There are two different myths about the Turtle Rock and both suggest the rock contains a treasure inside of it. And right beside to the rock there is a mountain called Khuukhen Uul which translates to Woman Mountain. The eerily similar shape to a woman laying down gave the name to the mountain which also has different legends about it.
You can find 100 Monks Cave or Three Friends Cave on the way to the Turtle Rock just before you reach it. The legend says monks used to hide inside this cave during the communist purge era or even before that. However, logistically the cave is nowhere near big enough to hide 100 people so the name was a complete exaggeration. And the other name was given after a movie called “Gurvan Naiz” (Three Friends) shot there in 1958.
Also on the way to the Turtle Rock you can see the Terelj Zuun Mod (Hundred Woods) right after you pass Nalaikh. This is where the fight between Galdan Boshugtu Khan and the western army (Manchurian army) took place. In this battle the famous Oirat king Galdan suffered a great defeat and later took his own life before the Manchus captured him. And because of that all the myths of places around the Gorkhi-Terelj area is connected to Galdan Boshugtu Khan in one way or another including the previously mentioned attractions.
As for Ariyabal Temple and Gunjiin Temple, people mostly attracted to the scenery. Ariyabal Temple was built in 1998-2004 for the purposes of meditation so there is not much history involved. On the other hand, Gunjiin Temple or Princess Temple has a history but only the ruins of it remained today. It was built after a Manchurian princess who was married to a Mongolian royalty Dondovdorj died in 1740 to honor her loyalty to Mongolians. In her words, she wanted to get buried under Mongolian soil even though she was a daughter of the Manchurian king.
In conclusion, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park provides just as much intriguing history as it has breathtaking scenery. You can go around and explore attractions or you can just relax and unwind in the beautiful wilderness. Also, you can try activities like riding horses and camels, air ballooning, archery, driving ATV/UTV and so on. However you choose to do so, the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park will welcome you to its terrific terrain.
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