Stone turtle with sacred hadags or khadags (blue silk scarves) close to Erdene Zuu Khiid Monastery, part of the Orkhon Valley, UNESCO Cultural Landscape World Heritage Site, in Kharkhorin or Karakorum, Ovorkhangai Province, Central Mongolia
erdene zuu, hadags, karakorum, khadags, kharkhorin, buddhist, sacred, övörkhangai province, central mongolia, nobody, landmark, religious

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Stone Turtles


Outside the monastery walls of Erdene Zuu Khiid are two stone turtles. Four of these sculptures once marked the boundaries of ancient Karakorum, acting as protectors of the city (turtles are considered symbols of eternity). Each of the turtles originally had an inscribed stone stela mounted vertically on its back.

One is easy to find: just walk out of the northern gate of the monastery and follow the path northwest for about 300m. This location is also the site of an archaeological excavation led by a German team.

You’ll probably need a car to get to the other turtle (What3words: informed.exodus.rasped), which is on the hill south of the monastery – otherwise it's a 45-minute walk. It has a more scenic location, but is blighted by being within a caged enclosure. En route you'll encounter the Penis Stone (What3words: hamsters.attachments.compasses), a historical stone phallic sculpture used as a reminder for young monks to remain celibate.

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