It being a mere 55 or so km away from UB, the pristine green slopes and clustered boulders of the Terelj National Park make for an ideal and easy day trip away from the Mongolian capital, and the sights that are available amongst the obvious natural draw of the landscape itself are numerous enough to ensure you will have an eventful enough day.
If you’re limited in time and don’t have your own set of wheels, then going with a tour company is your best bet. I on the other hand took advantage of my host family’s generous offer to take me there for the day, as well as a couple of people who were volunteering in country alongside me, resulting in a great day out with fine company.
Our first port of call actually bypassed the national park itself all together, instead heading further east to nearby Tsonjin Boldog and the famous Chinggis Khan Statue.
Chinggis (or Genghis to most outside of Mongolia) Khan is undoubtedly the most famous Mongolian in history, and his potent reputation within the country casts a spell over not only its inhabitants but all visitors too. This stainless steel monument, at 40m high the tallest equestrian statue in the world, symbolically represents his dominant presence in the narrative of the country and its collective consciousness, and is an arresting sight indeed at first glance and beyond.
Obligatory snaps aside, horse riding and eagle-falconry opportunities are available, and I naturally couldn’t resist an opportunity with the latter; hey, I was missing out on the Eagle Festival so this was the next best thing! Once that’s done, you can visit the complex beneath the statue, to read up a bit more about Chinggis himself, the legacy of his successors (mostly not so good, with some notable exceptions, such as his grandson Kublai Khan), and browse some finds and exhibits of arms, armour and other trinkets in the so-so museum.
It’s all about the statue, really, so climbing up the horse’s neck to get a closer look at Chinggis’ stern and forbidding face is not to be missed. Some decent views of the surrounding area are an added bonus.
We headed in to the park itself next, for some enjoyable scenic driving through effortlessly beautiful scenery in all sides, albeit more developed than you would get in some of the more remote rural areas. This culminated by arriving at the most famous rock formation in the area, Turtle Rock, which really does look like a turtle when viewed from a certain angle!
A steep but super quick scramble up the side of the rock takes you to a little chasm which leads to an alcove where it is traditional to offer up prayers. Naturally, the vantage point offers great views of the surrounding hills and valleys too, so it is worth the physical exertion.
The same can be said of the climb necessary to reach the nearby Aryapala Initiation and Meditation Centre, which is also nestled within a picturesque setting. The temple is the most aesthetically pleasing thing to see here, and on the way up you’ll be accompanied by signs revealing to you pearls of wisdom that apply to you, depending on how you spin the fortune telling wheel about two thirds of the way up the hillside!
Climbing the sacred 108 steps to the temple gets you to probably the most spectacular view in the area. The temple itself is not the biggest or most awe inspiring you will see, but it’s worth a look regardless, and even with the above average crowds you would get for an equivalent Mongolian monument, the place has an aura of Buddhist calm that is perfectly in tune with its setting, summing up just why the Terelj area is seen as the ideal getaway for harassed UB’ers of all persuasions!