Mörön (or Murun) is a small town in Northern Mongolia that Mongolians call a city and is home to an ancient site called Uushigin Uver and not much else. It’s dusty and lacks a main centre, but the few paved roads it does have seem like the focal point of the town.
We were in Murun for one reason – we were on the way further north to visit the Tsaatan (the reindeer people, also known as Dukha people). Our day in Murun was intended to prepare ourselves for that trip and, if we had time, we could visit the nearby ancient deer stones at Uushigin Uver.
We had a few things that we needed before travelling north. We were recommended to have long boots to protect our legs when riding horses (we had an estimated 16 hours of horse riding in the next few days), I needed a poncho or something to keep off the rain. We also needed sleeping bags for the winter-like conditions that still prevailed in the height of summer in the mountains. The market is closed on Mondays, but open every other day. Amazingly, we found women’s boots made of real leather for only $2 (though most were a lot more). We’d recommend going if you need anything and remember that haggling is to be expected.
The Deer Stones…
After we got our wares, we used our spare time to visit the deer stones which are 17km outside of Mörön. We flagged down a local “taxi” who took us there. The road there is bumpy yet beautiful, and you’re taken out into the steppe amongst the gers and herds to get there.
The deer stones (at Uushigiin Uver) aren’t large and impressive like Stone Henge, but they are interesting for the same reason. They’re ancient and nobody knows why they are there. Most guesses involve ritualistic, Shamanist belief systems that have held ground in Mongolia for thousands of years. The stones are up to 3m high and depict leaping reindeer on the tops of the stones. At the bottom, you can see a belt around each stone with axes and daggers attached. Some of the stones also depict the sun and moon and one stone still has the top intact, a large face (most of the stone tops have been intentionally destroyed long ago). The stones are in two lines that face east. The site also has kherekshures, or ancient burial mounds.
Our “taxi” driver said he’d wait up to an hour for free, which we felt was more than generous. When there, a lady will come out of the ger outside and charge you 3,000 MNT for entrance. With no signage about this, it felt like a scam to begin with, but after talking to her for a while you realise that she’s quite knowledgeable about the site and she will help you understand the stones. She will give you tickets and informational booklets too and protect the site from any sheep coming too close to the fence. The site isn’t huge and won’t take up much time, but it’s worth a visit if you’re already in Mörön.
We’ll be venturing to the far North next to mingle with those who ride reindeer in the inhospitable mountainous regions near Russia.