Khongoryn Els are some of the largest and most spectacular sand dunes in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia. However, they represent only 3-5% of the entire landmass of the Gobi Desert (500,000 square miles). They form part of the immense Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park – Mongolia’s largest national park.
Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes, in Mongolia, are more commonly known as Duut Mankhan – or the Singing Sands. This area is one of the Nine Wonders found in Umnugovi province, and dunes can range upwards to 300m tall.
The sand dunes stretch for about 180km long and 12km wide in a valley squeezed between the Bayan Tsagaan Mountains to the north and the Zoolon and Sevrey Mountains to the south.
The highest dunes rise around 200m from the valley floor and occur near the north-western end of the dune field.
The dunes are located 180 kilometers from Dalanzadgad. There is no public transportation available here, so you’ll need to charter a vehicle or join a trip.
The Khongor sand dunes are home to the Duut Mankhan, or singing sands. This is the highest land in the area and it is located 170 km from Yolyn Am. The most famous feature of this land is its Singing Sands.
Why it is called Singing Dunes
The Singing Dunes are one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Gobi desert. These dunes are about 300 meters tall and stand out against the flat plain of the desert. The locals have named it the Singing Dune because when wind blows over its surface, it creates a sound similar to that of an airplane engine.
Many tourists decide to climb smaller dunes instead of the highest one because it’s more challenging. On these lower peaks, you can hear the Sand Singing when spreading sand north against the wind.
Khongor Sand Dunes’s Oasis
The sand dunes may have been carried here by the wind from the remnants of an ancient seabed. Narrow rivers called Khongor River and Seruun Bulag run through 10 kilometers in length and form Adag Nuur (lake) behind Duut Mankhan, which is located at the foot of sand dunes.
The area around the foot of sand dunes looks more like an oasis because rain percolates through the loose sand and accumulates on the surfaces below.
The families who live near Khongoryn Els make their homes close to the banks of the small but essential Khongoryn Gol. This river creates a microclimate and ecosystem that allow grasses, plants, and edible berries to grow.
It is also suitable for insect and bird life to flourish. Some common birds found here are fork-tailed swifts, desert wheatears, northern lapwings, and desert warblers.
The Pallas sand grouse is a common sight in this area, but you’ll also see goitred gazelles, Mongolian gazelles, and wild asses grazing around. When driving to the Khongor Sand dune, there’s a good chance you’ll see them in groups. However, they often become alarmed and stay away from the area during tourist season.
The things to do in Khongoryn Els
- Hiking up the sand dunes is the most popular tourist activity.
Hiking here will not be simple since it will be a single step forward and two steps back on sand. It takes time for some individuals to get to the top, ranging from one hour to two hours.
But when you finally reach the top of the climb, you’ll be happy to have made the trek. The sunset from atop the dunes is a gorgeous sight–that is, weather permitting. The best time for ascending the Khongor Sands is in the early morning or late evening, when the cool air makes the journey pleasant.
- Sliding Down the Sand Dunes
You may hire a slide from the bottom of the dunes; it will be available for rental. When climbing a dune, you may feel more fatigued to hold your own slide, but when you plunge down, you’ll have a blast.
Even the most seasoned visitors will undoubtedly enjoy sliding down the dunes or simply observing the sand as it shifts and creates new dunes every minute.
Going downhill is always easier than going up, but there’s one catch: if it’s windy, sand particles will sting as they hit you while walking forward.
- Camel riding
Khongoryn Els is the perfect place to ride a camel. Imagine the beauty of nature combined with the gentle swaying of the camel as you travel across sand dunes. You can choose to ride a camel for one hour, or depending on when you arrive at Khongor, you may be able to ride longer. Don’t worry about riding a camel if it’s your first time– camels are very gentle animals! Though they can smell quite strong…
Although these sand dunes are not as large as Khongoryn Els, they are still a popular tourist destination. The saxual forest is also worth seeing for its thick and uniquely shaped wood.
Tips for the travelers
- Bring some water with you all the time
- Make sure your camera, phone, and other gadgets are protected from the sand.
- Barefoot climbing is simpler, but be careful of the sticky plant on the lower dunes
- Choose an accommodation with a shower so you can get the sand off your body.
Hello. My name is Anujin. I was born and raised in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia. I am senior writer at CorrectMongolia, where I share the culture , tradition of my country.
If you have questions about Mongolia, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll be happy to help in any way that I can!
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