Helan Mountain – A Huge Area with Many Things to See

Helan Mountain, at an altitude of 2,000 to 3,000 meters, is the highest mountain in Ningxia and Inner Mongolia. The undulating range of the mountain forms a natural barrier against desert winds and sands as well as invaders, making Ningxia a peaceful Oasis beyond the Great Wall. It also enjoys an excellent fengshui (geomantic omen) with groves surrounding it. In addition, it is the place where China’s early northern nomadic tribes like Tanguts, Huns, Xianbei, Turks, Unighurs, Tubos, etc., lived and proliferated. Therefore, there are lots of natural and cultural pearls formed and cherished in Helan Mountain. However, few people explore the whole mountain at once, because it is not a point of interest, but a huge area with lots of scenic attractions, from which you can get a probe into the nature, culture and history of Ningxia. Top recommended attractions include Rock Paintings of Helan Mountain, Suyukou National Park, Gunzhongkou Pass, Sand Lake, etc.

Rock Paintings of Helan Mountain (贺兰山岩画) – The Art Gallery of China’s Nomadic Tribes

  • Type: Historic Sites, Points of Interest, Landmarks
  • Best Time: May ~ October
  • Recommended Visiting Time: Half a day
  • Addmission: CNY 60
  • Location: East Range of the Helan Mountain, Yinchuan City (宁夏回族自治区银川市西夏区贺兰山东麓)

Visiting Yinchuan, you can’t miss the rock paintings in Helan Mountain. In the hinterland of Helan Mountain, there are about 20 places preserved with rock paintings, but the main concentration of carvings is found at Helankou (Helan Pass), a splendid gorge cutting north-west through the mountain. Among these rock painting parks, Helankou Rock Paintings is also the most representative one. Therefore, Rock Paintings of Helan Mountain usually refers to Helankou Rock Paintings in Helan Pass.

In this scenic area of Rock Paintings of Helan Mountain, over 6,000 rock pictographs have been documented, and these paintings dated back to a considerable period of time between 3,000 and 10,000 years ago. People carved their lives with different paintings on the rock, including animals (like tigers, leopards, sika deer, sheep, cattle, horses, camels), human figures, hunting tools, shaman masks portray hunting scenes, and some other artistic signs on myths and legends. The mask of faces is a symbol, and the most conspicuous image is the Sun God with a round face, double-ranged eyes and long eyelashes, which represents the light of the Sun. These paintings really open a window into the early civilization.

We strongly suggest you visit the small museum before heading to the paintings. There are hundreds of rock painting exhibits from around the world, many detailed explanations of Rock Paintings of Helan Mountain to help you have a great understanding of rock paintings in advance.

How to Get to Rock Paintings of Helan Mountain

Rock Paintings of Helan Mountain is located in Helan Pass on the east range of Helan Mountain, 50 km (about 1 hour’s drive) from Yinchuan City. Taking public buses is available but rather time-consuming, and it needs about 3 hours.

Tips: 1) There is a red mark near every rock painting in the scenic area to help travelers figure out the detailed location. 2) Hiring a travel guide is necessary if you are not satisfied with a hurried and cursory glance at the surface of these precious cultural treasures.

Helan Mountain Helan Mountain Rock Paintings of Helan Mountain
Helan Mountain Helan Mountain Rock Painting

Western Xia Imperial Tombs (西夏王陵) - Chinese Pyramid

  • Type: Historic Sites, Cemeteries
  • Best Time: May ~ October
  • Recommended Visiting Time: 1 ~ 3 hours
  • Addmission: CNY 88
  • Location: East Range of the Helan Mountain, Yinchuan City (宁夏回族自治区银川市西夏区贺兰山东麓)

Western Xia Imperial Tombs are a group of tombs of imperial emperors in once a powerful kingdom called Western Xia (1038~1227). About 25km away from Yinchuan City, it is the largest survived imperial tombs park in China as well as the largest survived Western Xia relic site. Influenced by Buddhist architecture, the Western Xia Mausoleum has organically combined Han culture, Buddhist culture and Dangxiang culture, forming a unique form of Chinese cemetery architecture. Apart from the tombs, the Western Xia Museum, Tablet Forest and Western Xia Art Museum also walk you through the history of Western Xia Dynasty.

There are 9 imperial tombs and over 250 subordinate tombs in the mausoleum park, but only Yu Tomb, Jia Tomb and Tai Tomb are open to the public. Among the three tombs, Tai Tomb (No. 3 Tomb), where the founding emperor - Li Yuanhao buried, is the biggest highlight. From the ruins, you can clearly see the location and layout of the burial complex, and well-preserved cultural relics including tomb walls, tomb platforms, foundation and building components. Read more>

Helan Mountain No. 3 Tomb

Suyukou National Forest Park (苏峪口国家森林公园) – Beautiful Forest with Bharals

  • Type: Forests, Parks
  • Best Time: May ~ October
  • Recommended Visiting Time: 1 ~ 3 hours
  • Addmission: CNY 60
  • Location: East Range of the Helan Mountain, Yinchuan City (宁夏回族自治区银川市西夏区贺兰山东麓)

Suyukou National Forest Park, also known as Helan Mountain National Forest Park, is famous for its rich vegetation and wildlife resources. If you plan a longer vacation in Ningxia, it provides you with a contrastive sightseeing against Ningxia’s desert landscape. The forest consisting of various kinds of plants stretches as far as your sight can reach. There are many small spots distributed in the park, including Golden Summit where the visitors can over look the panoramic of Suyu Pass as well as the lakes and desert views around Yinchuan, Suyukou Plank Road which is the longest and highest plank road in northwestern China, Cherry Valley which is the core area of the park with amazing gorge view, etc. The most exciting thing for some wildlife enthusiasts is that they can observe and spot rare bharals, also called Helan Mountain blue sheep, who reside in areas with bare rocks in northwest and southwest China.

