© Tuul & Bruno Morandi/Corbis

After a 25-year socialist hangover, the country's intriguing capital city is finally waking up.

Daniel Scheffler
July 17, 2015

In Ulaanbaatar, elaborate temples now live cheek by jowl with rising skyscrapers, thanks to an influx of investment from the financial sector. The new Shangri-La Hotel (doubles from $260) is raising the luxury quotient with 290 contemporary rooms, some facing Bogd Khan, one of the four Sacred Mountains; a sleek restaurant serving northern Chinese cuisine (clay-pot stews, Peking duck); and a 21st-floor private club. Nearby is Great Chinggis Khan Square, a plaza lined with fashionable hangouts. A highlight: the lounge iLoft Function House, where DJs flown in from Seoul spin K-pop remixes. (The city has a surprising obsession with all things Korean.)

There are two ways to arrive: by plane—Korean Air and Turkish Airlines now offer service, and a second international airport debuts in 2017— or with Golden Eagle Luxury Trains(15 days from $15,895 per person). This hotel on rails has butler service and L’Occitane-stocked cabins and follows a route from Moscow that includes visits to Lake Baikal, the deepest on earth, and the 16th-century Kremlin Fortress, in Kazan, Russia.

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