What is the Gobi Desert?

The Gobi desert is not one massive sand dune. It’s a universe of landscapes; some of them look eerily alien.

Located in South Mongolia and North China the Gobi is an immense place where dinosaurs once roamed.

It’s difficult to do justice to the Gobi on the written page. Take a look at this video and you’ll see what I mean . . .

Which part of the Gobi desert should I visit?

That depends on what you want to do!

  • Want to go dinosaur hunting? Then try the northwestern parts of the Gobi. The lucky traveler still occasionally stumbles over a nest of dinosaur eggs . . .
  • If you like to build sandcastles, then try the Eastern Gobi. The Khongoryn Els (singing dunes) stand over a hundred-people tall and hundreds of kilometers long.
  • If you have an interest in wildlife, you should visit the Southern Altai Gobi Nature Reserve. Here you can find a host of indigenous Gobi desert animals: the Przewalski horse, the world’s last wild horse; the Gobi bear; the golden eagle; Bactrian two-humped camels; even snow leopards venture into the Gobi in winter.

How do I get there?

First you need to get to Mongolia. Check out my travel to Mongolia page.

Once you’re here you can cross the Gobi the old-fashioned way--on the back of a camel or horse . . .

But . . .

Most travelers these days book a tour and either take an internal flight or travel by jeep.

If you want to see the Gobi in all its chameleon changing glory then wheels is the way to go!

Traveling by jeep takes two full days of driving from the Mongolian capital - Ulaan Baatar. But a lack of Mongolian roads makes the journey a bumpy one!

When should I visit the Gobi desert?

Take my advice and visit sometime between June—September. Mongolian weather gets pretty darn cold in winter. And spring and autumn can see winds of up to 140 kilometers per hour! Think of all that sand and dust—avoid!

What else can I find there?

You can find the animals listed above, a host more which I have not listed, a number of indigenous Gobi desert plants . . .

And yes, the hardiest species of all . . .

Mongolian DesertClay Mongolian DesertClay Mongolian Desert

Where can I stay?

If you’ve booked a tour, your tour company will have arranged accommodation.

If not . . .

You will find dozens of ger camps scattered around the Gobi. They look something like this . . .

Here you will find water, food and maybe even a cold Mongolian beer!

But in fact any nomad will give you food and lodging. Nomad custom dictates that when you happen upon a ger you just walk straight in, and in the absence of a host—help yourself!

But watch out for the dogs! They’re kept to protect the livestock from wolves but can bite if they feel threatened.

Before you go . . .

Every nomad family you meet will serve you with salty tea, fermented milk and if you’re lucky cow’s intestines! Even the vegetable soup contains meat. They call it “vegetable” because it actually has something green in it!

Just in case you can’t stomach the local fare, I recommend taking . . .

Powdered milk, cereal, dried fruit, crackers, cookies, instant soup, instant potato, dried meat, vitamin supplements . . .

And anything else you can’t live without!

And unless you fancy dealing with explosive diarrhea in the middle of a Gobi sandstorm—take some laxatives!

Other standard items to take include sunglasses, sun cream and small gifts for the nomads you meet on your travels.

If you’re a hard-core camper—make sure you have a specialist tent designed for high altitude and temperature extremes. You should also take a desalinization unit for cleaning water in emergencies. The lakes are salty and the wells unmarked!

Oh yes … avoid the Mongolian Death Worm at all costs!

Alternative Spellings

The word Gobi means “desert region” in Mongolian and has no other special meaning—despite what you read on the net!

Alternative spellings are: govi or gov’.

Click here to learn more about the Mongolian desert.

Related Pages

Return from Gobi Desert to Mongolia Travel Guide

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