To mention Mongolia is to imagine its immense steppes, the kingdom of nomads and their herds and the tutelary figure of Genghis Khan. Inner Mongolia does offer these postcard designs, but it has a different face from its neighbour. This territory, which extends north of the Great Wall, belongs to China and has become, in a few years, the preferred destination for Beijing residents seeking to escape pollution. A virgin land of a thousand beauties, it also seduces for the generosity of its people. Here are six experiences to be experienced during your trip.
Camel rides in the desert of Badain Jaran
Nestled in the extension of the Gobi Desert, the Badain Jaran Desert is still a well-kept secret of the Mongols. Little frequented by travellers, it conceals a setting like no other and for good reason: it shelters dunes 500 meters high, the highest in the world! A hundred lakes line the hollow of its sandy mountains and only a few herds disturb the tranquillity of the area by coming to drink in their pink tinted waters.
The Kubuqi desert is a beautiful alternative to the Badain Jaran desert. Located closer to Beijing, it is one of the largest deserts in China. Here there are no giant dunes, but sparkling yellow sand that is said to imitate the sound of a drum when the wind blows.
Swimming in the hot springs of Arxan National Park
From volcanoes to meadows and from lakes to forests; Arxan National Park offers the most diverse landscapes in Inner Mongolia. But if it attracts travellers from all over the world, it is also and above all because it is the largest geopark in China. There are no less than 48 hot springs. Flowing from the bowels of the earth, they offer a quiet break to those who come to bathe there.
Paying tribute to the warrior Genghis Khan
Raised in the city of Ordos, the mausoleum of Genghis Khan is probably one of the most sacred places in Inner Mongolia. Don’t expect to see the Mongolian warrior’s grave, he wanted the location of his burial to remain secret. This gigantic site, named the “Eight White Yurts” because of its architecture, is therefore a place of meditation. He exhibits relics of the conqueror as a testimony to his greatness. To pay a traditional Mongolian tribute to him, join the choir that sings praises every day in his honour.
Learn about Mongolian cuisine in the capital Hohhot
If Hohhot, the capital, is not exceptional in terms of architecture, take the time to spend some time there to learn about Mongolian cuisine. Renowned for its grilled meats cooked with vegetables, the local cuisine can also surprise the most delicate palates with its brownish sheep soup in which pieces of sheep fat bathe…
If Mongolian cuisine can divide tastes, the Dazahao temple in the heart of the capital will reconcile them. This Ming period building, five hundred years old, houses a vertiginous Buddha statue over two meters high.
Sleeping in a yurt in the heart of the steppes of Huitengxile
In Chinese, Huitengxile means “cold meadow”. You have been warned: you will have to slip a few polar fleeces into your luggage. But despite the low temperatures, the journey through this vast intertwining of mountains, lakes and grassy areas is well worth a visit. You want to know the highlight of your trip? It is a night in a yurt with nomads who will tell you about their way of life in these wilderness areas and perhaps offer you a demonstration of horse archery, one of Mongolia’s traditional sports.
Running the prayer wheels of the Wudangzhao Monastery
Nestled on a mountainside overlooking the willow valley, Wudangzhao Monastery is the largest lamasery – understand by this a brotherhood of Tibetan monks and not a camelid breeding in South America – in the region. With its rather unusual Tibetan architecture in this part of the world, this place offers an enchanting setting. Its approximately 2,500 pieces each have their own set of prayer wheels that the faithful turn clockwise with their right hand. The mantras engraved on it then spread through the air in the direction in which they should be read. And to finish the visit in beauty, head for the terraces of the monastery. From up there, you will enjoy a breath-taking view of the willows coloured by the multitude of prayer fabrics.