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Tarim Desert Highway in China 2024-2025

Take a ride on the longest desert road in the world

Best time: all year round

Tarim Desert Highway
Tarim Desert Highway
Tarim Desert Highway

A 552-km-long (343-mi) Tarim Desert Highway or Cross-Desert Highway (CDH) runs across the Taklamakan Desert from north to south, connecting the cities of Luntai and Minfeng. The world's longest road built across the shifting-sand dunes gets frequently buried by hazardous sands. So the experience of riding this road is quite surreal and definitely special. The desert road was built in 1995 after the local petroleum industry started expanding which required a route across the desert in the middle of Xinjiang autonomous territory.

The road across Tarim Basin covers mostly uninhabited and secluded areas. It takes about five hours to complete the route. Visitors can see plenty of desert landscapes and vegetation. Ancient poplar forests in Tazhong Oasis, about 300 km (185 mi) south of Luntai, is the main attraction on the road. It's also an excellent place to make a stop since there are restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and other infrastructure.

Some sections of Tarim Desert Road look like green corridors if you see them from a plane. Trees and bushes on both sides of the way were planted during the construction intentionally to prevent the sand from covering the highway. This created a kind of green oasis. Vegetation is watered regularly through a special irrigation system. Tarim Desert Highway also has a few gas stations and cafeterias where visitors can take a break from the road.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Tarim Desert Highway?

Visiting the Tarim Desert Highway in spring or fall, when temperatures are mild, is recommended. The hot summer, with temperatures reaching 100 degree Fahrenheit, can make travel arduous. Winter's frigid temperatures and snow may also delay travel. Thus, the ideal time to visit the highway is during mild temperature months. Show more

Where can visitors find accommodations on the road?

Visitors can only find a few hotels, gas stations, and restaurants along the mostly uninhabited Tarim Desert Highway. A must stop is Tazhong Oasis, 300 km south of Luntai, offering accommodations and other infrastructure. Accommodations can also be found at the highway's ends in Luntai and Minfeng cities. Show more

How long does it take to travel the entire highway?

To traverse the 552 km-long Tarim Desert Highway, travelers will need about 5 hours. Nonetheless, weather and environmental factors can alter this. Travelers should carry sufficient food and water and remain ready for varying weather conditions and road conditions. The monotonous landscape may result in eye exhaustion, so frequent rest breaks are advised. Show more

What is the history behind the construction of the highway?

The Tarim Desert Highway was established in 1995 as a means to facilitate transportation across the Taklamakan Desert, bridging Luntai and Minfeng cities. The growing petroleum industry in the region necessitated the construction. The venture was challenging due to the hazardous shifting sands, posing a threat during the highway's construction. Despite that, resilient engineers accomplished the task, and the highway has remained operational throughout the year. Show more

What types of vegetation can visitors expect to see along the way?

Visitors can anticipate seeing various types of vegetation along the Tarim Desert Highway, such as poplar trees and bushes. During construction, an irrigation system was established to sustain these plants since they were intentionally planted to hinder the shifting sands from concealing the road. Due to its harsh surroundings, visitors may encounter other resilient types of desert plants and shrubs that are predominant in the region. Show more

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