The dramatic Orkhon Valley in central Mongolia, where the foothills of the Khangai Mountains peter into the steppes, served as the site of the Mongol capital before it moved to Peking in 1264. Dressed stone from the site was later used to construct a splendid Tibetan-style monastery, Erdene Zuu, which still stands, having been restored since its destruction in 1939 by the Communist regime. Only a few of the 64 original shrines survive, along with the massive, stupa-studded perimeter wall, but it’s still a wonderfully romantic spot.

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