Inner Mongolia Travel Guide — How to Plan a Trip

Inner Mongolia Travel Guide — How to Plan a Trip

By Sunny XieUpdated Oct. 11, 2021

Inner Mongolia lies in central North China. Its geographical position has granted Inner Mongolia a richness of travel destinations that attract a large number of visitors to see its spectacular natural scenery of grasslands, deserts, lakes, and forests, the rich legacy of Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire, and the ethnic culture of nomadic herders.

Scroll down to find out interesting facts about Inner Mongolia, the best times to visit, top things to do, and other travel tips.

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Hulunbuir GrasslandHulunbuir Grassland

The Features of Inner Mongolia

Inner Mongolia was the first region in China to achieve the status of an autonomous ethnic region.

Covering an area of 1.18 million square kilometers (455,000 square miles), it is the third-largest province and borders both Russia and Mongolia (Outer Mongolia).

With Hohhot as its capital city, Inner Mongolia is also the widest region in China with a total distance of more than 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) from east to west, and it has an average elevation of over 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) above sea level.

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Top Reasons to Visit Inner Mongolia

  1. Inner Mongolia is fascinating for its unique natural landscapes: grasslands, deserts, forests, and lakes.
  2. Inner Mongolia has a long history, and it is also the birthplace of Genghis Khan.
  3. Inner Mongolia is the place where you can experience the ethnic culture and traditional festivals of the Mongols.

Cannot wait to visit Inner Mongolia? Contact our Inner Mongolia expert for a customized tour.

Recommended Inner Mongolia Tours:
The MongolsThe Mongols

Inner Mongolia Weather — the Best Time to Visit

The climate of Inner Mongolia is cool, dry, temperate, and continental due to its high elevation and distance from the ocean. It has four distinct seasons.

Spring (April to June) is windy and temperatures can rise unexpectedly.

Summer (July to August) is warm and short, with most of Inner Mongolia's modest rainfall. The hottest month is always July with average daily highs of 30°C (86°F).

Temperatures in autumn (September to October) drop sharply with frosts.  

Winter (November to March) is long and freezing cold with the average daily temperatures ranging from -12°C to -1°C (12–33°F). Its extreme minimum temperature, found in the coldest village in China, is around -50°C (-58°F). 

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In general, the best time to tour Inner Mongolia is from July to September when the temperature is most comfortable. The grasslands are green during this time and it is also the best time to take a desert hiking tour. Besides, the Naadam Grassland Festival is held in summer.

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The Naadam Grassland Festival

Naadam Grassland Festival is the biggest annual traditional Mongolian celebration that is held in summer when the grass is green, and the livestock are strong.

The festival's full name is Eriyn Gurvan Naadam (naadam means 'entertainment' in Mongolian) or 'Three Manly Games', which are horse racingarchery, and wrestling.

Besides rousing sports, you can also experience the folk music and dancing and try traditional Mongolian food.

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Guilin Hotel upgrade

The 2021 Summer Naadam Festival is scheduled to take place in Xilamuren Grassland from Jul. 31 to Aug. 11, 2021. Our 5-Day Inner Mongolia Grass & Sand Tour is a great way to attend this grand event.

The dates are subject to change and the festival might be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please contact our Inner Mongolian expert to confirm or be notified of any changes.

Naadam FestivalNaadam Festival

4 Top Things to Do in Inner Mongolia

1. Enjoy Vast Photogenic Deserts

Vast expanses of desert that extend throughout Inner Mongolia. Some of the famous deserts include the Gobi Desert, Badanjilin Desert, Tenger Desert, and Resonant Sand Bay (Xiangsha Wan).

Populus Euphratica Forest in Ejina, cannot be missed if you visit Badanjilin Desert in October. From early to mid- October, the leaves turn yellow and the whole forest looks like a golden fairytale world.

Recommended Inner Mongolia Tours:

Inner Mongolia DesertInner Mongolia Desert

2. Appreciate the Diamond-Like Lakes

Inner Mongolia also has famous freshwater lakes in the northeast, such as the greenish Hulun Lake and Lake Buir. From November to March, you may have a chance to watch ice fishing.

Lakes in Hulunbuir GrasslandLakes in Hulunbuir Grassland

3. Be a Nomad in the Expansive Grasslands

There are large areas of grassland all over the province.

The Hulunbuir Grasslands in the northeast are among the best in China, while the Xilamuren Grassland and Huitengxile Grassland are more popular among visitors due to their convenient location from Hohhot.

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4. Experience the Brilliant Culture

Inner Mongolia has a long history and brilliant culture. There are many historical attractions, such as Dazhao LamaseryZhaojun TombWudangzhao Monastery, and the Genghis Khan Mausoleum.

More on Top Things to Do in Inner Mongolia >>>

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How to Plan an Inner Mongolia Tour

Getting to Inner Mongolia by Air

Currently, Inner Mongolia has around 10 airports connecting with major cities of China like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kunming, etc. Among them, the airports in Hohhot, Baotou, Ordos, Hailar, and Manzhouli are frequently used.

International flights to Ulan Bator of Mongolia and Chita of Russia are available from Hohhot and Baotou.

Getting to Inner Mongolia by Train

Bullet trains from Beijing take only 2½ hours to Hohhot and 4 hours to Baotou, making travel to Inner Mongolia very convenient. More on Inner Mongolia Train Schedules >>>

Train to Inner MongoliaTrain to Inner Mongolia

Getting around Inner Mongolia

The cities of Wulanchabu, Hohhot, and Baotou are connected by bullet trains.

Direct flights are available between the major tourist cities of Inner Mongolia. For traveling from the west (deserts) to the north (grasslands and lakes) of Inner Mongolia, it is wise to take intra-provincial flights.  

