The Flaming Cliffs: Why It’s a Must-See When Visiting Mongolia
You will likely never forget your visit to the Flaming Cliffs in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. This stunning setting is the stuff of ad campaigns and holiday card photos, but it’s so much more than (just) a beautiful place. Long before the discovery of the world’s first dinosaur eggs put the Flaming Cliffs on the proverbial map, this dramatic landscape served as a resting place for the camel caravans traveling from Beijing. Today’s visitors may just stumble across nails or metal pieces from the ancient cartwheels, and as you wander the site, keep an eye out for the markings from the original road, with three indentations—two outer marks for the carts and one in the middle for the animals pulling the carts.
The Flaming Cliffs served as more than just a place to rest; during the Manchu occupation of the 16th through the 20th century, the site was used for secret meetings away from the prying eyes of Manchu informants. Eventually, the Manchus caught on that the Flaming Cliffs served as a secret gathering spot, and they turned the area into an execution ground. Many Mongols lost their lives to the sharply edged swords of the Manchus here.
Then, in the fall of 1920, the Flaming Cliffs cemented their place in history. Roy Chapman Andrews, the inspiration for the character of Indiana Jones, along with a team of explorers from the Central Asiatic Expedition made a serendipitous stop here one evening. It had been a long season of exploration in the Gobi and the team was heading back to China when one of the members needed to heed the call of nature. He went into the Cliffs and ended up discovering a treasure trove of dinosaur eggs. Dr. Andrews gave the place its moniker after watching the sunset over the sandstone, giving it a fiery glow. It went from being obscure in the eyes of the West to a place imbued with a sense of adventure and excitement.
Today, the Flaming Cliffs are considered one of the richest paleontological sites in the world. It has been estimated that over 300 dinosaur fossils have been discovered by paleontologists here, with an equal amount extracted by poachers. Each year, teams of researchers travel here hoping to find the next big discovery.
See the Flaming Cliffs with your own eyes
Whether you travel with Nomadic Expeditions on one of our unforgettable journeys such as Iconic Mongolia, Epic Mongolian Overland Adventure, Gobi Mulitsport, or Ultimate Gobi, or stay at our award-winning Three Camel Lodge and plan an excursion to the Flaming Cliffs, you won’t forget your visit to this inspiring and important destination.