China's largest desert and the World's second largest shifting sand desert lies in the Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang. The Takla Makan Desert covers 337,000 km² (130,116 sq mi) and is constantly on the move as the sand dunes, which usually rise over 100 m (328 ft) high, are blown by the wind. These sand dunes move at a rate of 150 m (492 ft) per year which makes the desert an incredibly difficult place to inhabit. In fact it is such an inhospitable area that the name “Takla Makan” actually means “you can go in but will never come out” in the Uigur language and it is also referred to as the “Sea of Death” by some natives. It is no wonder that the desert is feared by so many when there is very little water to speak of across the sand; this makes it particularly hazardous to cross. Caravans travelling on the Silk Road, which skirts the edges of the desert, would stop for water at the various Oasis towns such as Turpan, Loulan and Kashgar.
It is hard to imagine a desert submerged in a layer of snow, but in 2008 it was reported that the entire Takla Makan desert was covered in it. This is because it has a paradigmatic cold desert climate, with temperatures falling below -20°C (-4°F) in winter due to cold air streams from Serbia. Even in summertime the nights are stiflingly cold since the desert is landlocked and thousands of kilometres from the sea. However the summer days are much hotter with temperatures reaching 38°C (70°F) in Eastern areas.
Although all of these factors combine to make the desert a very hostile environment, it is possible for tourists to take guided treks through the desert at certain times of the year.
Exploring this natural attraction requires extra preparation and experience. Extreme temperatures and/or hostile natural environment can pose a threat to tourists.