Planning an Inner Mongolia itinerary for the DIY traveller isn’t an easy feat. China has a group tour culture, with limited information in English on how to travel independently. But you absolutely can plan your own Inner Mongolia itinerary (and I think it is way better this way!). In this article I am going to tell you all about our 10 day Inner Mongolia itinerary and which are the best spots to visit and why.
- Why travel to Inner Mongolia?
- Tourism in Inner Mongolia
- When to visit Inner Mongolia
- How to get to Inner Mongolia
- How to travel around Inner Mongolia
- 10 day Inner Mongolia itinerary
- Gobi Desert
- Inner Mongolia itinerary
Why travel to Inner Mongolia?
Inner Mongolia, located in northern China, is a fascinating place to explore. From stargazing from outside of a yurt in the wild grasslands to traversing the sand dunes of the Gobi Desert, to learning about the dinosaur discoveries in Erenhot, there is plenty to keep you occupied in Inner Mongolia. In fact, I think that Inner Mongolia has the perfect blend of culture (definitely lots of culture!), adventure and relaxation opportunities.
There isn’t much information online about travelling in Inner Mongolia, which can make travelling in this region a bit daunting for the DIY tourist. Fear not, however! Planning your Inner Mongolia itinerary just got a little bit easier with this helpful guide from Tourism Teacher! Below I have shared with you everything that I learnt during my trip through Inner Mongolia and I have given recommendations on places to stay throughout too.
Tourism in Inner Mongolia
Tourism isn’t rife in Inner Mongolia, which is exactly why there isn’t much information available about planning a trip here. The area sees less than 2 million foreign visitors per year, with not all of these being tourists. There are 4 tourism bureaus in the region, however, and tourism is steadily growing. There is plenty to see and do, and it should definitely be on your list! With tourism having such a huge economical impact on China, there is an effort being made to drive more tourists to Inner Mongolia…
When to visit Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia is suitable for visiting year-round. As well as this, the area covers a wide range of longitude and latitude meaning different regions have different temperatures and landscapes. The grasslands are best visited in summer, for example, whereas you’ll want to visit the desert areas in the autumn. Forest parts of Inner Mongolia are a definite winter destination! From April to October, temperatures range from 14°C to a whopping 29°C.
How to get to Inner Mongolia
Getting from China to Inner Mongolia is fairly simple in itself. You can drive from Beijing in less than 8 hours – in fact, driving from most parts of northern China will take less than 12 hours. The drive from Shanxi takes 11 hours, and from Tianjin it takes just over 9 hours. You need a Chinese drivers license to drive in China, however. Expats can apply for one, but if you’re a holidaymakers it may be worth seeing if you can hire a driver to take you from China to Inner Mongolia.
You can also fly from Beijing to Inner Mongolia. The flight to Huhhot’s Baita International Airport only takes 3 hours. To do it even cheaper, get from Beijing to Tianjin and fly from there – the flight is less than 1.5 hours making the overall journey time much similar.
You can also get from China to Inner Mongolia by train – it takes roughly 5 1/2 hours on the high speed train. You can generally do this for less than £50!
How to travel around Inner Mongolia
Public transport isn’t an option when it comes to travelling between cities in Inner Mongolia. However, there are specific tours you can do which show you all of the best bits – or, if you want more of the DIY aspect, you can hire a driver. Sites like Synotrip allow you to connect with local drivers who can take you wherever you want to go. Some of the best tours include:
10 day Inner Mongolia itinerary
Below I have outlined our 10 day Inner Mongolia itinerary. We generally spent two-three nights in each spot. You can easily mix up the route and order to suit you. Driving distances between each location are generally 3-5 hours.
Flying to Hohhot means you are in a great starting place. Even if it’s not where you plan to begin your Inner Mongolia adventure, it is still worth visiting! There is plenty to do here in Hohhot, and you won’t struggle to find places to stay either…
Inner Mongolia Museum
Delve into the history of the nomadic Mongolians. You’ll see saddles, traditional dress and archery equipment, as well as more ancient history such as fossils, bone carvings and more. There is even an exhibit dedicated to Gengis Khan.
This famous tomb is said to be the resting place of Wang Zaojhun, although she isn’t actually buried here. She was a commoner who married a nomadic chieftain, and her tomb is famous for its beautiful scenery and a legend that says plants continue to grow on the mound in the autumn/winter months.
This is a huge Tibetan Buddhist temple, known for the silver Buddha inside. It is also the earliest Huangjiao monastery built in Hohhot! There is a lot to see here, from gold pillars etched with dragons to hollow stone lions. Reach the Dazhao Lamasery by bus from the railway station.
Where to stay in Hohhot: We stayed at the Sheraton. It was great value for money, great location and super clean (which is not always the case when travelling in China!). Tip- book an executive room for free drinks (including happy hour), snacks and dinner! Click here to check prices and availability on your travel dates.
