One of the most important monasteries in Mongolia, the Gandan Khiid is a must-see in Ulaanbaatar. Located just a 10 minute walk north of my hostel (and around 30 minutes from the Chinggis Khan square) it was one of the first sights to see on my list.
The Tibetan-style monastery is actually a large complex of buildings, including several temples and colleges.
Migjid Janraisig Sum (Main Temple)
The main Gandan Temple, a tall white structure, dominates the complex. Inside is a massive statue of Avalokitesvara (apparently the tallest indoor Buddhist statue in the world), which you can walk around and spin the prayer wheels. Around the structure are numerous stupas, smaller monuments symbolising aspects of Buddhist theology, commemorating events or containing relics.
The Datsans (Colleges)
Young monks study in the Datsans, monastic colleges surrounding the temples. Visitors are welcomed inside to observe their prayers and studies, and I was amazed at the colours, details and vibrancy of the interiors – very different to your standard school!
Around the main buildings and even just outside the complex, numbers smaller temples and accommodation buildings for the monks can be found.
Although sadly there wasn’t very much information about the temples and other buildings, I did enjoy wandering around and admiring the incredible architecture and designs. There seemed to be so many different styles and influences represented even within one single monastery complex, and I could easily have spend a couple of hours exploring.