Badain Jaran Desert Caravan (Spring & Fall)
5 days of hiking and camel riding from oasis to oasis (8 in total) in the world’s 4th largest desert. Thrilling jeep rides in and out of the desert. Non stop breathtaking views in one of the most deserted places on our planet. Become a nomad and scale the world’s largest sand dune.Everybody with an adventurous spirit can join. Whenever you feel tired you can just jump on your camel and wobble to the next oases.
- Key Info
- Discounts & Inclusions
Meeting and drop of point: Beijing South Airport or Jinchang Airport
DiscountsKids younger than 18 receive 10% discount
Price includes :English speaking guidesAll meals, water, accommodation,Camels, jeeps, bus
Price excludes :Flight to and away from Jinshang.Insurance
Kids younger than 18 receive 10% discount
Price includes :
English speaking guides
All meals, water, accommodation,
Camels, jeeps, bus
Price excludes :
Flight to and away from Jinshang.
We, the self named Camel Jockeys, a group of 19 who converged around the core nucleus of Lani’s friends and relatives. Together we embarked on a five day Badain Jaran desert hike in the bracing cold of Inner Mongolian midwinter, where night-time temperatures plummeted to a bracing 30 degrees Celsius – below zero.
While the summer sun will bake these sands to merciless temperatures up to 80 degrees centigrade, our adventure called for the warmest thermal foot insulation and, for some, the assistance of 10-hour heat pads. Above foot level, things were more tolerable, as the sun shone every day and the sun’s rays warmed us enough to take extended breaks to admire the stunning views.
On this occasion we flew in to the quiet Gansu outpost of 1)XXXXXXXX. From there, a chartered bus took us to the pick-up point via a lunch stop in a local town. The jeeps and their dedicated pilots were waiting to drive us into the desert, an amazing gradual transition ensued: from flat terrain with gravel and pot holes to undulating and soaring sand. We clung on as the vehicles negotiated the dunes in adrenalin fuelled leaps and bounds, with engines howling and tyres deflated to maximize traction. This alone was an unforgettable experience.
Once delivered to the first base camp, a sheltered and serene farm oasis on the edge of a lake, we substituted tyre marks for footprints, following countless invisible tracks of nomadic traders who plied this remote network of trails that formed part of the Silk Road.
We started and ended our hike here, at Hashomon’s farm, a homestead that, but for the luxury of electricity and the internal combustion engine that generates it, has altered little over many generations. Hashomon and 2)XXXXXXXXXX exude a calm contentment that qualifies them, along with their daughters and relatives, as some of the most inspiring hosts we self-proclaimed Camel Jockeys have ever come across. Meals here were sumptuous and memorable banquets. The youngest daughter treated us to a range of traditional folk songs into the bargain, played on the 3)XXXXXXXXXXX.
The camels here are the two-humped, Bactrian variety: the freighters of the Silk Road. They are at their hairiest at this time of the year. Their progress across the difficult terrain was impressive. We could opt to ride these camels at any time. Camel Jockey status had to be earned. Their motion took some getting used to, as it was like riding on a tractor with square wheels, and a different set of muscles started to throb after an hour or so. Heidi and Fred had one camel available for every single one of us Camel Jockeys, although many preferred to walk. The single-file camel caravans made for brilliant photos. Beyond day packs there was no luggage for us to carry. This was conveyed separately by Jeeps.
And on the subject of winter: the sand at this time of the year is like a Viennese ice cream cake, with multiple intermittent layers of snow and sand. We encountered top layers that were often frozen solid, which made ascents to dune summits challenging at times. Those who braved the additional burden of Nordic walking sticks and camera tripods were able to put them to good use to gain a grip in these situations. The rest of us got there eventually…. Once at the crest of the sandy waves, walking along the top was breathtakingly spectacular. Some (we would later call them the Mountain Goats) took every opportunity to detour to the summits of the dunes, sometimes appearing only as small dots on the horizon. Cold? Certainly! But this was a superb time of the year to be here, and to capture images of the temporarily tri-coloured (white, brown and blue) desert world.
