Located in Southern Mongolia and Northern China, the Gobi Desert is the largest desert in East Asia and the fifth largest in the world. It measures over 1,600 km (1,000 mi) from southwest to northeast and 800 km (500 mi) from north to south, and occupies an area of 1,295,000 km2 (500,000 sq mi). The Gobi is a cold desert, with frost and occasionally snow occurring on its dunes. It’s high plateau altitude, roughly 910–1,520 metres (2,990–4,990 ft) above sea level, contributes to its cold temperatures. The Gobi Desert continues to expand at an alarming rate due to overgrazing, deforestation, and climate change. There are several locations of particular interest to filmmakers and photographers:
Khongoryn Sand Dunes
The famous sand dunes of Khongoryn are considered to be one of the most beautiful desert locations in the world. Covering an area of 965 square kilometres (373 sq mi), some dunes reach 300 metres (980 ft) in height. Getting there you first need to fly from Ulan Bator to Dalanzadgad (1.5hr flight). The sand dunes are 180 kilometres (110 mi) away, which takes about 5 hours to drive.
The Yol Valley is a deep narrow gorge located in the Gurvan Saikhan Mountains known for its large ice field. It is connected to Dalanzadgad by paved road (3 hour drive).
The Flaming Cliffs
Also known as Bayanzag, the Flaming Cliffs are known for their red and ochre sandstone cliffs. The area is home to several important fossil finds including first discovery of dinosaur eggs. Getting there you need to take a flight to Dalanzadgad and then drive for 2 hours.
Moltsog Sand Dunes
This long sand dune is situated northeast of Flaming Cliffs. The location is not as impressive as Khongoryn sand dunes, but still offers beautiful desert looks.
Elsen Tasarkhai Sand Dunes
Smaller than the Gobi Desert sand dunes, Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes are only 80 km long and 5 km wide. The area is surrounded by sand dunes, hills covered with rare bushes and a small forest near a river. Located 280 km west of Ulaanbaatar, they can be reached in around 3 hours drive, making them easier to reach than the Gobi Desert sand dunes. Also, this area is only 80 km east of Kharakhorum, the ancient Mongolian capital. The area is populated by the elk, wolves, deer and fox.
As well as the landscape, the Gobi Desert is also famous for its tradtionally living nomadic camel, yak, goat, and sheep herders who migrate with the seasons, and carry everything by camel including their ger (yurt) homes. We are able to arrange members of this community as interview subjects should you need them.
The Gobi Desert’s northern location and relatively high altitude makes it very cold, with frost and occasionally snow occurring on its dunes. Temperatures range from −40°c (−40°f) in winter to 45°c (113°f) in summer. Plan for hot weather filming and cold weather filming. Note, there are no showers or flushing toilets in the Gobi desert, so you will need to bring all supplies such as moist towelettes and toilet paper. The vast distances and lack of services mean an emergency rescue will be expensive, so make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Mongolia Film Crew & Production Support
Contact us if you are looking to take your next production to the Gobi Desert, we are able to recommend a reliable Mongolian fixer / producer, and local shooting crew (directors, DoP’s, videographers, photographers, sound operators).
Photos Courtesy Of: Steppe Fixers Mongolia