Ningxia Travel Guide - How to Plan a Trip to Ningxia
Located in Northwest China, Ningxia is one of the five ethnic minority autonomous regions in China with the full name Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Of the population of 5.62 million, one third are Hui minority people, and the capital city of Ningxia is Yinchuan.
Situated by the middle reaches of the Yellow River, Ningxia borders three provinces: Shaanxi to the east, Inner Mongolia to the west and north, and Gansu to the south. Lying on the Silk Road, Ningxia is an important transition zone linking West China with East China.
Recommended tourist cities in Ningxia include Yinchuan, Zhongwei, and Wuzhong.
4 Highlights of Ningxia
Ningxia features strong Hui customs, mysterious Western Xia Dynasty (1038–1227) culture, ancient Yellow River civilizations, magnificent desert scenery, and excellent wineries.
1. Enjoy Desert Scenery in Zhongwei
Zhongwei provides wonderful entertainments and unique accommodation in the desert.
There are three popular deserts in Zhongwei: Shapotou Tourism Area, Jinshahai Scenic Area (‘Gold Sand Sea’), and the Tenger Desert.
Shapotou is highly recommended. It not only offers a lot of exciting activities such as sand sledding, camel trekking, dune buggying, speedboating, and sheepskin rafting, but also provides a unique planting wheatgrass squares experience. These squares are China’s secret for turning desert into grassland.
If you are looking for a wonderful desert accommodation experience, then we recommend Jinshahai Scenic Area. It has a special steam-train-themed hotel. You could choose to live in a room transformed from a carriage or stay in a desert tent.
The Tenger Desert is more suitable for backpackers who seek adventure and a wild experience.
- Recommended tour: 3-Day Zhongwei Desert Tour with Winery Experience
2. Explore Mysterious Western Xia Dynasty Culture in Yinchuan
The Western Xia was a kingdom dynasty in medieval China founded in 1038. It ruled over a large area in what is now Ningxia, Gansu, northern Shaanxi, and western Inner Mongolia.
One of the best places to explore its culture is the Western Xia Imperial Tombs. Nine emperors and more than 140 royal family members were buried there.
The mausoleums of the Western Xia Dynasty are very mysterious. Until now, no one has been able to decipher their architectural form and cultural connotation. The tombs are in the shape of pyramid, hence its name: “the Pyramids of China”.
Contact us if you want to plan a trip to Yinchuan.
3. Discover China’s Best Wine-Producing Region — Helan Mountain
The vineyards at the eastern foot of Helan Mountain are located in the 37–39°-north-latitude zone, which is recognized as the best grape growing zone. It has many excellent wineries.
Xige Estate is a top winery: the largest for fine wine production with the most international first-class level wines so far in the Helan Mountain area.
Other outstanding wineries include Yuanshi Vineyard, Chateau Legacy Peak, Helan Qing Xue Winery, and Domaine des Aromes.
The Rock Paintings in the Helan Mountains are also worth a visit. You can see the life of ancient mankind 3,000 to 10,000 years ago recorded in images.
4. Learn about Hui Culture in Wuzhong
Wuzhong is a good place to learn about Hui ethnic culture: enjoy morning tea with a full selection of Hui food and visit a Hui family.
All our tours are customizable. Contact us to create a Ningxia trip according to your group size, time, budget, interests, and other requirements.
The Best Times to Visit Ningxia
April to October is the best time period to visit Ningxia.
Ningxia is dry and windy, featuring a late spring, a short summer, and a long winter. Temperatures range widely from day to night.
Early September to early October is the season for picking grapes. If you are interested in wine, we can also arrange a winery visit for you — fall would be an excellent time for it.
Flying to Yinchuan or Zhongwei is recommended. Yinchuan has more flights to choose from.
Major cities such as Beijing (2 hours), Shanghai (3 hours), Xi’an (1½ hours), Chongqing (2 hours), Chengdu (2 hours), Hangzhou (3 hours), Guangzhou (3 hours), Kunming (3 hours), Xining (1 hour) have direct flights to Yinchuan.
Beijing (2 hours), Xi’an (1½ hours), Chengdu (2 hours), and Chongqing (2 hours) also have direct flights to Zhongwei.
Bullet train is the most common way to travel between cities in Ningxia. Bullet trains from Yinchuan to Zhongwei take 1½ hours. Yinchuan–Wuzhong takes half an hour and Wuzhong to Zhongwei takes 1 hour.
Ningxia’s Special Food
Ningxia cuisine mainly features Muslim flavors, especially the distinctive flavor of Hui ethnic cuisine.
People in Ningxia are particularly fond of mutton and noodles. Due to climate reasons, the quality of Ningxia pastures is excellent. Plus, the land is high in mineral content, especially rich in selenium. Thus, Ningxia mutton is the best in China: tender and not odorous.
Steamed lamb meat in clear broth, braised tendons of mutton, boiled chopped sheep innards, and ‘hand-grab’ mutton are famous dishes.
History and Culture
Ningxia features a long history, about 30,000 years ago, there have been human beings living in the region. Since theWarring States Period (475–221 BC), Qin State established 3 administrative units in Ningxia.
For a long time, Ningxia was a part of Gansu Province, and until the year of 1929, Ningxia was changed as a province. Ningxia got its name in the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), which means the stabilization in the Western Xia (a regime founded by Qiang Minority during 1038 and 1227). After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Ningxia was given a full name of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in 1954.
Hui minority is the main nationality in Ningxia, and Hui people take Islam as their religion. There are two famous traditional festival for Moslems: Eid-ul-Fitr (the ‘Festival of the Breaking of the Fast’) and Eid-ul-Adha (the ‘Feast of Sacrifice’, the great festival of Islam, which is also known as Baqri-Eid–the ‘Cow Festival’).
Mosques are Moslems’ places of religious worship, and also places of social contacts for Moslems. For costumes, the main deference between Hui people and Han people comes from the dress on the heads. Men usually wear black or white skullcaps, and women always wear endshield with the colors of white, cyan and green according to their ages.
There are many taboos on food. Hui people do not eat pork, dogs, horses, donkeys and mules. If animals are killed by people from other nationalities or die naturally, the Hui people should not eat them. Only those that are killed by the special cook or the imam from the mosque can be eaten.
No jokes about food are acceptable, and any food that is unacceptable by the Hui people can not be used to make metaphors; for example, one should not say that the color of chili is as red as blood. See Halal food in China
Most Popular Ningxia Tours
All our tours are customizable. Contact us to create a trip according to your group size, time, budget, interests, and other requirements. Our most recommended Zhongwei tour: