Ulaanbaatar is the world's highest capital city and home to over 40% of the Mongolian population. It's a quickly-evolving city where old and new collide and, somehow, coexist. You will see people wearing traditional deels (long coats worn by herdspeople) walking past youngsters in the latest K-pop street fashions. Russian jeeps, Priuses and G Wagens share the road with jam-packed buses in a chaotic ballet that will mystify any westerner. But travel just 30 minutes outside the city and you will see the Mongolia that most of us imagine: grazing herds of animals and open, grassy steppe from horizon to horizon.
• International Intellectual Museum: This is a museum of puzzles. Yes, puzzles. It's amazing!
• Gandan Monastery: (pictured above): Feed the pigeons in the courtyard and view the 25 meter tall statue of Magjid Janraisig inside.
• National Museum of Mongolia: Beautiful collection of historic artifacts and textiles.
• Black Ibex Expeditions: Professional, friendly, and very helpful. Black Ibex secured a ticket for the second leg of my Trans-Siberian train adventure for a very reasonable price.
• Golden Gobi: Highly recommended by a friend who I consider the best tour driver in all of Mongolia.
• Mongolei: Caters to English and German tourists and can create an adventure to suit your interests.
• Chojin Lama Temple Shop: Small, tightly-packed shop benefits needy children. Take your time to look closely at their wares — there are a lot of treasures to be found.
• Gobi Cashmere Factory Store (pictured above): Cashmere is a huge Mongolian export. Here, you can find lovely blankets, yarn and woven fashions.
• Naran Tuul Market: Also known as the black market, this is where the locals shop for everything from food to horse saddles to furniture and traditional Mongolian clothing.
• Luna Blanca: Mongolia is not known for its cuisine (Mongolian barbeque is, in fact, Chinese), but Luna Blanca translates "Mongolian National Foods" such as buuz and khuushuur into vegetarian versions (normally they'd be filled with mutton). Since every other meal you're likely to have will be heavy on meat, get your fill of delicious vegetables here.
• Los Bandidos: Perfectly attentive service, lovely hand painted Indian scenes on the wallpaper and a menu that serves Mexican and Indian food. Sounds strange, I know, but three out of four in our party were perfectly happy with our meals. And the strong margaritas!
• Millie's Cafe (pictured above): Features dependable Western and Mongolian menus, and offers the best expat breakfasts in the city. The perfect place if you're jonesing for wifi and an all-too-rare strong cup of coffee while in UB.
• Blue Sky Lounge: (pictured above): Located in the Blue Sky Tower Hotel, this lounge is the ultimate place to grab cocktail and people watch.
• View Lounge
: This revolving rooftop bar is a great place to view the city lights
: With a 7 meter statue of Stalin at its center — even if you aren't the clubbing type, this is worth a look.
• Hotel Blue Sky Tower (pictured above): The most striking building in the UB skyline also boasts one of the most well-appointed hotels, as well as trendy bars and fine dining.
• Ulaanbaatar Hotel: This is the grandfather of stately hotels in Ulaanbaatar. Where many heads of state and diplomats have stayed.
• Steppe Nomads Tourist Eco Camp: Stay in the "glamping" version of a traditional Mongol ger (round like a yurt, but not a yurt).
Please help us out and add to the guide in the comments — what are your recommendations for Ulaanbaatar?
(Images: 1 - 3, 5, 7. Michelle Chin, 4. Gobi Cashmere, 6. Blue Sky Lounge)