We were welcomed to the world of nomadic herdsmen and farmers, whose love and understanding of the temperament of camels, the climate and the sand impressed us all deeply. There was a profound sense of cameraderie. Mutual exchanges of humour and lifestyles were made possible by Heidi and other Chinese speaking members of our team as we huddled around the coal (occasionally camel dung) burning heaters. There is a profound love of the land here, and a deep appreciation of the splendid isolation. The families, who mostly reside on the shores of the many salt and fresh-water lakes that dot the valleys (up to 140 of these lakes sustain life in this region), all know each other, recognize each other’s vehicles and can identify each other’s camels at a glance.
The salt and occasional fresh-water lakes are the Badain Jaran desert’s defining feature. At the convergence of two such lakes, a magnificent Tibetan – Buddhist temple stands, beautifully reflected in the partially frozen water. So isolated, it survived the ravages of the Cultural Revolution This was one of the four other places where we spent the night, braving the cold to admire the magnificent display of shooting starts and twinkling, crystal clear night skies. A large proportion of the dunes in this desert are static, and form some of the tallest recorded in the world. The tallest dune here, Bilutu is jokingly referred to by locals as ‘Everest’. The Camel Jockeys happily confirm that its summit can be reached without oxygen in about 90 minutes.
Meanwhile, we slept as well as might be expected. Super duty, thick bedding sealing in body heat while the coal stoves glowed. Coal stoking was a duty organized differently from room to room. There was a natural order. Those furthest away from the stove tended to wake up first! Some endured the rigors of washing and shaving, while others reduced these duties of personal hygiene to a basic minimum.
Perfectly fitting for this trip of a lifetime.
1) Please insert name of the airport we flew to
2) Please insert Hashomon’s wife’s name (and check my spelling of his name)
3) Please insert the name of the instrument that Hashomon’s daughter played
This winter we set of for a hiking adventure in Badanjilin (badain jaran) desert. We never went there during winter time but our adventurous German friends really insisted and once a local camel farmer invited us to join them for Chinese New year we didn’t doubt very long. And what an adventure it was. Badan Jilin desert is the 4th largest desert in the world and can easily claim to have the highest sand dunes in the world. This time however they almost looked like the Alps. The dunes that rise 400 to 600 meter above the 1000 met high plateau were now half covered in snow. It was almost impossible to fathom, riding those strong elegant camels trough snowy sand mountains. Our trip started at 8.30 am on cold monday morning 2 jeeps drove us for about 1,5 hours deep into the desert. At the foot of the high dunes we got out and started our amazing 80km trek trough china’s most deserted place. Usually when we hike here we take our tents and camp but with a temperature of -20C this was impossible this time. This time we stayed with local camel farmers or shepherds. Very basic but very interesting.
Especially because it was Chinese New Year and our host dressed up in their traditional clothes to worship the fire god and bless the camels. Even their house is located in the middle of the desert far from anything else,they also take part in the tradition of setting of fire works and drink quality bagio just like any other Chinese. Or maybe not just like any other chinese. The way they offer and shared drinks with us was so elegant, friendly and respectful. The way they honored their gods si so sincere, beautiful,yet very open and laid back. One new years dinner and lunch later we were ready to start our next 60 km trekking adventure trough the Badanjilin desert. Our first goal was the worlds highest sand dune 1600 meters. A 20 km hike trough the best desert scenery ever. The camels were carrying our load so we could hike comfortable taking pictures from every dune we crossed. The small house at the foot of Bilutu was our next destination. The little house at the foot of the worlds highest sand dune was home to a Shepard. Since the house had only 2 rooms and 1 stove our host Hasemong brought an extra stove with his jeep so we could stay warm in the -30 degrees cold night. At night we woke up in shifts, to refill the stove with some wood and camel dung. Hard to believe,but we all slept very good next to each other on the elevated platform that filled most of room. We woke up with warm rays of the morning sun, fresh sheep meat and the usual plates of dumplings. No rush in Badain Jaran desert in wintertime. Only when the sun is high enough and temperature rises to a comfortable -10 that we saddle up the camels and start hiking again. We didn’t know it yet but this day was going to give us the most amazing view of our adventure. First part of this was all the way up till we were on top of a 1500 meter high sand dune. This viewpoint was just amazing. Dunes as far as the eye could reach and a view of 5 frozen desert lakes. From we here we could run down the steep slope of the dune for and cover the same distance in 10 minutes as we just did on our climb in over 1 hour! Great fun
In the late afternoon we reached Badain Jaran desert temple. A Ming Dynasty Tibet style Budhist temple that survived the big demolition storm about 50 years ago. The tale says that there is a fresh water spring next to the temple that starts flowing when the monks sit around it and start chanting. There are a few houses that cater for visitors close to the temple lake so that night we could spend a bit more luxurious “according desert standards of course, which means there is cold beer, Bagio and private rooms ;-)”
As our north china desert adventure continued we past more of Badan Jilin desert gem like lakes and had many hours of sometimes deep conversation. The desert is a place so different and so far from the our materialistic world that it makes you thinking. At times it covers you with a spiritual blanket and makes you enjoy the smallest things imaginable. Its a place everybody should experience.
