Zuunmod is the capital of Tuv province.
Situated on the opposite side of Bogd Khan Uul Mountain from the capital, Ulaanbaatar, Zuunmod can seem like a sleepy suburb. While the town of 15,000 may not be of much interest, the ruins of a destroyed Buddhist Temple is just outside the city along a hiking trail to UB. At the ruins which once housed 300 monks before it was destroyed and many were killed during religious purges in the 1930s, there is one rebuilt temple that serves as a museum. Zuunmod is about 40km on a well paved road from UB. Zuunmod is the capital of the central province of Töv. It is a very quiet town with a small museum, a temple, a park. But it is a typical small Mongolian town surrounded by the free steppe and plenty of hills to walk.
The road to Zuunmod is well paved. It even makes a nice cycle ride! There are medium-sized buses and micro-buses leaving throughout the day from the Dragon Center in Ulaanbaatar from 08:00 to 20:00. Buses are cheap and crowded. You can also hire a taxi to take you there since it is so close to the city. Bus costs 2000 ₮ (2014). Bus number 27 or 27-5 takes you from Sukhbaatar square to the Dragon Centre, or take bus 44 from the University. Buses with a small -5 added to the line number usually ply the full length of the Peace Avenue. Dragon is at the western end of the peace avenue. At the bus stop at Zuunmod there are usually Taxis waiting if you want to get to Manjushri Khiid quickly.
- Manjusri (Manjushri) Monastery (Manzhir Khiid, Khiid meaning "monastery"), 4 km north of Zuunmod, inside Bogd Khan National Park. Former Buddhist Monastery built in 1733, and destroyed in 1937. It once consisted of 20 buildings housing 300 monks, many of whom were executed in late 1930s. After 1990, the main temple was rebuilt and turned into a museum. the ruins of 17 other buildings remain visible. There is a tourist ger camp on the site. The monastery site is at least 4km from town. From the bus stop in town walk down the same street past the central park and museum. At end of the road turn right and walk down a few hundred meters. At the next major junction at traffic lights turn left. Cross the low plain on the road and after 200m turn left again into a suburb of the town, mainly a group of huts and low buildings. Pass the small active buddhist temple. Soon the dirt road leaves the last houses behind. You can go onto the hills that follow the road to Manjushri Khiid on the right side of the valley. They are worth for the views and the Obos. Follow one hilltop after another. After the one with two large Obos go down again onto the road that then goes through a gate, where on busy days you have to pay an entrance fee to the National Park of Bogd Khan Uul. Walk another kilometer to the monastery site. Just after the parking lot turn right up the hillside past a small museum with stuffed animals and past a huge broken bronze cauldron. You should soon be able to see a major path leading up into the trees. Follow this path which is marked with yellow on the trees for about two to three hours to the summit of Bogd Khan Uul. There are signs in Cyrillic Tsetsee Gün, which is the name of that highest rocky outcrop at 2256m. From there you can see Ulan Bator and will be able to reach the city after another three to four hours walk.
Alternatively you can spend quite some pleasant time in the valley amongst the ruins of the monastery, which you can see (yellow roof of rebuilt hall) on the hillside to your left when you come from the parking lot. Scramble into the rocks behind the monastery for buddhist rock carvings. Walk back the dirt road from the Manjusri Monastery to Zuunmod, which will take you two hours.
Zuunmod has a very relaxed atmosphere. It is worth staying for a couple of days and look at the people and walk the countryside. Tsetserleg and Zuunmod are the best choice if you have limited time in Mongolia. Compare the setting of the temples (both ruins) at Tsetserleg and at Zuunmod. They are very similar with the rockface behind the temple.
Avoid Sundays for Manjusri Monastery as it becomes very noisy. On a weekday in March it is perfect. Even the walk up to Tsetsee Gün is easy in winter, but make sure to listen to the weatherforecast. You don't want to be caught up there in a snowstorm all on your own. People ill prepared did actually die on that walk which leads over very exposed high ground, though 80% is through sheltered pine forest. It is safer to return from Tsetsee gün to Zuunmod, as the path is better marked. In summer heavy thunderstorms appear out of the blue. So even in summer take waterproofs and a pullover when going into the mountains. In bad weather you may lose orientation and have to spend the night up there. You wouldn't be the first. Along the main path there are poles with numbers. Try to remember them if you are lost. Call for help on your mobile and mention the number.
There are hotels in town, but they may be closed in winter, as are the ger-camps. But somehow you will find some very simple accommodation. One hotel marked as such is at the upper left hand corner of the central park — standing in front of the museum walk left and then along the boundary of the park uphill. The police station is also in that direction.