The Hulunbuir Grasslands
Last updated by david at 2014/5/3
The Hulunbuir Grasslands are named after the prefecture which they occupy, Hulunbuir. Hulunbuir Prefecture is in turn named after the two lakes which lie at its center, Lake Hulun to the north (the larger of the two bodies of water) and Lake Buir to the south. Only the northeastern side of the latter lake lies within Inner Mongolia and Hulunbuir Prefecture. The greater part of Lake Buir lies in "Outer" Mongolia (aka the Republic of Mongolia). The Hulunbuir Grasslands are the principal grasslands of Inner Mongolia, even though the Ordos Grasslands have traditionally been more known outside of China.
The Hulunbuir Grasslands abound in sheep, cattle*, cashmere goats, some camels, and of course lots and lots of horses. Almost all of Hulunbuir Prefecture lies on the flat Mongolian Plateau, which is a loess plateau that is significantly more fertile than the average clay-and-sand grassland. Though the plateau has no defining ravines, gorges, or valleys - and hardly any mountains with the exception of Greater Daxinggan Mountain and Castle Peak - it abounds in lakes. The Mongolian Plateau has over a thousand lakes, large and small. With its fertile "fields" of endless grass dotted here and there with herds of cattle, sheep and goats, and the occasional conglomeration of yurts, and with its vast open skies above, the Hulunbuir Grasslands are the poster image of unspoiled nature.
A close-up look at the grass reveals a myriad of colorful wildflowers that bloom each year during the short summer season. The blue expanse of Lake Hunlun vies with the verdant expanse of the grasslands, further amplifying the beauty of this unique piece of nature.
There are a variety of activities available to the visitor to the Hulunbuir Grasslands: one can dress up in Mongolian attire and take a refreshing gallop on a Mongolian steed across the endless grass, one can take a leisurely ride around the terrain on a Bactrian camel, one can take a ride on a special Mongolian horse-drawn cart, and one can of course paddle a boat out into Lake Hunlun either in search of fish (all of the eateries around the lake serve fresh fish from Lake Hunlun of course - and there are several edible species to choose from) or in search of a spot of marine tranquility to break the tranquility of the grassland. To really break the tranquility, one can rent a shotgun and go hunting in the nearby forest.
Besides fish, the area offers of course mutton, either roasted or boiled. The Mongols are also fond of their traditional milk tea. There are souvenir shops here where one can purchase something special by which to remember the Hulunbuir Grasslands, and if one is into more lively shopping, one can visit the border town (it borders with Russia), Manzhouli, where one should be prepared to haggle over prices. But the real pearl of the area are the unspoiled grasslands that also serve as a migratory home-away-from-home to the so-called yellow goat, the Mongolian gazelle (Procapra gutturosa) that wander into Inner Mongolia/ Hulunbuir Grasslands from eastern Mongolia and Siberia during the dead of winter, as the climate of Hulunbuir is milder at this time of year than in their primary homelands, which are completely and relentlessly frozen over during the middle of winter.
* The Sahne breed of cattle of the Hulunbuir Grasslands is a dual-purpose, meat-milk breed of cattle that has been developed especially for the extreme climatic conditions of the Hulunbuir Grasslands (for example, the only available water source during winter is snow and thin ice). The Sahne is namely a cross between hardy but low-yielding (both meat- and milk-wise) native Mongolian cattle and hardy but high-yielding breeds from mountainous regions of Europe, namely, the Swiss Simmental breed (from the Simme Valley in Switzerland) and the muscular and ferocious-looking Shorthorn breed that is native to the coastal region of northeastern England (specifically, the North Sea counties of Durham, Lincoln, Northcumberland and York).
The Hulunbuir Grasslands was selected as the top Undiscovered China Attractions.
Solo Adventure Tips:
How to Get There?
The nearest city which offers sightseeing tours to the Hulunbuir Grasslands is the city of Hailar. Hailar can be reached from Beijing via the route Harbin - Huhhot - Baotou. Alternatively, one can fly directly from Beijing to Huhhot, then proceed on to the city of Hailar. The trip from Hailar out to the grasslands takes about an hour.
Opening Hours: The end of June to mid-September is the most suitable period for traveling there.
The end of June to mid-September is the most suitable period for traveling there.
More Tips: The weather: For half of the year, the climate of the Hulunbuir Grasslands is wintery, i.e., is covered by ice and snow, with an average winter temperature of minus 28 degrees Celsius. The other half of the year is more temperate, with warm to very hot temperatures during the middle of the day, especially in mid-summer. Hulunbuir's spring and autumn periods are short transitions to and from summer. The best season to visit the Hulunbuir Grasslands is from May to September.
Accomodations: There are two choices: either a hotel in Hailar - an hour's ride by bus from the grasslands; or a Mongolian yurt anno 21st century (they tend to have concrete bases as opposed to the original versions which were erected directly on the ground), located on the grasslands. Unless you are very frail or absolutely require all the modern conveniences of a hotel, you should really try the yurt option, in spite of its modern-day improvements.
The weather: For half of the year, the climate of the Hulunbuir Grasslands is wintery, i.e., is covered by ice and snow, with an average winter temperature of minus 28 degrees Celsius. The other half of the year is more temperate, with warm to very hot temperatures during the middle of the day, especially in mid-summer. Hulunbuir's spring and autumn periods are short transitions to and from summer. The best season to visit the Hulunbuir Grasslands is from May to September.
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