Here we introduce everything you need to know about visiting and staying in Khongoryn Els known as Khongor Sand dune in Gobi – things to do, places to visit, Ger camps and tours.
Khongor Sand dune is located in the Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park and one of the Nine Wonders in Umnugovi province. It is located 216km away in the west of the central city of the province. Khongor Sand dunes stretch through 130 km and its width varies 3-20km, settled between Sevrei, Zuulun and Bayan Bor high mountain ranges. The highest point of the dunes is 195m and local people call it Duut Mankhan (Singing dunes). This dune makes thundering or whistling sound when sands slide down in the wind.
Flat, stable and steep sand dune forms are resulted by the local wind and besides. It is believed that the sand dunes were brought here by the wind from the remnants of ancient sea bottom. There are narrow rivers called Khongor River and Seruun Bulag right in the foot of Khongoryn Els and stream through about 10 kms and create Adag Nuur (lake) right behind the Duut Mankhan. The area around the foot of sand dunes looks more like oasis, where rain percolates through the loose sand and accumulates on the underlying pediment surfaces.
In the oasis, dense salt meadows are dominated and caragana bungei which is a shrub grows 1-6m tall is quite common here. It is well known that water in the gobi desert is salty by local people and so is the soil. Nitraria sibirica grows commonly on saline soils of the Khongor sand dunes but livestock don’t feed on them that much. In contrast, saline meadows are heavily grazed by livestock such as camels.
Oasis in Khongor Sand Dune
Oasis of the Khongoryn Els Sand dunes is the resource of water for many rare birds and wild animals alongside with local livestock. Birds feed on water species such as Mongolian toads, small fishes and Gammarus species. The most common water birds are Ruddy Shelduck, Mallard, Spot-billed Duck, Little Ringed Plover and Northern Lapwing. You’ll see Pallas Sand grouses everywhere in this area. Apart from the birds, goitred gazelles, Mongolian gazelles and wild ass graze around the area. As you drive to the Khongor Sand dune, possibility to see them in groups is quite high. Even though, during the tourist season they often become alarmed and stay away from the area.
Things to do in Khongoryn Els
The top priority of tourist activity is hiking up to the top of the sand dunes. Hiking is not going to be easy here because it is going to be literally one step forward and two steps back on sand. For some people it takes time to climb up to the top, varying around 30 minutes to an hour. But when you’re on the top of the dunes you can tell it was worth trying. There you can see the mesmerizing sunset if weather permits. Going down is far easier than climbing up. But there is one difficulty when it’s windy here. You will know that sand particles can be strong and hurt you while you’re walking forward.
It’s just going to be one of the many adventures of your trip. Once you’ve finished your hiking, you can go back to your camp and take a nice shower getting rid of sands. Another thing you should do is camel riding. It takes usually one hour. Riding camel is nothing to be scared of as for the camels are very gentle animals except for their smell. Khongoryn Els is the right place to ride camels, picturing the nature and rocked by gentle walking of camels. Depending on the time you arrived at the Khongor Sand dune area, you can ride a camel to the dunes.
Khongoryn Els Ger Camp
There are 4 tourist camps, ‘Juulchin Khongor’, ‘Gobi Erdene’, ‘Gobi discovery’ and ‘Goviin Anar’ are actively serving tourists and around 10 guest houses are run by local nomads in Khongor Sand dunes.
The best months to visit will be nice and warm autumn days of September and the number of tourists will start to decrease around this time.
Tours to Khongoryn Els from Ulaanbaatar
These are the best ways to experience Khongoryn sand dune;
- Best of Mongolia Tour (From $1430) – 9 days private tour
- Gobi Desert & Grassland Tour (From $1170)- 8 days private tour
- The Heartlands of Gobi Desert (From $890) – 4 day short tour with domestic return flight