Only 612 steps stand between you and the best views of Ulaanbaatar at this skyhigh Soviet monument.
Depending on your love of Soviet monuments and sprawling city views, the Zaisan Memorial steps are either a small price to pay for some seriously cool views of Ulaanbaatar, or your archnemesis. Either way, that doesn’t change the fact that they exist. And that they’re all that stand in the way of you and one of the best Soviet monuments in town.
Super-secret spoiler alert, because we like you: there’s also a way to cut out half the steps, which means not starting from the very bottom of the hill, at the tank memorial, and involves driving halfway up the side street next to the Zaisan Hill Complex. (This is also where we’ll insert our argument for taking a taxi or private driver to get to the monument versus public transportation.)
Once you’ve conquered the arduous climb to get to the top of the hill (take that, jetlag), you’ll understand why this monument is one of the best in town – you’re immediately rewarded with panoramic views of Ulaanbaatar, including the Tuul River below, the Bogd Khan Mountains behind you, and scenes from a past Soviet Mongolia staring you in the face.
A History of Mongolia’s Independence in 30 Seconds
And that our friends, is the story of how Mongolia came to be an independent country. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…
With reliefs around the outside of the circular monument, it’s the nuanced scenes inside the spherical centerpiece that make it a pretty spectacular, one of a kind, piece of public art in the city.
Erected to commemorate the fallen soldiers of World War II, the memorial depicts scenes that both symbolize and solidify the relationship between Mongolia and the former USSR. Look closely and you’ll find men and women in deels (traditional Mongolian robes) next to Soviet soldiers, doctors, and even a nod to the first Mongolian to venture into space, Jugderdemidiin Gurragchaa, who was a crew member aboard the Soviet’s Soyuz 39 space flight mission.
As you can tell, Mongolia’s fight for independence since 1921 has included its fair share of hardship, and this monument perfectly encompasses that. From the defeat of the Japanese Kwantung Army by the Soviets at Khalhkin Gol on the Mongolian border in 1939, to the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, when Mongolian troops embedded themselves in the Red Army, the monument is a lesson in modern history worth taking the time to admire.
You won’t need much time to take in the monument and it’s incredible views, so head here on your way out to Terelj National Park, or at sunset for the (in our humble opinion) best views of the day.
Author: Breanna Wilson
Hi! Sain uu! I’m Breanna, an American travel writer and adventurer living in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for more than 5 years. I’ve written for and been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, CNN, Forbes, and the New York Times, among others. Read more of my Mongolia travel articles here.
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