Where is the Gobi Desert
The Mongolia Gobi Desert is the second-largest desert in Asia and the 6th biggest in the world that spreads across 500,000 square miles of rugged, rocky terrain in areas of Northeastern and Northern China and Southern Mongolia. The name of the Gobi region, which comes from the Mongolian term for "extremely big and dry," provides a clue to its historical view as an unforgiving terrain.
It covers the southern third of Mongolia and is located in the heart of Asia's most isolated region, between the north of Siberia and the south of Tibetan Plateau. The Mongolian Gobi Desert is bordered on the northern side by the Altai Mountains and Mongolia plains and steppes, on the western side by the Taklamakan Desert, on the southwestern side by the Hexi Corridor and Tibetan Plateau, and on the southeast by the North China Plains.
Rather than the romanticized notion of deserts with vast sand dunes, the Gobi regions' environment is dominated by rocky, hard-packed terrain. Vast swaths of exposed rock and sandy plains offer no respite from the sun's blazing heat or the night's bone-chilling cold.
It's one of Asia's wonderful natural marvels, rich in culture and heritage, having played a key role in the old Silk Road, hosting sections of China's Great Wall, and containing a vast number of stunningly well-kept fossil remains.
To be honest, this is a huge subject. Many folks would describe it as a huge chunk of barren nothing sitting in the heart of Asia. However, that isn't good enough. This will be a comprehensive source of guidance for the Mongolia Gobi Desert tour. So let's get this guide started!
Geography Of The Gobi Desert
The Gobi stretches about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) from southwest to northeast and 800 kilometers (500 miles) north to south. The Gobi Desert expands from the foot of the Pamir Mountains (77° east) to the Greater Khingan Mountains, 116–118° east, on the Manchurian border.
I'm sure Geography class in high school frustrated you to tears. Regardless, we must confront it if we are to comprehend the Gobi desert. As a result, I will try not to tire you too much. We're going to separate this section into sub-sections because it's such a large topic in and of itself. First and foremost, let's discuss the entire area.
As I previously stated, the Gobi desert covers 500,000 square miles in total, yet the desert actually is far from square. The overall length from the farthest point in the south-west to the farthest point in the north-east is around 1000 miles. A few discrete points separate what traverses the desert. The Altai mountains and Mongolian steppe limit it at the north, at which point calling the region "desert" is far less accurate.
It merges with the Taklamakan Desert near Xinjiang, China, to the west, but the geography and circumstances are so different that characterizing it as the same desert would indeed be misleading. The Tibetan plateau on the Himalayas popular as 'Hexi Corridor,' a wide stretch of intermittent oasis, cut it off in the southwest. Finally, in the south-east, it merges with the North China plains, completely enclosing the desert.
Ecoregions Of The Gobi Desert
The Gobi Desert may be classified into five ecoregions based on climatic and topographical differences. The Eastern Gobi desert steppe, which encompasses China's Inner Mongolia plateau and the Yin Mountains, is the first.
The Mongolian-Manchurian grassland, the Yellow River, and the Alashan plateau form its borders. Second, between the Gobi Altai range, the Helan mountains, the Qilian mountains, and the Tibetan plateau, the Alashan Plateau semi-desert comprises desert basins and low mountains.
The Gobi Lakes Valley desert steppe is located in the northern part of the Alashan, in between the Gobi Altai region and the Khangai mountains, and is the third-largest desert steppe in the world. The Dzungarian Basin semi-desert is ranked fourth, covering parts of the Province of Xinjiang and spreading into south-eastern Mongolia. Finally, the Tian Shan mountain range divides the desert out from the Taklamakan desert.
The Eastern Gobi Desert Steppe
It stretches from Inner Mongolia (Present-day China) Plateau into Mongolia in the eastern part of the Gobi Desert. Before its boundaries vanish into the vast plains of Mongolia and Manchuria, this region encompasses an area of around 108,800 square miles. Salt marshes and tiny ponds are widespread in this area's lower altitudes, but they vanish as the Yin Shan Mountainous Region rises above them.
Drought–adapted plant species and occasionally sparse wild grass fields characterize the zone. Wormwood, natural garlic, saltwort, and raw onion are just a few of the plant species found in the Gobi Desert that have proven to be beneficial to both animals and people.
This is a 260,000 square miles plateau located in the southwest and south of the Eastern Gobi Desert in Mongolia. It features a landscape of 6500- to 8500-foot-high highlands interlaced with intermontane plains, making it the greatest of the Gobi's ecoregions. It features high shifting sand dunes in its southern basins. It has the distinctive Gobi arid, stony terrain in its northern areas.
