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"Hohhot" in Mongolian means "Blue City", which is the capital of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region. Hohhot is the third closest provincial capital to Beijing, behind Tianjin and Shijiazhuang. It has a permanent population of 2.94 million, covering an area of 17,200 square kilometers.
Hohhot is located in the central part of Inner Mongolia. The distance between Hohhot and its main tourism destinations is:
Xilamuren Grassland is the nearest grassland to Hohhot. The distance between them is 90 kilometers, about an hour and a half's drive. People choose Xilamuren Grassland as a tourism destination because of its proximity to Hohhot.
Gegentala Grassland, located deep in the Ulanqab Prairie, is a distance of 140 kilometers away from Hohhot. It takes you about two hours' drive. There you can see many performances, such as horse racing, wrestling, archery, horse-riding performances and bonfire parties. Every year, from August 15th to 25th, the Nadam Fair is held in the city of Ulanqab.
Huitengxile Grassland in Mongolian means "cold prairie", with an altitude of over 1,800 meters. It takes you three and a half hours to get there from Hohhot by car. Huitengxile Grassland is also called "yellow flowers ditch" due to its land being full of yellow flowers. Given that winds are strong there, it is known as the second largest wind power plant in Asia. This grassland has developed in recent years and is a highly regarded tourism destination. Due to its geography and strong winds, there is a great day-night temperature difference in Huitengxile Grassland.
Huitengxile Grassland may disappoint guests because the prairie is quite different from their imaginations. Although the grassland is endless, the grass there is not luxuriant and it looks more like a desert. You cannot see green lands, but blue lands instead. If rains are aplenty, the grass grows quickly. You can enjoy seeing a pure blue sky, white clouds, horses and sheep; although the horses are not as high in spirits as they appear to be when shown on TV and the sheep are not as beautiful as they are in pictures.
With the development of tourism, Mongolian etiquette there has become very commercial. Performances include horse riding, archery and wrestling. You can have a taste of pastorally handled meat without the smell; you can drink milky tea and liquors made with fresh milk; you can appreciate melodies from a Mongol stringed instrument. Mongolian singers may present you with a hada (a white scarf) and propose a toast. People who like horse riding can have a try. Usually the herdsmen will be beside you to ensure that you don't get hurt.
Gegentala takes priority among the three grasslands as it is more like a prairie both in size and in its meadows. The roads are smooth; although there are no highways there, the road condition is pretty good. It takes you two hours to get there. You can return for a day, or you can stay a night there and enjoy more beautiful views.
These three grasslands cannot compare to the Hulun Buir Grasslands, the Xilingol Grassland or the Horqin Grassland; however, they have become famous tourism attractions because of their locations near the capital of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region. It only takes you one or two days to enjoy the grassland sceneries without the need for much money. If you want to enjoy the genuine grasslands, you'd better visit the Hulun Buir Grasslands and the Xilingol Grassland.
Inner Mongolian Museum: Historical relics from the ancient northern minorities of the Huns, the Xianbei (鲜卑), the Qidan （契丹） and the Mongolians are on display. Considerable cultural relics and folk arts are showed in the museum.
The Grand Mosque: The Grand Mosque, located at the northern gate of the old downtown area of Hohhot, established in the Qianlong Period of the Qing Dynasty, is the biggest mosque in the city of Hohhot.
Five-Pagoda Temple: Five-Pagoda Temple, which is located in Hohhot, is named after the five towers behind the temple. It was previously named Cideng Temple (慈灯寺). The Five-Pagoda Temple, one of the pagodas in Cideng Temple, was established in the Qing Dynasty. Now the only remaining building is the "sarira-stupas on a diamond throne". The astronomical figure carved on the screen wall of the temple is the best preservation of astronomical information in the world. The Five-Pagoda Temple has become a tourism landmark in Inner Mongolia.
Da Zhao Temple （大昭寺）: Da Zhao Temple, located in the old downtown area of Hohhot, established in the Ming Dynasty, is the biggest temple belonging to the Yellow Hats, and it is one of the few temples without a Buddha in Inner Mongolia.
