Badain Jaran Desert (Chinese: 巴丹吉林沙漠; pinyin: Bādānjílín Shāmò) is located in the north of Alxa Right Banner (Alxa Youqi) of inner Mongolia, neighboring Gansu, to the west of Yabulai mountain. With a total area of 49,200 square kilometers, an average altitude of 1200-1700 meters, the Badian Jaran Desert is the third largest desert in China. It is famous for its five wonders, namely, sandy peaks, singing dunes, colorful lakes, clear springs, and ancient temple. It was named the most beautiful desert in China by National Geographic in 2005.
"Badain Jaran" is the translation of Mongolian, "Badain" is evolved from "Badai". It is said that there was a man named Badai who lived here in ancient times. The word of "Jaran" evolved from a Tibetan word, which means hell. On the other hand, Jaran also refers to the number 60 in Tibetan, for there are many lakes in this desert.
In the southeast of Badain Jaran, there are many small inland lakes (commonly known as Haizi) distributed among the sand dunes. There are about 144 lakes. A single Haizi covers an area of 1-1.5 square kilometers. Due to the strong evaporation, the lake accumulates a lot of salt, and most of the lake water cannot be drunk or irrigated. Also, there are many springs gushing out in the desert. The water is clear and can be used for drinking. The plants around the lake are very dense. Some inland lakes are surrounded by pastures and settlements. Why did the extremely arid desert generate so many lakes? In the deep circulating water from the southeast of the desert, it overflows from the depth of the earth's crust and it is a hot spring with high temperature. It can bring dissolved calcium carbonate only after passing through limestone areas. After the water gushes out of the earth's surface, the temperature and pressure change, and the lake water is very salty, and later a large number of calcified substances precipitate to form the colorful travertine.
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Badain Jaran Desert is famous for its five wonders, namely, sandy peaks, singing dunes, colorful lakes, clear springs, and ancient temples. The altitude is generally between 1100 and 1600 meters, and the relative height of the sand peak is between 200-500 meters. These tall sand dunes account for 61% of the desert area. There are 113 inland lakes found in the Badain Jaran Desert, commonly known as "thousands of lakes in the desert". These lakes have various formations and different scenery, forming a unique desert landscape.
Badain Jaran Attractions Map (Click to Enlarge)
Praised as the most beautiful desert in China, the Badain Jaran desert is well known for numerous colorful inland lakes scattered among its sand dunes. Most of the lakes are not drinkable and the strong evaporation in the desert has turned them into hypersaline lakes forming a colorful salt crust around the rim of the lakes due to different mineral elements in the water. Their depth often reaches less than 2 meters and only measure about 2 square kilometers. The oval-shaped, deep lakes can also be found in the compound transverse mega dune area. Their maximum depth reaches around 15 meters and attains a maximum size of around 1.5 square kilometers. The lake water can be extremely saline. While some other lakes with more running underground water streams contain freshwater which nourishes the green vegetation, form oases, and supports the visitor, nomads, camels, and goats when traveling through the desert.The followings are some famous lakes in Badain Jaran desert.
Badain lake is one of the few freshwater lakes in the Badain Jaran Desert. It's the nearest lake to the entrance of the desert scenic area. Most tourists will stop here. Not far from Badan lake, there stands a sand sculpture of Genghis Khan. One or two hundred meters away is a cold and lonely Salt Lake, and there is also a desert Geopark Museum at the entrance of the scenic spot.
Nortu Lake, the largest lake, has an area of 1.47 square kilometers and a water depth of 28 meters.
Yinderitu is the largest salt lake in Badain Jaran. There are 108 springs on it. The spring water gushes day and night. It is said that the water quality is excellent and contains many elements needed by the human body. Therefore, the local people call it "Shenquan", meaning divine spring. Standing by the lake, you can overlook mount Bilutu, which is known as "Mount Everest of the desert".
Sumin Jaran Lake (aka, Miaohaizi, Badain Jaran Lake): it's like a beautiful lake lying in the arms of the sand dunes, next to it is Badain Jaran temple.
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Colorful Lakes in Badain Jaran Desert
Badain Jaran temple is the only temple in the hinterland of Badain Jaran Desert. It is a typical Tibetan Buddhist temple, built in 1755 A.D. during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty. Due to its remote location of the hinterland desert and few people, it has always maintained its original appearance. It is the only complete temple in Alxa Right banner. It covers an area of only 273.7 hectares. It is a two-story Chinese-style pavilion. It is an important place for people to gather and worship Buddha in Badain Jaran Desert, and also the sustenance of people's faith in the desert.
