Xilin Hot Transportation
There is only one train to and from Xilinhot. It leaves at 20.12 in the evening, arriving in Hohhot the following morning. The service operates overnight at about the same time. Check the timetable for the timings of intermediate stops (including Jining nan for connections to/from Beijing).
There are soft-sleeper carriages but these get boked up early. This is a very busy train. (It is also diesel-hauled, if you are thinking it might have a steam engine up front! Steam engines have never operated up to Xilinhot)
The station ticket office is only open from 18.50 to 20.00 daily. Be there early!The station is 5km west of the city, along Xilin lu: get a taxi! There is nowhere to eat out here either.
Xilin Hot Off The Beaten Path
Around 50km south of Xilinhot on route 303 is the Xilingol river, running in a wide shallow valley. This river gives its name to the massive Xilingol UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve (it crosses the Chinese-Mongolian border). It runs through Xilinhot, but in summer it doesn't get that far. Even in winter it empties into the steppe and never reaches the sea.
The valley is really special: quiet and isolated but the distances are huge. The purple cotton-grass gives a sheen to the landscape, and the slow flowing waters are soothing, but also a magnet for wildlife. I saw cranes, wagtails and several other birds I cannot identify in just a few minutes ooking up the valley.