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Inner Mongolia Travel Guide

Provincial capital: Hohhot

Population: 23 millions

Geological location: Inner Mongolia, China's northern border autonomous region, features a long, narrow strip of land sloping from northeast to southwest. It stretches 2,400 km from west to east and 1,700 km from north to south. The third largest among China's provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, the region covers an area of 1.18 million sq km, or 12.3% of the country's territory. It neighbors eight provinces and regions in its south, east and west and Mongolia and Russia in the north, with a borderline of 4,200 km.

Map of Mongolia

Climate: Inner Mongolia has a temperate continental climate. There, spring is warm and windy; summer is short and hot with many rainy days; autumn usually sees early frost and plummeting temperature; winter is long, bitter cold with frequent polar outbreaks. The region has an annual precipitation of 100-500 mm, 80-150 frost-free days, and 2,700 hours of sunshine. The Greater Hinggan Mountains and the Yinshan Mountains divide the regions into areas with different climate. The area east of the Greater Hinggan Mountains and north of the Yinshan Mountains has lower temperature and less precipitation than the opposite area.

Tourism resources: Inner Mongolia is rich in tourist attractions: Colorful ethnic culture, grassland scenery, the virgin forests in the Greater Hinggan Mountains, grand views along the Yellow River, the majestic Xiangsha Gulf, rivers and lakes, and springs. Inner Mongolia is home to the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan, the Zhaojun Tomb, ancient Great Wall, Wudang Monastery at the bottom of the Yinshan Mountains, Wuta Monastery, Bailing Temple, and tomb murals dating back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220).

Naadam Festival:If you are in Inner Mongolia for cultural reasons, then the best time to visit is definitely during the Naadam festival period. The Naadam festival is an ancient festival, a part of the Mongol tradition stretching back in time with links to the Aobao festival. The aobao's are ancient stone piles that can be found all around Inner Mongolia, especially on the grasslands.

The festival is a carnival of all things Mongolian, with many of the traditional sports that should make the great Khans souls beam with pleasure. Among those activities most commonly practiced are horse & camel racing, wrestling, archery, singing and rodeo competitions. The prizes for these festivities vary from region to region, ranging from trinkets & skinny goats to fully equipped horses.

The festival is held on different dates every year, according to the traditional Chinese calendar. Generally it is about the middle to the end of August when things kick off, although it is worth asking nearer the time for exact dates. Probably the best place for foreigners to experience Naadam is in Hohhot, where there is a better chance to both participate and feel the more lively atmosphere. Most of the activities are held in the Horse Racing Grounds in the northern section of town.

Inner Mongolia is one of the more rugged of China's provinces, and when traveling on overland transport, especially by bus, you are bound for a bumpy ride. Having said this recent years have seen a rise in road and rail improvement, that makes it a lot easier to visit the rolling grasslands and distant towns.

By air: Travelers can now fly directly to the capital, Hohhot, from most of the major cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou as well as Ulan Bator in Outer Mongolia. As an alternative, you may also opt to come straight to the region by taking a flight to Baotou from the afore-mentioned destinations. For detailed information, check the respective transport overviews.

By Train: Although lying on relatively high land, the flat grassland makes it fairly easy for Chinese to pave railway lines here, accounting for the reason why 19 main lines, 12 extension lines and 5 local lines traverse the entire region and link it with Beijing, Xi'an, Lanzhou, Yinchuan and more.The most interesting train ride in the province and beyond is easily the Trans-Siberian, that links Beijing with Moscow. The Inner Mongolian section of this is one of the longest train rides in China, a windy route through rolling grasslands and cold, beautiful scenery. The train heads through both Hailar and Manzhouli, before chugging onwards into Siberia.

By Bus: Due to the advanced railway transport systems, bus transport is mainly left for intra-province use. With the completion of the Hohhot-Baotou Expressway, it is now possible to make inroads into some of the least known prefectures and villages lying sporadically on the vast expanses of the grasslands. In addition, if you plan to visit the outlying attractions in Hohhot, Baotou and Hailar, the most convenient means of transport is still bus, unless you are taken with horse or camel travel.