Stretching from the southern Khovd aimag to the Dariganga region in Sukhbaatar, the Gobi covers a third of Mongolia. Fossil finds have recealed that the Gobi basin was once part of large inland sea. The word "Gobi" simply means `desert` in the Mongolian language.
The Gobi is a land of extremes: decent rain does not falls really often. it can be well over 40`C during the summer, and below -40`C in winter. And storm of dust and sand are fearsome in spring.
The Gobi is understandably very sparsely populated, but the desolate landscape is home to gazelle, khulan (wild ass), Bactrian two-humped camels, takhi (the Mongolian wild horse), rare saiga antelope and the world's only desert bears- the Gobi bear, og which there are only 25 left in the world. Here are some of the most attractive destinations in the Gobi desert.
The Yol Valley, a protected site in 1965, is 62 kilometres north-west of Dalanzadgad. Yol valley was originally established to conserve the birdlife in the region, but it's now more famouse for it's dramatic and very unusual scenery- it is a valley in the middle of the Gobi desert, with metres-thick ice for most of the year.
The small museum at the gate on the main road to Yol valley has a collection of dinosaur eggs and bones, stuffed birds and snow leopard.
From the museum, the road continues for another 10km to a car park. From there, a pleasant 2km walk, following the stream, leads to an ice-filled gorge. Locals also rent horses and camels for about $6US for the trip.
Khongor Sand Dunes
Khongor Sand Dunes are some of the largest and most spectacular sand dunes in Mongolia. Also known as the duut mankhan (singing dines), they are up to 300m high, 12km wide and about 100km long. The largest dunes are at the north-western corner of the range. You can climb to the top of the dunes with a lot of effort and then slide back down if you have a garbage bag handy. The views of the desert from the top are wonderful.
Bayanzag (Flaming Cliffs)
Bayanzag, which means "rich in saxual shrubs", is more commonly known as the "Flaming Cliffs", penned by the palaeontologist Roy Chapman Andrews. First excavated in 1922, it is renowned woldwide for the number of dinosaur bones and eggs found in the area, which you can see in the museum of Natural History in Ulaanbaatar. Even if you are not a "dinophile", the eerie beauty of the surrounding landscape is a good reason to visit. It is a classic desert of rock, red sands, scrub, sun and awesome emptiness.