For traveling in central Inner Mongolia (Hohhot–Baotou–Ordos), a private transfer is recommended as major sightseeing opportunities abound along the way. Contact us if you are looking for tour services for this golden triangle route.

Private TransferPrivate Transfer

The most popular tourist cities in Inner Mongolia are:

Where to Stay in Inner Mongolia

You will have plenty of choices of hotels in the popular tourist cities of Hohhot, from international brands to local-standard ones.  

To experience the traditional life of the nomads, Mongolian yurts are available if you travel to the grasslands.

Hotel room availability is rather tight in summer and during festival periods. It is wise to book rooms in advance.

We are happy to recommend the most suitable hotels for your worry-free stay in Inner Mongolia. All you need to do is to tell us your hotel preferences.

Mongolian YurtMongolian Yurt

Recommended Inner Mongolia Tour Plan:

Day 1: Arrival in Hohhot

We will arrange a private airport/station to hotel transfer for you.

Day 2: Grassland Experience

Explore the Xilamuren Grassland, and stay overnight in a yurt on the grassland.

Day 3: History and Cultural Experience in Hohhot

Visit Dazhao Lamasery and admire the silver Buddha statue. Tour Inner Mongolia Museum for the history and ethnic culture of Inner Mongolia and its extensive collection of massive dinosaurs, mastodon, and other fossilized remains from the Mesozoic period.  

Day 4: Desert Fun

Travel from Hohhot to Ordos to explore Resonant Sand Bay with camel riding and other entertainments in the desert.

Day 5: A Touch of Genghis Khan

Take a visit to Genghis Khan's Mausoleum and learn more about his legend. Then depart from Ordos.

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If you are not interested in this itinerary, please tell us your interests and requirements and we will tailor-make an Inner Mongolian tour based on your own preferences.

Genghis Khan's MausoleumGenghis Khan's Mausoleum

Inner Mongolia Travel Tips

  1. The temperature difference is large between morning and evening in the grasslands. Please bring warm coats, trousers, and walking boots.
  2. Inner Mongolia is at a high elevation and ultraviolet rays are strong there, so please bring sunglasses, a hat, and sunblock with you.
  3. Inner Mongolian food often tastes salty, oily, and not very spicy. The stable foods there are beef, mutton, and noodles.
  4. It is traditional for Mongols to serve guests with liquor and by presenting a hada (a ceremonial scarf), which is a way to express their respect towards guests. Guests should take the bowl of liquor quickly. It is rude to reject the liquor. However, if you are not good at drinking, it is okay to just take a sip. Drinking the liquor means you accept the pure kindness of the host.
Presenting a HadaPresenting a Hada

Inner Mongolia and (Outer) Mongolia

What is the difference between Inner Mongolia and Mongolia?

The answer is quite simple politically: Inner Mongolia is a province of China while Mongolia is another country, though ethnically and linguistically they are both Mongolian areas.

The official name of Inner Mongolian is Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, which is equal in status to a province of China. The capital city is Hohhot.

Mongolia is always referred to as Outer Mongolia in China and is sandwiched between China and Russia. The capital is Ulaanbaatar.

The History of the Mongols

The Mongol people are one of the minority groups in China and the main ethnic group of Outer Mongolia. The Mongol people were nomadic tribes in ancient China times. They hunted and grazed on the vast Mongolian grasslands.

When the people in this region were under the cruel reign of the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234), they were devastated by frequent warfare between different tribes and hungered for a unified and peaceful life. Although a cruel leader, Genghis Khan did end the tribal fighting, unified the Mongols, and conquered many countries, including much of China, to create the Mongol Empire. At this time, China entered into a new era of foreign control, the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), with Beijing as its capital city.

History of the MongolsHistory of the Mongols

In 1368, the Yuan Dynasty was overthrown by the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), and the Mongolians retreated to the Mongolian Plateau. After conquering the Ming Dynasty, the Manchurian Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), with the help of the subordinate Mongolians, reunited the whole Mongolian region and China under one rule.

During the Qing Dynasty, Mongolia was divided into Inner Mongolia governed by Manchu officials and Outer Mongolia ruled by Khans. The former became the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and, after the Qing Dynasty's collapse, Outer Mongolia became an independent country.

Why is Inner Mongolia part of China, but not Mongolia?

Both Inner Mongolia and (Outer) Mongolia once belonged to China. So why and how did Mongolia separate from China? There are two main reasons.

1. The Weakened State of China

During the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), China was a huge empire under foreign (Manchu) rule. It took a lot of energy and financial resources to manage and defend such a large area land including remote Mongolia. After the Opium Wars (1860), the Qing Dynasty was in debt and also had to contend with civil unrest and external pressures, mainly from Russia and Japan.

By the end of the Qing Dynasty, China's control over Mongolia had weakened and the desire for independence in Mongolia was also very great. Finally, taking advantage of the collapse of the Qing government and the fact that a new government had not yet been established, Khanate-controlled Outer Mongolia was able to separate in 1911.

2. The Strength of Russia and Revival of China

As the Qing Dynasty waned, Russia became very powerful, and it was with the help/control of Russia that Outer Mongolia declared its independence in 1911 and maintained it.

During the Interwar Period, Republic of China forces were defeated in Outer and Inner Mongolia, and the west of Inner Mongolia also came under the control of Russia while Japan took control of its east.

After World War II, Japan and Russia were ousted from Inner Mongolia and it returned to Chinese control. In 1949, the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union agreed that (Outer) Mongolia would maintain its independence, and so it has.

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Touring Inner Mongolia with China Highlights

Being the third largest province of China with abundant travel opportunities, you might wonder where to start, what to include in your limited stay, or how to plan a fulfilling exploration of Inner Mongolia. We are ready to provide a unique and customized solution for you.

Here are our most popular Inner Mongolia tours for inspiration:

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