Located in the northeast of Ruoqiang County, Lop Nur is about 780 meters (2,560 feet) above sea level and covers an area of about 3,000 square kilometers (1,160 square miles). Once it was the second largest inland lake in China and an important station on the Silk Road.
Due to its geological features, Lop Nur has had many names over the centuries - Salt Lake, Puchang Sea and Peacock Sea among them. Since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), it has been called Lop Nur. In Uygur, 'Lop' means a place having a vast expanse of water. In Mongolian, 'Nur' refers to a lake. 'Lop' and 'Nur' together means a vast lake. However, it dried up in 1972 because of excessive human economic activities in the area.
In the broad sense, Lop Nur refers to the Lop Nur desert area which spans Xinjiang and Gansu Provinces. The Spectacle of the Gobi Desert and some historical sites are also scattered in this area, including the dragon-shaped Yadan Landscape, Rose-Willow Valley, the Peacock River, a dead forest of diversiform-leaved poplar (populus diversifolia), a Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) beacon tower, the Sun Tombs, the Milan Farm and the Loulan Ancient City.
Situated on the northern bank of the Peacock River, the Sun Tombs have a history of about 3,800 years. Around each tomb are seven circles formed by wooden spikes pointing toward the sun. The tombs are full of mystery. No one knows who were buried there and where they were from.
The Loulan Ancient City is one of the great mysteries in Chinese history. It existed for only 400 years or so, disappearing in the 4th century. Its disappearance is still a riddle. The 'Loulan Beauty' (a female mummy), tombs and colorful coffins attract explorers, historians and visitors to the area.
Sandstorms and high temperatures have changed Lop Nur into the 'Sea of Death'. In 1996, a famous traveler named Yu Chunshun died on his expedition there. 16 years ago, Peng Jiamu, a Chinese scientist, also lost his life there. Only a few desert plants and animals can live there, including rose-willows, camel thorns, diversiform-leaved poplars, wild camels, wolves, hares and dzerens (procapra gutturosa). Among the animals, the wild camels are the rare and endangered species. China's biggest natural reserve of the wild camels is located in southeast of Lop Nur.
Lop Nur is a paradise for visitors who love adventure. There they will have a mysterious and adventurous trip.
1. Go there in the middle of April and October to avoid strong sandstorms.
2. Bring enough food, water and necessary medicines.
3. Bring layers of clothing. In the daytime, surface temperature is above 40 ºC(104ºF). At night, it is below 0 ºC(32ºF).
4. Do not forget satellite phones, GPS or other communications tools.