The plateau can receive up to six inches of precipitation per year, though the amount varies greatly depending on time and location. For years, the southern, driest region of the country may go without rain. The plateau has a few rivers along its eastern boundary, as well as numerous oases in its basins. This is one of the best places for the Gobi desert tour.
Its forest ecosystem ranges from stone-covered places with little flora to dry areas with scattering bushes and grasses, forests near rivers, and reeds beds in low-lying wetlands. The Great Gobi National Park, in Mongolia's northern plateau, has such outstanding biodiversity that it has been included in the Worldwide Network of Biosphere Reserves by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Gobi Lakes Valley Desert Steppe
The Gobi Lakes Valley Desert Steppe, located in between the Khangai range and the Gobi-Altai as well as the Mongol-Altai mountains in southwestern Mongolia, is the other ecoregion recognized by the World Wildlife Federation. With a length of 500 kilometers and a width of 150 kilometers, this ecoregion is nevertheless fairly modest for a comprehensive ecosystem. Regardless of its size, the region has a diverse terrain that includes everything from dunes to salt marshland.
The area's greatest distinguishing characteristic, and the one that gave it its name, is the significant number of lakes that comprise the terrain. The Orog, Taatsyn Tsagaan, Boontsagaan, and Ulaan Nuur lakes, in particular, provide an uncommon topographical characteristic for a region that is technically considered a desert.
Aside from the flora available in the East Gobi, the area's lakes sustain a flourishing aquatic ecology that includes marine creatures and water-dwelling plant types. The Tibetan hare, midday rat, dwarf hamsters, and long-eared hedgehog are all prominent creatures in the Gobi. Modest animals, such as this, can shelter in the shadow throughout the day to prevent prolonged exposure to the scorching midday sunshine.
However, some larger species, such as Mongolian gazelle and wild mountains sheep in some of the more hilly parts, opt to live in the Gobi Lakes Valley Desert Steppe. This is one of the best places for the Gobi desert tour.
The Dzungarian Basin (Junggar Basin)
The Junggar Basin, a 117,500 square miles area western side of the Alashan Plateau is located in the center of many mountain ranges, with large expanses to the northwest, similar to the Gobi Lakes Valley. Its altitude varies between 1600 and 3300 feet above mean sea levels. In a typical year, the arid heartland averages 3-4 inches of rainfall, allowing enough vegetation to maintain most of the dunes.
It receives three to ten inches of rainfall near the mountain peaks, which, combined with mountain outflow, supports multiple basin lakes. Summers are mild, but wintertimes are bitterly cold when Siberian atmospheric systems wash over the basin's northern entrances.
In the spring, there are often significant dust storms. A few of the world's extremely rare creatures can be found in its wildlife population. Its plant community includes anything from narrow shrub areas in the center region to dwarf forests near the slopes of the rocky mountains. It had naturally rich grasslands and wetlands along the base of the mountains at one point, but those have gradually given to irrigation croplands in the last few decades.
Tian Shan Mountain Ranges
The Tian Shan Range is the Gobi Desert's ecoregions, covering 49,800 square miles. It is made up of large, solitary mountain ranges with high peaks interspersed by arid basins. Its greatest peaks reach approximately 25,000 ft in elevation, while its ridges average around 14,000 feet. The lower slopes and basins of the mountain range are barely a few 100 feet above sea level. Higher elevations receive 16-32 inches of rainfall on average each year, whereas lower elevations receive only 4–6 inches. During the Gobi tour, these mountain ranges are a must-visit.
Mountains peaks may have snow throughout the year, but summer melting provides enough water for several rivers and lakes. Summers are scorching and winters are frigid at relatively low desert terrain. The Tian Shan Range is home to a wide range of wildlife and plant ecosystems.
It is home to a variety of uncommon species of animals, some of which are unique to the zone. Its desert basins sustain sage and salt-tolerant bushes, its rivers, grasses, and common trees, its lowest mountainous flanks, fruit trees, and maple.
Most Popular Destination (Areas) in Mongolian Gobi Desert
The Gobi Desert is indeed a wonderfully magical place that changes with the seasons. The Gobi appears green in the summertime, with spectacular vast fields of wildflowers of all colors. The Gobi becomes one of the few areas in the world where sandy dunes are completely blanketed with snow in the winter.
