Khongoryn Els | The Gobi Desert
Rattling along down the dusty desert roads in a 1960's soviet military vehicle wasn't a pleasant experience. It had been a long day sat in an uncomfortable position, crushed between another five occupants. We were now about four days into our Gobi Desert road trip, it was the middle of summer and the afternoon sun only seemed to be intensifying. In the distance there was a small glimmer of greenery with a yellowy white backdrop. From afar it looked like an endless line of mountains towering into the perfectly blue desert sky. As the van closed in on the unknown scenery, suddenly it became obvious. It wasn't a mountain, or even hills but a sprawling sand dune that continued as far as the eye could see. The van came to an abrupt stop, maybe 1km away from the base of the dunes. Scrambling out of the vehicle, grabbing a bottle of water on the way we made our way through the lush green oasis that had attached itself to the foot of the sandy mountains. It wasn't until we were at the edge of the sand dune that we could appreciate its enormous size. It soared into the bright sky, glimmering as the afternoon sun bounced off the sand, reflecting rays of light in every direction. Climbing to one of the peaks was a frustrating task, every step forward was followed by a significant backslide. However, once we reached the top we were rewarded with breath-taking views of the magnificent Gobi Desert, a sea of never ending sand that whistled as it moved with the wind.
Khongoryn Els, also popularly known as the ‘Singing Sands’ are the largest and most spectacular sand dunes in Mongolia. The name originates from the sound they make when the sand is moved by the wind or as it collapses in small avalanches. The dunes lie within the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park in Mongolia and extend to over 965 square kilometres and are up to 300m high. Climbing to the top can be an exhausting experience, however the views over the Gobi desert are simply incredible. The dunes are about 180km from Dalanzadgad. There is no way to get here unless you charter a jeep or are part of a tour. To find out more visit the official Mongolia tourism website.