Taklamakan Desert: the Largest Desert in China

Plan your Xinjiang tour? One of the coldest regions in China is also one of the most sparsely populated areas as well. This region, however, has been a known place since ancient times. The travelers from far off countries traveled through the Taklamakan Desert: on the “Silk Route”.

Though today all those towns mentioned in the folklores are nothing but ruins, history has been found in the desert in the form of relics thousands of years old. It remains an extremely cold place to date, with extreme cold temperatures.

 The History of Takla Makan

Study abroad programsand gap year jobstake one to places around the world which are totally different from one’s own country. The learning that one gains from these travels can never be gained in the classroom. This is why almost all gap year programsinvolve a comprehensive itinerary which exhibits the natural treasures of a nation. 

Chinese language programsare no different. When one travels to China, there are many places one can visit. There are all sorts of places in China. There are places which have a warm tropical kind of climate like those in the three river delta region. Then there are mountainous regions like in the Tibet autonomous region.

 There are also places like the Yunnan Province which has a mild comfortable climate throughout the year and Yunnan also houses fifty one out of the fifty-two ethnic minorities of the country.

 Similarly, there is also an extreme place in the country which is largely unpopulated and is still one of the most difficult places to live. This is the Takla Makan Desert which is the biggest desert in the country. 

The name itself is an enigma. It can mean a lot things including “the desert of death”, “the place of ruins” etc. In the Uigur language, Taklamakan means “You can get in but you cannot come out.” This is a cold desert that takes the brunt of the Siberian winds and has temperatures dipping to as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit during winters.

 This desert however lies on the “Silk Route” of ancient times. There are ruins of many old towns which used to thrive during those times. Those who would be learning Chinesein the country would also come to know about some big treasures that have been found in the desert. Also, there have been tombs which revealed mummies as old as 4000 years.

Taklamakan Desert is located in the center of Tarim Basin, in the south of Xinjiang Province.

Taklamakan Desert is located in the center of Tarim Basin, in the south of Xinjiang Province

Taklamakan Desert is 337600 square km ( 1000km long from east to west and 400km wide from north to south),  the largest in China and second largest desert in the world.  In addition, it is the largest mobile desert in the world. 

Taklamakan Desert is the largest in China

A convoy of camels  on the Taklamakan Desert.

A convoy of camels moving on Taklamakan Desert

Trekking in Taklamakan Desert

trekking in Taklamakan Desert


Brave and strong trekkers trudging through the Taklimakan desert 

Brave and strong trekkers trudging through the Taklimakan desert

There is an interesting story about the origin of the desert. According to Chinese folklore, there was a supernatural being a very long time ago who decided to offer help to people living in this area who were suffering considerably. He had a golden axe and a golden key, both of which were magical. He gave the golden axe to the Kazakah who split the Altai Mountain and directed water to their fields.

The golden key was given to the Uigur so that they could reap the benefits of the Tarim Basin. But the youngest daughter of the chieftain lost the key. This made this ‘being’ so angry that he imprisoned her in the Tarim Basin region without allowing the Uigur to benefit from it. Over a period of time, the region became barren and the Takla Makan desert was formed.

 Today, all those who are in the country for gap year jobscan take time out and go for desert treks in the region.

Further Readings

Top 10 Places in Xinjiang.
See Autumn Leaves in Xinjiang .
Sayram Lake .
Karamay Ghost Town .
Taklamakan Desert  .
Top 10 Attractions in Urumqi .


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