Gobi Desert: The Land Where Dinosaurs Once Walked And Genghis Khan Ruled


The Gobi Desert or Gobi Gurvan Saikhan (three beauties of Gobi), which covers parts of southern Mongolia and of northern and north-western China, has a vast but majestic landscape. It is a cold desert, thanks to its location, but it rarely snows here. However, winters can be extreme with temperature falling below zero and summers are harsh as well with temperatures rising to as high as 50 degrees Celsius.

Gobi Desert has been witness to a lot of history. The desert is home to the first fossilised dinosaur egg ever found, as well as many other important fossil discoveries. It was a part of the great Mongol Empire during the 13th and 14th centuries and was an important stop for traders travelling the Silk Road from Europe to China.

There are three main sites to visit in the Gobi Desert – The Flaming Cliffs, where the first dinosaur fossils were found, the Khongoriin Els Sand Dunes, which rise as high as 260ft and the Yol Valley.

PC: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Gobi Desert by Tripoto

Bayanzag or The Flaming Cliffs

The Bayanzag is an ancient rock creation, formed 60-70 million years ago. The striking red Bayanzag cliffs, famously known as 'The Flaming Cliffs' have dinosaur fossils, eggs and bones spread all across the region and are situated next to bushy Saxaul tree forests. It is a very popular place for trekking enthusiasts. The vast emptiness, red sands, scrubs and sun make Bayanzag a must visit.

PC: Einar Fredriksen

Photo of Flaming Cliffs, Bulgan, Umnugovi, Mongolia by Tripoto

Khongoriin Els Sand Dunes

Also known as the 'singing dunes', Khongoriin Els is a huge sand mass situated within the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. The sand dunes here are 6 to 12km wide, 100 kilometres long and rise to a height of 260ft. And when the wind blows, a melodious sound is created. During the summer there is an oasis with stunning greenery around it as well. The oasis is called Khongor!

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Photo of Khongoriin Els, Umnugovi, Mongolia by Tripoto

Yol Valley or Yolyn Am

Yol Valley is a deep and narrow gorge in the mountainous region of Gobi Desert. It is wide at the entrance but gradually narrows down. It could be described as an “oasis” in the desert. Due to the steep valley walls, thick rock and lack of wind this area remains cool even in the height of summer allowing a glacier to survive. The rugged terrain of the valley makes it a popular place for trekking enthusiasts.

PC: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Yolin Am Ice Field, Bayandalai, Umnugovi, Mongolia by Tripoto

Accommodation in and around Gobi Desert

In the desert, the only accommodation is the Ger. Ger is a traditional Mongolian hut and is decently comfortable. There are single beds in a hut, with thin sheets. However, do carry your sleeping bags and toilet paper. Ger has sheets and blankets, but often they are not very clean or hygienic. And there are no toilets with plumbing. They are generally the kinds you find in villages in India. A Ger can be booked through travel agents only. You can book it online here. The cost for a Ger for 1 night can be anywhere from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 3500.

How to reach Gobi Desert from India

For Indians, a Visa is required before you enter Mongolia. The Tourist Visa is a single entry visa that is valid for up to 90 days. The total cost in around Rs. 6898. It generally takes 3-5 business days to process the visa.

The easiest way is to reach Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia and take a domestic flight from there to Dalanzadgad. From the airport you can book a car rental for the entirety of your trip into the desert.

Reaching Mongolia is an easy enough task. Instead of travelling to other Asian countries such as China, Russia or Korea, and taking a flight from there, you can fly from India directly.

From New Delhi, a round-trip flight starts from Rs. 57,623.

From Mumbai, a round-trip flight starts from Rs. 52,841.

When to visit

Since the Gobi Desert is like any other desert, with extreme summers and winters, the best time to visit is anytime between July and September.

What to expect

Mongolia is the least-densely populated country in the world and a place where nomadic living is not just a tradition, but a way of life. Infrastructure is lacking and therefore there aren't many roads, so expect bumpy rides. The food served is generally non-vegetarian. So if you are a vegetarian, it's advisable to carry ready-to-eat meals and instant noodles with you.

What to carry

The temperature can be unpredictable, so it's advisable to carry extra clothing accordingly. Also, carry a sleeping bag and extra toiletries. Even if you are a non vegetarian, the local food may not suit your palate so please carry your own food. Carry a sleeping bag and a car pillow because you will be spending a lot of time in your van, getting from one spot to another in the desert.

Mongolia has much more to offer than just the Gobi Desert. Here are some other sites you can visit:

Ulaanbaatar is the capital city that is the culture and academic centre of the nation with museums, universities, art and culture establishments and monasteries. Its oldest buildings date from the 17th century, when the city finally settled in its present location by the Tuul River.

The Gandantegchinlen Monastery in the city is famous for the 26.5-meter-high statue of Avalokiteśvara. Avalokiteśvara was a bodhisattva who embodied the compassion of all Buddhas. The statue is gold-plated and the tallest indoor statue in the world.

PC: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Gandantegchinlen Monastery, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia by Tripoto

PC: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Gandantegchinlen Monastery, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia by Tripoto

The Chinggis Khan Square, also known as the Sukhbaatar Square is the largest square in Mongolia. It has a statue of the revolutionary hero Sukhbaatar, on top of a horse. A seated statue of Chinggis Khan and his sons and two military generals are also at the square.

Sukhbaatar Statue. PC: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Chinggis Khaan Square, Ерөнхий сайд А.Амарын гудамж, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia by Tripoto

Chinggis Khan Staue. PC: Flickr

Photo of Chinggis Khaan Square, Ерөнхий сайд А.Амарын гудамж, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia by Tripoto

Zaisan Memorial is a huge communist era monument that is located on top of a hill in the southern part of the city. The memorial represents the Russian and Mongolian heroes of WW1 and WW2. After reaching the topmost parking lot, one has to further climb 300 stairs to reach the memorial. However, the ones who make it to the top are rewarded with breathtaking views of the city.

PC: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Zaisan Monument, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia by Tripoto

2. The Blue Sky Hotel and Tower - From Rs. 10000/night

PC: Booking.com

Photo of Gobi Desert: The Land Where Dinosaurs Once Walked And Genghis Khan Ruled by Tripoto

Terelj National Park, Mongolia

Located just 60km from the capital, Terelj National Park offers a glimpse into nomadic Mongolian life without having to journey for days via truck and unpaved roads. It can be done in a day, but many visitors choose to stay with a family and sleep in a ger, the traditional yurt dwelling that many people continue to call home.

The small area of the park that is populated can seem a bit touristy, but Terelj is vast, largely uninhabited and can be explored on foot or horseback. A few minutes ride from the main camp and you’ll see Mongolian cowboys riding wild horses and herding sheep. Activities you can indulge in here include rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking and cross-country skiing. Stop by Khagiin Khar Lake, a 20m deep glacier lake, and Yestii Hot Springs.

PC: Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Terelj, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia by Tripoto

Best Rated Places To Stay In Terelj National Park

The best way to experience the beauty of the national park is by staying in a ger, a traditional Mongolian dwelling. Other than that you can explore many more options.

1. Nomad Family Homestay in Terelj National Park - From Rs.3000/night

PC: Airbnb

Photo of Gobi Desert: The Land Where Dinosaurs Once Walked And Genghis Khan Ruled by Tripoto

2. Assemble the Ger and experience the local foods - Rs. 4500/night

This will be a very unique experience as you will first assemble the Ger and then stay in it.

PC: Airbnb

Photo of Gobi Desert: The Land Where Dinosaurs Once Walked And Genghis Khan Ruled by Tripoto

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