Skip Navigation

Inner Mongolia

Photo © Jay Benson

Travel Guide Asia China Inner Mongolia

edit

Introduction

Mongolian Stupa

Mongolian Stupa

© All Rights Reserved Lavafalls

Inner Mongolia (内蒙古) is long province stretching from the far west, bordering Gansu province, all the way north, around Mongolia, to Russia. The term Inner Mongolia comes from the Manchurian government dividing the north and south of Mongolia during the Qing Dynasty. This area has shifted between the Mongolians, Chinese and Manchurians for most of history, although heavy settlement of Han Chinese did not occur until the 19th century. The Qing government, being afraid of the Russians, encouraged large number of Han farmers to move into the area in the late 19th century. Subsequent governments have maintained the policy and reinforced it by building railroads and highways.

Today Inner Mongolia is an autonomous area for Mongolians, even though Han Chinese make up 79% of the population and Mongolians only make up 17%. The Mongolians in the area are trying hard to hold onto their nomadic lifestyle and have a love for their animals. The easiest way to make a Mongolian friend is to tell them that they have a pretty horse, camel or sheep. Although Inner Mongolia is supposed to be a 100% bi-lingual, Chinese and Mongolian, in the more remote areas Mongolian is still the dominant tongue.

There are many great sights and activities to see in Inner Mongolia but most of Inner Mongolia is a sensitive border region with Russia and Mongolia. Because of the huge distances it is very time consuming to travel around by land. This has made it possible for Inner Mongolia to offers many hidden treasures.

Top

edit

Geography

In southwestern Inner Mongolia the geography is mainly desert, such as the Tengger Desert, with mixed grasslands framed by mountains along the southern border. Adjacent to the Yellow River Valley there is farming and heavy industry. While north of the Yellow River is the Gobi Desert. As the area progresses north there is more woods and open grassland. The far northern parts are large rolling grasslands that are quite stunning. There are also some very large lakes such as Hulun Nur. Inner Mongolia shares domestic borders with Gansu, Ningxia, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Hebei, Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang. It also shares international borders with Russia and Mongolia. For more information about crossing over land please read the article: Overland Border Crossings In China.

Top

edit

Cities

Western

  • Bayan Hot is a nice outpost town on the desert with a lovely Mongolian Buddhist temple.
  • Ordos City

Central (Yellow River Valley)

  • Hohhot is the capital of the province and an interesting town.
  • Baotou is Inner Mongolia’s largest city and is very industrial.
  • Erenhot is the border town with Mongolia.
  • Wuhai is one of the most polluted cities in the world.

Northern

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

  • Inner Mongolia Museum (内蒙古博物馆 Neimenggu Bowuguan) - The museum has over 44,000 items and is particularly noted for it's dinosaur collection. In Hohhot.
  • Mausoleum of Genghis Khan (成吉思汗陵) - Located within Ordos Prefecture. This isn't the real site of Genghis Khan's burial, but rather a shrine in his memory.
  • Hexigten National Geopark - This is a UNESCO designated Geopark. It contains eight scenic areas: Arshihaty granite forest area, Qingshan granite mortar area, Dali Nur volcanic land form area, Huanggangliang Quaternary glacial vestige area, Reshuitang thermal spring area, Pingdingshan scenic Quaternary cirque group area, Xilamulun River valley area and Hunshandak sand land area. The geopark covers an area of 1750 km2.

Top

edit

Events and Festivals

China has three "Golden Week" holidays per year. People get a mandatory two or three days off work for each holiday, and workers' companies can grant them the rest of the week off, making each holiday a total of 7 days. As you can imagine, having almost 1.4 billion people with the same days off can make travelling at these times arduous to say the least.

Travelling during the Spring Festival/Chinese New Year is incredibly difficult. Chinese New Year is China's Christmas, so the millions of migrant workers and students flood back to their home towns. Everybody else takes the opportunity to spend their hong bao (gifts of money traditionally given at CNY) and go travelling. Most of the time, since you are only allowed to purchase train tickets 6 days in advance and must be present in the city of origin, sometimes only standing room tickets are available. Be aware! The Spring Festival is undoubtedly the busiest time for the Chinese transportation system. Flying will avoid the crowded trains, but book early and expect to pay higher prices. All the main tourist attractions will be crawling with tourists (worse than usual), so unless you like crowds, it's best to avoid it altogether.

Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, so the date changes each year. The Chinese New Year/Spring Festival holiday is 7 days long and usually starts on New Year's Eve.

The two other national holidays are October 1st, National Day, celebrating the founding of the People's Republic of China and May 1st, which is International Labor Day. Almost all Chinese get the two holidays off and many take the opportunity to travel. If you want to avoid the crowds, fly, but it should get a lot less busy towards the end of the week.

