Erlian Grassland Tour Loop
Erlian, sometimes on the map, has another name called Erenhot. It is the main border town for the Trans-Mongolian Rail, crossing from Inner Mongolia of China to Mongolia. Xiling Gol, sometimes on the map, called XilingHot.
Erlian can be the first stop on the three day low-budget self-organised grassland tour. Don't expect any luxury or people speaking English in the next two days. If Erlian is your first stop, the loop is to head east to Xiling Gol. After Xiling Gol, you may head south to a bigger city called Zhangjiakou which is 200KM north of Beijing. If you want to stay in Inner Mongolia with more grassland to see, head further east to Tongliao, then east will bring you to Harbin or south-west to Chengde which is a short distance from Beijing. Harbin is where the Trans-Manzhourian Rail starts, you can go back to Chita in Russia through the border town of Manzhouli.
If you start at Beijing, you can head to either Datong or Jining, the train will go through Zhangjiakou before reaching Datong or Jining. Heading from both cities will get you to Erlian. Datong has many things to visit - Yungang Grottoes, Hanging Temples, etc. Jining will be the first stop in Inner Mongolia.
Although the bus stops for lunch, buy some food and drinks for the bus. The initial bus from Erlian leaves from the bus station.
Take the bus or train to Erlian. The journey to Erlian in itself is beautiful. All the way to Erenhot you can watch the endless green grassland plains stretching till horizon where they meet blue sky dotted with white clouds.
The first stop is Xilinhot, a bigger city about 12 hours of scenic bus drive over the dirt grassland roads to the East. There is only one bus departing in the early morning (around 7.00).
In Xilinhot, buy some food and drink, and walk south to the first small hill outside the city. Sit down and enjoy the magnificent view over the city and the vast green grasslands stretching into the distance. Again, the only bus departs early in the morning.
From Jining it is possible to head south to Datong or Beijing or continue heading East towards the city Zhangjiakou. The journey takes about 12 hours. From there it is a half day drive to Chengde and little bit more to Beijing.