It would be inaccurate to describe the desert as a vast nothingness. That's what I've been doing until now. However, in any case, there are a plethora of desert locations that are more deserving of attention.
The Flaming Cliffs- Bayanzag
This is the location that helped make the Gobi desert internationally renowned. First Dinosaur eggs, rhino-like enormous dinosaur bones, dinosaur fossils, and a parrot-nosed dinosaur were discovered during a scientific investigation conducted by American researcher Roy Chapman Andrews in the 1920s. During the Gobi tour, this destination is a must-visit.
The 'Flaming Cliffs,' located in the Djadochta Formation, are a spectacular desert sight. The Flaming Cliffs are well known as an archaeological location because of the vivid red color of its sandstone in the blistering sun.
There have been discoveries of a velociraptor and other fossils, and probably most intriguingly, this was the very first identified site of dinosaur fossils. The region has a long and illustrious and natural history. You can also experience the stunning sunsets and sunrise in the region.
The Khongor Sand Dunes- Khongoryn Els
The Khongor Sand Dune, Khongoryn Els, located in Mongolia's Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park, is yet another remarkable location. It's most known for being among the few places in the desert having natural sand dunes, that it provides in spades. The dunes cover 970 square kilometers and therefore can achieve exceptional heights of above 80 meters, similar to Egyptian sand dunes.
The site's nickname, 'the Singing Sands,' was given to it due to a unique, only partially understood phenomenon in which the movement among these dunes creates a characteristic soundtrack. The sounds have been described as that of an airplane landing or taking off.
Yol Valley- Yolyn Am Eagle Valley
In the vast expanses of the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park, Eagle Valley also referred to as Yol Am, is located. Through the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains in south Mongolia, this valley is a deep and narrow gorge. The Lammergeier, also known as Yol in Mongolian, is the source of the valley's identity. Because the Lammergeier is an ancient world vulture, the title Valley of the Eagles or Valley of the Vultures is frequently used.
The Eagle Valley was designated as a protected area in 1965, and Yolyn Am was founded to safeguard the region's wildlife. Yolyn Am is known for having large fields of ice. As the winter ends, the ice field is several meters thick and several kilometers long.
It used to last all year, but because the current ice field has a propensity to melt by September, the ideal period to witness it is during March and July. The mountains around the valley also provide habitat for Argali wild sheep, one of the very few wild giant horned sheep, and ibex, which can be seen walking through the mountain ridges early morning. The panorama along the gorge to the towering stone walls is breathtaking, and it is without a doubt is of the most magnificent spots in the country. There is also a museum at the valley's entryway that displays the park's fauna and flora.
Khavtsgait is an ancient location of pilgrimage highlighted by enormous petroglyphs spanning back as long as 8000 years. It is located on a spectacular location facing the immense Gobi Desert Lands. You'll be astonished at how many additional rock paintings you'll see along the road once you've spotted one on the way up. The site's main attraction is a single 2m-wide stone surface with a series of scenarios depicting what appears to be ancient people's daily lives: galloping horses, hunters, camels riders, wheel trolleys, and Mongolian Gers (yurts).
The Ongi Monastery is located on the banks of the Ongi River, which was once the greatest river in the Gobi but is now only a trickle due to continuous mining activities. The monastery, which was established in the eighteenth century and housed over 1,000 monks, was the greatest Buddhist center in the Mongolia Gobi Desert. During the anti-religious expulsions performed by the communist party in the 1930s, the whole structure was destructed.
During the purges, an estimated 200 monks were murdered, while the other monks were forcibly recruited into the Mongolian People's Army. The major stupa and also the first temple have been reconstructed in recent decades thanks to the efforts of local people and Mongolian religious organizations.
Other Interesting Zones to Visit During Gobi Desert Tour
Sanshaind- Eastern Side Of Gobi Desert
Sainshand is the capital of the Dornogovi province, which is situated southeast of Ulaanbaatar. It is situated towards the desert steppes of the Gobi's eastern region, on the Trans-Mongolian route. Sainshand is divided into two sections: a railway station and a town center 2 kilometers to the east.
In the heart of town, there is a park. Banks, resorts, restaurants, and museums surround it. This location is one of the hidden spots in the Mongolian Gobi desert that one should be exploring.
One of the attractions here is the Danzanravjaa Museum which was founded in 1991 to memorialize Mongolia's 5th Goviin Dogshin Noyon Khutagt, several of the country's remarkable and most unique geniuses. Danzanravjaa's genuine artistic masterpieces and literary writings, as well as his publications, religious artifacts, theater outfits, personal belongings, and other materials depicting his life and career, are preserved and shown at the museum.
