The Gobi is one of the strangest places on the planet. The largest desert in Asia and the fourth largest in the world, it is a cold desert of high plateau and mountain where it is not uncommon to see frost. It stretches some 1,600 km (1,000 mi) east to west, covering the whole of southern Mongolia and extending into northern China, gradually expanding southwards all the time. Although at first sight it looks totally barren, the Gobi supports many unusual mammals and more than 200 species of bird as well as endemic plants.
From Dalandzadgad, a town 540 km (336 mi) south of Ulaanbaatar, you can ride either by camel or jeep through the stunning landscapes of Gurvansaikhan National Park where three mountain ridges rise up to 2,600 metres (8,500 ft). The dramatic scenery is extraordinarily varied – rocky and sandy desert, precipitous cliffs and ravines, oases and saltpans. You can climb to the top of Hongor Sands, a giant 180-km (110-mi) long 300-m (1,000-ft) high sand dune, explore the glaciated Yol Valley, and wander in the other-worldly terrain of the Bayan Zag ‘flaming cliffs’
– a vast red sandstone amphitheatre of weirdly eroded pillars, rock canyons and ridges, where in 1923 Roy Chapman Andrews famously discovered dinosaur remains and fossilized eggs.
The surreal empty landscapes and the insubstantial beauty of the dunes give you a strangely comforting sense of your own insignificance. You are surrounded by silence, only the singing of the wind; and at night, the only light is a twinkling sky thick with stars. A trek into the Gobi is a life-changing experience that leads one to re-assess man’s place on the planet.
On a camel or by 4×4
WHEN TO GO:
May to October
TIME IT TAKES:
Eight to nine days
Bayan Zag flaming cliffs Hongor Sands
Seeing rare wildlife.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
According to National Geographic Adventure Magazine, the Gobi is one of the top six trekking destinations.
The Gobi Is a wild and remote region with no roads and dangerously powerful winds. You should not attempt to explore It without a guide.