Useful article about our low cost trip to Karakorum and Orkhon Valley which belong to the most favorite places in Mongolia. If you plan to go to Mongolia, you should put these destinations on your bucket list 🙂
How to get from Ulaanbaatar to Karakorum by bus
We traveled to Karakorum by bus from Dragon bus station in Ulaanbaatar. The bus runs twice a day and its availability can be checked at https://eticket.transdep.mn. We bought the tickets half an hour before departure and fortunately there were still free seats on the bus (out of season). One ticket costs 19 500 MNT.
The journey lasts 8 hours and we usually stopped several times for a toilet and lunch in a restaurant where we did not order anything, because we couldn´t read the menu (written by hand so our online translator didn´t work) :D.
Gaya, owner of Gaya guesthouse, picked up by car at the bus station. She was very nice and friendly woman, for whom these is no problem. We stayed in the yurt but twe found out that there is no heater and night temperatures are already dropping to zero! Gaya gave us at least one more blankat so we will hopefully survive 😀
Top things to do/see in Karakorum
1. Small Gobi trip
We rent a motorbike in our accommodation (Gaya Guest house) for 25 $ per day. It was some chinese brand called Dayun. Tom was learning how to drive motorbike on Wikihow the day before so Anet was little bit affraid from this trip :D.
After many attemps to start a motorbike, some local guy came to us and helped us with that. And here it is! We finally drove on motorbike in direction Small Gobi. On the way we passed cattle herd, camels or wild horses. Mongolian nature is amazing! Small Gobi is located close to national park Khugnu Tarna). We reached first dunes after an hour and half and we tried to ride a motorbike on the sand to more distant and larger ones. Riding a motorbike on the sand is difficult, but Tom fighted bravely. Fortunately, only a minor accident occurred at a very low speed, but of course it was Anet fault because she was wrongly balancing.
We climbed on one of the larger dunes and enjoyed the view of the mountains in the distance, camels, which we subsequently chased by the drone and the surrounding smaller dunes.
2. Erdene Zuu Monastery
This is probably probably the earliest surviving Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. In 1939, the Communists intervened in an attempt to destroy the monastery and killed thousands of hundred monks. Only 3 smaller temples and an outer wall with stupas survived to show international visitors that the Communist regime allows freedom of religion … really irony. Entry to the complex is free of charge, only entry to one temple is charged (approx. 1,5 EUR).
3. Trip through Orkhon Valley and Orkhon waterfall
We went on a trip to Orkhon valley with the driver, who was arranged by Gaya the day before the trip. The trip cost 95 $ for all 4 people, plus entry to the national park should be paid, but nobody wanted entrance fee from us because we went there out of season.
First, the driver stopped us at the view of the canyon, from which the river Orkhon and its meander could be seen beautifully. Then we continued on our way and a few meters in front of the waterfall we stopped by a local Mongolian family who prepared lunch for us in the yurt. It served rice with mutton and vegetables and it was a huge and tasty portion.
After lunch we walked to the Orkhon Waterfall. It is worthy to go to these tourist places out of season, because we were there alone and we could take a lot of pictures and enjoy the waterfall. We also flew with the drone and after an hour we returned to our car and driver.
4. Stone turtles in Karakorum
If you have time you can tried to find stone turtles located in Karakorum. There are 2 stone turtles outside of the Erdene Zuu Monastery walls. Four of these turtles once marked the boundaries of ancient Karakorum (symbol of protection and eternity). We found one on top of the hill behind our accommodation.
Where to eat in Karakorum
Karakorum is a very small town and by 8:00 pm almost all restaurant are closed. We can recommend you restaurant called King that serves traditional Mongolian food, for example noodles Tsuivan and fried meat patties. Another and more expensive place is Ikh Khorum hotel that is the most luxury one in the city. We had a chance to order dish also in our accomodation called Gaya guest house.
There is also one bigger supermarket which is close to restaurant Silver tree.
Getting around in Karakorum
Karakorum is very small city se you can walk everywhere. But try to not go outside during the night because the are no street lights in most places.
Is there any ATM in Karakorum?
There are at least 2 ATM in Karakorum so you don´t have to be afraid that you will not withdraw any money there. We could also pay with credit card in most places.