Visit Guide to Badain Jaran Desert

One of the world’s largest and highest arid expanses, the Badain Jaran Desert covers around 49,000 square kilometres of far western Inner Mongolia and has some of the tallest stationary sand dunes on Earth, with several towering over 500 metres. The landscape is a surreal and mesmerising sight, especially at sunrise and sunset when the shifting light casts vivid hues across the dunescape.

Getting There

The closest city is Alxa Right Banner (Alashan Youqi). From there, guided tours and local transportation are the best options for reaching many remote parts of the desert.


The desert began to take shape around 20,000 years ago during the last ice age. As the climate became drier, the region transformed into a vast arid expanse with the accumulation of sand dunes and the development of the unique desert ecosystem.

Archaeological discoveries suggest that ancient nomadic tribes, such as the Xiongnu and Xianbei, inhabited the area 2,000 years ago. The desert was also part of the Silk Road trade routes, with caravans passing through the region that would navigate the challenging terrain, making use of the oases and lakes as water sources for sustenance and rest.

Even more remarkable is the presence of some 140 freshwater lakes – known as ‘barkol’ in the Mongolian language – fed by underground springs. Nature lovers can try dune hiking, camel riding and sandboarding, as well as boating, fishing and birdwatching on the lakes.