The remote but stunning Badain Jaran Desert (the world's fourth-largest desert) is a mysterious 49,000-sq-km landscape of desert lakes, Buddhist temples and towering dunes. The dunes here are among the tallest in the world, some topping 460m (taller than the Empire State Building). The tallest are static with a solid core, and do not move. The closest town in the region, Alashan Youqi (阿拉善右旗), is a 30-minute drive from the dunes.
Home to spring-fed lakes, the desert actually sprawls across not just Inner Mongolia, but Ningxia and Gansu provinces too. Beijing-based China Hiking arranges well-received and popular six-day tours through the desert, generally in winter, when the sand dunes are encrusted with snow. If you want to go by yourself, you'll need to first head to Alashan Youqi (also known as Badanjilin Town; 巴丹吉林镇) and then hire a car and a driver, which costs in the region of ¥3000 for two days and one night.