Ordos Travel Guide — How to Plan a Trip to Ordos
Ordos, meaning ‘a place with a great number of palaces’ in Mongolian, is located in the southwest of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, in the middle reaches of the Yellow River.
It is a sacred place for Mongolian people as the tomb of the great Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan was built there. It is also a paradise for desert adventures as China’s 7th largest desert, Kubuqi Desert, is located there. In addition, it also has the endless Ordos Grassland.
Scroll down to find out interesting facts about Ordos, the best times to visit, top things to do, and other travel tips.
Ordos — China's Largest “Ghost City”?
In 2010, Kangbashi District, a newly built city of Ordos was called a "modern ghost city" by an American magazine. It may refer to two perspectives:
- Kangbashi District was built between two deserts. Its architectural style, at that time, was advanced for and incongruous with the area. Its modern large-scale buildings may conceivably have looked like ghosts to locals.
- Kangbashi District was new 10 years ago and few citizens moved in. The virtually uninhabited new city was like a ghost town.
So, what changes have been made to Kangbashi in Ordos over the past decade?
Economically, Ordos’ GDP ranks first in Inner Mongolia, according to 2019 data. The population of Ordos exceeds 150,000 with around 76 communities, equipped with over 30 schools. When you come to Kangbashi, you will see the scenes of busy traffic on the wide streets and local people leisurely playing in the grassy squares. The light show by the Ulan Mulun River is a cheerful evening entertainment.
Kangbashi has become the new urban center of Ordos and the once-named “ghost city” is now almost completely full!
- 5-Day Xilamuren Grassland and Kubuqi Desert Tour
- 8-Day Hohhot–Ordos Tour with Hiking, Camping, and Culture
The History of Ordos
As one of the cradles of Chinese civilization, the city of Ordos has a long history. As early as 35,000 years ago, the ancient Hetao People began to live on this land and created a glorious culture.
In the 13th century, the great Mongolian conqueror Genghis Khan was greatly impressed by the beautiful scenery there when he passed this city on his way to conquer the Western Xia Kingdom. Western Xia was a state that existed from 1038 to 1227 where the northwestern Chinese provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi, and Ningxia are now. It was established in the 11th century by Tangut tribes. He loved this place so much that he made up his mind to build his tomb there in the future.
In the year 1649, in the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), the Chinese government (Manchus with Mongol assistance) set up a Mongolian prefecture there.
More recently, Ordos has been developed as a manufacturing and hi-tech area with a new totally-modern city.
Ordos Weather — Best Times to Visit
The city of Ordos has a typical temperate continental climate. There are four distinct seasons with very strong sunshine. Summers are mild and winters are frigid. There’s little rain throughout the year and in spring sandstorms occur frequently.
Annual temperatures have large ranges: in July the average range is 16–29°C (61–84°F), and in January it’s -20–-7°C (-4–19°F). Most rain falls in July, August, and September, but still in low amounts of less than 100 mm (4”) per month.
Best Times to Visit Ordos
The best times to visit Ordos are from July to September when the weather is pleasant for grassland and desert activities.
In addition, the annual Inner Mongolia Naadam Festival is held in July or August on the Ordos Grassland.
A worship ceremony for Genghis Khan is held four times a year in front of the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan. The one on the 21st day of the 3rd month of the Mongolian calendar (around early May) is the most important and it is the best opportunity to learn about the unique sacrificial culture, singing, dancing and costume culture of the Mongols.
2 Top Things to Do in Ordos
Ordos features the history and memorial rituals of Genghis Khan and desert adventures on the Kubuqi Desert. Among the few tourist attractions of Ordos, the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan and Resonant Sand Bay are the two must-sees you should not miss.
1. Learn about the History of Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan (1162–1227) is a legendary hero to the Mongols, known for his establishment of the Mongol Empire. Though the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan is not the real burial place of Genghis Khan, it serves as a sacred gathering place for people to commemorate and offer sacrifices to their hero.
More on Mausoleum of Genghis Khan>>>
2. Have Desert Fun at Resonant Sand Bay
On the vast and splendid Ordos grassland, the blue sky, the white clouds and the yellow sands are all desperately alluring and amazing.
Resonant Sand Bay lies at the east section of the Kubuqi Desert, a scenic area mixed with desert and ethnic features. You can enjoy various desert activities: camel riding, sand sliding, paragliding, karting, or attending the ethnic performances to explore the ancient and mysterious Mongolian folk customs.
More on Resonant Sand Bay>>>
Getting to Ordos
Ordos Ejin Horo International Airport (鄂尔多斯伊金霍洛国际机场) is located in Ejin Horo Banner (an Ordos district) about 12 kilometers (7 miles) southwest of the Ordos urban area and 12 kilometers (7 miles) north of the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan. Flights linking Ordos with Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Shenzhen, Hohhot, Taiyuan, Zhengzhou, Chengdu, etc. are available using the airport.
In China’s railway network, Ordos is a transportation junction in northwest China. At present, bullet trains are only available between Hohhot and Ordos, which take only 1½ hours. Coming from Beijing, you can take the direct normal speed train, which takes over 13 hours, or take bullet trains with Hohhot as the transit point with a total travel time of around 4–4½ hours.
National roads 109 and 210 run though the city, which bring a great convenience to Ordos’ transportation. Besides some county towns and townships in Ordos, coaches/buses to Baotou, Hohhot, Yulin, and other cities are also available.
Ordos to Baotou: around 2½ hours
Ordos to Hohhot: around 3½ hours
Ordos to Yulin: around 2 hours
Ordos offers plenty of choices of standard hotels in the city, like Ordos Tieniu Phoenix Hotel and Crowne Plaza Ordos.
When traveling to the Kubuqi Desert area, the luxury Lotus Hotel provides full board service. Desert camping is popular among families and students. Contact us if you are looking for a unique camping experience in Ordos or any help with hotels.
Planning an Ordos Tour
You’ll need 1–2 days to explore Ordos’ main sights.
An Ordos tour is normally combined with Hohhot and Baotou, making it part of “the golden triangle of Inner Mongolia”. Below is a very classic Inner Mongolia tour that includes Ordos:
Day 1: Arrive in Hohhot
Arrive in Hohhot with a private transfer to your hotel.
Day 2: Hohhot to Baotou
Drive around 2½ hours to Xilamuren Grassland in Baotou and join in the bonfire party in the evening. Stay overnight in a Mongolian yurt.
Day 3: Baotou to Ordos
Grassland activities in the morning include horse riding and a nomad family visit.
Then, drive around 3½ hours to Dalad Banner in Ordos for an overnight stay in the Kubuqi Desert.
Day 4: Ordos
A full day’s desert exploration would include Resonant Sand Bay.
Then, drive around 2 hours to Ordos city for your overnight stay.
Day 5: Depart from Ordos
Make a morning visit to the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan and Kangbashi District.
After the tour, we would see you off at the airport or train station.
More on 5-Day Xilamuren Grassland and Kubuqi Desert Tour >>>
Touring Ordos with China Highlights
If you would like the sample tour above changed to suit you or just want an Ordos-only tour, feel free to contact our Ordos expert for a worry-free customized tour.
Here are our most popular Inner Mongolia tours for inspiration: