Hohhot Travel Guide

Province

Inner Mongolia

Location

North China

Population

2.2 million

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Language

Hohhot Mandarin

Welcome to Hohhot!

Hohhot is a Mongolian word that means ‘Blue City’, though this is often mistranslated as ‘Green City’. Whichever translation you hear, it’s an appropriate description for this city.

Hohhot is the capital of Inner Mongolia, not to be confused with Mongolia (the country). Hohhot is a fairly new city, so there aren’t a lot of historical attractions to see.

However, the city is growing rapidly from its days as one of the temporary settlements of the local nomadic people.

If you’re the type of traveler who likes to see things that few other tourists ever see, then you should spend some time in Hohhot. It’s surrounded by beautiful grasslands that reflect the wild history of the area and a unique culture that you won’t find anywhere else.

Hohhot

Inner-city Hohhot. Image by James Jiao on Shutterstock.

Muslim Street Hohhot

Muslim Street, Hohhot. Image by Terimma on Shutterstock.

Language in Hohhot

 

There are 36 ethnic groups in Hohhot, including Mongol, with Han Chinese as the dominant ethnicity.

This mix of ethnicities has resulted in a combination of languages in the city as well.

Many of Hohhot’s older residents speak the Hohhot dialect, but the newer residents speak Hohhot-based Mandarin.

This is a form of Mandarin that’s accented and includes some very unique vocabulary. This mix can make traveling around Hohhot interesting.

Street signs tend to be in both Mandarin Chinese and Mongolian.

Hohhot’s grasslands

 

Hohhot is famous for its expansive grasslands set against the sapphire sky.

Of course, you’ll want to visit these natural wonders while you’re in China. However, be aware that many of the grasslands are suffering because of over-tourism. As a result, the grass in many areas has become patchy and unhealthy.

So, try to travel sustainably and avoid areas experiencing environmental stress.

Grasslands near Hohhot

Grasslands near Hohhot. Image by James Jiao on Shutterstock.

The best things do in Hohhot

Few people outside of China ever travel to Hohhot, so make sure you take the chance to see as much as possible while you’re there!

1. Explore Da Zhao Temple

Constructed in 1579, this is the oldest Buddhist temple in the city and it’s absolutely lovely. It belongs to the Gelug Sect or Yellow Sect and is of great significance in Inner Mongolia.

Da Zhao Temple Hohhot

Da Zhao is the oldest and largest temple in the city. Image by James Jiao on Shutterstock.

The temple contains three main treasures: a 2.5-meter silver statue of Buddha, dragon carvings and murals.

And while you’re there, you may also get the chance to experience the Qiamu dance and Buddhist music.

2. Explore the 5 Pagoda Temple

This Indian style temple is important in Tibetan Buddhism and has a unique structure and coloring. It’s constructed by building pagodas over pagodas.

The green and yellow glazing over the eaves and tops is really striking.

You can climb up to the pagodas or spend some time at the back of the building where you’ll find a rare Mongolian astronomical map. This will give you the rare chance to see the universe through the eyes of the ancient Mongolians.

3. Wander around the Inner Mongolia Museum

Although Hohhot itself isn’t as old as other cities you can see in Mongolia or China, the land has its own long history.

At this museum, you’ll get the chance to experience pieces of that history from the Stone Age to modern times.

Tourist at Inner Mongolia Museum

Find out more about Hohhot at the museum. Image supplied by Olivia Seaton-Hill.

There isn’t a lot of English in the museum, but most of the exhibits are easy enough to understand and you should still walk away with a deeper understanding of Hohhot.

4. See the resting place of one of the Four Legendary Beauties at Zhaojun Tomb

Zhaojun Tomb is around 13 km (8 mi) from Hohhot and is the resting place of a Han princess considered to be one of the four most beautiful women in Ancient China. In her time, she brought about peace by marrying a nomad Hun chief and, according to local stories, she could also perform miracles.

The princess’s resting place has been marked by a 33-meter-tall man-made mound. It’s also surrounded by beautiful green landscape as well as statues and an exhibition.

Make sure you check out the small museum in the area to learn more about the Huns.

5. Explore the Great Mosque

Built in 1693 in a mix of Arabic and Chinese styles, this mosque is the largest and oldest in the city.

It’s still an active place of worship, so while you’re there try to get the chance to experience the Muslim faith for yourself.

Great Mosque Hohhot

The Great Mosque is worth checking out. Image by Nayuki Minase on Shutterstock.

The Mosque itself is amazing, with a hushed and reverent atmosphere. There are several different buildings to explore and more than 30 volumes of ancient Koran scriptures in Arabic.

6. Immerse yourself in the Xilamuren Grassland

This is the closest grassland to Hohhot and is only around one-and-a-half hours’ drive from the city. Its name means ‘Yellow River’ in Mongolian, and you’ll understand why once you get there.

This grassland area is popular among tourists for its facilities and for the festivals that are held in the area.

