This minor city on the Trans-Mongolian Railway has the look and feel of Ulaanbaatar c 1996. The city has a clutch of cafes and restaurants, burgeoning local commerce shops and a few modern hotels, but lacks the sprawl, traffic and congestion that afflicts the capital.
Darkhan was created by the Soviets in the 1960s as an industrial base for the north. During communism it worked as a model urban cooperative of factory workers, tractor drivers, coal miners and government officials. The economy took a nosedive in the early 1990s but is slowly picking up again, thanks to grain production and coal mining. The city is not actually part of Selenge aimag, but an autonomous municipality, Darkhan-Uul.
Darkhan is divided into an ‘old town’ near the train station and a ‘new town’ to the south. The new town contains most of the shops, restaurants, hotels and other amenities of use to the traveller.