Lying about 150 kilometers outside of Yichuan to the south, Shapotou sits on the north bank of the Yellow River at the edge of the Tengger Desert. From the sand dunes of Shapatou one can turn north and face into an endless desert promising exotic camel rides, sand slides and limitless tranquility. Turning south there are lush farmlands watered by the Yellow River, filled with orchards and gardens. Shapotou is a place where two worlds meet.
The Yellow River Drift
For adventurous visitors, there is only one way to travel on the Yellow River: sheepskin! These traditional rafts are piloted by experienced local boatmen ensuring you are free to concentrate on the sights. You will drift past sections of the Great Wall from theMing Dynasty
, and the sites of ancient water wheels. This option is not for the fainthearted though & remember to pack appropriate clothing.
Of course it is also possible to take trips along the river on more familiar transport: Yachts patrolling sections of the Yellow River provide the same views as sheepskin rafts and are a more peaceful way to see the sights. Yellow River Cableway Slide
Another draw for thrill-seeking visitors is the Yellow River Cableway Slide. The slide crosses the Yellow River and uses gravity alone to propel tourists 820 meters at 8 meters per second from one side to the other. This was the first cableway of its kind in China, and the only one operating on the Yellow River.
If you prefer to see the area at a less breakneck speed, try a camel-trek at sunset or sunrise across the desert. Equally memorable are the evenings that you can arrange to spend in nearby Mongolian camps. The tribespeople are generally extremely hospitable & will include travelers in their traditional evening menu of food, performance & dance.
When Marco Polo first encountered China's Singing Sand Dunes he attributed the noise to evil spirits living underneath the sand, which "at times fill the air with the sounds of all kinds of musical instruments, and also of drums and the clash of arms". Seven centuries later, the sand fields at Shapotou - one of four such slide fields in China - are still fascinating visitors to the region. When conditions are right the fields here sound like tolling bells and have an eerie quality almost guaranteed to take your breath away.