While you’re there, you’ll have the chance to enjoy a traditional welcoming ceremony, stay overnight in traditional Mongolian yurts, and watch a unique event called the Three Games of Men, which includes horse riding, archery, and wrestling.

You’ll also be able to try some traditional Mongolian food and even try some horse riding yourself!

Check out our article on things to do in Inner Mongolia for even more ideas.

The best places to eat in Hohhot

You’ll find some very unique food in Hohhot.

It’s based on Mongol cuisine, with dairy products featuring heavily in the dishes.

Hohhot is the base of dairy giants Mengniu and Yili, which is why dairy products are so popular among the locals.

Hohhot bakery

Local bakery and souvenir shop in the Muslim Quarter. Image by B.Panupong on Shutterstock.

Hohhot also has a large Hui Muslim population, so you’ll find a lot of Halal restaurants in the city.

In these restaurants, it’s considered extremely rude to ask for pork, so stick to the meats that are on offer. Or, better still, go vegetarian in China.

Amugulang Mongolian Restaurant 满都海西巷

This restaurant is in the university district and it’s popular among students, so you know that the prices will be good. It serves home-cooked, traditional Mongolian dishes and the food is absolutely amazing.

You’ll also get the chance to be among the locals and see how much they enjoy their food.

Yinuo Qianjing Vegetarian Tea Restaurant 伊诺前景素食茶餐厅

This restaurant serves more than tea, though there are several varieties of the popular drink on offer.

The food at this restaurant is based on the idea of gaining blessings and wisdom through food choices. The dishes are based on fungi, cereals, fruits, and beans, and the flavors are really quite amazing!

Address: No. 17, Building 11, Fulin Mall, Dazhaoqian Street, Yuquan District玉泉区大召前街福临商城11号楼17号

Hong Ye Lou Restaurant 鸿烨楼

The food at this restaurant is so good that it sometimes gets very crowded, despite being absolutely huge! It serves Muslim-style dishes from mutton hotpots to snacks as well as a Korean style barbecue.

With pleasant decorations and separate areas for different types of food, this restaurant is an experience as well as a great place to eat.

Address: Opposite Hui People’s Hospital, Zhongshan West Road, Hui District 回民区中山西路回民医院对面

Grandma

This is one of the best places to eat in Hohhot because it serves traditional Mongolian food that even the locals love!

It’s a fun and colorful place where you can eat everything from camel meat pie to sweet cheese and homemade yogurt.

Address: Xilin Guole Beilu 锡林郭勒北路

Dàndàn Tóngguōshuàn

Hotpots are just as famous in Hohhot as they are in West China, so you simply must try one of these warming dishes.

The hotpots at this restaurant are traditional and vary from intensely spicy to mild, to suit every taste. The restaurant is fairly expensive, so make sure you take some friends along with you to share the cost of your hotpot.

Address: 9 Sanshiwuzhong Xiangnei 三十五中巷内9号

The best food streets in Hohhot

Here are a few streets in Hohhot that are lined with shops and restaurants, all of them eager to feed you!

Saishang Old Street 塞上老街

Located close to Dazhao Temple, this street is quite literally like a pocket of the old in the middle of the modern city.

Saishang Old Street at night

Saishang Old Street at night. Image by James Jiao on Shutterstock.

It’s filled with street-side stalls selling your typical Chinese souvenirs as well as Mongolian souvenirs that are surprisingly unique and well worth taking home.

And of course, the food stalls in this area serve great snacks and meals.

Huang Jie

This is a busy street in the center of Hohhot, and it’s filled with so many restaurants that you might have trouble choosing one.

The restaurants offer mostly Mongolian and Chinese food, so you probably won’t be eating Western food when you eat in this area.

Where to stay in Hohhot

Hohhot accommodation ranges from high-class chain hotels to smaller, boutique offerings.

So, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding the best place to stay in Hohhot no matter what your taste or budget.

Budget

The Anda Guesthouse is family-run accommodation that’s warm, welcoming, and has friendly staff who are multi-lingual. The hostel has lots of common spaces where you can get to know your fellow travelers, including a patio with a mini yurt.

Located close to the local train station, the hostel offers a pickup service and is close to the city center so you can explore at your leisure.

Mid range

The Jinjiang Inn Hohhot is close to the Hohhot Mosque and other tourist attractions. It has simple but comfortable rooms with private bathrooms and TVs.

There’s also a 24-hour desk at the inn and an on-site restaurant for quick, late-night meals.

Luxury

The Wanda Vista Hohhot is centrally positioned and offers lots of modern amenities and great service. It has elegant rooms with touches of oriental design and modern facilities like a rain shower, air conditioning, and a deep bathtub.

The hotel has a kids’ club, a pool, and a gym that you can use as well as helpful staff and on-site restaurants.

Transport in Hohhot

Hohhot is Inner Mongolia’s transport hub, so it has a fairly modern and efficient transport system that will help you explore the city and outside of it.

Air travel

You can fly into Hohhot and arrive at the Hohhot Baita Airport. It’s only 10 miles outside of the city and offers flights to lots of major cities in China as well as parts of Mongolia and Russia.

