Mongolia, in Central Asia, is a land of vastness. With the development of its capital Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is enjoying an increase in tourism. Mongolia offers a great variety of untouched beauty in its nature with one of them being the Great Gobi Desert that extends over 1.3 million square km (500,002 sq mi). Standing in southern Gobi is Mongolia’s largest sand dunes, the Khongor sand dunes. Most people often think that a desert is a vast land filled with sand dunes, but the Gobi is entirely different. Shrubs and gravel cover most parts of the region, and Khongor is one of the few areas with sand dunes.
Listen to the singing dunes
The Khongor sand dunes is also known as the singing dunes because you can hear the movement of the fine sand as the wind blows across the desert. This brings beautiful music to one’s ear as you listen peacefully to the grains of sand sliding down the magnificent landscape. The highest point of the dunes can reach up to 800 meters (2624 feet), but most areas will be around 300-400 meters in height, about 984-1312 in feet.
A challenging hike up the dune
When you look at the 400 meters of dunes, the hike looks effortless and easy. Trust me, it is a challenging hike up that short distance since the grain of sand is very fine, and it gets steeper as you goes further up north. As you try to move forward each step on the fine sand, you will find that you are sliding back at least 3-4 steps, and it gets worse when you are 200 meters away from the top. Many visitors, including young fit guys, would struggle to get to the top, but every step is worth the effort. It may take you almost an hour to ascend to the top, but do not give up because you will enjoy a paradise view of the desert.
A breath-taking view of the vast landscape
The hike is worth the time and effort because the view is stunning at the top of the dunes. You get to admire the surrounding landscape of the dunes, which are covered by calm, fine grains of sand. The landscape makes one feel small in this world. However, it’s breathtaking to see the formation of natural beauty in the world.
Try to allocated at least an hour at the top to enjoy the view. Some visitors seem to be in a rush as they took few pictures and descend almost immediately when it took them almost an hour to climb up the dunes! If you have the time, sit there and relax. Breathe in the air of the Gobi Desert and enjoy the view; it will make you feel calm and relaxed. Descending is so much easier. You can jump on the sand to get down, run down as fast as you can, or the easiest would be to slide down on all fours. Either way, it does not hurt even when you fall because the sands are very fine and there are no rocks or stones around.
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Camel rides around the dune
Camels and horses are the most common transportation in the Gobi Desert for the locals, with camels being the preferred mode of transportation for the locals around the dune areas. There are several local families offering camel rides here. The ride is guided by one of the family members, but do note that they may be managing 2-3 camels at one time while they are on a camel themselves. Camel rides are generally safe, though sometimes the camels get agitated and riders may fall from them if they are not careful. Also, these camels are domesticated and the saddles are hooked through their nostrils which look uncomfortable. Animal lovers may want to avoid the ride.
Visit a local Mongolian family in Gobi
There are several local families around the dunes, and they welcome foreign visitors. Visitors should bring along small gifts, such as pencils or sweets, for the local children of these families. You can bring more than a dozen to distribute to the children when visiting a local family. In return, the adults will welcome you to their Ger, the local Mongolian hut, and offer you some Suutei Tsai. This is a local beverage, which is similar to tea with milk. You’ll notice the taste is slightly different from usual milk since it is more diluted and slightly salty. As a sign of respect, you should always drink it. There is no need to finish it completely, but you should take at least a sip. Sometimes, they may offer you food; dishes mainly made with goat. If you are not sure what it is, or if you are a vegetarian, you can respectfully decline them. The local family visit is a fantastic glimpse into the life of a Mongolian family in the south Gobi Desert.
A magnificent landscape
The Khongor sand dunes are a beautiful formation of mother nature. It should definitely be on the bucket list for all nature lovers to experience this magnificent landscape in the Gobi Desert.
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