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Sunrise from sacred Shiliin Bogd Mongolia

Shiliin Bogd Mongolia

As we have mentioned elsewhere in our blog and website, if someone asked us to describe Mongolia in one word, the one word that would spring to mind is ‘vast’ – vast landscapes, vast skies, and vast horizons. Shilin Bogd is located in one of Mongolia’s vastest landscapes – the wind-scoured lowlands of Dariganga in the south-eastern Sukhbaatar Aimag.

  • All images throughout this blog post on Shiliin Bogd were taken by our EL guest Marian Herz.

Shiliin Bogd Map

 

The Dariganga region is where the grasslands of the northern steppe and the expanse of the Gobi converge. It is a unique landscape consisting of over 200 extinct volcanic lava and cinder cones, typically ranging in height from 25m to 300m and varying from partially eroded to wholly preserved. Two of these extinct volcanic cones dominate the skyline  – Shillin Bogd and Altan Ovoo.

Sacred Shiliin Bogd Sukhbaatar Mongolia

Shiliin Bogd Sukhbaatar Mongolia

Shiliin Bogd Dariganga Mongolia

The area is isolated, immense, and stunning. For us, what makes this area so special is the immensity of the stretching landscape, sky, and horizon – they conspire to restore your sense of the earth’s immensity and your place in it. It is very much as travel writer Stanley Stewart describes in his excellent book (In the Empire Of Genghis Khan) –

‘From the air Mongolia looks like God’s preliminary sketch for earth, not so much a country as the ingredients out of which countries are made: grass, rock, water and wind.’

Shiliin Bogd Uul is the highest mountain in Sukhbaatar Aimag at 1778m. In traditional Mongolian culture, mountains are the closest thing on earth to the Eternal Blue Sky and thus many are venerated and sacred. Mountains are the king of the area and given strong titles as their guardian spirits hold a direct connection with Tenger (the God of the Eternal Blue Sky).

A sacred stone shrine - Sukhbaatar Aimag Mongolia

Sunrise eastern Mongolia

Because Shiliin Bogd is considered sacred, you will often find groups of Mongolians walking to the top for sunrise. They circle the ovoo – the sacred stone shrine – making offerings of rice, milk and vodka. Men and women both climb the volcano although tradition states that it is the soul of men who climb Shiliin Bogd that will be renewed and filled with strength for the future. You’ll notice that the Mongolian men remove their hats to honour the sun as it rises over the horizon, an ancient tradition.

You can camp at the foot of the mountain. You’re often joined by visiting Mongolian families. If the night is clear it is a great location for watching the moonrise (or set) as well as the sunset.  It’s a steady 20-40 minute walk to the crater rim and follows a distinct path up the side of the volcano (as in tradition, locals all in a clockwise direction). And you join the local Mongolians waiting for dawn to break the skyline.

On one of our visits, having returned to camp from seeing the sunrise, a group of local men joined us at our breakfast table. Having renewed their souls (they were late for sunrise and we watched from the top their 4×4 dust trail as they raced toward the mountain), they presented us with a bottle of vodka. So there we sat, in the vastness of the Dariganga landscapes, at 08.50, and as we sipped on our cups of vodka we all felt a little rejuvenated by the wild landscape, the epic sunrise, and our new found friends. 

Ganga Nuur

Mongolians often combine their trip to Shiliin Bogd with a visit to Ganga Nuur. Although this small brackish lake may not inspire at first site, it is both a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance as well as one of Mongolia’s 70 Important Bird Areas (designated by the organisation Bird Life International). Ganga Nuur has a landscape combining wetlands, steppe and sand dunes, located in the strip between the south steppe and Gobi zones. It is of great importance for breeding and stop-over waterbirds including the White-Naped and Demoiselle Crane, Swan Goose, Whooper Swan and Great Bustard.

Whooper swan Mongolia

En route between Shiliin Bogd and Ganga Nuur, Mongolians typically visit the statue of Toroi Bandi, a historical figure from the 19th century who operated in Sukhbaatar Aimag. During this time, Mongolia was governed by the Chinese Qing Dynasty (Manchu Dynasty). Toroi Bandi was a bandit, known as a ‘Shiliiin Sain Er,’ infamous for redistributing wealth by stealing horses and livestock from wealthier Manchurian sources and giving them to those in need. The statue is located approximately 8 km from Ganga Nuur on the road between Dariganga and Shiliin Bogd.

Explore the landscapes of eastern Mongolia on our virtual tour of the region. If you’re interested in experiencing Mongolia with us, check out the range of Mongolia experiences we offer: Eternal Landscapes Mongolia Tours.

Jess @ Eternal Landscapes

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I'm Jess Brooks, the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia and the voice behind EL's blog posts. For more than a decade, since 2006, I've been based in Mongolia, working closely with my beloved Mongolian team to advocate for a tourism approach that brings about positive change.. What sets our blog apart is our deep understanding of Mongolia—our home. Unlike content from influencers or creators, our posts prioritise authenticity and firsthand knowledge as guiding principles.
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