HGAT Guide to Ningxia, China
Last month, an invitation popped into my inbox informing me that I had been officially invited to Ningxia in China. What, China? Wow, these spam emails are getting really good. It was only until I made BW check that evening, where I found out that not only was it legit (a new partnership between Emirates and Asia Tour Company LTD!), but they wanted me to fly out within the next week – oh my gosh. I was actually going to China. China.
When you think about Muslims in China, your first thought goes to the Western province; Silk Road, Xian etc. However, there is a small hidden gem in the Northwestern area known as Ningxia, which has a heavy Muslim population and a combination of different cultures due to it’s unique location. For four days, I was toured around to have a glimpse of the Muslim lifestyle out there and I came back in awe of how great it was. So without further ado, here is my official guide to Ningxia, China.
Emirates have now started doing direct flights from Dubai to Yinchuan, a not-too-bad 7 hour journey. As I was starting my travel adventure from London, stick on another 6-7 hours on top of that, making it a 14 hour comfortable journey in total.
WHERE TO STAY
Having caught a 4am flight from Dubai, I was more than overjoyed to arrive at the fantastic 5* Xifujing Hotel – our home for the next few days. The location was perfect and just a short car journey away from all the landmarks, town centre, and the airport too.
Check out the room:
WHAT TO SEE
→ SAND LAKE
We hopped on a boat and floated through the serene and clear lake, which then merges into a desert – a really unique landscape that I’ve never come across before. Upon reaching the other side, we were greeted with humongous sand dunes and sculptures where you could jet ski, take camel rides, and parasail.
RMb$60 – Entry into the park
RM $110 – Entry with boat ride.
→ SHUI DONG GOU REMAINS
A National Tourist site consisting of 30,000 years (woah!) worth of history and is known to be the earliest Paleolithic relic in China. We also explored the caves where the soldiers would hide during battles.
RMB$156 – Package (Entry fee, indoor 3d film, Troop hiding cave, and sightseeing bus)
→ SHAPOTOU, ZHONGWEI
Known as one of the top ten interesting places in China, Shapotou packs in deserts, lakes, and a snippet of the famous Yellow River. Due to the weather, many of the activities were closed but we managed to squeeze in a fun cable car ride up as well and sand surfing alllll the way back down. It’s worth visiting here either for sunrise or sunset for a really memorable experience, whilst you float down the Yellow River on a sheepskin raft.
RMB$65 – Entry fee
RMB$105 – Sightseeing bus and sheepskin raft
RMB$50 – Cable car + Sand slide
→ MUSLIM VILLAGE, WUZHONG
One of the highlights of the trip was visiting a Mu Min Muslim village, also known as the “longevity village”, where we met the Chief as well as having one of the best meals of the trip. The Hui people were incredibly warm and welcoming, and even patient whilst attempting to teach me how to make their traditional fried dough twists (I failed!).
→ CHINA HUI NATIONAL CULTURAL PARK
This is the only cultural park in China that showcases the Islamic and Chinese combined culture and tradition of the Muslim Hui people. As we were short for time, we couldn’t go inside the park, but it is home to numerous facilities like the grand prayer hall, the folks custom village, the Aiysha palace, and loads more.
RMB$60 – Entry
WHAT TO EAT
Halal options are rampant throughout Ningxia, which, of course, is never a bad thing. I can’t tell you how goooood the food is out there – just think about the best Chinese meal you’ve ever had (outside of China, obviously) and times it by 100 to understand how fantastic the food was. Of course, I was adventurous and went for some of the more “traditional” dishes like chicken feet and cow stomach, which weren’t surprisingly really good.
Here are a few foodie highlights:
You must, must, must pick up some cakes from the numerous Chinese bakeries dotted around the city.
After a jampacked four-almost-five day tour of Ningxia, our trip had come to a sweet end and we were back enroute to Yinchuan airport. I’m not sure what else I can say apart from this trip was a once in a lifetime experience and perhaps one of my favourite holidays ever. The culture, the people, and the food (omg the food) in Ningxia was something I had never experienced before, and I am so grateful to both Emirates and Asia Tour Company for flying me out there.
Would I visit Ningxia again? In a heartbeat, and I can’t wait to experience more of what China has to offer.
I strongly suggest booking a tour through one of the local agencies to make your lives easier. The packages include an english-speaking guide as well as a bus to transport you around for the duration of your trip.
→ Ningxia China International Travel Service
→ China Travel Service of Ningxia Co LTD
→ Ningxia New Cultural International Travel Service
→ Ningxia Zhongxin International Travel Service
HOTEL IN NINGXIA
→ Yinchuan Xifujing Hotel, No. 1 East Xinhua Street, Xingqing, Yinchuan, China, 750001
TIPS FOR NINGXIA
→ Due to the massive language barrier, it is well worth hiring a tour guide for the duration of your stay. See my list of companies above.
→ Download the Google Translate app to help you out when a little stuck
→ A Chinese visa is essential and it is best to do this at least a month prior to your visit.
→ Social media and google are banned in China so it is best to either buy a local sim card or download a VPN for the time that you are out there.
→ Comfortable shoes are ideal if you’re planning on doing lots of sightseeing.
→ You will be gawked at as well as locals taking photos and videos of you, don’t be alarmed as they aren’t exposed to any Western culture! It’s best to just laugh it off!