The climate of Sainshand is a cold desert, with lengthy dry cold winter time and shorter hot summers. Sainshand is the capital of the Dornogovi province, which is situated southeast of Ulaanbaatar. It is situated towards the desert steppes of the Gobi's eastern region, on the Trans-Mongolian route.
The Buddhist monastery of Khamar, the Energy center, and the national parks with white sand dunes, Aimag Museum, Drama Theatre, and the Shambala are some of the tourist attractions during the Mongolia Gobi desert tour.
Northern and Western Sides of the Gobi Desert
There are many attractions and adventure places for gobi desert tours in Mongolia, you meet and greet nomadic peoples of Mongolia and experience their nomads lifestyle. The northern and western sides of the Gobi desert have several attractive destinations which we will discuss.
Northern Side of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia
Ikh Gaziin Chuluu Rocks
In Mongolia, this is one of the intriguing sites to visit. This is a granite rock mountain in the Gobi desert having a height of 1706 meters. It is possible to go to this fascinating location. The Gurvansaikhan sum of Dundgov province is home to several rocky mountains. They stretched for around 20 kilometers from west to east. Many fascinating stories exist about local historical figures who resided or were hiding in cave systems from the rulers of the period. These caves are named after those people.
Due to the prolonged daylight hours, hotter climate, and magnificent green scenery, summer is the perfect opportunity to travel to Ikh Gazriin Chuluu. Summer, on the other hand, can be overrun with tourists, particularly during the Naadam Festival in July.
September is also a good time to visit Ikh Gazriin Chuluu since the temperature is not as hot as it is in the summer, but not as frigid as it is in the winter. During the summer, the mean temperature in the Ikh Gazriin Chuluu zone is 25 degrees Celsius during the day and 10 degrees Celsius at night.
White Stupa Cliffs
Ulziit Soum, Dundgobi Aimag, is home to Tsagaan Suvarga also known as White Stupa cliffs. Locals have given the spectacular and famous cliff worn by natural phenomena the White Stupa title. The cliff, which has a 10-million-year history, has colored layers that signify distinct periods of time. White Stupa is an intriguing sight to witness from the sheer hill facing east, which appears to be old city ruins from afar.
Western Side Of The Gobi Desert
The Bayankhongor province is situated west side of the Gobi Desert. Bayankhongor has the mountainous and forested Khangai in the north, the center steppe zone, and the scorching Gobi Desert in the south are often the three main areas. There are numerous tourist attractions on the western side of the Gobi desert. We will discuss a few of the most famous destinations below.
Mountain Ranges and Lakes
The Khangai Mountains in the north and the Gobi Altai Mountains in the center make up Bayankhongor's mountain ranges. Ikh Bogd, the province's tallest mountain at 3957 meters, is located outside of Bogd sum and is a portion of the Gobi Altai range.
Orog Nuur and Böön Tsagaan Nuur, as well as numerous other lakes in Bayankhongor, are located in the middle semi-desert section of the province (the Basin of Lakes between both the Khangai & Gobi Altai ranges). Because of the surrounding mountain ranges, the Valley of Lakes' lakes have no outflow and are hence saline.
Traveling through the Khermen Tsav resembles a journey through old city ruins, complete with religious monuments and temples. This area used to be the bottom of the old seas and is now a fantastic geological showcase. The escarpment is 12 to 15 kilometers long and around 3 kilometers wide, although it becomes even more than 10 kilometers wide and 100 to 120 kilometers deep at the ending. It is located 120-130 kilometers northwest of Gurvan Tes sum center. Save the destination for your visit to Mongolia.
This type of scenery is known around the world as 'Badland,' but Mongolians name it 'Tsav.' Yellow, red, and white lime rocks that resemble marbles and crystals are found in the Khermen Tsav formations. Those formations are from the Jurassic period of geology.
Some canyons resemble mammoths, lying camels, and crocodiles, as can be seen. Desert hawks, lizards, reptiles, and insects can all be found here. A few small oasis can also be found. UNESCO has designated Khermen Tsav as a World Heritage Site.
This location was dubbed "The End of the World" by American archaeologist Roy Chapman Andrews. Khermen Tsav is known for its natural beauty as well as its abundance of dinosaur fossils found underneath. Aside from that, it's pretty uncommon to come across some in the area.
