In the mid-13th century, Karakorum was a happening place. Chinggis Khaan established a supply base here and his son Ugudei ordered the construction of a proper capital, a decree that attracted traders, dignitaries and skilled workers from across Asia and even Europe.
The good times lasted around 40 years until Kublai moved the capital to Khanbalik (later called Beijing), a decision that still incites resentment among some Mongolians. Following the move to Beijing and the subsequent collapse of the Mongol empire, Karakorum was abandoned and then destroyed by vengeful Manchurian soldiers in 1388.
Whatever was left of Karakorum was used to help build Erdene Zuu Khiid in the 16th century, which itself was badly damaged during the Stalinist purges.
The charmless Soviet-built town of Kharkhorin was built a couple of kilometres away from Erdene Zuu. There is little of interest in the town and it’s a big disappointment if you’ve come expecting the glories of the Middle Ages, but a surge in tourism has improved local infrastructure. There are several ger camps in the area, each with a restaurant, plus some basic cafes in the centre of town.