Ordos Kubuqi Desert head
Home Travel Guide Inner Mongolia Travel Guide Ordos Travel Guide: Unlock the Natural Wonders and Historical Secrets of China’s Northern Frontier

Ordos Travel Guide: Unlock the Natural Wonders and Historical Secrets of China’s Northern Frontier

The economic center and one of the largest cities in Inner Mongolia, Ordos is where you can see a seamless blend of rich history, vibrant culture, modern economic development, and awe-inspiring landscapes. Thus, don’t miss Ordos City if you are planning a trip to Inner Mongolia. This Ordos Travel Guide is to help make your planning easier and guide you through all you need to know about this magic city.

Inner Mongolia Kubuqi Desert

Chinese: 鄂尔多斯 è ěr duō sī

Location: Southwest Inner Mongolia

Population (urban area): 2,201,000

Ordos Overview and History

Ordos means “many palaces” in Mongolian. Situated in the heart of the Ordos Plateau in the southwestern part of Inner Mongolia, the city is blessed with undulating terrain and picturesque landscapes. It is always ready to entertain visitors with vast grasslands, rich prairie culture, charming lakes, and thrilling Xiangshawan Desert and Kubuqi Desert.  

The history of Ordos can be traced back to over 70,000 years ago when the ancient “Hetao people” lived here and created the famous “Hetao culture”. In the following several millennia, numerous northern tribes migrated to this region and led a nomadic life. In the modern era, more Han people migrated to Ordos, contributing to the integration of agrarian culture, Yellow River culture, and prairie culture in this city.

The profound history has given this region a unique culture and many historical relics, including the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan and numerous ancient temples and shrines in the Kangbashi Tourist Area.

The rich coal and natural gas resources largely underpin the economic strength of Ordos, driving its transformation from desolation to prosperity. The Kangbashi New District is where you can look into the modernization of Ordos, characterized by skyscrapers, spacious avenues, and state-of-the-art public facilities.

Top Tourist Attractions in Ordos

Kubuqi Desert
Located on the southern bank of the Yellow Ricer's distinctive crook, Kubuqi Desert is the seventh-largest desert in China, mainly consisting of mobile dunes 10-60 meters high. Besides the rugged desert landscape, it offers various desert adventures including hiking, desert off-road, camel riding, etc.
Xiangshawan Scenic Area
Situated at the eastern end of Kubuqi Desert, Xiangshawan means sounding sand bay, and is named after the unique phenomenon of “singing sands” caused by wind. It is a hot desert spot close to Beijing, offering many entertainment areas and Mongolian folk activities for your immersive experiences. Here, you can also expect high-end accommodation experiences blending Mongolian culture, desert thrills, and religious culture.
Ordos Grassland
The vast Erdos Grassland is famous for its rich ethnic Mongolian culture and diverse tourism activities. You can stay a night in the uniquely designed Mongolian yurt to experience the authentic Mongolian way of life, enjoy the live horse-riding drama "Hero", take part in the Zhama Feast, or the evening bonfire gatherings.
Qixing Lake Scenic Area
The Qixing Lake Scenic Area is nestled in the hinterland of the Kubuqi Desert, with its water bodies, wetlands, grasslands, and desert landscapes offering diverse sights, desert adventures, and cultural activities. Plus, the clear night skies here make it one of the most beautiful sites for desert stargazing in China.

Top Things to Do in Ordos

Desert Surfing at Xiangshawan

At Xiangshawan, the thrilling desert surfing is ready to enthrall all adventurers. All the surfing vehicles are equipped with wider tires to ensure visitors a safe yet exhilarating ride over the dunes of different heights. The vehicle drives through the undulating sands, making it feel like surfing over the dunes.

Zipline Adventure at Xiansha Island in Kubuqi Desert

The high-altitude ziplining provides not only a genuine adrenaline-pumping experience but also a bird’s-eye view of the stunning desert. It is truly a memorable flight when you wear professional safety gear and follow the instructors’ guidance to leap from a high platform to glide swiftly across the desert sky.

