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Shar Tsav Tracksite – Paleontological Unique Site in Gobi desert

Blog | published: 2018-05-03

The Mongolian Gobi Desert is the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir in the world and it is the unique and exotic place for tourists, who want to discover our world history. The region is especially important as regards dinosaur fossils from the later Cretaceous period, which is the last of main three periods of the dinosaur age, representing the final phase of dinosaur evolution.

Paleontologists still continue to discover fossils that prove the current territory of Gobi Desert had a very different climate and environment before 120 to 70 million years ago during the Cretaceous period. 120 million years ago the vast desert basins and valleys contained freshwater rivers and lakes with abundant water resources. And the prevailing humid climate was paradise for plants and animals, including dinosaurs. The fossil evidence of the origin, evolution, migration and extinction of prehistoric creatures are preserved in the sedimentary rocks of the Gobi desert. These evidences give knowledge and understanding of our mother land – the earth, and its history.

Mongolian Gobi desert serial fossil area consists of the following three clusters of fossil sites, which differ in spatio-temporal distribution as follows:

  1. Fossil sites of Early Late Cretaceous period- Bayan Shirenian age (Cenomanian-Turonian) or Lower Upper Cretaceous,  “Bayanshiree Formation” (90 million years ago);
  2. Fossil sites of Middle Late Cretaceous period-Djadokhtian age (Campanian) or Middle Upper Cretaceous,  “Djadokhta Formation” (80 million years ago);
  3. Fossil sites of Late Late Cretaceous period – Nemegtian age (Maastrichtian) or  Upper Upper Cretaceous,  “Nemegt Formation” (70 million years from now).

The richest dinosaur fossil sites are frequently found in areas, such as Bayanshiree, Khongil Tsav, Amtgai, Baishin Tsav, Urulbu khudag, Shar Tsav in the Eastern part of Gobi Desert; Bayanzag, Tugrugiin Shiree, Zamiin Khond and Uuden Sair in the Central part of Gobi region; and Ukhaa Tolgod, Nemegt, Altan Uul, Khermen Tsav, Bugiin Tsav and Guriliin Tsav in the Western part of Gobi region.

Shar Tsav Dinosaur Tracksite is located 830 km southeast of Ulaanbaatar in the Manlai soum of Umnugobi province. Travelers and tourists can reach there in 2 days and 1 night drive on paved road and earth road.

Shar Tsav track site is located in Bayan Shireenian formation – 90 million years ago. It means some dinosaurs fossils found here is dated back to 90 millions years ago. Firstly, the site was discovered on July 31, 1995 by Mongolian and Japanese joint expedition researchers, consequently, active field research was conducted in 1996, revealing over 2800 prints of dinosaurs. Later detailed researches were done in 2001 and 2010 as detecting over 20000 footprints and tracks of 4-5 species of herbivore and carnivore dinosaurs. But the interesting thing is that these dinosaurs tracks are dated back to Nemegt formation- 70-65 millions years ago. That is why this place is very famous with its unique features of 2 periods’ dinosaurs information: bones & eggs and natural cast of tracks.

In this tracksite and around the track site (within 30 km) you can see the footprints of 7-8 species dinosaurs’ tracks: small sized theropods, middle sized theropods and big/giant sized theropods and other giant herbovire dinosaurs. Here we can see many of small didactyl tracks with up to 8 sm in width and length, and can clear observe that all tracks are heading to in one direction, then suddenly they turned into another direction. These tracks are small sized theropods and it is called as Dreomesaurs dinosaur. These small sized dinosaurs were always gregarious. The big sized tracks are very low in numbers and it is found as far from each other, It means that big sized theropods with big footprints had solitary life. The middle sized tridactyl track is the footprints of carnivore dinosaurs: small sized tridactyl tracks are Avimimus, middle sized tracks are Alveratasaurus, and big sized tracks are Oviraptors. The big sized tetradactyl tracks are mainly carnivore dinosaurs’. The oval and round shaped giant footprints are ankylosaurs – armoured dinosaurs. This round shape has poorly reserved 5 blunt tow impression. This footprints show that trackmakers made wide gauge trackways.  The biggest dimension of this dinosaurs are 1.7m in diameter. This Shar tsav formation consists of river fluvial deposit.

How were dinosaurs tracks preserved?

Dinosaurs walked through and made an impression in the soft sediments such as sand and mud, leaving an imprint in the ground. Over so long time those prints were filled with sands or small pebbles, and eventually hardened into rock. The footprints were preserved for millions of years and exposed on the surface where we can see them here. However most od tracks were destroyed or obliterated by natural erosion such as wind, water or sand movements and so on…

In November of 2017 Blue Mongolia Tour agency’s marketing manager and tour operation French speaking managers traveled to this place and we studied this place for making a new exotic route for our traveler clients. The place will be one of the worth-see destination in Gobi desert. Here the route is not only interesting with dinosaurs fossils and tracks, but also it is very rich with the Gobi desert wildlife: big herds of wild ass, gazelles, antelopes and birds. We welcome you visit to this site and enjoy the long history of our world with dinosaurs. Travels in this area will be highlighted one.

Narrated by Manager Tsetsen.A, Blue Mongolia Tour travel agency     



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