Because there is a temple, the local Mongolian herdsmen call this desert oasis "Sumin Jaran", which means "inland lakes with temple", or "miaohaizi" for short. Although there are only three households here, it is the activity center of herdsmen in the Badain Jaran Desert. Sumin Jaran is the most populated place in Badain Jaran Desert, and it is also the location of "village houses" of Badain Jaran village. There are two large lakes connected together, with sand dunes standing by the lake. During the sunset, the golden sand dunes seem to be covered with a layer of gauze.
The Mongolian word of Bilutu means "where there are grindstones". It is said that it is named because the sand in the east of Bilutu peak is rich in grindstones. 1617m above sea level, Mount Bilutu is a unique peak, located in the hinterland of Badain Jaran Desert. Its relative height is more than 500 meters, more than 70 meters higher than the highest sand dune in Africa. It is known as "the highest peak in the world desert" and "Everest of the world desert". It has a panoramic view of the sand sea from the far top. It is said that if you climb to the top of Bilutu peak, you can see seven famous 7 inland lakes of Badain Jaran Desert. These seven Haizi, inland lakes are the incarnations of the seven fairies in Badain Jaran, according to the ancient myth.
Haisenchulu is located in northwest of Alxa Right Banner, about 175 km northwest of the Alxa downtown area. Haisenchulu is a Mongolian transliteration, meaning a stone like a pot. Thousands of years ago, this was a sea, and the submarine rocks were washed to form round, oval, and other shapes. Later, in the change of geological structure, the seabed rose to land, and the original stone was eroded and honed by wind sand, and gradually formed the present shape. Haisenchulu is more than 40 square kilometers. In the area of 20 square kilometers in the hinterland, odd-shaped rocks eroded by wind and sand. The large one is dozens of cubic meters, and the small one is only a few centimeters high. These grotesque stones are of different shapes. Some like men; some like animals; some like abstract paintings, which have a high appreciation value of natural art. It is widely known by many photographers from home and abroad.
Baori Taolegai is located at the edge of Badain Jaran Desert, where the sand is more than 200 meters high. When you slide down from the sand slope with your hands from the dune ridge, you can hear the roar of the sand like airplanes and the "rumble" like thunder. The sound can be heard clearly even several kilometers away, and it makes a subtle sound when you write with your fingers on the sound. This singing dune phenomenon is rare in nature. There is a clear freshwater lake at the bottom of the singing dunes. The lake is clear and fresh; the spring is gurgling; the breeze is pleasant; the sand is singing...
The Mandela rock art is located in the south of Mandela Mountain of Alxa Right Banner, which is about 214 kilometers away from the downtown area. There are 4234 paintings found and the number of ancient rock paintings ranks first in Asia and the second in the World. Most of the rock paintings include hunting, grazing, fighting, gods, Buddhas, sun, moon, stars, temple architecture, dance, and recreation. According to experts' speculation, that thousands of years ago there were lakes and fields around Mount Mandela, and the northern nomads lived here by water and grass, creating a splendid nomadic culture. According to textual research, the content of Mandela rock paintings reflects the economy, culture, production and living scenes, natural environment, social customs, and cultural landscape of ancient ethnic minorities such as Qiang, Yuezhi, Xiongnu, Xianbei, Uighur, Dangxiang, and Mongolia in various historical stages and dynasties from the Late Neolithic period of primitive society to more than 6000 years several Dynasties.
Generally, there are driving, car rental, and camel riding ways to visit Badain Jaran. For safety reasons, visitors are not allowed to go there alone and need to be accompanied by professional guides or follow a tour group with a professional driver/guide. The road condition in the desert is changeful and complex and has high requirements for the vehicles and drivers. However, the essence of the Badain Jaran desert landscape is often in the desert hinterland, which takes a long time to drive. For the sake of your safety and ecological environment protection, it is not recommended to drive your own vehicle into desert areas.
Badain Jaran Cross-Country Vehicle Charter Price for your Reference (subject to local price)
Badain Jaran Day Trip
Badain Lake (One Day) - CNY 850
Geopark - Badain Lake - Baori Taolegai - Geopark (One Day) - CNY 1100
Geopark - Badain Lake - Nuoertu - Geopark (One day) - CNY 2400
Panoramic Trip( Two Days) - CNY 3000
• Route: Geopark - Badain Lake - NanshuangHaizi - Tamayin - Zhalate - Bagajilin - Deriyintu Spring - Bilutu Peak - Sumin Jaran - Nuoertu - Baori Taolegai
West Road Trip (Two Days) - CNY 3000
• Route: Badain Jaran Town - Zhongnuoertu - Cerigele - Yihejigede - Badain Jaran Town
Panoramic Trip(Three Days) - CNY 4000
• Route: Geopark - Badain Lake - Barunyikeri - Tamayin - Zhalate - Bagajilin - Deriyintu - Bilutu Peak - Sumin Jaran - Nuoertu - Baori Taolegai - Geopark
Loom Trip (Four Days) - CNY 6000
• Route: Badain Jaran Town - Xinuoertu - Yihejilin - Saihanaile - Celigeri - zhunjigede - Alatetu - Hudugejilin - Sumin Jaran - Yinderitu - Bilutu Peak - Nuoertu - Baori Taolegai - Geopark
Desert Crossing Trip - CNY 8000
• Route: Geopark - Badain Lake - Baori Taolegai - Nuoertu - Yinderitu Spring - Bilutu Peak - Sumin Jaran - Muhurenhuduge - Shugui - Ejin
Note: above prices are for reference only.
