The capital of Mongolia used to move with the seasons. Its residents would load their homes onto the back of a camel and move on.
If the city didn't move, the government and civil service did. Kublai Khan - Genghis Khan's grandson - changed Mongolia's capital at least three times a year.
Even the present capital of Mongolia, Ulan Bator, has a nomadic quarter.
Below you will find a description of Mongolian Capitals, past and present...
UB started life as a nomadic, monastic settlement. It has changed location twenty-eight times; at one time it even traveled to China. A religious ceremony determined the time and location of each move.
In 1778, UB moved to its current location on the Tuul River. At that time, most of its inhabitants were Buddhist monks. The monks chose the site because of four holy 'mountains'which surround it.
But the 1930s brought a socialist government and a religious purge. Monks were forced to abandon their faith, and UB reinvented itself as a manufacturing center and modern capital.
Today, Ulan Bator has grown into a bustling city with over a million inhabitants.
Ulaan Baatar (as the locals spell it) has Mongolia's only international airport and connects Mongolia with the rest of the world by road, rail and air.
The name Hohhot consists of two Mongolian words: 'hoh' meaning blue, and 'hot' meaning city. Founded by a Mongolian king in the sixteenth century, Hohhot became a part of China after the collapse of the Mongol Yuan dynasty.
In 1952, Hohhot became the administrative center and capital of Inner Mongolia - part of a Chinese effort to protect Mongolian culture. These efforts met with only partial success. Today, only one in ten of Hohhot's citizens descend from Mongol origin.
But if you want to experience real Mongol culture, you should travel to Outer Mongolia.
Ulan Ude once belonged to the Mongol Empire. Today, it's the third-largest city in Eastern Siberia and the capital of Russia's Buryat Republic.
Ulan Ude sits at the junction of the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian lines. Many travelers disembark and explore Ulan Ude on their way to Ulan Bator or Beijing.
The city also makes a convenient base for exploring Lake Baikal, the largest fresh-water lake in the world.
Erdene Zuu Monastery - near Karakorum, ancient capital of Mongolia
At first, Karakorum served as a rallying point for Genghis Khan's troops. But by 1220, Genghis Khan had founded a capital in karakorum and the city became the center of his empire. In keeping with nomadic tradition, Karakorum moved several times a year.
After Genghis Khan's death, many captured artisans and skilled workers made their home in Karakorum. Their presence led to a construction boom. The construction of a large palace and city walls fixed Karakorum's position.
Karakorum became a significant center for sculpture - especially noteworthy for its stone tortoises. In fact, a stone tortoise is the last-standing witness of the old Mongolian capital...
Eventually, Mongolia's capital moved to Beijing. Karakorum then suffered civil war before Ming troops burnt it to the ground. In 1585, monks used the ruins to build a Tibetan Buddhist monastery called Erdene Zuu. This temple still stands.
Karakorum remains a powerful symbol of Mongolia's past glory.
Khar Balgas - The capital of the eighth-century Uighur Empire. The ruins cover an area some fifty kilometers square and contain evidence of a palace and temple.
The ruins of Karakorum lie close by. Some believe that the ruins of Khar Balgas inspired Genghis Khan to found Karakorum.
Xanadu (or Shangdu) - The summer capital of Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan. Built between 1252 and 1256 it was laid out in a square with an inner and outer city.
Xanadu represented a marriage of Chinese civilization and nomadic culture. Built at the height of Mongolia's golden age, it saw the reign of eleven emperors in 108 years. A Ming army destroyed the city in 1369.
Today only an earthen mound, used to support the city walls, remains.
The White City - Known as the 'Middle Capital of the Mongolian Yuan dynasty.
Its ruins lie in China's Hebei Province, close to Mantaoying village. The city divided into three parts: the Palace City, the Imperial City, and the Outer City. Some of the buildings still stand.
The White City had a short lifespan as a capital. Gaining capital status in 1308, it was abandoned in 1311 because of ominous astrological signs. Locals destroyed the city in 1358, ten years before Ming troops chased the Mongols out of China.
Beijing - The Mongolian ruled Yuan Dynasty established Beijing as its primary capital. It remains the capital of China.
The Mongolian steppe and desert contain many more cities which look more like towns from America's Wild West.
If you tour Mongolia, you will likely stumble upon at least one or two.
Not all are small. Read more about
Mongolia's five biggest cities here.