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Badain Jaran Desert – China’s Most Beautiful Desert

Badain Jaran Desert is the third largest desert in China with a total area of 12,000,000 acres or 49,000 square kilometers. It sits on the Alxa Plateau, spanning three provinces, Gansu, Ningxia, and Inner Mongolia. It is a subsection of the Gobi Desert with an elevation of about 3,900 feet (1,200 meters) above sea level.

Badain Jaran Desert is still expanding today. Experts worry that it might merge with Tengger Desert at this rate. Local officials are making an effort to prevent that from happening by means of reforestation.

Badain Jaran Desert is known across the world for its “five wonders,” sandy peaks, singing dunes, desert lakes, clear springs, and ancient temples. These amazing wonders have intrigued travelers, photographer, scientists from all over the world. In 2005, National Geographic named it the most beautiful desert in China.

Fast Facts about Badain Jaran Desert

  • Location: Alxa Right Banner, Alxa League, Inner Mongolia
  • Hours: all day
  • Ticket price: 160RMB per person.
  • Recommended visit time: 2 days
  • Best time of the year: May to October
  • Suited to: physically fit travelers, photographers, natural scientists
Inner Mongolia Badain Jaran Desert
Badain Jaran Desert

What to See and Do in Badain Jaran Desert

1. Colorful Desert Lakes

The most amazing and well-known landscape of Badain Jaran Desert is the desert lakes. About 144 lakes have been discovered. Scattering among sand dunes, most of them are salt-water lakes, with very few freshwater ones. Many of them have gorgeous colors because as water evaporates, colorful salt crusts with different minerals gather around the sides of the lakes.

Badain Lake is one of the few freshwater lakes in Badain Jaran Desert. It is also called Pearl Lake because it’s like a bright pearl dropped into the desert. Not far from the lake, you’ll find a sand sculpture of Genghis Khan.

Nortu Lake is the largest and one of the deepest lakes in Badain Jaran Desert with an area of 0.57 square miles (1.47 square kilometers) and a depth of 92 feet (28 meters).

Yinderitu is a salt-water lake, but in it, there is a reef where 108 streams of freshwater springs pour out incessantly. The water quality of the springs is said to be excellent containing many essential elements for the human body. So the locals also call them “Shenquan,” meaning the divine spring.

2. Stunning Sandy Peaks

Sand dunes account for 61% of Badain Jaran Desert area. The sandy peaks can reach the heights up to 656-1640 feet (200-500 meters). Among them, there is the “Everest of the world desert,” Mount Bilutu. Its relative height is over 1640 feet (500 meters), more than 230 feet (70 meters) taller than the highest sand dune in Africa.

If you’re feeling adventurous, climbing to the top of Bilutu Peak will be a rewarding experience. You’ll have a panoramic view of the area, including the seven famous inland lakes of Badain Jaran Desert.

3. Magical Singing Dunes

Badain Jaran Desert is notorious for the rare and mysterious singing dunes phenomenon. These sand dunes have reportedly made strange, eerie humming sounds in the summer when the wind blows past them.

Baori Taolegai is the biggest singing sand area in the world. If you slide down from the sand slope, you’ll hear a sound like the roaring of airplanes or the rumble of thunder. It can be clearly heard even from several miles away. You’ll also hear a subtle sound if you write with your fingers in the sand.

Researchers believe the sound comes from the electrostatic charge from the friction between sand particles as the wind blows off layers of sand.

Badain Jaran Desert
Colorful Lakes in Badain Jaran Desert

4. Remarkable Ancient Temples

There are a few ancient temples and ruins in the Badain Jaran Desert. The most significant one is Badain Jaran Temple, also known as the “Forbidden City” in the desert. It’s a typical Tibetan Buddhist temple built in 1755 during Qing Dynasty. Because of its remote location, few people come here to worship. So it has maintained its original structure.

As the only complete temple in Alxa Right banner, it is sacred and indispensable for the spiritual and religious life of the desert locals.

5. Camel Trekking

If you are looking for an alternative to hiking, opt in for a camel ride. Enjoy the scenic trek through the dunes and past the lakes.

6. Local Desert Culture

Badain Jaran Desert is home to a number of ethnic minority groups, including the Mongolian and Tu people. When you travel to Inner Mongolia and visit the desert, you can stay in a hotel in Badain Jaran town or at a local yurt to learn about their daily life.

Best Time to Visit Badain Jaran Desert

The best months to visit Badain Jaran Desert are from May to October. The desert climate tends to be warm, dry, less windy during this time. In the day, the temperature ranges from 68°F to 86°F (20°C to 30°C), perfect for outdoor activities, but at night, it can drop to 50°F (10°C), so pack something warm.

How to Get to Badain Jaran Desert

As you can imagine, Badain Jaran Desert is not the most accessible place by public transportation. First, fly into Alxa Right Banner Badain Jaran Airport (IATA: BHT). Then it’s 56 miles (90 kilometers), an hour’s drive from the airport to the desert.

Alternatively, there are long-distance buses from Lanzhou and Jinchang in Gansu Province and Alxa Left Banner in Inner Mongolia. Take a bus to either Badain Jaran Town or Yabrai Town.

In the desert, it’s best to rent an SUV or hire a private driver to explore the vast area. You can find maps online to locate different attractions in the Badain Jaran Desert.

Attractions nearby Badain Jaran Desert

  • Temple Haizi (Su Min Jilin) is in Alxa League Alxa Right Banner Badanjilin Desert Scenic Area in Inner Mongolia. This ancient temple has a mixture of Chinese and Tibetan architectural styles. It is backed by sand peaks and faces a desert lake.
  • Haisenchulu is a stone forest with odd-shaped rocks eroded by wind and sand. Thousands of years ago, this area was all under the ocean. The submarine rocks were washed into all kinds of shapes. They are grotesque, amazing, and beautiful all at once.

Inner Mongolia Tours to Badain Jaran Desert

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