The chiru is endemic to the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau of China. It is found primarily on the alpine steppe of northwest Tibet in the remote Chang Tang area, Hoh Xil in Qinghai and Altun Mountain area in Xinjiang, and some enter the Ladakh region of India at elevations from 3250 to 5500 meters (10,660 - 18,000 feet). The range of the chiru from west to east appears to be much as it was a century ago. However, the range has contracted in central Tibet and eastern Qinghai.
The chiru prefers flat to rolling terrain, although it readily ascends high rounded hills and penetrates mountains and crosses passes by following valleys. Alpine steppe or similar semiarid habitats are favored, it being rare or absent from those parts of the alpine meadow region that have an average annual precipitation of 400 mm (16 inches) or more. Desert steppe and other such arid areas have also been occupied, at least seasonally. These areas have annual temperatures below freezing and have short growing seasons.