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Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain

By Kez

What is Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain?

Rising starkly above Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city, you’ll find the Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain. You may also see it referred to as Suleman-Too, Sulayman-Too or Solomon’s Mountain; in Cyrillic it is Сулайман-Тоо. This “mountain” is a rock formation that stands around 200 metres (656 feet) above the Fergana Valley city of Osh, near the border with Uzbekistan.

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Its height and the fact that it seems to emerge suddenly and sharply from the surrounding valley, makes Sulaiman-Too a focal point of the city. Osh’s position on the ancient trade routes of the Silk Road has also made it a pilgrimage site for Muslims. Pilgrims have been visiting regularly since at least the 11th century.

Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain is also the only UNESCO-listed site in Kyrgyzstan, which makes it all the more special and unique.

A view of Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain, with the roofs of houses in the foreground.

Why is Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain a UNESCO World Heritage site?

Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites due to its historical and cultural importance. There is evidence that the mountain has featured heavily in traditions across millennia, from pre-Islamic times to the present. That means it has been popular for at least 10 centuries. You can’t say that about many other sites, right?

The mountain, with its “single mountain with a peak dominating four others, standing in the virtual centre of a vast river valley, and surrounded by and related to other mountains in the landscape system”, was considered sacred by ancient cults, which left material evidence of their worship in caves and in the form of petroglyphs. It also contains mosques from the later Islamic period.

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What can you expect on a visit to Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain?

Besides the view from the top, there are a number of things to see on the mountain:

  • Seven ancient caves with ancient petroglyphs
  • Ruins of a medieval bath (11th-14th century)
  • The mausoleum of Asaf-ibn-Burhia (18th century)
  • The Takht-i Suleiman mosque (16th century)
  • The Rawat-Abdullakhan mosque (16th century)
  • A modern museum

Unlike many other heritage sites, there are no restrictions on when the site can be accessed. It is open to the public 24 hours a day. Entrance to the site is free (except for the museum), so you can guarantee there will be people on the mountain at almost all hours.

To be honest, it’s quite an easy walk from the town centre below to the top of the mountain. There is a paved path all the way up. It will take around 30 minutes or less, even if you stop for rests and photographs along the way.

Although the path can get steep in sections, anyone with a reasonable level of fitness shouldn’t have any problem reaching the top, though it is not wheelchair accessible. Remember that a lot of the people who make pilgrimages to the mountain each year are elderly, so if they can do it, so can you!

Concrete stairs with a metal railing leading up Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain.

Is Sulaiman-Too worth visiting?

Given the fact that there is no entry fee and it is open all day, every day, there really are few barriers to visiting this site. That means it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re travelling on the Silk Road to Southwestern Kyrgyzstan and happen to be in the area.

Another great thing about this site is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time planning your visit and it doesn’t take long to get there. You can easily be there within an hour starting from anywhere near the centre of Osh.

With that in mind, a morning or an afternoon should be more than enough time to scale the hill and explore the area. You can go up one side then back down the other, with a quick stop at the peak to admire the views, in an hour or less.

What sorts of travelers would like Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain?

If you love to hike, this site provides a short and sweet ascent with an almost unparalleled view-to-effort ratio. It’s a bit bare of nature, but the view at the top makes up for that.

If you are fascinated by different cultures, religions and historical prespectives, then this site is full of things that will delight you. Even if you don’t like walking up hills, the caves with ancient petroglyphs and the remains of medieval baths will make the trek worth it.

A view of Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain.

Tips for visiting Sulaiman-Too

No special equipment or clothing is needed to attempt the walk from town to the mountaintop. Having at least a litre of water with you is highly recommended. There are a decent amount of stairs on the way up.

As the peak of Sulaiman-Too can be reached in a relatively short amount of time, you may want to head up more than once. You could go up in the morning or the afternoon to explore the caves with ancient petroglyphs, the medieval bath remains, the mausoleum or the mosques near the mountain.

Feel free to give the museum a miss though. From all accounts, it’s an eyesore that takes away from the cultural value of Sulaiman-Too. Some have said it’s not worth the entry fee, especially when there’s so much to see for free around the mountain.

Trekking up the hill at night offers a whole new experience and a chance to view the city lights. This is definitely the best option if you’re looking to beat the heat in the Kyrgyz summer. If you decide on this option, you may need to take a light with you. The path up the southwest side of the hill is not lit until you get near the top.

Where is Sulaiman-Too?

Sulaiman-Too is quite a prominent feature in the centre of Osh. You can see it from almost anywhere in the town. It is bordered by Gapar Aytiev to the south and Kurmanjan-Datka Street to the east.

The adventurous way to get there is to keep it in your line of sight and walk in its general direction. It’s really quite easy to find. If you do happen to lose sight of it, there are informational signs around town that show the distance from the mountain with arrows pointing you in the right direction.

Another more reliable way to get there, if you decide to walk, is to search for Сулайман-Тоо or Sulaiman-Too with a map app. Let the map app plot the course for you and enjoy the scenery on the way. If all else fails, you could always ask a friendly local how to get there.

If you don’t fancy walking through town, you could get a mashrutka (mini van) to either the Sulaiman-Too Mosque on Gapar Aytiev, or the National Historical and Archeological Museum Complex on Kurmanjan-Datka Street. From the mosque, you can connect with the Sulaiman-Too trail from the southwest. From the museum complex, you can connect with the Sulaiman-Too trail from the northeast.

Want to know more about the Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain in Osh, Kyrgyzstan? Have a look at this page.

Text and photos provided by Kez of K-in-Motion. Kez is a teacher who spends the school holidays having unique, budget adventures around the globe and getting invited to drink tea.

Have you been to Sulaimon-Too Sacred Mountain? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

Text: Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain, Osh, Kyrgystan. Images: two views of the mountain.

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