For the 350 monks who once called this place home, the gorgeous setting around this monastery (elevation 1645m) must have been a daily inspiration. Like most monasteries in Mongolia, Mandshir Khiid was destroyed in 1937 by Stalin’s thugs, but was partially restored in the 1990s.
The main temple has been restored and converted into a museum, but the other buildings remain in ruins. The monastery and museum are not amazing in themselves, but rather it's the beautiful forest setting that makes a visit worthwhile.
As you enter from the main track from Zuunmod you’ll be required to pay the T3000 national-park fee.
From the gate it’s a couple of kilometres to the main area, where there is a car park, a shop, a nature museum with taxidermied animals, a restaurant (that isn't always open) and several gers offering accommodation. Look for the huge two-tonne bronze cauldron, which dates from 1726 and was designed to boil up to 10 sheep at a time.
The remains of the monastery (and the monastery museum) are about 800m uphill from the car park. The monastery museum has tsam masks, exhibits on the layout of Mandshir and some photos that show what it looked like before Stalin’s followers turned it into rubble. Look out for the controversial Ganlin Horn, made from human thigh bones.
If you have time, it’s worth climbing up the rocks behind the main temple, where there are some 18th-century Buddhist rock paintings. The views from the top are even more beautiful, and you’ll find yourself in the midst of a lovely pine forest.
Located 6km northeast of Zuunmod and 46km by road from Ulaanbaatar, the monastery is a perfect half-day trip from the capital, or can be used as a starting point for hikes into the Strictly Protected Area. If you get here early enough, one possibility to return to UB is to hike back over the hills.