Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always freezing cold during the infamous winters on Siberian soil. In fact, Siberia’s summer is relatively warm and can often exceed +15 degrees Celsius. As surprising as this may sound to some people, here’s another interesting fact that will definitely blow your brains out – there’s a real desert in the heart of Siberia. Yeap, an actual desert made out of sand dunes, surrounded by mountains and thick forests.
Located near the Udokan and Kodar mountains is the astonishing Siberian desert named Chara Sands. As the name suggests, it’s close to the Chara River and the Novaya Chara urban settlement. Due to its proximity to the mountains and the desert, the region on its own is a somewhat touristy spot for the few people who know about the Chara Sands.
Of course, the Siberian desert’s size is far from Mohave’s grandeur, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fascinating as it is. It’s a common knowledge that Siberian climate provides harsh living conditions (to say the least), yet that’s one of the many reasons why the Chara Sands are so unique. They’re surrounded by mountainous terrain and thick forests from every side, offering a breathtaking cinematic landscape with snowy mountaintops and lush greenery – a gorgeous endemic panorama you will not find anywhere else in the world! This alone makes the Siberian desert a truly astounding destination. Combined with the fact that not many people are familiar with its existence, it should definitely be on your to-visit list.
Yet another factor that makes this desert so glorious is the fact that it ends as unexpectedly and abruptly as no other desert on the globe. The Chara Sands’ borders don’t transition smoothly into the rocky, wild forest terrain of its surroundings – you can literally jump out of the dessert and into the typical mountainous range of Siberia in the blink of an eye!
Chara Sands is approximately 6 kilometers long – a tiny fraction of land locked in between Siberia’s nearly insurmountable mountains. Albeit being miniature compared to other deserts on Earth, the Chara Sands area can still be perilous. Sand storms and dusty winds do pose a dangerous threat and many of the dunes can reach up to 30 meters in height – a potentially lethal height for careless explorers. Nevertheless, climbing those dunes or simply roaming around the small desert offers extremely rewarding, one of a kind, panoramic views for the bravest travelers out there. After all, you will need to brave the Siberian mountain ranges before you’ll be able to actually reach the Chara Sands. But once you do – you’ll definitely be in for a treat!
A popular scientific theory regarding the desert’s origin suggests that the area was once a lake delta that dated back to tens of thousands of years ago. As time progressed the glacier eventually dried out and a desert terrain was formed, remaining landlocked with a sudden transition from sand dunes to forest wilderness. The contrasting dunes, ice caps, pine forests and lush greenery paint a vivid picture that doesn’t exist anywhere else but in this part of Siberia.
Fortunately, there are some ways to reach the desert without having to trek all of the mountain ranges. Those who are not looking for lengthy hours of mountaineering can just take the plane or train to the Novaya Chara’s capital Chara and then hike for a couple of hours or simply hire ATVs. The latter option is more suitable for tourists who want to avoid walking and climbing through the nearly 6 kilometer long mountain trail in the Middle Sakukan river area. Should you decide to visit the area, do keep in mind that even though the temperatures at the Chara Sands will be hot, the surrounding areas’ harsh weather will be far from what you might expect from a desert.