As the longest single journey you can make by train, the Trans-Siberian Express offers a fascinating view of the world’s biggest countries and their many landscapes. Whatever route you choose, the experience is an unforgettable one. Whilst the route from Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia is the shortest of the three available – clocking up 4,735 miles – it is often regarded the most interesting. The rail’s course through the Gobi Desert en route to China might take your breath away.
Luckily, you can enjoy the beauty and expanse of the desert without participating in the infamous 155 mile Gobi March. You can see everything from your comfortable train seat, but being aware of a few lesser known facts will enrich the experience. Here’s five tidbits to keep in mind as you roll through this captivating and desolate landscape.
1. The Gobi is a cold desert
The Gobi’s status as a cold desert may come as a surprise once you see the parched landscape and feel its stifling heat. Cold deserts are considered the most extreme in the world, with rapid temperature changes making them particularly inhospitable. These temperature changes happen not just from season to season but daily, ranging from an airless 50°C to below -40°C.
2. Gobi means ‘waterless place’
With its basins bounded by Mongolian grasslands to the north, the Tibetan Plateau to the southwest and North China Plain to the southeast, the Gobi Desert features in the histories of several civilisations. One thing they all share however is the fact that Gobi means ‘waterless place’, a rather fitting name.
3. The first dinosaur eggs were found here
Some of the globe’s very first fossilised dinosaur eggs were discovered in the Gobi Desert, making it a fascinating trip for those interested in palaeontology. It was here where the eggs of lizards like Pinacosaurus and Velociraptor were found.
4. The Gobi Desert is home to just 57,200 people
Despite its 500,002 square miles of space, just 57,200 people call the Gobi Desert their home, testament to the harsh conditions of the area. Locals use traditional techniques passed down from generation to generation to live nomadic lives and hunt out precious resources like food and water.
For those travelling to the Gobi Desert, experiencing how the locals live offers a powerful insight into a very different way of life. An excerpt from an article by Goats on the Road (@GoatsOnTheRoad) sheds some light:
“The saving grace really is the last few hours of each day when you arrive at the incredible sites & family homes in the desert. The sand dunes, gorges, cliffs and caves at the end of each day will really make up for the wasted time in the van. The best experiences are with the families. It’s amazing to be invited into a ger (traditional Mongolian yurt) and witness the age-old customs of these nomadic people first hand.”
5. It’s the site of China’s very own Stonehenge
It was back in 2003 that scientists discovered 200 stone structures in Turpan, and experts have been mystified ever since. The structures form stone circles, many of which bear a resemblance to our own Stonehenge. It is thought that these formations, which vary in size, were used by nomads for worship and even sacrifices.
Want to get started with your very own trip through the Gobi Desert? Discover more about our Classic Trans-Siberian trips and rail cruises by contacting our team today.