Chara Sands: An Amazing Desert in Siberia


There is the desert in Russia – it goes without saying that this fact will shock many. The Russian Federation, the largest country in the world, is not a country of desert.

There is a desert in Russia named Chara Sands. But everyone knows it more as a polar country. But people know Russia as the land of ice, and this perception is correct.

Chara Sands desert
Photo by Ivan on Unsplash

One of the biggest countries in the world, Russia, has polar/tundra regions. Russia also has real deserts, without any doubt. It is not in one place but in many.

But Russian deserts are small in size. Chara Sands is one of these deserts. It also has vast steppes/grasslands and taiga/separate forests.

Many people address the coastal areas of the Caspian Sea in Russia as semi-desert. There is no problem from the geographical point of view to call it.

Things to Know about Chara Sands

It is a small wilderness in Kalarsky District in the Transbaikal Province, Russia. It is 9 km from Chara village. It lies in the lowlands at the foot of the Kodar range, in the southwest part.

Chara, Middle Sakukan, and Upper Sakukan – its location in these three river valleys. 9 km from it to the southeast is the ‘BAM Novaya Chara’ railway station.

Taiga and swamps keep this dune surrounded. It means rivers and snow-capped mountain peaks keep this wilderness surrounded.

This dune is an essential geological natural phenomenon. The dunes extend 9 km from southwest to northeast in the favorable wind direction. Its width is about 4 kilometers.

It extends up to 30 square km throughout the region. The height of each dune in this place is 150 to 170 meters, and its height is about 80 meters.

It has a slope on the northeast side which is about 32 degrees. Nowhere else in Siberia, let alone Transbaikalia, has such a desert region.

That is why it is a very exceptional place in Siberia from a geographical point of view. This mysterious place is like the deserts of Central Asia.

The vegetation here is different from the taiga. This taiga contains larch, small birch, and moisture-loving small pine trees.

Photo by Ivan on Unsplash

To the northeast of this wilderness are two small lakes named Alyonka and Tayozhnoye. It is the Seven Wonders of Transbaikalia.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of Transbaikalia maintains this place. It is a true desert but remains surrounded by lakes, rivers, and mountain peaks.

You can consider it the strangest desert in the world. It has a peculiar geographical location. It is hard to find a wilderness like this anywhere else.

Lakes, rivers, taiga, and mountains surround this wilderness. But, in some respects, it is a typical wilderness with high dunes and frequent sandstorms.

But this small desert has the surrounding taiga, rivers, swamps, and springs. So there is no danger of those crossing the desert dying from lack of water.

A few miles away from this strange sandy land are the snow-capped Kodar Mountains. The Udokan Mountains are a little further.

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

It is a rare occurrence as there are few places like this. Bright yellow dunes and snow-capped mountains can be visible together only here.

And nowhere else can desert and mountains remain side by side in the case of this place. According to some geologists, this wilderness originated about 40,000 years ago.

According to some, this desert is older and formed 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 Sands is deep inside Siberia, it is natural to wonder.

The matter of wonder is what the conditions are like in the harsh Siberian winters. In fact, during the winter, this place becomes covered in ice like the rest of Siberia.

The temperature sometimes drops below -50°C! The desert ends in one place. There is no transition zone between the Chara Sands and its surrounding forest.

Two small lakes – Alyonka and Tayozhnoe – are at the end of this wilderness. The Siberian tiger can be visible only after crossing the two lakes.

In winter, these two lakes completely freeze and turn into ice. The wind blows the sand toward the northeast and towards the surrounding taiga.

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

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

Chara wilderness
Photo by Ivan on Unsplash

The nearest human settlement is only 9 km from the wilderness. The location is far. But even then, it is somewhat difficult to reach there.

First, you have to reach the nearest village by plane or train. You have to cross the Sakukan and Chara rivers to reach the desert. These rivers are famous for strong currents.

A Fantastic Day Tour to Chara Sands

The Chara is a captivating side trip area along the Baikal – Amur mainline. It is the sole location to witness a desert enclosed by mountains and taiga forests.

Located 10km from the Novaya Chara railway station, the dunes lie in the heart of Siberia. The location is between two mountain ranges.

To the north, you can find the Kodar Mountains. To the south, you can find the Udokan and Kolarsky Mountains. The Nenets refer to Kodar as a wall. 

It is evident why, with enormous mountains just 3 kilometers away. Crossing a river and getting to the other side is not so easy.

There are no bridges. It is possible to walk across the frozen river. But it will be cold, as low as -50 degree Celsius, without any doubt.

In summer, you can either swim or use a small inflatable boat. The tour will last approximately seven or eight hours. It includes a 20km hike through forests and taiga.

The weather is highly unpredictable. Clear skies might abruptly change to rain. Depending on the season, mosquitos and other flies can be irritating.


Many tourists from different countries and Russia visit this beautiful place in Serbia. It has many things to show to its nature-loving visitors.

The tourists get a strange and surprising experience during their visit. If you want to see something unique, visit Chara Sands without hesitation.

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