May 17 2012 we are going back to meet old and new friends. Join us if you can. It’s going to be completely different in spring but sure it will be another amazing Badain Jaran Desert Adventure hike!
Located On the the western plateau of Inner Mongolia, Badain Jaran Desert is one of china’s top hiking destination.
Still fairly unknown to foreigners this desert, with over a 140 lakes and the highest dunes in the world this place should definitaly be on your list of things to do in China.
Last May we went to Badan Jiling desert (Badain Jaran in Mongolian) for a 5day hike and it was stunning! The weather in May is just perfect. During the day pretty warm, at night just perfect to sleep outside under the stars. Every day we hiked about 20km between and over mountains of sand that rose up till 1600 meters above sea level. Hiking up these sand dunes can be quit hard but our friendly caravan of camels was already to give us ride.
During this 100km hike we past by 9 lakes all together. In this desert every local has got his own lake and since we keep coming here they all became like our family, or actually I should say they started taking care of us like family. Although they live all 1 day walking from each other and have hardly any phone connection, news travels so fast in this place. Before we even got in the desert every local already new that we were coming and which lakes we were planing on visiting.
Altough we planned on sleeping in tents the entire trip the ways we spend the night where different every day. First night our host and cameleer Hasemong invited us to stay at his place. As we where all quit tired form the long travel to Inner Mongolia and the early start the first day (3am) we happily accepted this invitation. The second night weather was so nice that we all spend the night under watching the stars leaving our tents still untouched.
Next day we hiked past the deserts biggest dune (bilutu). Just as we were climbing towards the 1500 meter ridge to get to the other side a sand storm hit. It really came out of nowhere. Heidi & me where the first ones to challenge the climb but just a few meters before the top we had to sit down and cover our heads from the sand attack. Once the storm loosened up her grip on us a bit we quickly made a go for the other side of the dune. Than the others followed as fast as possible and with their eyes more closed than open to keep the sand from blinding them. It didn’t take long before we all reached the other side and our minds where filled with great adventure spirit. Covered under heavy camel blankets we continued hiking trough the storm, down to next valley. Once in the valley everything became silent again. Its unbelievable how fast forces of nature can come and disappear.
We hiked past 3 more lakes and already a while past sunset before we finally reached this day’s destination (xiao heize = small lake). With only a bit of wind left decided to put our tents, just to be safe. With a beautiful sunset we woke up next early next morning. Today was going to be divided in 2 parts. First hike was just a little under 2 hours towards Badanjilin Temple. From the top of a large sand dune we could see the temple peacefully located between 2 lakes. With only 1 or 2 monks praying and chanting in this place has something magic.
After lunch we saddled the camels again and hiked a few hours towards one of the most beautiful lakes in this desert. Not much I can say about this lake…. Just have a look at the pictures…. they say more than a thousand words can describe…This was our last night in the desert but such a memorable one. What can be more idylic than drinking a bottle of wine next to a christal clear bleu lake while watching the sun set behind one of the highest dunes in the world…
I wish everybody could have this experience and once you found the way to this block your opportunity just came up.Check out our website and find out more about our trip to this magic place.
Are you planning far ahead but your favorite trip is not on our schedule at the time you’re coming to China? Are you an indepentdant traveler that wants to keep the costs as low as possible? Just let us know your favorite trip and starting date at least 6 weeks in advance and we will add your trip to our hiking agenda. As soon as we have 6 people joining the trip we are good to go!
Private tour prices for Badain Jaran Desert Caravan (Spring & Fall)
|Group Size||Price pp in CNY||Price pp in USD|
Airport meet up
Drive and hike into the desert.
Overnight with locals in the desert
10 km hiking per day
Overnight with locals in the desert
Drive and hike out of the desert
Overnight in Jinchang town
65 km hiking
Tibetan desert temple
bright bleu oases
Climb the worlds highest dune
Exhilarating jeep rides
Don't see the date you want?
