Chara Sands: Mysterious Siberian Desert

Written by Michael Schneider on 8th Sep 2013

Bright yellow sand dunes and snow covered mountains are not usually seen in any close proximity of each other let alone in one spectacular view.

night siberian desert

white sand blue sky desert

Located in the Trans-Baikal region of Siberia, about 25 miles from the Kodar Glaciers these yellow sand dunes are hard to miss. The Chara Sands are laid out at the base of snow capped mountains and are surrounded by ice fields and frozen blue lakes. 

desert sun winter

desert siberia

Stretching 10 km long and 5 km wide, the dunes are of varying heights. Some of the tallest ones are 15 to 30 meters high. Nowhere else in the entire Siberian tundra can such large volume of loose shifting sands can be found.

desert view


desert contrast chara sands siberia

contrast peaks

The Chara Sands is estimated to have formed about 55 to 100 thousand years ago, during the Muruktin glaciation period. The Chara area was at this time a lake delta in front of the Sakukan glacier and so was filled with water. In the Holocene era wind erosion produced the blown sands dunes and the beautiful ripples seen today.

desert winds

hiking chara siberia

mysterious Siberian desert

Chara Sands is located about 6 km from Chara, the district capital. The area is accessible by plane or by train. Chara is the starting point for many trekking tours in the Kodar Mountains, home of the only glaciers in south east Siberia.


desert shadows

summer desert

Against the backdrop of the cold mountains, the Chara Sands is an extraordinary sight. The mountains framing this unique landscape are covered with snow year round, creating a spectacular contrast.

nightfall in siberian desert

desert edge chara sands


Moving across this mini-desert isn’t easy, the two- and three-kilometer ridges and dune sands weave across the open expanse. The most powerful dunes are in the middle and appear like waves frozen in time. Making the effort to climb to the brink of one of these majestic waves will offer a wonderful view of sand dunes stretching all the way to the horizon.

walking desert trip

summer desert siberia

desert ripples chara sands

This amazing landscape hides another mystery; ice caves filled with crystal clear waters. This one cave was discovered by pure chance meaning there is likely to be others, undiscovered below the ice. Take your chances and discover the undiscovered in Siberia. 

ice cave chara sands siberia

snow ice caves siberian desert

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