The Chara begins as an outflow of Bolshoye Leprindo lake in the Kodar Mountains, in northern Zabaykalsky Krai. It flows through the Chara Basin between the Kodar and Kalar Mountains, passing the Chara Sands, a 37 square kilometres (14 sq mi) area of active sand dunes. The region is famous for a peculiar mountain where charoite has been mined for decades. This intensely purple mineral, named after the river, is only found here and was discovered in the 1940s when a rail tunnel was constructed. Part of the Russian governmental debt was paid in charoite and slabs of this now expensive ornamental material were stored in basements of houses of the Hungarian capital city, Budapest.