Visiting Suyukou National Forest Park really means returning to nature and intoxicating with nature.

Helan Mountain Suyukou National Forest Park

Gunzhongkou (滚钟口) - A Mysterious Pass with Cultural Relics

  • Type: Forests, Parks, Hiking
  • Best Time: May ~ October
  • Recommended Visiting Time: 1 ~ 3 hours
  • Addmission: CNY 30
  • Location: East Range of the Helan Mountain, Yinchuan City (宁夏回族自治区银川市西夏区贺兰山东麓)

Gunzhongkou or Gunzhong Pass is a wonderful pass in Helan Mountain. The pass is surrounded by hills by three sides, and there is an opening on the east side. Without many trees like Suyukou, Gunzhongkou is attractive with lots of mysterious legends. There are also several temples with the features of Islam, Buddhism and Taoism. Li Yuanhao, the founding emperor of Western Xia Dynasty (1038~1227), once built a magnificent palace in Gunzhong Pass. Though these palaces are not preserved, visitors can still find some remains. Gunzhongkou is also a nice spot if you want to stretch your legs. The walking trails will lead up past pagodas and temples into the surrounding hills.

Helan Mountain Gunzhong Pass

Baisikou Twin Pagodas (拜寺口双塔) - Old Buildings with Buddha Statuettes

  • Type: Temples, Pagodas
  • Best Time: May ~ October
  • Recommended Visiting Time: Half An Hour
  • Addmission: Free
  • Location: Helan County, Xixia District, Yinchuan City (宁夏回族自治区银川市西夏区贺兰县)

Baisikou Twin Pagodas are a couple of Buddhist Pagodas of bricks located in Helan County. Both of them are meticulously-designed with elegant lines and delicate embossment. With a long history of about 1,000 years, they are the best-preserved Pagodas built in Western Xia Dynasty. With an old history of about 1,000 years, They are rare artistic treasures in the history of Chinese pagoda architecture. The stairway in the Eastern Pagoda is damaged, but travelers can enjoy the beautiful murals on the ground floor. In the Western Pagoda, there are numerous niches housing various statues of arhats.

Helan Mountain Baisikou Twin Pagodas

Travel with China Discovery

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How to Plan A Yinchuan Tour

How to Get to Yinchuan: It is easy to take a flight to Yinchuan from Beijing (2.5h), Shanghai (about 3h), Xian (about 1.5 h), Guangzhou (about 3 h), Shenzhen (about 3.5h), Chengdu (about 1.5 h), Chongqing (about 2h), etc.

Best Time to Visit Yinchuan: May to October is the best time to visit Yinchuan. It is cold in late autumn and winter (November ~ next February) and rather windy in early and mid-spring (March and April).

Generally, a classic Yinchuan tour takes 3 days, and you can appreciate the amazing culture of the Western Xia Dynasty as well and the featured exotic charm quite different from the major cities in China. On your arrival day, take a short visit to the landmarks in Yinchuan City, such as Haibao Pagoda, Drum Tower, China-Arab Axis, etc. Then, spend a full day admiring the rich culture and art Ningxia in the Western Xia Imperial Tombs and the Rock Painting of Helan Mountain. Of course, you won’t miss one of the top wineries where a cup of wine is offered. Before leaving, get an excellent view of Yinchuan in Ningxia Museum and visit the underground tunnels in Shuidong Cave in half a day.

☛ 3 Days Yinchuan History and Culture Tour

A Ningxia tour with itinerary only in Yinchuan is not complete. For more incredible landscapes, don't hesitate to extending your tour to Zhongwei. The top-haves include a visit to Shapotou Desert with beautiful wilderness and interesting activities and a peaceful and luxury accommodation in Suji Yellow River. For travelers in search of adventure, take a Jeep Safari through Tengger Desert. With more time, go to Guyuan to be awed at the valuable grottoes art in Xumishan Grottoes. See all Ningxia Tour Packages>

☛4 Days Best of Ningxia Tour with Tengger Desert Adventure
☛ 5 Days Ningxia Discovery Tour from Yinchuan to Zhongwei Shapotou
☛ 6 Days Ningxia Luxury Homestay Tour with Winery and Desert Camping

Zhangye Danxia Lanform Our customer Jeff from USA visited Shapotou Desert in May 2021 Zhangye Danxia Lanform Our customer Jeff from USA visited Shapotou Desert in May 2021

Recommended Yinchuan Tours

Top 3 Yinchuan tours chosen by most customers to explore Yinchuan in the best way. Check the detailed itinerary, or tailor your own trip now with us.

Western Xia Imperial Tombs - Chinese Pyramid Listed in World Cultural Heritage Sites
3 Days Yinchuan History and Culture Tour

Yinchuan City and around

Jeep Safari in Tengger Desert (vehicle for reference only)
4 Days Best of Ningxia Tour with Tengger Desert Adventure

Yinchuan / Tengger Desert

Cruise leisurely on the Yellow River in Qingtongxia
5 Days Ningxia Discovery Tour from Yinchuan to Zhongwei

Yinchuan - Qingtongxia - Zhongwei

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