You can get to the airport via shuttle bus from Xinhua Square or Guohang Mansion. You can also take a public bus or a taxi.

Long distance rail

The Jingbao Railway passes through Hohhot, so you can catch a train to Hohhot from cities like Chengdu or Beijing. You can also catch trains out of the city to other Chinese cities like Hangzhou, Tianjin, Harbin, Xian, and other popular tourist cities.

There is one main railway station in the city, on Chenzhan East Street.

Long distance bus

Hohhot has recently benefited from the construction of the Hubao Highway, which opens the way for long distance buses. There are now several regular passenger buses that can take you to nearby towns.

Local bus

The bus is a cheap way to get around Hohhot. It costs 1 yuan per person and there are over 100 routes through the city. This includes routes that can take you to some of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.

Local buses in Hohhot

Local buses lined up in Hohhot. Image by RosnaniMusa on Shutterstock.

Just remember that the bus stop signs won’t be in English, so you will have to plan your trips carefully.

Tourist bus

The tourist bus is No. 23, and it will take you from the railway station to Wusutu National Forest Park. It runs every hour from 9 am to 5 pm.

Taxis

There are lots of taxis in the city and they’re fairly cost effective. Just remember to have the name of your destination in Mandarin on your phone as your driver probably won’t speak English.

Or, you can use an app like Didi (China’s Uber) where messages can be translated. Find out all the helpful apps for China here.

Traveling outside of Hohhot

If you want to see the grasslands in Hohhot, then you need to go out of the city.

Fortunately, there are some really beautiful areas just a few hours away.

Huitengxile Grassland

Just two hours’ drive from Hohhot, this is one of the most beautiful grasslands around.

The name means ‘cold plateau’ because of the elevation and the area is a rare mountain meadow steppe. In fact, it’s regarded as one of the best-preserved alpine meadows in the world.

This is one of the less crowded grasslands and it’s simply stunning. There are 99 natural lakes dotted throughout the area as well as some beautiful valleys including the Yellow Flowers Valley.

For the most stunning scenery, make sure you visit between May and December to see the flowers in full bloom.

Kubuqi Desert

If you’ve seen enough grasslands, then it’s time to go in the opposite direction!

Kubuqi Desert is in in the northern part of the Ordos Plateau and is the closest desert to Beijing. It’s a popular tourist destination because it’s scenic and well developed.

Camel ride Kubuqi Desert

You can ride a camel in the Kubuqi Desert. Image supplied by Olivia Seaton-Hill.

Kubuqi Desert is great for hiking, but you don’t have to rough it in the desert if you don’t want to. There are several desert oases where you can stay including the national 5A level scenic area of Xiangshawan, where you’ll find lots of facilities and an amusement area for kids.

You should also try to see the Yeminsha, or Night Singing Sand, which is one of the largest singing sand belts in the world.

Laoniu Bay

You’ll need at least half a day to explore this spot, located around 100 miles from the center of Hohhot. Laoniu Bay is the only place where the Yellow River and the Great Wall intersect and it’s also one of the 10 most beautiful canyons in China.

When you visit this bay, you’ll enjoy stunning scenery and be able to hike through a section of the Great Wall that was built during the Ming Dynasty.

There are also three smaller bays and a valley that you can explore.

Dinosaurs Fairyland near Erlian

If you’re a dinosaur aficionado, make the long trek to this wacky dinosaur theme park which was built to promote tourism in the middle of nowhere.

The park features dozens of full scale dinosaur models as well as bones, both real and fake. The park is so remote (it’s 20 km from the nearest town, Erlian) that you might just have the place all to yourself.

Also, make sure you see the largest dinosaurs in the world kissing over the highway, which is 8 km (5 mi) from the theme park.

Dinosaurs Fairyland is a grueling six-hour drive from Hohhot, or take the slow train which takes eight hours. You’d have to appreciate craziness or have a love for dinosaurs to want to get out to this remote part of Inner Mongolia.

Videos about Hohhot

Get a visual taste of Hohhot before you visit!

Here’s a snippet of the city taken while on a bike.

And, here’s a longer video of Hohhot with some running commentary.

Don’t forget…

 

It’s easy to forget a thing or two before you head to China.

So, here are a few reminders for you:

  • The right visa – if you’re only staying for a quick trip, you may be eligible for visa-free travel.
  • Cash or Alipay – your credit card may not be accepted, so bring yuan or use Alipay (instructions here).
  • VPN app – if you want access to all your favorite websites and apps in China, you’ll need to download a VPN before you leave your country. Get a VPN that works in China.

Have a wonderful time in Hohhot. And remember to get your VPN!

Questions and comments

Let’s chat about Hohhot!

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Page last updated 25 October 2021. Main image credit: B.Panupong on Shutterstock. Commercial relationship disclosure: The Helpful Panda has commercial arrangements with organizations that may appear on this page, such as affiliate links. See our terms for more info.

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