One of the must-see sights in Inner Mongolia is the grasslands, and what better way to visit them than to stay in a traditional ger camp?
Gers (or yurts) are traditional Mongolian tents, perfect for the nomadic lifestyle due to their clever design which enables easy set up and dismantling. Their thick outer layer keeps inhabitants toasty warm even in the freezing winters, heated by a central stove. Nowadays, fixed ger camps such as the Jin Zhang Han camp often use brick instead to build the outer walls, while retaining the traditional circular shape and roof.
With growing tourism in the area, ger camps are settling around cities such as Hailaer to provide both accommodation and tours of the grasslands. In particular, we were keen to ride the local horses, a particularly hardy breed apparently dating back to the Mongol empire – however we had heard that doing so at the camp would be very expensive. Instead, our taxi driver kindly let us stop off en route for a 30 minute guided ride at a smaller camp where it only cost around 50 RMB.
Unfortunately upon arrival at the Jin Zhang Han camp however we heard that we were too early in the season for accommodation to be available (it was admittedly a bit chilly…), but we were still able to explore the rest of the camp and surrounding grasslands. Just a short walk away was a pretty little stream, the perfect photo opportunity even if it was a bit too early in spring for the grass to have turned green!
We also spent some time exploring the Tengrist monuments and sites around the camp, an important part of traditional beliefs. The brightly coloured ribbons adorning the sticks made these particularly stand out against the barren landscape.
I would highly recommend visiting a ger camp if you are going to Hailaer or another Inner Mongolian city. The Jin Zhang Han ger camp did feel a little touristy it must be said, so if you have more time or money it may be worth heading further out to a less well known camp. Alternatively, if you are really short on time there is a different ger camp even closer to the city, just South of the centre.
Since there is no public transport to Jin Zhang Han you have to take a private taxi, costing around 300 RMB for the day-long return journey including stop-overs for horse riding and to visit the Japanese tunnels from the war. If you intend to stay overnight at a camp, make sure to get the phone number of your taxi driver or arrange a pick-up for the following day!