Baga Gazriin Chuluu, translating to ‘small land rock,’ is renowned for its extensive granite rock formations, nestled amidst the expansive steppe and semi-desert landscape under local-level protection.
Adjacent to Baga Gazriin Chuluu lies its sister site, aptly named “Ikh Gazriin Chuluu,” translating to ‘big land rock.’ This area holds distinction as one of Mongolia’s 70 Important Bird Areas, designated by Birdlife International, offering crucial habitat for numerous nesting and migrating raptors, notably the Lesser Kestrel. Keep an eye out for artificial nests strategically placed by the Artificial Nest Project along your journey to protect the nesting grounds of the Saker Falcon, but do exercise caution and use binoculars rather than approaching the nests directly.
Amidst the striking rock formations, you’ll encounter an open-air theater, established in 2006 to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Mongolian Statehood. Additionally, a monument pays homage to the esteemed Mongolian state-honored long song singer Norovbanzad.N, who hails from this region. From the monument’s vantage point, you’ll be treated to sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, offering a glimpse into the vastness and grandeur of the Mongolian wilderness.
For bird enthusiasts, a visit to Sangiin Dalai Nuur is a must. Nestled amidst the middle Gobi steppe, this area encompasses marshland and a shallow freshwater pool, creating an ideal habitat for a diverse array of avian species. Here, keen observers can spot a variety of waders, including Snipe, Stints, Sandpipers, as well as aerial displays by large flocks of Pacific Golden Plover and Northern Lapwings.
Venturing onto a small island within Sangiin Dalai Nuur unveils more than just natural beauty; it reveals a treasure trove of historical relics. Among the ruins lies the ancient Süm Khökh Burd Temple, dating back to the 10th century, followed by a 300-year-old palace. Despite their storied past, both structures succumbed to time and were eventually replaced by a stage, a testament to the enduring legacy of Danzan Ravjaa, a revered figure in Mongolian history, albeit lesser-known in the Western world. This stage served as a venue for performances of plays written by Danzan Ravjaa, adding yet another layer of cultural significance to this landscape.
Translated as ‘White Stupa,’ this site holds Buddhist connections. It’s a vast expanse characterised by sun-baked rocks, scrub vegetation, towering limestone formations reaching up to 30 meters, and an overwhelming sense of emptiness. Despite its arid appearance, the landscape is rich in marine fossils, a testament to its ancient history.
Groups of visitors often pass through hastily, eager to capture selfies and exclaim in the vastness of space. However, once they depart, a stillness descends, allowing one to truly immerse oneself in the tranquility of the surroundings. Listen closely, and you’ll hear the calls of Sand Martins gracefully circling on the currents, adding to the atmosphere.
For an even more profound experience, consider visiting during the winter months. During this time, you’ll likely have the landscape entirely to yourself, enhancing the sense of solitude and allowing for a deeper connection with the awe-inspiring immensity of this remarkable terrain.
Erdenedalai, meaning ‘Jewel Ocean’ in Mongolian, may seem paradoxical given its remote location amidst the expansive desert-steppe, far from any literal ocean, but, despite its remoteness, staying in Erdenedalai offers a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the heart of a close-knit and traditional community. Here, amidst the rolling desert-steppe and panoramic vistas, visitors gain a genuine insight into the rhythms of everyday life in Mongolia. Interacting with locals, sharing meals, and participating in cultural activities provide an authentic experience that fosters a deeper appreciation for the rich heritage and enduring spirit of Mongolia.
Erdenedalai is also notable for being home to Dambadarjaalin Khiid, also known as Gimpil Darjaalan Khiid. This functioning temple, constructed in 1810, holds historical significance as one of the few monasteries and temples across the country that survived the destructive purges during Choibalsan’s rule in the 1930s.
The main assembly hall of this venerable complex stands as a testament to resilience, having weathered the storm of political upheaval. Its survival serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring strength of Mongolia’s cultural and religious heritage, offering visitors a rare glimpse into a bygone era amidst the vastness of the desert-steppe landscape.
Jess @ Eternal Landscapes