According to Wholevehicles, Kharkhorin (the spelling Har-Khorin is found) is a city in the Orkhon River valley, 380 km southwest of Ulaanbaatar. It is part of the World Heritage Site and is part of the Cultural Landscape of the Orkhon River Valley. Its main attraction is the ruins of the ancient Karakoram, the 13th century capital of the Mongol Empire founded by Genghis Khan.
Karakorum was for a short time under Ogedei Khan the capital of the Mongol Empire. The city was located on the northern branch of the Great Silk Road and was one of its most important posts. However, already in the second half of the 13th century, Khan Kublai moved the capital of Mongolia to Khanbalik (now Beijing), after which the decline of Karakorum began. The names Kharkhorin and Karakorum are often confused. It is necessary to distinguish between a modern city built on the site of the ancient capital – Kharkhorin, and Karakorum – the ancient capital of Mongolia.
The walls of the Karakoram have survived to this day, enclosing the archaeological zone on an area of 400 X 400 m. There are practically no buildings left on the territory of the Karakorum: back in 1580, its stones were used to build the Erdene-Zuu (“Hundred Treasures”) monastery, the first Buddhist monastery of the Mongol Empire and one of the largest medieval Buddhist monasteries in the world. Today, out of 17 temples of the Erdene-Zuu monastery, only one is functioning – Lavran, the rest are under the jurisdiction of the Historical Museum of Ulaanbaatar.
The names Kharkhorin and Karakorum are often confused. It is necessary to distinguish between a modern city built on the site of the ancient capital – Kharkhorin, and Karakorum – the ancient capital of Mongolia.
To the north of the archaeological zone, 300-400 m from the Erdene-Zuu monastery, a stone sculpture of the ancient Karakorum in the form of a huge turtle has been preserved. According to legend, there were 4 stone turtles located at the corners of the Karakoram, and on their backs stood vertically inscribed stone steles. Today, not a trace remains of the steles. The second, less well-known stone turtle is located on the top of the mountain almost opposite the Erdene-Zuu monastery.
No less curious attraction of Kharakhorin is a stone phallus about a meter high, sticking out of the ground and surrounded by a fence. It is located under the sentinel mountain of Genghis Khan at a distance of 20-30 minutes walk from the Erdene-Zuu monastery. Directed to the hollow, which, according to local residents, has the shape of a female womb.
Its existence is explained by several legends at once. According to one, a childless woman should sit on this phallus, praying for the birth of her children, and the problem is magically resolved. According to the second legend, a stone statue was erected near the monastery that once stood nearby as an edification, so that the monks would be engaged in prayers and pacification of the flesh, and not run away at night to a neighboring settlement.
Also in the vicinity of Kharkhorin, it is worth visiting the banks of the Chultyn-Gol River: rock paintings of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages were discovered here. To improve health, it is recommended to visit the hot mineral springs Khujirt.
New urban development adjoins the ruins of the old city. Over the past decade, the government of the country has repeatedly discussed a plan for new development, bypassing the ruins, so that the city would restore its “capital” status by its 800th anniversary, which will come in 2020. According to the Mongolian president, he sees in the future Kharkhorin “a symbol of modern Mongolia”.
How to get there
Kharkhorinsk airport is equipped with only one unpaved runway. Previously, he served regular flights in the direction of Ulaanbaatar, but now the planes fly only a few days a week from July to September. Buses run here from Ulaanbaatar 2-3 times a week. Travel time is 7-8 hours.
One- and two-day excursions are regularly organized from Ulaanbaatar to Kharkhorin. You can get to Kharkhorin in 5-6 hours, first along an asphalt road towards Arvaikheer (315 km), then turn east towards Kharkhorin (75 km, asphalt).