Camel Riding in Kubuqi Desert

Steeped in history and romance, camel riding in Kubuqi Desert allows you to traverse through the desert like the ancient merchants. You can enjoy the fascinating landscapes as your professional guide introduces you to local desert ecology, culture, and Silk Road stories.

Desert Camping

If time permits, you can spend a night in the desert. The best way for a memorable night is desert camping. This will be a serene escape, with a bonfire party and stargazing under the clear sky as its bonus.

Mongolian Cultural Experience

At some attractions like the Genghis Khan Mausoleum or Kangbashi Tourist Area, visitors can enjoy chances to experience authentic Mongolian culture and life. They can wear colorful Mongolian robes and exquisite headgear, learn simple Mongolian greetings, take part in traditional performances, etc.

Mongolian Yurt Accommodation

Staying in a Mongolian yurt is an essentical part when visiting the grassland area. It is a great way to experience the Mongolian lifestyle, with the felt tents being ethnically decorated, and traditional Mongolian cuisine and cultural experiences being provided.

Discover the Mysterious Buddhist Art at Alzhai Grottoes

Being carved around the mid-Northern Wei period, the Alzhai Grottoes in Ordos feature nearly a thousand mural paintings of different themes. It offers a unique chance to gain insights into the social life, flourishing Buddhist art, and religious art exchange from the Western Xia to the Mongol Yuan periods.

More than a religious and cultural exploration, a visit here will also reward you with a grassland panorama. All the grottoes are distributed around the solitary red sandstone mountain, which is surrounded by breathtaking grassland scenery.

Inner Mongolia Kubuqi Desert Camel Ride
Enjoy a memorable camel ride

Ordos Weather and Best Time to Visit

The annual average temperatures of Ordos are around 5.3℃ to 8.7℃. July is the hottest month here, with an average temperature of about 21-25℃. In January, the coldest month of Ordos, temperatures can fall to below -10℃.

Summer and autumn are the most recommended time to embark on your trip to Ordos. Summer months from June to August are the peak season of Ordos, when the grasslands and deserts are at their most vibrant, the weather is comfortable and many celebrations and festivals are held.

September to October is the ideal time to catch the golden grassland landscapes and enjoy a more serene atmosphere than the summer months.

Note: Taking sun protection measures is always essential given the year-round abundant sunshine in this region.

Ordos Transportation: How to Get to and Travel Around

How to Get to

Fly to Ordos from Major Domestic Cities: Visitors can directly fly to Ordos through Ordos Ejin Horo International Airport, which operates direct flights from major domestic cities like Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc. After arriving at the airport, you can take the airport shuttle bus or taxi to get to the city center.

Transfer through Hohhot, Baotou, or Hulunbuir: For most travelers, Ordors may not be their first stop in Inner Mongolia. They would transfer to Ordos from the more popular destinations like Hohhot, Baitou, or Hulunbuir. From both Hohhot and Baotou, you can take direct trains and long-distance buses to reach Ordos conveniently. From Hulunbuir, you’ll need to fly to or take a train to Hohhot or Baotou first, then transfer to Ordos by either train or long-distance bus.

How to Travel Around

Public buses can take you to major areas in Ordos city center. To reach the surrounding attractions, taxis and ride-sharing services are recommended, or, for more convenience, you can also join a local guided tour with transportation and accommodation included. Below are detailed information to get to major tourist attractions from Ordos city center:

  • Kangbashi Tourist Area: Close to the city center, it be easily reached by both taxi and public bus.
  • Kubuqi Desert: About 180 km from the city center. It is recommended to reach there by hiring a car or using ride-sharing services or joining a local tour.
  • Genghis Khan Mausoleum:About 60 km from the city center. You can take a tourist shuttle from Dongsheng District to reach here in about 1.5-2 hours. Or, hire a private car with a local driver or use a ride-sharing service to reach here within about 1 hour.
Ordos Ejin Horo Airport
Ordos Ejin Horo Airport

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