In case you are curious, there is a difference between Inner Mongolia and Mongolia. Inner Mongolia is an autonomous region of China equivalent to a province, while Mongolia is an independent country. Both however, share similar characteristics.
From Beijing, you can (1) take a plane; or (2) take an 8-hour train ride to Hohhot, Inner Mongolia.
I only spent 2 (action-packed) days here and I am pretty sure there is more to Inner Mongolia than the list below. I did not have time to linger in Hohhot City itself, but I heard that the street food is cheap and good! If you are time-strapped like I was, here are the must-sees!
- Ximularen Grassland
As the name implies, it is supposed to be a grassland where you can ride horses and enjoy being wild and free! But very fortunately or unfortunately the first snow of the year fell when we were there, covering the entire grassland with snow. It was still an amazing scene and I still consider myself blessed to witness this! You literally cannot tell the difference between sky and land because they were entirely shrouded in whiteness. Unfortunately, because of the snow, our guide told us that their horses were in shock and needed to acclimatize so we had to skip the horse riding. We were however able to feed and pat them. If you want to experience riding in the wild, please come another season (I went in October)! Plus October onwards is very cold, luckily our guides had these “Russian” jackets that really kept us warm although our feet were completely under-dressed.
2. Kubuqi Desert
On our 2nd day, we went to the Kubuqi desert just 5 hours away from the snow-capped grassland (how is this possible?) We got to ride camels while enjoying the sweeping views, and got to sand-board down the sand dunes!
I personally find that no amount of photos will ever fully capture the majesty of deserts, you will have to see it for yourself! And you will never get sick of the views.
3. Zhaohe Lamastery
Inner Mongolia has many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, so I highly recommend to visit one to appreciate the people’s religion and culture. The Zhaohe Lamastery was very quiet and the whole place just exudes this mysterious aura. It also looks exceptionally pristine because it was snowing.
4. Stay in a traditional yurt (and drink some goat milk)
When in Inner Mongolia, you have to experience staying in an authentic yurt! When I went it was so authentic that there is no toilet. During non-snow times, you have to pee/poop in the bushes. For us, if the guides told us we could do it anywhere and just have to bury it with snow. Also, they did provide a heater, but all I could remember was it being very very cold and I had to hide under the blankets. Again, please come during the right season!
As you can see above, I enjoyed snow on the 1st day and the desert on the 2nd. This truly shows you how expansive the lands of Inner Mongolia are, it is really worth a visit! If you were wondering how we managed to seamlessly cover so much ground in 2 days, we booked a tour with Anda Guesthouse. They were reliable and responsive. Seems that now they have expanded and offer even more tour varieties! We did the “Xilamuren Grassland+Zhaohe Lamasery +Desert Tour (2-Day and 1-Night)”. If you have time to spare, I recommend to choose the longer tours for a more complete experience! We did not stay with the Guesthouse but you can consider that too.