The Kumtag Desert (Shanshan)

Located just one kilometre (0.6 mi) from the city of Shanshan, the Kumtag Desert is the closest desert to any city in the world. In spite of widespread desertification across northwestern China, this city has miraculously been spared, as it does not lie in the path of the powerful winds that shift the ever-encroaching sand onto the plains. In 2002, it was established as a national park, making it the ideal place for any visitor who’s ever dreamt of adventuring out into the wilderness like Indiana Jones! It originally covered just 1,880 square kilometres (726 sq. mi), but was expanded to include the 1,000-square kilometre (386 sq. mi) Kanas Geological Park in 2007.

Scientific exploration and sight-seeing may be the park’s main draws, but it is also renowned as a place of healing. Sand treatment, which involves burying affected body parts in warm sand for extended periods of time, is rumoured to cure rheumatism, pelvic problems, backaches, and a variety of other disorders. The sands of time may bring the ailments of old age, but the sands of the Kumtag Desert are sure to heal them!