Tarim Desert Highway is China's longest desert road

Located in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Tarim Desert Road is the name of a paved road running across the Taklamakan, China’s largest desert.

Tarim Desert Road

Is the Tarim Desert Highway paved?

The road, also known as the Tarim Desert Highway, Cross-Desert Highway (CDH), or Taklamakan Desert Highway, is totally paved. It was constructed with sand and stabilized with geotextiles instead of cement.

When was the Tarim Desert Highway built?

The road spreads across the Taklamakan Desert, known as the “sea of death,” from north to south. Initially built for oil transportation, the road was completed in 1995 across the heart of Xinjiang, China’s Taklamakan, the desert region that occupies the bulk of the Tarim Basin. It’s the longest road in the world built across a shifting-sand desert, with four-fifths of the road encountering the hazardous sands that frequently bury the highway. Add to this the fact that absolutely no settlements exist along the length of the highway, and the road’s existence seems rather curious.

How long is the Tarim Desert Highway?

Nicknamed ‘The lonely road,’ the road is 562 km (349 miles) long, running north-south from Luntai to Minfeng on the northern and southern edges of the Tarim basin. About 80% of the road runs across the Taklamakan Desert through uninhabited areas covered by shifting sand dunes, 20 meters 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 thousand-year-old Populus trees. Keep your speed down to 60 km/h to avoid rollover in sand drifts. At the halfway point along the highway, there are a few restaurants and a gas station. Except for pump house maintenance workers, the region is entirely uninhabited. To drive the road without stopping will take most people between 10 and 12 hours.