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Home Travel in Xinjiang The Gurbantunggut Desert
The Gurbantunggut Desert
Travel in Xinjiang

Gurbantunggut Desert
The Gurbantunggut Desert (gǔ ěr bān tōng gǔ tè shā mò 古尔班通古特沙漠), located in the center of Junggar Basin (zhǔn gé ěr pén dì 准格尔盆地), to the east of the Manas River (mǎ nà sī hé 玛纳斯河) and south of the Ulungur River (wū lún gǔ hé 乌伦古河). With an area of 48,800 square meters, the desert is the second largest desert in China. Its climate is temperate. Its eco-environment is very fragile, and the impact of human activities on the eco-environment, including the building of a trans-desert highway, has been increasingly significant.

The Location of Gurbantunggut Desert The Gurbantunggut Desert that covers a large part of the Junggar Basin in northern Xinjiang (xīn jiāng 新疆), is in the northwest of the People's Republic of China. It is about 50,000 square kilometers (19,000 mi²), and located around 300 to 600 meters above sea level. It is China's (and Xinjiang's) second largest desert, after Taklamakan Desert (tǎ kè lā mǎ gàn shā mò 塔克拉玛干沙漠) located in the Tarim Basin (tǎ lǐ mù pén dì 塔里木盆地).

The Gurbantunggut Desert It is regarded as one of top five most beautiful deserts in China. Fixed or semi-fixed sand ridges occupy 97 percent of the desert. Approximately 100 plants grow in the desert, many of which are good sand-fixing plants and pasture grass. About a quarter of the annual precipitation falls in winter. After the snow melts, there is a good supply of water for the growth of the plants. Different from Taklamakan Desert, in Spring, many ephemeral plants blossom in Gurbantunggut Desert. There are several thousand hectares of well-protected virgin saksaul forest in the depths of the Gurbantunggut Desert.


The Gurbantunggut Desert The Gurbantunggut Desert is the masterpiece of the northwest wind, the image of the invisible wind on the ground. From west to east, a northwest wind, as wide and as long as the desert, lies in the Junggar Basin. The Karamay Gobi is surely the start of the Gurbantunggut Desert, as  the strong northwest wind starts blowing up sand here and making dunes. There is endless desert, but no high dunes, just an occasional small dune standing on the desert, like a solitary animal facing east. When the wind blows, the sand, filling everything between earth and sky, runs and forms the awesome Gurbantunggut Desert not far away. When it reaches the Jiangjun Gobi (jiāng jun1 gē bì 将军戈壁), the northwest wind is blocked by the Baytik Mountain between China and Mongolia, and turns south towards Hami (hā mì 哈密). The desert expands southeastward, following the wind. Once past Urho (wū ěr hé 乌尔禾), known as the Devil’s City, the wind turns to another famous Xinjiang Devil’s City Longcheng, and enters Lop Nur (luó bù bó 罗布泊). The Karamay Gobi and the Jiangjun Gobi represent the head and tail of a huge desert, and the start and end of the strong northwest wind.

Admission Fee: Free
Best Time to Visit: September to December; January to August for Exploration
Accommodation: There are few places for lodging so you’d better take a tent with you.
Recommended Things to Take: sunglasses, gauze mask, suntan oil, rubbish bag, water and food.