Gateway to Gobi: Overlanding Across the Largest Desert in Mongolia

Mongolia's vast treasures have sparked Nomadic Road's creation of not one, not two, but three distinctive expeditions to the country. The first explores Western Mongolia's winter wonderland, the second delves into the Gobi Desert and the world of Chinggis Khan, while the Trans Gobi Desert expedition, the focus here, goes even deeper into the captivating Gobi landscape. Read on to explore the unique features of the Trans Gobi expedition.

When you imagine a desert, what comes to mind? A sea of endless sand, scorching heat, and barely a living organism in sight. But then there’s the Gobi, an enigmatic desert that has varying landscapes, unparalleled winters, and fertile land for plants and rearing cattle. As the largest desert in Mongolia as well as Asia, the Gobi stands as the Mount Everest of deserts.

Scaling a mountain might seem more manageable when contrasted with ascending sand dunes that lure you deeper with each step. Along this journey, explorers find themselves questioning preconceived notions about deserts, all the while redefining the very essence of thrill and adventure.

Mongolia sits at the heart of Nomadic Road’s offerings. The enchanting land may not always make it onto everyone's must-visit lists, but for true wanderers, it's a top destination. Our Gobi desert expedition takes you through the paradoxical mysteries that dot the landscape of the largest desert in Asia. 

The 11-day Gobi expedition charts a path across 11 destinations spanning 2,500 kilometres with 12 wandering spirits in their trusty Nissan vehicles. The journey kicks off in Ulaanbaatar, often referred to as the "Land of Blue Sky." The caravan then heads southward to explore Ikh Gazriin Chuluu and further down into Dalanzadgad where they can witness the awe-inspiring Flaming Cliffs. Other pit stops along the Gobi desert expedition include Nemegt Uul, Altai City, Shinejinst, and Durgun Lake, eventually ending in Khovd from where travellers take a flight back to Ulaanbaatar.

In the first few days of the Gobi expedition itself, the caravan familiarises itself with the nomadic way of life, embracing the unparalleled beauty of nature. From witnessing a breathtaking sunset against expansive rock formations to dozing off under starlit skies, travellers transcend time and space to witness pure bliss. The joy is not solitary but shared among peers, creating lasting memories.

Discovering treasures often demands a touch of effort, and the Mongolia Gobi desert is no exception. To relish that spectacular sunset, for instance, nomads ascend dunes spanning 120 kilometres, adorned with sand as fine as salt. Yet, as a rain shadow desert, the Gobi isn't solely composed of sand. It unveils 33 mini deserts with unique landscapes and terrains, emerging as a treasure trove of surprises with new twists along the road when you’re least expecting them.  

That said, these very surprises can swiftly morph into challenges. Take sandstorms as an example. Swirling sand and dust can hinder vision, and even prompt the convoy to come to a standstill in the midst of nowhere. The extremity of the Gobi serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the need to take necessary precautions for a safe journey.

Life in Gobi: Anything But Desolate

The largest desert in Mongolia is anything but a barren stretch of emptiness. Instead, it pulsates with life in its most primal form, nurturing flourishing plants that sustain nomadic livelihoods.

Unsurprisingly, the human population in the largest desert in Mongolia is sparse—think one person per square kilometre. Still, diverse terrains, including grasslands, oases, lakes, and ponds, thrive here. Unlike other regions in Mongolia, the Gobi enjoys a growing season that lasts twice as long, deepening its connection with life. And in this vast expanse, camels and other cattle walk the land with their heads held high.

The Mongolia Gobi desert expedition provides a unique opportunity to get up close to the region’s wildlife. Travellers can witness birds and animals quenching their thirst in the oases. Whether traversing on camel-back, tending to cattle for milk and wool, or engaging in bird-watching at Khar Lake, the expedition guarantees a comprehensive 360-degree experience, satisfying even the most passionate traveller.