Erenhot is located in the Gobi Desert area of Inner Mongolia. It is famous for the number of dinosaur discoveries there have been here, as well as the giant handprint in the north – said to be a Buddha’s palm print. Accommodation isn’t as easy to find here, but that’s not to say it can’t be done!
About 10km outside of the city, the Dinosaur Park is a huge desert space perfect for history and dinosaur lovers. See fossils and petrified tree stumps, *massive* dinosaur statues, an excavation site and more! There are plenty of very fun photo opportunities, and it’s never busy here due to the remote location. You’ll find information about dinosaurs here, too, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the Dinosaur Museum too!
Where to stay in Erenhot: Finding accommodation was a challenge so we were delighted to find Moli International Hotel! The price was really low so I did not have high expectations, but I shouldn’t have worried- we had a whole suite to ourselves!
There are many beautiful grasslands throughout Inner Mongolia. In fact, it is the Grasslands that attract many people to Inner Mongolia.
These famous grasslands are large grassy areas used for grazing, but they are also big tourist draws now too. This is largely down to their sheer beauty!
This is often hailed as the very best of all the grasslands across Inner Mongolia – if not in the whole world. It is located at Xinbalhu Left Banner, Hulunbuir City. It is named after two lakes: Hulun Lake and Buir Lake. They appear as two stunning jade belts, and add to the overall beauty of the ara. Covering millions of acres, the Hulunbuir Grassland is one of the 4 biggest grasslands in the world. There are over 3,000 rivers and 500 lakes here, with rich types of grass and a very well-preserved natural environment. You can see wildlife here, get a glimpse into the life of rural Inner Mongolians, and even go horse riding. If you’re here in September you might even catch the amazing Naadam Festival!
Another fantastic location to experience the Naadam Festival, this breathtaking grassland area has rolling grassy hills and plenty to see/do. Ride a camel, admire the scenery, and meet the locals. You’ll get a warm welcome from the herdsmen and their families. They’ll invite you to taste traditional Mongolian food and take part in local activities like listening to the beautiful toasting songs or appreciating traditional Mongolian dances.
Which grassland to stay at: Despite seeing loads of grasslands on our travels around Inner Mongolia, we really struggled to find anywhere that we could book online. This is because China has a big ‘tour group’ culture and most stays at a Grassland are arranged by a tour operator. Fortunately though we were able to book a stay in a luxury yurt (for just a few Yuan!) at Xilamuren Mongolian Prarie Resort.
Travelling to the Gobi desert is a once in a lifetime experience, think sand dunes as far as the eye can see! The beautiful Gobi Desert has different resorts across it, all with various entertainment on offer. From luxury eco-lodge Three Camel Lodge for pure relaxation, to the singing sand dunes located in the Khongor area… you’ll fall in love with the wide range of experiences on offer here!
You can also spot dinosaur skeletons at Algui Ulaan Tsav, explore the Ongii Khiid Monastery ruins, sleep in a ger – the Mongolian version of a yurt. You can hike through the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, which has plenty of attractions on offer, and see beautiful sunrises throughout the desert.
Similarly to the grasslands, there are very few tourism resorts that allow individuals to book online. We booked a room at the Hangjinqi Green Seven Star Lake Hotel, which has a range of rooms and yurts on offer. Whilst this accommodation was quite nice, don’t be fooled by the name- it is definitiely not ‘a 7 star hotel‘.
A far cry from deserts and grasslands, Baotou is a huge metropolitan city. You won’t struggle to find accommodation here! It is home to the largest Tibetan monastery in Inner Mongolia, and has a 39,000-capacity sports stadium.
The city is known for processing rare earth minerals, mined in Bayan Obo – and the city is now the largest Chinese source of these minerals. Because of this, however, it is also home to a rather toxic lake…
There are grasslands too, of course, because this is Inner Mongolia after all. Saihantalah Grasslands Park is a large (5.5 km square) urban park in central Baotou – home to thirty wild animals and birds species!
Ordos is mainly rural, but does have a metropolitan city area too. This has been referred to as China’s biggest ghost town! But there are all sorts to do outside of the city, like the Ordos wildlife park and ore singing sand dunes. You can also visit the Genghis Khan mausoleum, and you’ll find a few places to stay in Ordos!
Ghenghis Khan mausoleum
This is a temple dedicated to Genghis Khan, and he is worshipped here. It is more often referred to as a shrine as the khan’s body has never actually been here; it is a beautiful location well worth visiting, and the main centre of the worship of Genghis Khan himself.
Inner Mongolia itinerary
Whether you are going to join a group tour, hire a private driver or drive yourself around Inner Mongolia, I promise that your Inner Mongolia itinerary will be full of adventure!