10+ Interesting Facts About the Taklamakan Desert

  1. Taklamakan Desert is present in Xinjiang, an autonomous region in Northwest China. It is the largest, warmest, and driest desert in China.
  2. With an area of around 337,000 km2, Taklamakan is the 16th largest desert in the world.
  3. More than 85% area of the Taklamakan Desert is composed of dunes. It is the world’s 2nd largest sandy desert after Rub al Khali in Saudi Arabia.
  4. The large mountain ranges surround the Taklamakan desert from three sides. These include Pamirs in the west, Tien Shan in the north, and the Kunlun Mountains in the south. These mountain ranges create a rain shadow, which is the reason for the existence of this cold desert.
    Satellite image shows rain shadow effect by mountains
    Mountain ranges around Taklamakan create rain shadows
  5. The Taklamakan is one of the several cold deserts of Central Asia and its adjacent areas. The climate is warm (can reach 40 Celsius) in summers and cold in winters (-20 Celsius).
  6. There are several meanings attributed to the word “Taklamakan.” It may mean “abandoned place,” “the place of ruins,” or “the place of no return.”
  7. There are two cross-desert highways in the Taklamakan. The Tarim Desert Highway links the northern and southern areas of the desert. The Bayingol to Ruoqiang road is on the eastern side of the Taklamakan desert.
  8. The project of Golmud-Korla Railway is currently under construction. After its completion, it will connect the Taklamakan Desert with the Qinghai province in China.
  9. Taklamakan desert is located on the route of the ancient Silk Road.
  10. Despite being one of the driest deserts, farmers were able to grow crops around 1,700 years ago. They did that by using ancient irrigation techniques with assistance from travelers on the Silk Road. (Source
  11. The entire Taklamakan desert is devoid of plant cover. Only sparse and scattered vegetation of reeds, tamarisk, and niter bushes are visible in areas where groundwater lies close (10 to 15 feet) to the surface. A few plant species present in river valleys of the Taklamakan desert include oleaster, Turanga poplar, saltworts, and camel thorn.
  12. Like other hot deserts, animal life is scarce in the Taklamakan desert. Rabbits, field mice, jerboa, bats, gerbils, and hedgehogs are the most common animals in these vast dunes. Siberian deer and wild camels are also present. There are also gazelles, wild boars, foxes, and wolves around ancient and modern river valleys of the Taklamakan desert. Tarim jay and larks are the most common birds in this sandy desert. All these animals have adapted to desert life.


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