What’s more, the experts at Nomadic Road excel at transforming ordinary moments into extraordinary memories. Amidst the vast expanse, travellers get to feast on a delectable picnic and camp under the moonlight. And in the middle of nowhere, a unique opportunity unfolds—falling asleep to the lullaby of the cattle cries in the cosmic embrace of the shimmering sky.

Of Extreme Highs and Lows

Travellers are in the region for a short stint, unlike the resilient nomads who endure extreme temperatures year after year. The cold season sees temperatures plummeting to -40 degrees, while scorching summers soar to as high as 45 degrees.

Living far removed from conventional civilization, these nomads stand out as some of the world's most hospitable individuals. Maybe it's the infrequency of encountering "outsiders" that imbues them with such warmth. Or perhaps it’s a testament to their rich cultural heritage.

Talking of extremes, the Gobi expedition takes the convoy through Khongoriin Els and Mongol Els. Aptly named since the Mongolian word Els translates to “sand,” these spots boast colossal dunes that reach an impressive height of 275 meters, aspiring to touch the heavens. The Nomadic Road team sets up a private camp in these remote dunes, where the caravan spends the night enveloped in a tapestry of anecdotes from fellow wanderers. The following morning, they awaken to the gentle kiss of sunlight instead of the intrusion of mobile phones.

Being the largest desert in Asia, the Gobi is home to varying terrains that transform every few hundred kilometres. Along the route, the caravan drives through rolling hills adorned with lush green foliage at Shinejinst, passes through mining towns amidst the enthralling wilderness of the Altai, and marvels at the kaleidoscopic beauty of the multi-coloured Khermen Tsav canyon.

With changing landscapes, however, come many challenges with overlanding. Beyond driving long distances at a stretch, travellers must transition from dirt roads to dunes to tarmac seamlessly. Conquering a sky-high dune might seem impossible at first glance, but that’s what our team of experts is there for. Whether dealing with sand traps or deflated tires, these specialists manage all issues, allowing you to focus on relishing the adventure.

As you finally ascend the peak of a dune, witnessing the sun setting on yet another spectacular day, the trials and tribulations will fade into insignificance amidst the golden hues of the hour. What lingers is an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride.

An Enchanting Fantastical Land

Embarking on the Mongolia Gobi expedition, travellers might channel their inner Indiana Jones, exploring ancient lands and conquering colossal dunes. Here’s a fascinating tidbit: Indiana Jones has a close connection with Gobi. The character is said to be inspired by Roy Chapman Andrews, the American paleontologist credited with the groundbreaking discovery of dinosaur eggs in Mongolia's Gobi desert, specifically at Flaming Cliffs.

Today, recognized as the largest dinosaur graveyard globally, Gobi thrives in the history of mystical dinosaurs and furthers our knowledge of prehistoric creatures. Nomadic Road’s expedition through the largest desert in Mongolia transports travellers to a bygone era when dinosaurs ruled without human intervention.

Beyond the renowned Flaming Cliffs, travelers venture into Gobi's Nemegt Valley, often referred to as the "Valley of Dragons" for its vast fossils. The mere thought of colossal dragon shadows against the orange sand sends shivers down our spines. Within the valley’s expanse, the caravan discovers respite from the endless sands, navigating dirt roads and traversing dried riverbeds.

No textbook comes close to the Gobi in revealing the secrets of our collective past. Some speculate the desert was once a seabed, while others envision mighty dinosaurs leaving their imprints on the Gobi expanse.

Fueled by curiosity, the Mongolia Gobi desert expedition ventures into the unknown to uncover answers to these burning questions. And what better companion for such an expedition than a reliable Nissan, capable of reaching places where footsteps dare not tread. Travel, then, becomes an immersive classroom experience, where the lessons are more vivid and engaging than traditional lectures.

All in all, the signature Gobi expedition appeals to the most offbeat travellers, those seeking to unveil the unseen. The Mongolia Gobi desert is the ultimate destination for those who favour the unpredictable chaos of changing landscapes over the frenzy of fast-paced city life. Tap into your inner bullwhip-wielding explorer as the Gobi invites you to go beyond the surface and live a daring adventure.