All major Chinese and Mongolian holidays are celebrated. The big Naadam, horse festival, is held in Hohhot every summer when the grass is greenest. There are also smaller Naadams in other towns in Inner Mongolia.

Top

edit

Weather

Inner Mongolia can have very hot summers and very cold winters. Even during the summer the nights can get pretty chilly in certain parts of the desert. Just be prepared for any kind of weather year round. The sand storms can also be horrible in the spring/summer time.

Top

edit

Getting There

Inner Mongolia stretches across a huge area of China. This makes it hard to give general statements about how to get there. Therefore it is best to look at the individual towns or areas. In general the northern and central parts of Inner Mongolia can be easily reached by different train lines. The far western parts can only be accessed by bus. Some areas are sparsely populated so hitchhiking might be risky, especially in bad weather.

By Plane

The main airports are in Baotou, Hohhot and Hailar. There are also smaller airports in Ulanhot, Tongliao, Xilinhot and Chifeng.

By Train

Many cities of Inner Mongolia are connected to the Chinese rail network giving access to the region from neighbouring provinces. The Trans-Mongolian railway connects from Beijing via Datong in Shanxi province to the city of Jining in Inner Mongolia and north through Erenhot, in north central Inner Mongolia, to Ulaanbaatar in Outer Mongolia and onwards to Siberia in Russia. The north Eastern end of Inner Mongolia is traversed by rail routes connecting Russian Siberia to Haerbin in Heilongjiang Province and through to the Russian Far East.

Top

edit

Getting Around

Horses outside of Hailar

Horses outside of Hailar

© All Rights Reserved Lavafalls

Traveling around Inner Mongolia is getting easier. Once again it covers a huge area that is sparsely populated. This can make for lots of time sitting in buses or trains. Luckily most of the northern and central parts of Inner Mongolia have a good train system. There are also several airports in northern and central Inner Mongolia. The two combined together make it very easy to travel around and between northern and central Inner Mongolia.

The central area of Inner mongolia is connected to a rail route that spans form Liaoning and Jilin provinces through Tongliao city in the east of Inner Mongolia, on across the Trans-Mongolian railway at Jining (Inner Mongolia), to Hohhot. Then the line runs westward again until Wuhai city where the route exits Inner Mongolia, running just south of the border in the neighbouring provinces before turning north again and terminating in Ejin Qi in Western Inner Mongolia. Several branches run off of this to other cities. The north east of Inner Mongolia is not connected directly to the other cities of Inner Mongolia but is crossed by railways originating in Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces.

The international airport in Honhot has connections to the other eight airports in Inner Mongolia. All Inner Mongolian airports also connect to Beijing. Thus it is possible to travel from one end of the region to the other by air. However, the frequency of flights to these small airports is low.

The far west is a different story. It is actually easier to get to some areas of western Inner Mongolia from the neighboring provinces of Gansu and Ningxia. The western parts can only be accessed by bus and it is mostly a vast desert. In the same breath the scenery is stunning and most of the villages feel like outpost towns with the sand dunes moving closer every day.

Top

edit

Language

Mongolian is co-official with Mandarin in the area. There are different dialects of both spoken throughout the region. The north east of the province speak with a Dongbei accent that is very similar to standard Mandarin Chinese. Central areas speak the Jin dialect of Chinese. The two dialects are mutually unintelligible. The official dialect of Mongolian is Chahar and is distinct from the dialect used in Outer Mongolia. The Mongolian language and population is primarily located in the northern and border regions of the province with the neighboring Republic of Mongolia to the north. Most ethnic Mongols are bilingual in Mongolian and Mandarin.

Writing on signs, menus and other documents are usually bilingual in Mongolian and Chinese. The Mongolian script here follows the traditional style (vertical), in contrast with the Republic of Mongolia which adopted the Cyrillic script due to previous Russian/Soviet influences.

Top

edit

Eat

Mongolian food is mutton, mutton and more mutton. There are the classic Chinese options also if you don’t want mutton anymore. One thing to try is Hot Pot (火锅), which originally came from Mongolia. Although today most hot pot you get in China is more like the Sichuan version, even in Inner Mongolia.

Top

edit

Drink

Mongolian milk tea is distinctive to this region and frequently served in hotels along with breakfast. Some brands of Mongolian bottle water are known for their purity or special mineral content.

Top

edit

Sleep

Top

Inner Mongolia Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Inner Mongolia

This is version 9. Last edited at 7:15 on Aug 16, 17 by Utrecht. 19 articles link to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License