Kharkhorin (Karakorum) is a town and sum center in Övörkhangai Province in Mongolia. The scenic valley surrounds, along with the strong selection of horse-trekking outfits and numerous accommodation options, ensure plenty of people linger for a while.
Best Time to Visit
Best time to visit Kharkhorin is in summer (June to August). Tourism peaks in July and August, when prices are higher, so booking early is advisable.
Top Places to Visit Kharkhorin
1. Erdene Zuu Khiid
Founded in 1586 by Altai Khaan, Erdene Zuu (Hundred Treasures) was the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. Today Erdene Zuu Khiid is considered by many to be the most important monastery in the country. At its peak, it had between 60 and 100 temples, around 300 gers inside the walls, and up to 1000 monks in residence. Entrance to the walled monastery grounds is free. If you want to see inside the main temple, you’ll have to buy a ticket, which includes a guided tour of the site with an English-speaking guide. The main temples date from the 16th century. Most of the artefacts you’ll see – wall paintings, thangkas, masks etc – are from the 18th century. Many are in excellent condition. The monastery is an easy 2km walk from the centre of Kharkhorin.
2. Karakorum Museum
Kharkhorin’s museum is small, but highly impressive – probably the country’s best museum outside Ulaanbaatar. Everything is beautifully designed and well displayed. The exhibits include dozens of artefacts dating from the 13th and 14th centuries that were recovered from the immediate area, plus others that were found from archaeological sites in other parts of the aimag, including prehistoric stone tools. You’ll see pottery, bronzes, coins, religious statues and stone inscriptions. There’s also a half-excavated kiln sunk into the museum floor. The building is fully air-conditioned, there are free English-speaking guides available, English captions throughout and free wi-fi in the small cafe.
3. Shankh Khiid Monastery
This secluded, atmospheric monastery was founded by the great Zanabazar in 1648 and is said to have once housed Chinggis Khaan’s black military banner. At one time the monastery was home to more than 1500 monks. Shankh Khiid, once known as the West Monastery, and Erdene Zuu Khiid are the only monasteries in the region to have survived the 1937 purge. Today there’s around 25 monks in residence; if no one is around you may have to poke around to find someone to let you inside the temples.
4. King’s Monument
This hilltop monument is the place to head for sunset, with magnificent 360-degree views overlooking Kharkhorin and its encompassing valley. The imposing monument comprises three colourful mosaic panels that each represent the empires of the Hunnu, Turkic and Mongol periods.