Posted by Selena Travel / 05 29, 2023
A trip to Mongolia is not complete without a visit to the Gobi Desert. As travel in Mongolia includes a lot of time in a vehicle, my father and I chose to fly from Ulaanbaatar to Dalanzadgad (capital of South Gobi aimag or province) when we visited the Gobi.
It was wet the summer we traveled to Mongolia. We drove across a green Gobi, pausing for lunch at a ger camp not far outside the capital. We took in brilliant blue skies, while passing herds of livestock, and enjoying wide open spaces as we drove a few hours to the Khongoryn Els (Singing Sands) --our first site of notable interest and where we’d be spending our first night.
Most Americans are familiar with the phrase “Big Sky Country.” I’ve been to Montana and I know what that phrase feels like. Mongolia takes that feeling and explodes it out to what I call--“Big Land Country.” It does not matter if you are in the desert, on the steppe, or in the mountains--the land is expansive and big. It makes a human feel small in the best possible way. The absence of fences is liberating, allowing for livestock and humans alike to move freely.
We saw the massive dunes (300 meters tall, 100 km long and 20 km wide) off in the distance long before we parked at their base. The smooth, tan slopes rose up out of tall, green grasses in a valley spotted with cattle. We climbed the dunes which had recently been rained upon as the sand pushed back against our shoes and sandals making the trek to the top a tad easier (check out the recommended packing list before you arrive in Mongolia).
When we achieved the summit, the view was inspiring. Looking from where we had come--hard rocky earth moving into green valley and then the warm khaki dunes--I did not expect what I saw on the other side. The dunes went down into another verdant valley, another open expanse of rocky but green land led to an imposing range of Rocky Mountains off on the horizon. The 360-degree view left me transfixed. The scope of the landscape and how I felt on top of it is not a feeling I can forget. Pictures do it some justice, but just like visiting the Grand Canyon (USA), one should FEEL it.
And after you have walked, tumbled, or slid down the dunes and been delivered to your ger camp for the night, I recommend sipping some wine while you watch the sun set over the Gobi. That’s exactly what my father and I did and it’s one of my top nights in Mongolia--or the world for that matter!
Photo Credits to Heather Caveney