The Gobi desert, one of the world’s great deserts, covers much of the southern part of Mongolia. Unlike the Sahara, there are few sand dunes in the Gobi; rather you’ll find large barren expanses of gravel plains and rocky outcrops. The climate here is extreme. Temperatures reach +40° C. in summer and -40 in winter. Precipitation averages less than 100 mm per year, while some areas only get rain once every two or three years. Strong winds up to 140 km/h make travel dangerous in spring and fall. Great Gobi National Park is one of the largest World Biospheres, with an area larger than Switzerland. It contains the last remaining wild Bactrian (two-humped) camels, wild ass, and a small population of Gobi bears, the only desert-inhabiting bear.
Although many people think of a desert as an endless see of sand, this is one of the few areas of sand dune formations in the Gobi. Up to 200m tall and many km long, the Khongoryn Els are a popular tourist destination.
The Gobi gets very cold in winter, and snow does fall. It can fall in the Gobi as early as September.
This small oasis on the northern edge of the Gobi desert provides food and drinking water for herders and their livestock. The saxaul “forest” in the background is characteristic of the Gobi.
Ekhiingol is a small, isolated oasis in the Southern Gobi, surrounded by barren desert. In communist times this used to be an important agricultural research station, but now only about 20 families remain. Here grow tomatoes, cucumber, watermelon, peppers and some fruit, which are sold locally. Getting the produce to other markets is nearly impossible, as there are no flights, and the provincial capital is 400 km away along a rough dirt track.
The badlands in the southwestern Gobi are not unlike those in the Dakotas.
To the north of the Gobi, the desert gradually gives way to grass. As soon as there is some vegetation, there will be herders.
The most common lifestock in the Gobi is the cashmere goat. These goats, raised for their very fine hair, thrive in the harsh climate.
The black desert in Western Mongolia is a continuation of the Gobi. Flat and rocky, it is a desolate area in February.