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Dunhuang has a spectacular area of natural scenery: the Singing Sand (Mingsha) Mountains. The “mountains” are pale golden sand dunes that are dozens of meters high, covering an area of roughly 40 square kilometers (15 square miles).
Discover the singing sand phenomenon, and find out how to enjoy the beautiful dunes below.
What brings about the phenomenon of the singing sand? So far, nobody has provided a satisfactory answer.
According to some Japanese experts, there are probably ancient palaces under the dunes, while the Russians deem that the quartz content in the sand is the main reason. Chinese scientists have carried out studies as to the cause of the singing sand for years and they believe that it is the phenomenon of resonance.
Legend has it that this area was a flourishing mountain called Qingshi Mountain (Bluestone Mountain) in ancient times. At the foot of the mountain, beside Crescent Lake, many sacred temples were clustered. Operas were performed to worship the Temple God during each temple fair. However, the deafening sounds of the celebrations one year annoyed the sleeping Yellow Dragon Prince in a nearby desert.
The prince was cruel, cranky, and powerful. He used his magical power to move a huge volume of sand dunes into this area and buried all the people underground. Those souls often cry, beat drums, and hit gongs to bemoan their misfortune. This is the legend of the singing sand.
Visitors can explore the sand dunes by camel, electric car, quad bike, helicopter, sand sledging, hang gliding, APV ride (all-purpose vehicle — basically a local 4-wheel-drive — good for getting away from the tourists to somewhere quiet), by foot...
There are many ways to tour the Echoing Sand Mountains. Some are extreme sports that you might be interested in. If you would like to experience one of them, we will help you to arrange it.
Archery and sand sledging activities are easily accessed on one of the dunes near the entrance.
Alternatively, you can just walk up the dunes. It is quite tiring and you may need to rest several times during the climb. You can take off your shoes and let the sand caress your feet, which feels very comfortable.
The most relaxing way to tour around Echoing Sand Mountain is to ride a camel.
Usually, five to six camels form a team that are linked by a rope, and each person rides a camel. The camels are equipped with saddles and stirrups so you can have a relatively comfortable ride. The camel keeper leads the camel team to tour around the Echoing Sand Mountains .
Riding a camel across the desert around the Singing Sand Mountains is a great experience. You can enjoy the beautiful wavy shapes of the smooth yellow dunes against the deep blue sky, and imagine you are traveling along the ancient Silk Road. Get off the camel and listen for the singing of the sand.
Crescent Moon Spring is a must-see attraction. The contrast of the blue Crescent Lake and lush vegetation with the golden sand is quite poetic. The camel ride will take you to Crescent Moon Spring to enjoy the sunset.
Watching a sunset at the Echoing Sand Mountains attracts many visitors as it creates a poetic view and is romantic.
This means the best time of day to visit the Echoing Sand Mountains is in the late afternoon. The sunlight will not be too strong and the temperature decreases at this time.
In summer, sunset usually happens at about 8pm. Your tour guide will transfer you there in time to catch and appreciate the sunset.
Attractions in Dunhuang are not far apart, being about 20 minutes' drive from each other. This means you can arrange the Echoing Sand Mountains for the late afternoon. For the morning, we suggest you visit the Mogao Grottoes.
If you are interested in visiting the Echoing Sand Mountains, please see our popular tour below for inspiration. Alternatively, just tell us your interests and requirements, and we will help you create your own trip.