Best Time To Visit The Gobi Desert
Before visiting the Gobi Desert, you must be aware of the meteorological settings, which are extremely hot, scorching, storming, drying, and dusty. Everyone thinks the Gobi is scorching. However, if you prepare your entire trip ahead of time, you may schedule your trip at the most advantageous moment. In the Gobi Desert, spring is stormy and arid. The months of July and August are the hottest of the year, with temperatures reaching +30°C (86°F) exclusively during the day. One of the cultural events, the Gobi Naadam festival takes place on the Khongor Sand Dunes from July through August.
Earlier morning and late afternoon, especially dawn and dusk, are wonderful periods for photographers and travelers who want to capture the amazing color of the land and desert. Furthermore, August to October is the best time to visit the Gobi Desert since it is slightly cloudy, not really too warm, and everything is colored in red, yellow, and green. Because the Gobi has intense direct sunshine, bring sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, wet wipes, sleeping bags, essential cosmetics, excellent walking boots, long-sleeved t-shirts, and specific sand shielding for your cameras and gear.
Best Hotels And Camps In The Gobi Desert
Gobi Erdene Ger Camp
The Gobi Erdene Ger Camp, situated in the Gurvan Saikhan National Park in the center of the Gobi Desert, provides simple but sufficient accommodations. The ideal way to explore the Khongoryn Els sand dunes, also famous as the Singing Dunes, is to stay at this basic camp.
There are 33 Gers, which feature a shared shower and bathroom complex, for a true Mongolian experience. Alternatively, you can stay in one of the 24 rustic wooden huts with private toilets. During the evenings, the campsite has limited generator power.
The social hub is the central lodge, which has a restaurant that serves Mongolian food as well as Western and Asian food. There is also satellite television and a selection of games to enjoy.
Three Camel Lodge
Three Camel Lodge, situated in the midst of the Gobi Desert, provides a sophisticated twist on the conventional nomad culture. It is an example of ecological and traditional preservation and is one of National Geographic's Distinctive Lodges of the World.
The 40 luxury Gers are warmed by wood fires and have facilities with a bathroom, basin, and shower. Wood-carved furnishing, woolen rugs, camel-hair coverings, and Mongolian feeling slippers and robes might well be found in the rooms.
Traditional Mongolian-style food is served with Western staples at this restaurant. The Dino House and Bar, which is designed to seem like a Mongolian Buddhist temple, is a hub of activity in the evening, whereas the Movie Theater shows talks, documentary films, and movies on Mongolia's historical past, civilization, and environment.
Best Camping Spots In The Gobi Desert
The Rock Formation
This is one of the mandatory camping breaks on the way towards the Gobi Desert. Snow may blanket the usually dry terrain based on the time you travel. The rock formations, all covered with white, are still stunning. That during the winter camping trip, the whiteness will stretch so far as your eyes can see. Ascend to the top of the hill for a panoramic perspective of the neighboring steppes, fields, and faraway mountains.
This destination is located in the Gobi Desert, which receives very little rainfall. Apart from this, during the colder seasons of the year, it is known for the formation of ice that spans kilometers along with it.
The trip through the hills and rock formations is truly an adventure. It is also convenient, making it an excellent choice for all classes of visitors. The night and sunrise at the tourist camping area are also worth seeing; when the sun rises, the yellow, sloping mountains turn a blazing red, then an orange color.
Khongor Sand Dunes
Khongor camp is situated 220 kilometers west of Dalanzadgad city, near the prominent Khongor sand dunes in the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park's Extremely Protected Area. The Khongoryn Els is Mongolia's biggest and most magnificent sand dunes. Camping here will be more than an adventure. You must save the Khongor sand dunes land to your exploring list in this country.
How To Reach Gobi Desert
There are three routes that you can follow to reach the Gobi Desert from Ulaanbaatar. All three routes have their own attraction en route to the Gobi and different distances. We will discuss these routes below.
Route 1- East: Ulaanbaatar to Sainshand Highway- You can head toward the east of Ulaanbaatar via Sainshand Highway.
Route 2- South: Ulaanbaatar via White Stupa to Zuunmod - Mandalgovi Hwy to Dalanzadgad- Start from Ulaanbaatar to South and then onto Mandalgovi - Luus Road via White Stupa, and reach Dalanzadgad.
Route 3-West: Ulaanbaatar via Elsen taserkhai to Bayankhongor highway- Start your journe from Ulaanbaatar to west side towards AH3 and then drive through Arvaikheer - Bayankhongor road to reach Bayankhongor