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Natural Attractions / Trip Ideas

Monoliths of China’s northwest: the desolate beauty of yardangs

By Teng Mu

August 24

Yardang, meaning “steep hills” in Uyghur, are landforms sculpted by thousands of years of erosion by wind and water.

Yardang, meaning “steep hills” in Uyghur, are landforms sculpted by thousands of years of erosion by wind and water.

The yardang landform, first discovered in China’s Nop Lor wasteland in the early 20th century, is a world natural wonder. They are mostly found in extremely arid areas, with China’s largest in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Here are three worth visiting.

 1. Urlo “Demon City” 乌尔禾魔鬼城

Urlo “Demon City” [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Han Bo]
Urlo “Demon City” [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Han Bo]
The Demon City in the north of Urlo County, Xinjiang covers several hundred square kilometers. Innumerable steep hills look like ancient castles and the wind howling across the hills supposedly gave them their name.Best time to visit: May – October

Entry: 46 yuan/person

Transport: Take the bus from the city of Karamay to the Demon City.

Opening Hours:

Peak Season: 9:30-20:30

Off Season: 10:30-18:30

  2. White Dragon Yardang 白龙堆

White Dragon Yardang [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Ma Xinmin]
White Dragon Yardang [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Ma Xinmin]
The White Dragon Yardang northeast of China’s “Sea of Death” — Nop Lor (罗布泊) — is an area of saline and alkaline land with the most remote Yardang landforms in Xinjiang. Legend has it that when Xuanzang, the eminent monk of the Tang Dynasty, reached Nop Lor on his pilgrimage to find Buddhist scriptures, he encountered a sand storm. In order to protect him, his white horse (named White Dragon transformed into the knolls that make up White Dragon Yardang today.

Best time to visit: Autumn

Transport: Best for self-driving.

3. The Colorful Beach Yardang 五彩滩

The Colorful Beach Yardang [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Li Jianhui]
The Colorful Beach Yardang [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Li Jianhui]
Because desert areas in Xinjiang desert see little precipitation, it is rare to see yardang landforms nearby rivers and forests. The Colorful Beach can be said a relatively young yardang, and differs from the previous two in being formed by both wind and water erosion. The colorful rocks stand beside the Ertix (额尔齐斯河), Xinjiang’s only exorheic river.

Best time to visit: Spring and Autumn

Entry: 50 yuan/person

Transport: Take the bus from Burqin County (布尔津县) to the the Colorful Beach.

Opening Hours: 9:00-21:30

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