Mongolia – Ongii Monastery Ruins

The standard of ger accommodation seemed to be increasing during our tour. They may not look like much from the outside, but some come with the latest mod-cons! Satellite dishes, kitchens and ample space to even hold a dinner party.

Bring out the fine China!

Fine dining, Mongolian style.

Leaving our family ger home-stay at Orkhon Waterfall, an epic 10 hour drive (the longest of the tour) on some of the bumpiest, dustiest and deserted tracks (you can’t call them roads) brought us into the heart of the Gobi Desert. The scenery dramatically changed from lush grassy steppe to flat desert wastelands. The halfway point where we ate lunch before crossing the first asphalt road we had seen since Ulaanbaatar, seemed to mark the scenery turning point.DSC00263DSC00270

The desert was reminiscent of the Australian outback. Flat red plains melded into a brown rocky tumbled landscape. The dry Gobi Desert would be our home for the remainder of the tour.

Situated on an interesting bend in the Ongiin Gol (River), Ongii Khiid was a complex of two monasteries called Barlim Khiid on the north bank and Khutagt Khiid on the south bank.

Ongii Khiid (Temple)

Ruins of Ongii Khiid (Monastery)

It was once a populous meeting point for monks in the Gobi Desert, but once again the Stalinist purges of 1937 brought utter destruction to Ongii Khiid. Everything was destroyed and now all that is left are sand brick ruins. It is hard to imagine what this flourishing monastery was once like.


Barliim Khid on the north bank

Although a new much smaller temple was built in 2004, it is rarely used. A solitary ger houses the ‘museum’, the remaining collection of religious items and books that were saved.

Frame 1Frame 2

Atop a rocky outcrop, a sweeping view of the monastery and the river’s bend was glorious to see. The ruins are mostly on the north bank. As there is no way to cross the river anywhere nearby, the lesser southern ruins remain unreachable.


Khutagt Khiid on the south bank

Reaching our ger camp overlooking the ruins, our tour guide, Tulga, surprised us dressed in a (somewhat authentic) Chinggis Khan outfit. Andrew couldn’t resist.

Return of the Great Chinggis Khan?

Return of the Great Chinggis Khan?

Frame 3

As the sun set over our first day in the mighty Gobi, you actually realise just how recent the Ongii Khiid ruins are and how awesome it would be if it were still here today.

Visited 11th August 2014.


One thought on “Mongolia – Ongii Monastery Ruins

  1. Hi Andrew, My name is Ross Galbraith. Together with a Swiss colleague, I co-edit the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group Newsletter. We would like to use your photo, showing the Ongii River from above the ruins, to run in an article on human/ wildlife conflicts. Believe it or not, I found two fresh Snow Leopard tracks not 200 metres from the Ger Camp when I stayed there in 2016, right in the wet mud by the side of the river, and then the cat stepped back into the river. Cool, eh? Send me your email and I will send you a photo with the cat tracks and my footprint. We will be happy to credit your photo accordingly and provide you with a complimentary copy for your records. Thank you in advance for your kind consideration of this request. Ross

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