The Badain Jaran Desert

The Badain Jaran Desert (Mongolian) or Badan Jilin Shamo 巴丹吉林沙漠 (Chinese) is desert a landscape copied and pasted straight from the ancient tales of Chinese mythology. Humongous sand dunes, herds of wild Bactrian camels, shimmering lakes and a gold roof temples dot this spectacular and mysterious land.

The Badain Jaran Desert
The Badain Jaran Desert

Bayan Hot to Alashan Youqi: Long and Hot!

Desert Landscape near Alashan youqi 阿拉善右旗的沙漠风景 Our Destination

The new bus station looks a lot like an airport terminal and there isn’t much in it yet. The bus, however, does leave on time (7.20 am) and that’s the main thing. It fills up completely, of course, and our seats are quite far to the back, but overall it’s ok.

Bus to Alashan youqi
Our Bus

We start off on the brand-new motorway we had been on yesterday – and it’s still empty – but soon we turn onto an older road. All around us there is an ugly, greyish desert and lots of empty space.

Journey from Bayan Hot to Alashan Youqi
The road

The only exotic element is provided by the camels of which we now see whole herds, on both sides of the road.

Journey from Bayan Hot to Alashan Youqi
More camelos

Can there be too many Camels?

In fact, there are so many that even their exoticness wears off eventually. Toilet stops are few and far between and usually on the primitive side: often there is no toilet, just a bush, dip or hollow to hide behind or in, which is preferable because it’s cleaner.

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Yinchuan to Bayan Khot via Guangzong Si

The Route of 2011, Stage 4: by Margie

Yinchuan银川 to Bayan Khot (or Alashan Zouqi 阿拉善左旗) via Guangzong Si 广宗寺, or Nan Si南寺
Yinchuan to Bayan Khot  via Guangzong Si Roaming Camels Near Bayan Khot
Roaming Camels Near Bayan Khot

Stage 3: Yinchuan (银川) and around

Stage 5: Bayan Khot to Alashan Youqi and the Badain Jaran Desert

Yinchuan to Bayan Khot via Guangzong Si

Yinchuan to Bayan Khot via Guangzong Si is one of those out of the way routes that you will never forget. All along the journey you will be accompanied by remnants of the Great Wall, lonely watchtowers, camels and an unknown Mongolian Monastery; not to mention the amazing landscape.


Taxi to Bayan Hot by the Great Wall
Taxi to Bayan Khot

Our driver has agreed to take us all the way to Bayan Khot via Guangzong Si (once one of the most important monasteries in Mongolia) for 300 Yuan; or at least that’s what we think … We have managed to get up reasonably early and are making good progress.

Great Wall Ningxia
The Great Wall

The Wild Wall in Ningxia

The Great Wall Ningxia

The first highlight of the day is when we suddenly catch sight of the ruins of the Great Wall! This is the real thing: unrestored, without tickets, souvenir stalls, or people. It is just standing there, defiant, majestic, having weathered so many centuries.

Great Wall Ningxia
Great Wall

Of course, there’s not much left of it, it’s been reduced to a crumbling pinkish pile of earth, riddled with holes. But we don’t mind, we’re just thrilled to be there.

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The World’s Highest Sand Dunes

Badain Jaran Desert

(The world’s highest sand dunes)/巴丹吉林沙 漠(世界上最高的沙丘)

Amazing Dunes At Badan

(Badain Jaran Desert is the Mongolian name  / Badan Jilin Shamo is the Chinese name)

The World’s Highest Sand Dunes

Getting to the magnificent Badain Jaran Desert, home to the world’s highest sand dunes, is far more straightforward than it appears on the map and in the guide books and can be done independently, with a bit of effort and determination. The desert can be approached from two directions: either from Ningxia’s capital Yinchuan via the Inner Mongolian town of Bayan Khot (also known as Alashan Zuoqi  阿拉善左旗), or from the Gansu town of Zhangye.

The base for visiting the desert is Alashan Youqi (阿拉善右旗), which is connected by a daily bus from Bayan Khot, or by two daily buses from Zhangye.
Below is the basic information you need to do the trip. In a few weeks we will be putting up a longer article about our experience there, illustrated with more photos.

Badain Jaran Desert,
Desert Lakes In Badan Jaran Desert

Getting there from Yinchuan

There are regular buses from Yinchuan’s main bus station to Bayan Khot, which should take around 2 hours. However, we decided to hire a taxi (400 Yuan) because that allowed us to stop at the ruins of the Great Wall at Sanguankou (三关口) and to make a side-trip to the Mongolian monastery complex of Guanzongsi (广宗寺). If you left really early, with a hired car you could also include a visit to Moon Lake, a desert playground for wealthy Chinese.

Badain Jaran Desert, Temple
Desert Temple

Bayan Khot (Alashan Zuoqi  阿拉善左旗)


Bayan Khot has many hotels, but a fair few of them are somewhat run-down and/or don’t take foreigners, so it is worth looking for the wonderful,  Continue reading “The World’s Highest Sand Dunes”