The Gobi Desert sprawls from southern Mongolia to northeastern China, bordered by the steppes and grasslands of Mongolia on its northern side. It is the fifth-largest desert in the world, and the Gobi in Mongolia has a variety of landscapes, extreme temperatures, and sparse vegetation. From rocky mountains and sand dunes to flat-lands and a few oases, it is a true natural wonder. The many Gobi Desert tours allow visitors to experience the area firsthand, learn about the different eco-regions, and see some of the last unspoiled parts of the world. The Gobi is home to the famous Bayanzag Cliffs, which are known for their flaming orange color as well as important fossil finds and a variety of rare wild species.
The Gobi in Mongolia experiences extreme climate changes throughout the year. During the winter months, the temperature drops below freezing, and in the summer it can be unbearably hot. The average rainfall in the desert is less than eight inches per year, and the harsh winds from the Siberian steppes cause sandstorms throughout the warmer months and whiteouts in the winter. Although many people assume that deserts stay dry and warm year-round, the Gobi Desert defies this logic—it is not uncommon to see frost and snow here during the winter months. The harsh temperatures of Mongolia, Siberia, and China in this part of the world mean that Gobi Desert tours are virtually nonexistent during the winter, so if you plan to stop here during your vacation, be sure to plan accordingly.
The three main eco-regions of the Gobi Desert each support a different landscape and have different temperature extremes. The Eastern Gobi Desert Steppe stretches from the Inner Mongolian Plateau in China to the Mongolian-Manchurian Grassland in the north. This region is marked by a few small mountain ranges with low elevation, salt pans, and small ponds. Throughout the flat plains and tablelands, there is a complete absence of trees, shrubs, and oases, and the local plant life is only found around the small water holes and streams that start to develop as the landscape rolls into the grassy mountains. Despite the harsh and varied landscape of the Eastern Gobi Desert Steppe, there are numerous trade routes that pass through the area that have been in existence for thousands of years.
The Gobi in Mongolia is also home to the Alashan Plateau Semi-Desert. There are three great depressions that mark this area and it is typified by a clay and sand surface. The upper parts of the region are absolutely waterless and oases are non-existent. This harsh landscape does not support any wildlife. The lower parts of the region are home to salt lakes, a few hills, and a small variety of bushes and herbs. Here visitors will find a few wildlife species, such as antelopes, wolf, hare, and lizards, and it is a surreal experience to be able to observe these species that survive in such a harsh landscape.
The Dzungarian Basin Semi-Desert is also a unique area of the Gobi Desert. Surrounded by mountain ranges, the basin is home to numerous mini-ranges, Lake Bosten, and salt deposits. There is a disintegrated mountain range here which is spectacular to see in person, and it runs parallel to the other ranges in the area and divides the region into long, narrow valleys. This destitute region of the Gobi in Mongolia only sees a few wild species of hares, camels, and antelopes, and it is home to a few shrubs as well.
There are numerous Gobi Desert tours that are offered to make exploration of the region as simple and educational as possible. Visitors who wish to trek through the Gobi should consult with guides and tour groups before picking which tour is right for them, though the knowledgeable companies of the region will provide visitors with a fulfilling experience no matter which region of the Gobi in Mongolia they wish to explore. Some tours last two weeks while others are out for just six days, and the variety of tours allows travelers to choose whether they want to trek on camel, jeep, or 4-by-4, and they can choose among different routes. It is not advisable to attempt to explore the Gobi Desert on your own due to the lack of water, the vastness of the area, and varying temperatures.
The barren and varied landscape of the Gobi Desert make it one of the most intriguing destinations in Mongolia, and it is one of the most popular among nature-lovers. The disintegrated mountain ranges, badlands, and rocky outcrops, combined with small oases and wild camels, are an unforgettable sight, and they combine to make visiting the Gobi in Mongolia a unique experience.