Day 1 :
Badain Jaran desert, here we come!
5:00: Meeting at Beijing Airport
6:50: Fly from Beijing to Jinchang
8:50: Arrive in Jinchang
9:00: Private bus from Jinchang to Yabulaizhen
12.30: Lunch at Yabulaizhen
13.30: Jeep from Yabulaizhen into Badain Jaran desert
(schedule might depending on flight times)
From here, we will lose track of time and live with the sun, the moon, the stars and follow the pace of the locals. We have quite a few friends living deep in the desert, so the itinerary will be subject to who is home.
Our friends at lake Bilutu and Hudujulin will welcome us delightfully with some home cooked meals. At night, we can lay in the sand and doze off while searching for a shooting star.
A stunning day where our caravan passes over high dunes and 3 oases. This evening we will set camp at a small oasis called Xiao Haize. Another friend of ours live here and he always has a few beers in the fridge.
This is not just another day, but a day filled with highlights. If you feel strong, you can set off and start climbing the highest dune of the desert. Time to put your camera on panoramic. On top of this dune you will have 360 degrees view of 4 oases. Running down the dunes is much easier and faster, so you’ll catch up with the caravan heading for the Badajilin Buddhist temple later.
At night, we pitch our tents next to the mystique lake. It said that the fresh water flows out when people pray or sing for it. Let’s check if it is true!
This morning, you get the chance to visit the temple and witness the monks chanting the Tibetan mantras and walk around the lake After lunch, we will saddle our camels and ride to Nuretu lake, the most idyllic lake of the desert.
After breakfast, we will kiss our loyal camel goodbye and the 4×4’s will bring us back to the edge of the desert. Our van will pick us up and bring us to a nice hotel in Jinchang for a well deserved shower.
We head to the airport at and board the plane. By dinner time, you will be back in Beijing watching the slideshow of your fabulous Badain Jaran desert tour.
Accommodation and food
Accommodation is simple in the Badain Jaran desert. At some places, you will have a bed in a private room. At other times, there will be 4 beds in one room. In some locations it will be possible to camp in the dunes depending on the weather conditions (read strong winds/ sandstorms)
It is rare to find toilets in the desert. Mostly there is a designated dune so don’t forget to bring a roll of toilet paper. The locals will be our host and chef. The food in the desert is good. It will be a mix between meat, vegetables and lots of milk tea.
Price & Payment
For this trip, we will ask you to sign up and pay 1 month in advance. Everything is included from the moment you arrive in Jinchang till you get back on the train/plane.
This part of the desert requires a special permit and we will arrange that for you. All we need from you is a scanned copy (not a picture) of your passport, your China visa, and the page with the entry stamp.
In case of cancellation
More than 1 month before the trip you will get a 100% refund
Less than 1 month before the trip there will be no refund unless somebody else can takes up your spot
What to bring
1. The temperature during May will be nice and warm during the day. Comfortable cool at night.
2. The altitude of Badain Jaran desert is between 1100m and 1600m. UV radiation intensifies at this altitude, sunscreen lotion and sunglasses and a hat are recommended.
3. Medicines for fever, headache, diarrhea, car sickness, etc.
4. Good walking shoes are essential for trekking in desert.
5. Small bag to carry your camera and water, plastic bag to keep your camera or photographic equipment from sands and dust.
6. Toilet paper, flash light.
7. There will be a limited possibility to charge batteries so be sure to bring a few extra.
8. Do not forget to bring your Passport.
Badain Jaran desert is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. With dunes like mountain ranges and over 150 lakes this place should be listed in the top 3 natural wonders of the world.” (Frederik Halewyck, hiking guide, world traveler and assistant for lonely planet Gobi Desert exploration 2010.
Level 3: Medium-strong
A good physical condition is required for hiking in these designed trails. Hikes marked as level 3 are usually long day hikes or day hikes that include a steep uphill hike and/or trails where some balance is needed. Usually kids from age of 10 are all right with these trips.
Planning a trip ahead or want a private tour?
Private tour prices for Badain Jaran Desert Caravan (Spring & Fall)
|Group Size||Price pp in CNY||Price pp in USD|
Please fill out the details in the form below to submit your request for a private or open tour.