Taklamakan Desert Highway

Taklamakan Desert Highway

The Tarim Desert Highway (Chinese: 塔里木沙漠公路; pinyin: Tǎlǐmù Shāmò Gōnglù), also known as the Cross-Desert Highway (CDH) or Taklamakan Desert Highway, crosses the Taklamakan Desert from North to South in China. There are now three highways: two main highways and one branch highway.

Introduction of Taklamakan Desert Highway

Lunmin Highway

This highway links the cities of Luntai (Chinese: 轮台) on National Highway 314 and Minfeng (Chinese: 民丰) on National Highway 315, on the northern and southern edges of the Tarim Basin. The total length of the highway is 552 km; approximately 446 km of the highway cross uninhabited areas covered by shifting sand dunes, making it the longest such highway in the world. 

The road links the cities of Luntai and Minfeng on the northern and southern edges of the Tarim basin. The drive is definitely worth it. There are many excellent photo opportunities here. Don’t forget your camera! The total length of the highway is 552 km, of which approximately 446 km is built across uninhabited areas covered by shifting sand dunes, 20 metes tall, that frequently bury the highway. It offers the best conditions for those who hope to self-drive across the entire desert. It usually takes about 5 hours to travel across the desert, on the way visitors can see exotic desert landscapes and the thousand – year old Populus trees. Keep your speed down to 60 km/h to avoid rollover in sand drifts.


Construction on the highway began in 1993 because of expansion in the petroleum industry, requiring fast shipping across the Taklamakan desert. Construction was completed in 1995.

Along the highway. The vegetation on each side can be seen, as well as a blue pump house in the distance.


To prevent the shifting sands from covering the highway, bushes and other vegetation were planted next to the highway to anchor the sand with their roots. A massive irrigation system was constructed to pump water for the vegetation along the highway.


At the halfway point along the desert highway, there are a few restaurants and a gas station. Except for pump house maintenance workers, the region is otherwise entirely uninhabited.

Introduction of Taklamakan Desert


The Taklamakan Desert has an area of 337,000 km2 (130,000 sq mi), making it slightly smaller than Germany and includes the Tarim Basin, which is 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) long and 400 kilometres (250 mi) wide. It is crossed at its northern and at its southern edge by two branches of the Silk Roadas travellers sought to avoid the arid wasteland. It is the world’s second largest shifting sand desert with about 85% made up of shifting sand dunes ranking 16th in size in a ranking of the world’s largest deserts. Some geographers and ecologists prefer to regard the Taklamakan Desert as separate and independent from the Gobi Desert region to its east.


Because it lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, Taklamakan is a paradigmatic cold desert climate. Given its relative proximity with the cold to frigid air masses in Siberia, extreme temperatures are recorded in wintertime, sometimes well below −20 °C (−4 °F), while in summer they can rise up to 40 °C (104 °F). During the 2008 Chinese winter storms episode, the Taklamakan was reported to be covered, for the first time in its history, entirely with a thin layer of snow reaching 4 centimetres (1.6 in), with a temperature of −26.1 °C (−15 °F) in some observatories.

Nearby Attractions

Edited by  Lynette Fu/付云锐