The Wonderful Badain Jaran Desert

After enjoying Beijing, its history and the adventure along The Great Wall it was time for a bit of exploration off the beaten track. Below are lots of photos documenting how I travelled to the Badain Jaran or rather the Jilin Shamo as it’s known in Chinese. The number of photos (and videos) reflects how impressed I was with this area. Truly amazing.

Time to leave Beijing. Look at what I found in the airport, I was there! Images of The Great Wall are justifiably everywhere
Flying from Beijing to Yinchuan in Ningxia province. Mildly interesting note: I’ve never been flying at cruising altitude and had clouds at the same height


Leaving the green of around Beijing the landscape became more arid


Arriving in Yinchuan I promptly got the bus to the centre but had to get to the southern bus station. I thought I’ll take the easy option and grab a taxi….my Mandarin not being great led to some serious taxi difficulties but eventually I made it to this fancy bus station just in time to catch a bus to Alashan Zuoqi
In Alashan Zuoqi the second taxi journey was much smoother. Luckily I met a girl on the bus who had studied English and just finished a Masters in Calligraphy. She was able to flag down a taxi and get me to where I was going. As her destination was on the way she jumped in too. In fact she even paid for my fare! small though it was (£0.20). I was surprised to meet such a friendly, helpful and generous person!
Next day was a 9 hour bus journey across the desert of Inner Mongolia. This was one of the rest stops
For much of the 9 hours the landscape looked like this. Very flat but much more green than I expected. Occasionally broken up by herds of Bactrian camels
Somehow I managed to arrange a 4×4 into the desert despite not being able to speak Mandarin and nobody speaking English. A translation app really helped (that must be the future). Fortunately later on, two Chinese girls, Jane and Candy, joined in the 4×4
The stunning beginning of the tour in the Badain Jaran desert (Jilin Shamo)


The early morning light casts fantastic shadows
The incredible thing about the Badain Jaran is that there are around 100 lakes! As you can see you can even fish!


Genghis Khan rises from the sand to watch over the desert


I love the patterns in the sand that you find in the desert. There is some real science behind this too. Maybe one day I’ll look into it
You can find some wildlife like this little guy if you look hard enough although he does have great camouflage
There is clearly some metaphor here about overcoming adversity or about perseverance but you’ll have to assemble it yourself
Bactrian camels
Those are camels in the middle of the frame. I wonder how such large animals can survive in this vast desert


Some lakes are huge. In fact everything about this area is impressive. These aren’t sand dunes they’re sand mountains
This was my room in the guesthouse. Hard beds but clean and no sand 🙂
It was good to have company in the desert and more importantly Jane (on the left) could speak English and was my translator 🙂
This Buddhist Temple has a spectacular position in the desert
The location must have allowed for solitude and some serious contemplation
This is Bilutu, apparently the third highest sand dune in the world, really more like a mountain
I was asked what the English version said. I told them that it should say ‘Bilutupeak’. When I climbed back down from the pear, the ‘r’ was gone and replaced by a ‘k’ scratched into the stone haha
The way up was tough but beautiful. Every step forward is also a step back
The way up was too much for Candy and Jane. I don’t blame them, hiking in sand is not easy!
So that meant there was no one but me at the top, selfie time!
The view was magnificent. A special moment. Desert and sand dunes/mountains as far as I could see in every direction
The dozens of small dunes give way to the mountains
Perched on the summit ridge


I climbed back down to watch the sunset. Remember that those aren’t mountains that the sun is setting behind, those are sand dunes
The full moon came out. In fact this is the Harvest Moon
I wandered out late at night looking for stars but the moon was too bright. Instead I got this interesting phenomena
Chilling out watching the dawn in the desert
Time to leave means time to re-inflate the tires. The driver deflates them for desert driving as it increases the surface area of the tires
Amazingly it started raining on the way back to town!

Next up: The Colourful Zhangye Danxia Landform


6 thoughts on “The Wonderful Badain Jaran Desert

  1. Hi Leo,
    Super nice photos! I am going there this october, maybe you can help me a little bit with the planning? How much time was your jeep tour? How much did it cost? Did you had to reserve in advance? Was the tour only by jeep or also biking?

    Also, just curiously, which camera are you using?

    Thank you very much for your help!


    1. Hey! Thanks for the comment. So I flew from Beijing to Yinchuan and got buses to first Alxa Zuoqi and then to Alxa Youqi (these are Google Maps spellings but there are others and it gets confusing) which is the town from where you can start the Jeep tour. Normally it’s a 2 day 1 night tour in a Jeep for 300USD not including accommodation and food (you can negotiate). The Jeep can hold four people but the price will be the same if less than four. I don’t know about any cycling tours. In the Badain Jaran desert park itself there are no roads so cycling would be impossible. I tried to just book it when I got to the town and it was much more difficult than I thought it would be. I didn’t find anyone that could speak English and I speak no Mandarin so it was a challenge. October should be busier than September so many there will be more options available. Anyway I managed to arrange something for the following day after arriving in town. It was worth all the trouble though. Really special place! At that time I was using a Sony a7Rii with a Zeiss 24-70mm lens. Anything else just ask me.


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