Chara Sands: A Mysterious Desert in Snow-Covered Siberia

There are deserts in Russia – it goes without saying that this fact will shock many. In fact, the world’s largest country, the Russian Federation, is not a desert country, but is more commonly known as a polar country.

Simply put, people know Russia as the land of ice, and this perception is largely correct. But Russia has polar/tundra regions as well as vast steppes/grasslands and taiga/separate forests.

Not only that, from the geographical point of view, the coastal areas of the Caspian Sea in Russia are termed as ‘semi-desert’ (semi-desert).

Of course, Russia also has real deserts, not just in one place, but in several places. However, Russian deserts are small in size. One such small desert in Russia is called ‘Chara Sands’.

Chara Sands (Russian: Чарские пески, ‘Чарские пески’) is a small desert located in Kalarsky District (Russian: Каларский район, ‘Kalarskyi Rayon’) in the Transbaikal Frontier Province (Russian: Забайкалский край, ‘Забайкалский край’), Russia.

It is 9 km from Chara village. Chara lies in the lowlands at the foot of the Kodar range in the south-west. Chara, Middle Sakukan and Upper Sakukan – Chara sand dunes are located in these three river valleys.

9 km from Chara Sands. To the south-east is the ‘BAM Novaya Chara’ railway station. The sand dunes are surrounded by taiga and swamps.

That is, Chara Balubhoomi is a desert surrounded by lakes, rivers and snow-capped mountain peaks. This exceptional sand dune is considered a centrally important geological natural phenomenon.

The sand dunes extend 9 km from south-west to north-east in the favorable wind direction. extends up to and its width is about 4 km. About 30 square km. Sand dunes are located throughout the region.

The height of each sand dune in the Chara sand dunes is 150 to 170 meters and the height is about 80 meters. The north-east side of the dune slopes up to about 32 degrees.

Nowhere else in all of Siberia, let alone Transbaikalia, has such a desert region. That is why the Chara desert is a very exceptional place in Siberia from a geographical point of view.

Externally, the Chara sand dunes are similar to the large deserts of Central Asia (eg: Karakum, Kizilkum etc.). The vegetation here is slightly different from the taiga. This taiga contains larch, small birch and moisture-loving small pine trees.

To the north-east of the Chara sand dunes are two small lakes, named ‘Alyonka’ and ‘Tayozhnoye’. Since 2010 Chara Sands has been officially recognized as one of the ‘Seven Wonders of Transbaikalia’.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Transbaikalia Frontier Province is responsible for the maintenance of this small desert.

Chara Sands is a true desert, but it is surrounded by lakes, rivers and mountain peaks. It can be considered as the strangest desert in the world due to its peculiar geographical location.

Because it is difficult to find a desert like this anywhere else in the world, which is surrounded by lakes, rivers, taiga and mountains at the same time.

However, in some respects it is a typical desert with high sand dunes and frequent sandstorms. But this small desert is surrounded by taiga, rivers, swamps and springs.

So there is no danger of those crossing the desert dying from lack of water. Not only that, just a few miles away from this strange sandy land are the snow-capped Kodar Mountains and the Udokan Mountains a little further.

Tourists who come here can visit the mountainous region after visiting the desert. After visiting the Chara Desert, many tourists head towards the Kodar Mountains for trekking.

Geographically, this is a rare occurrence, as there are few places in the world where bright yellow sand dunes and snow-capped mountains can be seen so close together, and nowhere else can desert and mountains be seen side by side in the case of Chara Sands.

According to some geologists, the Chara Desert originated about 40,000 years ago. According to some, this desert is even older and originated between 55,000 and 100,000 years ago.

In ancient times there was a lake in this region. Over time it dries up completely and the vegetation becomes a desert.

Since the Chara Desert is located deep in Siberia, it is natural to wonder what the conditions are like in the harsh Siberian winters.

In fact, during the winter the Sara Desert, like the rest of Siberia, is covered with ice and the temperature sometimes drops below -50°C!

The desert suddenly ends in one place. There is no transition zone between the desert and its surrounding forest.

Two small lakes – Alyonka and Tayozhnoe – are located at the end of the Chara desert and the Siberian tiger can be seen only after crossing the two lakes. In winter these two lakes completely freeze and turn into ice.

The wind blows the desert sand slowly towards the northeast and towards the surrounding taiga.

That is, the geographical location of the desert may change over time! However, this is a very time-consuming process, which can take hundreds of years to complete.

Chara Desert is a popular tourist destination. Many people come here to see the yellow desert and white snow-capped mountains side by side.

The nearest human settlement (Chara village) is only 9 km from the desert. located far But even then it is somewhat difficult to reach the desert directly.

First you have to reach Chara village by plane or train. Then the middle Sakukan and Chara rivers have to be crossed to reach the desert.

These rivers are famous for strong currents. Of course, it goes without saying that once they reach the desert, the tourists get a strange and surprising experience.