Experience A Desert in the Snowy Siberia: Chara Sands, Russia


Our planet is home to the most beautiful and mysterious of places. Be it the volcanoes in Iceland to the changing sand dunes in the Sahara. Places holding rich cultural significance to the places scientifically marveled by great minds across the globe. One of those ‘unique’ places is the Chara Sands in the Transbaykal territory in Siberia, Russia. Yes, you read that right.

Siberia, known for an average daily temperature of only 5 degrees; where the mercury column doesn’t even rise during winter seasons, hides a miniature desert in her cold embrace. Located around 9 kilometers from Chara, the district capital, stands the Chara Sands exalted at its own breathtaking beauty. Surrounded by the snow clad mountain ridges of Kodar, Udokan and Kalar, lies Zabaykalsky Krai’s. The northernmost corner of Taiga filled with sand dunes in Trans-Baikal region of Kalarsky district.

Chara Sands, Russia

The Chara Sands is bordered by ice fields and frozen blue lakes. The whole place seems unreal. No doubt, this is of the best tourist places to visit in Russia. The Chara Sands resembles the Central Asian deserts on the surface.

Such vast volume of loose shifting sands cannot be found anywhere else in the Siberian tundra. The sand field is tan in color. The ridges of dunes form crescent-shaped lines in the sand. The dunes almost look like frozen waves. The Chara Sands is one yellow gem of Siberia.

During the Muruktin glacial era, the Chara Sands are said to have originated around 55 to 100 thousand years ago. The entire Chara region was a lake delta in front of the Sakukan glacier during that time, hence it was flooded.

Wind erosion created the blown sand dunes and the bewitching swirls visible even today during the Holocene epoch. Some theories even suggest that there was a sea beneath it almost 100,000 years ago. So, this is also called as ‘the desert at the bottom of the sea.’


The Chara Sands are a spectacular sight to behold at the backdrop of the rigid mountains. Providing a stunning contrast of slow clad mountains and sand dunes. The Chara Sands stay the top most tourist destinations in Russia. The neighboring towns of Chara hosts a variety of restaurants and boarding houses.

The region may be reached via train or plane. Take the nearest train to Chara from the Novaya Chara railway station to Transbaikal region. From the train you can enjoy the astounding view of the lake Baikal. The train stops at Severobaikalsk station for 1 hour. You can enjoy a swim while you are there.

Flights are available from Chita but not on a regular basis. But there are other options available for Chara. If you are hiking, reach out to the visitor center. They will put you in contact with local drivers. If you ask any local drivers in Chara to give you a lift on a Zil truck to the far beginning of the Chara sands, even better. In Novoya Chara, there is a regional museum that provides tourist information.

The words of Twentieth-century explorer Vladimir Preobrazhensky, “a region of geographical paradoxes” has aged well. The intoxicating blend of hot dunes surrounded by snowy mountains may well seem like a sci-fi movie set or probably like a dream. This place cradles the wildest of brown bears and the iconic Siberian wolfs in its lush beauty. The best time to visit here is all year round.

The area receives an annual rainfall of 35 centimeters of rain. During mid April, the Chara sands are blanketed in snow. One of the remarkable features of this location is that, the snowflakes leave ornate decorations on the golden sand as it melts. The place itself is said to be the remains of an ancient lake. Making this the bucket list places to visit in Siberian region, Russia. As the tourists here like to say, ‘everything is amazing in Chara’.


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