Why the Price of Jeep Safari Looks Expensive: The best highlights of Badain Jaran Desert including the desert lakes and sand dunes hide in the central area of the desert which can only be reached by intrepid Jeeps or camels of nomads, and it takes time to get there. To protect the geographic features of the desert and safety of travelers, only Jeeps of the park are allowed to enter the deep region of Badain Jaran Desert. The cost of driving and maintenance of the vehicle is higher, and the charter price is higher than that of the ordinary car. Drivers also need to prepare and carry a lot of necessary supplies. The total price for one vehicle of the whole journey looks expensive. However, according to the average price per person per day, the price is actually very reasonable, and the price of these vehicles has been discussed and approved by the local tourism administration.
In the desert, in addition to taking an off-road vehicle, you can also experience camel riding. Under the guidance of the guide or the camel trainer, you can experience camel riding. If you have good physical condition and enough time, you can also experience riding camels to visit the Badain Jaran Desert. However, the hiking and accommodation conditions may bring you a lot of hardship. It takes about 9 days for one trip departing from Jinchang.
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There is not any direct flight/train to Badain Jaran Desert, and tourists need to get to the downtown area of Alxa Right Banner first, which is about 75km away from Badain Jaran Desert Tourist Area. From Alxa Right Banner (Badain Jaran Township), you can easily get to the Desert Scenic Area. Therefore, either taking a flight or train, you need to get to take a bus/car to the downtown area of Alxa Right Banner after getting off the train/flight. However, there is not any railway station or airport in Alxa Right Banner yet, and tourists usually choose to reach Zhangye or Jinchang by air/train and charter a vehicle to Alxa Right Banner.
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Badain Jaran Location Map (Click to Enlarge)
Zhangye is a popular scenic city, known for its colorful Danxia Geopark. With one airport and two train stations, it is the top-recommended transferring city to Alxa Right Banner.
Zhangye Ganzhou Airport (张掖甘州机场): It’s about 120km away from Alxa Right Banner, 2.5hour by car. It mainly operates flights from/to Beijing, Xian, Lanzhou.
Address: Airport Road, Ganzhou District, Zhangye City, Gansu 张掖市甘州区机场路, about 67km from Zhangye Danxia Geopark
Zhangye West Railway Station (张掖西站): It’s about 140km away from Alxa Right Banner, 2.5hour by car. It mainly operates high-speed bullet trains from/to Lanzhou, Urumqi, Jiayuguan, etc.
Address: Danxia Road, Ganzhou District, Zhangye City, Gansu 张掖市甘州区丹霞路
Zhangye Train Station (张掖站): It’s about 135km away from Alxa Right Banner, 2.5hour by car. It mainly operates normal trains from/to Beijing, Urumqi, Lanzhou, Jiayuguan, Nanning, etc.
Address: Zhanghuo highway, Dongyuan Town, Ganzhou District, Zhangye City, Gansu 张掖市甘州区东园镇张火公路
Jinchuan is the closest city to Badain Jaran Desert Scenic Area with both airport and train station. It’s also convenient to take a bus from Jinchang Bus station to Alxa Right Banner.
Jinchang Jinchuan Airport (金昌金川机场): It’s about 105km away from Alxa Right Banner, 1.5 hours by car. It mainly operates flights from/to Beijing, Xian, Lanzhou.
Address: Xinhua Avenue, Jinchuan District, Jinchang City 金昌市金川区新华大道
Jinchang Train Station (金昌站): It’s about 122km away from Alxa Right Banner, 2hour by car. It mainly operates normal trains from/to Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Urumqi, Lanzhou, Jiayuguan, Dunhuang, etc.
