Image by JOHANNES EISELE / AFP

Ulaanbaatar

If Mongolia’s yin is its pristine countryside, then Ulaanbaatar (UB; Улаанбаатар) harmonises as its vibrant yang. It's a sprawling, industrialised city of pulsating commerce, wild traffic, sinful nightlife and bohemian counterculture. The contrasts within the city are intriguing: Armani-suited businessmen rub shoulders with mohawked punks and del-clad nomads fresh off the steppes; one minute you’re dodging the path of a Hummer H2 and the next you’re entranced by chanting Buddhist monks at Gandan Khiid. It's the coldest capital in the world, but come summer the city bursts into life after slumbering through a long winter.

Ulaanbaatar is not always the easiest city to navigate, but with a little patience travellers can take care of all their logistical needs, visit world-class museums, watch traditional theatre, sample international cuisine and party till three in the morning. Indeed, this ever-changing city may be the biggest surprise of your Mongolian adventure.

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