Hohhot, next to the Yinshan Mountain area, has a long history of ancient human activities. In 1973, the "Dayao culture" （大窑文化） was discovered in the north-east of Hohhot. The "Dayao culture" occurred 500,000 years ago, which was the same period as the "Peking Man" in Zhoukoudian, which was the Old Stone Age.
Before the Spring and Autumn Period, some northern nomadic tribes, such as the Huns, the Linhu （林胡） and the Loufan （楼烦）, lived a nomadic life in today's Hohhot. In the Warring State Period, the king of the state of Zhao promoted people who went shooting on horses in Hu dress. The two nomadic tribes, the Linhu and the Loufan, were defeated by the king, and then the king built the Cloud City in Togtoh County of Hohhot. The Han Chinese began to settle in Hohhot. The "Zhao Great Wall" goes through Daqing Mountain （大青山） which is located in the north of Hohhot.
In 221 BC, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty unified China and established 36 counties. Yunzhong County (云中郡) near Hohhot was one of them. In the reign of Han Wudi, Yunzhong County was the outpost against the Huns and it was one of the bases for expeditions to the Huns. Yunzhong County was once known as "Shengle" （"盛乐"） in the Northern Wei Dynasty, "Baidao" （"白道"） during the warring period between the Tang Dynasty and the Tujue （突厥）, and "Fengzhou" （"丰州"） in the Liao Dynasty.
After the Yuan Dynasty was overthrown by the Ming Dynasty, the Mongolian people were relegated beyond the Great Wall, where they established the North Yuan regime. In 1402, the Yuan Dynasty was divided into the eastern Tartary and the western WaLa （瓦剌）. Late in the 15th century, Dayan Khan, the head of East Mongolia, unified the southern desert of Mongolia and realized his aim of "Reviving Mongolia". In 1572, Altan Khan, the grandson of Dayan Khan headed the Tümed to Hohhot, and he built the city of "Kokegota". From then on, the Tümed lived a life from nomads to a settled life. Altan Khan was entitled "the King of Shunyi" (顺义王) by the establishment of a vassal-tributary relationship with the Ming, for which the Ming renamed Kokegota to Guīhuā (归花, "Return to Civilization"). GuiHua meant that the minorities should obey the rule of the Ming Dynasty. This is known as GuiHuaCheng (that is, the old city).
From the 13th year of the Yongzheng ruling period (1735) to the 4th year of the Qianlong ruling period, the Qing Dynasty built a strong garrison town in eastern GuiHua called Suiyuan （绥远）. Later on, Guisui （归绥） and Suiyuan became the Guihua District of Qing China.
In 1913, the Republic of China renamed Guihua District to Guisui Town. In 1928, Suiyuan Province was established, and Guisui Town became the capital of Suiyuan Province. During the progressive Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s, the Japanese renamed Guisui to "Blue City" ("Hohhot", or Huheshi). After the surrender of Japan in 1945, the Republic of China renamed the city back to its original Qing name, Suiyuan.
Hohhot has a temperate continental monsoon climate with a changeable climate throughout the year. Its characteristics are: winter is long and severely cold; summer is short and hot; spring and autumn are varied.
The temperature in Hohhot varies greatly between the daytime and night-time. The temperature at night is 20°C lower than during the day. Therefore, you should take long-sleeved clothes with you even if you go there in summer.
The best time to visit the grasslands is from the middle of July to the early part of September. At that time, the views are most charming and the Nadam Fair is held there. You can visit the ancient temples and pagodas; you can watch horse riding races and go riding in the grasslands, which will be a lot of fun.
There are many trains from Beijing to Hohhot; the fastest train (T315) only takes about six hours. There are also night trains which depart from Beijing at about 22:00 and arrive in Hohhot at around 07:00.
There are plenty of flights to Hohhot from Beijing. The ticket price is about 500 yuan (82 USD).
Hohhot is a destination worth visiting two or three times. Three days are enough to visit the highlights in and around Hohhot – a day to visit one of the grasslands and two days to see the cultural relics inside the city.
If you wish to extend your tour to see Genghis Khan's Mausoleum and the desert landscape in Erdos you may need five days.
If you only wish to visit the grasslands, then we recommend you skip Hohhot and travel to Hailer in the north of Inner Mongolia to see the Hulun Buir Grasslands which is the best prairie in China.