Address: Station Road, Hexibao Town, Yongchang County, Jinchang City, Gansu 金昌市永昌县河西堡镇车站路
If you want to get rid of hustle of public transportation and troublesome navigation, you can book a private tour package with us which covers sightseeing, dining and transfer. Our local tour guide and driver will take care of all the details. You just need to focus on sightseeing. Choose a tour in our Badain Jaran Desert Tour Packages and China Desert Tour Packages
Badain Jaran town and Alashan Right Banner have many basic hotels to choose from, and the price is relatively cheap and the equipment is usually very basic. Into the desert, you can camp in the wild, or stay in hotels near Nuoertu (诺尔图) or Badian Jaran Temple (Miaohaizi), or stay in the local herdsmen's yurts. Because the conditions of camping tents and yurts are relatively poor, and it is best to get the guidance of a professional guide or the locals to set up tents, so it is more recommended to stay in the hotel. If you travel to Badain Jaran in peak season, you are advised to book your hotel in advance.>>Places to Stay in Badain Jaran
Zhangye: About 140km away from Alxa Right Banner (Badain Jaran Township), Zhangye is an important frontier city of the Silk Road in ancient time. It is known for its long history, beautiful landforms, and mixed cultures. The geologic parks are its main attractions, including the wondrous Zhangye National Geopark, Binggou Danxia Park, and Pingshanhu Grand Canyon, etc. Influenced by the Buddhism culture, there are also interesting temples to visit, such as Dafo Temple, Mati Temple, and Muta Temple.
Ejin Banner: About 460km from Alxa Right Banner (Badain Jaran Township), located in Dalaihob (Dalaihubu Township 达来呼布镇), Ejin or Ejina is the westernmost banner of Inner Mongolia. It’s well known for its Populus euphratica scene in autumn. The euphrates poplars are the hero trees in the desert for their amazing ability to resist drought. The golden trees with beautiful reflection upon the stream in the desert form a paradise for photographers. If you travel there in autumn, do not miss the Euphrates Poplar Forest.
How to Get to: Travelers usually travel to Badain Jaran Desert from Zhangye, which takes a 3 hours’ drive only. It takes a longer time if transferring via Lanzhou, Dunhuang, Alxa Left Banner or Ejin Banner.
Best Time to Visit: Late September to Late October when temperature is moderate, more sunny days with little wind and rainfall.
Places to Stay: Mongolian yurt near Badain Jaran Lake or other lakes in the Badain Jaran Desert scenic area and hostels in Badain Jaran Town.
For all travelers, the most popular and classic itinerary is spending 2 days for a Badain Jaran Desert tour, from which you can fully enjoy a wild adventure in its miraculous sights and experience various interesting desert activities. After the long ride, you will firstly accommodate in Badain Jaran Town.
In the next day morning, you will take a local chartered sand buggy organized by the officials to visit the iconic lakes and sand hills. During the stops, you can visit Badain Lake and a giant Genghis Khan Sand Carving nearby, Yinderitu Lake, the biggest saltwater lake in the desert with 108 mysterious springs, Bilutu Peak - “Mount Everest in the Desert”, Badain Jaran Lake (Temple Lake) where an over 250-year-old Tibetan monastery stands and displays the most beautiful reflection of the yellow sands, green plants and white temple. Camping in a special Mongolian yurt helps you enjoy an amazing sunset and sunrise in the desert. On the second day, you will continue the thrilling Jeep safari and explore the Nortu Lake, the largest lake, and Baori Taolegai - the largest singing sand dune in the world. You can try a camel riding, sand sliding and a desert walking to enrich your trip.
Usually, tourists travel to the northwestern China often visit Badain Jaran Desert with famous neighboring destinations, like Ejin Banner (Ejina Populus Euphratica Forest), Zhangye (Danxia Landform - colorful “Rainbow Mountains”), Dunhuang (Mogao Caves - Oriental Louvre) and other wonderful places in Qinghai, Gansu, Xinjiang along the Silk Road or in the Inner Mongolia.
Traveling in the wild area of northwestern China is many travelers' dream. No matter you want to explore the mystery of the silk road or photograph the colorful lakes of Badain Jaran Desert, it never be as easy as traveling in the bigger cities like Beijing and Shanghai. In order to get a worry-free experience and get ride of the hustle and bustle hustle of public transportation and troublesome navigation, traveling with China Discovery is your best choice. As your flight or train arrives, our local guide will meet you at the airport or train station. You will enjoy a high-quality private transfer service, including comfortable car, skilled driver and freedom to stop for sightseeing.
Far more than that, China Discovery is professional to provide high-quality customizable tour. Before your tour, our travel expert will communicate with you one to one and make an itinerary according your own interest, need and budget. Every detail – transfer, hotels, attractions, etc. will be arranged well for you and you just need to focus on sightseeing. Feel free to contact us to start your worry-free private tour now!
Top 3 Badain Jaran Desert tours chosen by most customers to explore Badain Jaran Desert in the best way. Check the detailed itinerary, or tailor your own trip now with us.
Zhangye - Badain Jaran Town - Badain Jaran Desert
Xining - Zhangye - Badain Jaran Desert
Badain Jaran Town - Badain Jaran Desert
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