Süm Khökh Burd

The Gobi

The ruined 10th-century temple Süm Khökh Burd sits on an island in the middle of a seasonal lake, and was built from rocks that can only be found more than 300km away. It was abandoned and left in ruins a few centuries later and 300 years ago a palace was built in its place. When that too fell into disrepair, the writer Danzan Ravjaa built a stage here. Makes sense. The setting is that dramatic.

Behind it, enough of the temple and palace remain to give you some idea of their previous magnificence. Even in ruins, with needle grass sprouting between the stones, it's an impressive sight, thanks largely to its remote location. In the evening when guests are on the premises, the ruins are lit up magnificently. However, it's largely the domain of luxury tour groups and Buddhist scholars, and outside of July the grounds may be locked (we hopped the fence, which is easily done). During peak season, you may be lucky enough to stumble upon a naadam performance staged on the concrete amphitheatre which fronts the ruins.

The lake itself, Sangiin Dalai Nuur, only encircles the palace after heavy rains, but the perennial marsh provides good bird-watching. Various species of eagle, goose and swan come to this spring-fed lake in summer and autumn.

The temple is located 72km northeast of Erdenedalai, 65km northwest of Mandalgov and 21km west of Baga Gazryn Chuluu.

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