Shanhaiguan (山海关; Shānhǎiguān) also called Shanhai Pass, is a part of the city of Qinhuangdao in Hebei province. It literally means "The Pass of Mountain and Sea".
Old Dragon's Head beginning of the Great Wall
Shanhaiguan has its own train-station. It's only a few minutes by train from Qinhuangdao train-station. A regular train from Beijing takes 4 hours. The express D train does it in just 2 hours, but book ahead.
Shanhaiguan is on the line connecting Beijing and Tianjin to the south-west with the north-east via Jinzhou (2 hours) and Shenyang (5 hours).
There's a bike rental shop in Shanhaiguan.
Taxis are readily available. Drivers will have a photo sheet showing sites to be seen making it easier to communicate.
Many of Shanhaiguan's attractions have been extensively restored or rebuilt in the 1980s. This includes most of the city wall as well as the Great Wall going towards the sea. The other side of the wall, going up the mountains, has been partly restored but some parts remain in their original, crumbling state.
Much of the "old" town, especially along the main north-south road, has been completely reconstructed in 2008/09. Several city blocks have been remade into a faux-old Chinese city that, despite the lack of history, is quite pleasant to walk through. Most of it, however, is still largely uninhabited and quite like a ghost town. Especially in the evening after sunset, with the tourists gone, you will find even the main streets almost deserted.
Old Dragon Head (老龙头), (Take bus 25 from the south gate or train station, taxi around Y10). At Shanhaiguan, the Great Wall juts out into the sea. The original wall is long gone, but an extensive rebuilt section has been put up. Bus 25 will take you there for ¥1. To get onto the wall and into an area with several rebuilt halls, you need to buy a ticket for Y50. If you're content with seeing the wall hit the sea from the other side, turn left outside the entrance and follow the road making a right turn, going through the wall and to the beach. Walk about 200m along the beach to get to the end of the wall. A fence has been put up preventing you to get closer than about 50m to the wall, however, it may be possible to go through a hole in or under the fence. Judging by its appearance, several such holes have been patched in the past, but at the time of writing (Sept 2010) there is still one there. Note that passing the fence will not lead you to the paid area, the wall itself blocks you off from that. At low tide it is allegedly possible to walk around the end of the wall and enter the paid area without a ticket. If you want to do this, make sure you understand the risk - if you get caught, you can be fined several times the admission fee.
First Pass under Heaven (天下第一关), (East of the Drum Tower in the center of the old town). The area between the sea and the mountains at Shanhaiguan is called the "First Pass under Heaven", being the place where the Ming dynasty Great Wall began. Guarding the pass is the city of Shanhaiguan, with its (restored) east gate marking the main road through the pass. You can see the tower guarding the gate and, depending on choice of ticket, various exhibitions or take a walk along the city walls.From Y50 depending on choice of attractions.
Shanhaiguan Fortifications. The walls of the old city of Shanhaiguan can essentially be considered part of the Great Wall, the whole city originally being built as a wall fortification to guard the pass between the mountains and the sea. The walls of Shanhaiguan are square, with a perimeter of around 4 kilometers in length. The walls reach the heigh of 14 meters, and are 7 meters thick. The east, south and north sides of the fortification are surrounded by a moat 3 meters deep and 5 meters wide. There are drawbridges to get over the moat. You can only go up on the wall by buying a ticket for the First Pass under Heaven (see above). The other sides of the city have gates as well, but these have been rebuilt in the past 30 years, the original buildings long gone.
Five Buddha Park, Jiao Shan (角山), (Head straight north from the north gate, 2-3km, taxi Y10). Further inland, there's a fairly extensive park near another section of the wall. Here, the wall can be seen snaking it's way over the hills. The lower part has been restored in the 80s, you can walk up the hill about 2/3 of the way before an unrestored part of the wall has been blocked off by a concrete barrier. Next to the wall, there is a walkway towards a temple further back in the hills (alternatively, you can take a chairlift from the bottom). From the temple, you can reach the rear part of the wall going over the hills, where it is made of raw stone rather than bricks and in many places not much more than a convenient walking path remains. By walking south from here, you can reach the other end of the unrestored brick-wall section, blocked by an iron fence on this side. For the adventurous, the barriers on either side are not insurmountable, but some steep parts and loose stones makes this section less safe than those below and above it.Y30.
Decaying section of the Great Wall with the beginning of the climb up the mountains in the background
Other Great Wall ruins. When heading out to Jiao Shan (above), you will see a large earth wall on the right side about 50m from the road. This is actually a (completely unrestored) part of the Great Wall. On the barbarian side (east) you can still see the bricks and the moat, while the top and the western side are overgrown and few bricks remain. Locals can be seen herding sheep or walking their dogs on this part of the wall. From the road, you can see small paths leading up this wall at intervals; to get to Jiao Shan, the walk up here is much more pleasant than going along the road. When you reach Jiao Shan, the wall is blocked off by a barbed-wire fence, so you will need to buy a ticket to get in. Alternatively, you can walk off the earth wall on the east side and follow a path leading up the hills to a small watchtower. There is another path from here leading off into the hills, but it's not used much and heavily overgrown in places.
Great Wall Museum (长城博物馆), (Take the southeastern gate (near the train station) to the old town and walk north along the eastern wall). Admission is included with some of the First Pass tickets, but it's not inside the compound. Currently closed (Sept 2010).
There are a few restaurants on the main north-south street, most of them south of the Drum Tower. Many more can be found south of the old town, in the area between the south gate and the train station.
Some of the places in the old town have English menus, however, the prices don't always match those in the Chinese version (and not to your advantage!).
Shanhaiguan has lots of hotels in all price categories, unfortunately, most of them are not allowed to take foreigners. If you are Chinese, you can get economy rooms (no bathroom) in the train station area for Y40-50, or regular rooms starting at about Y80.
There are two hotels that have permission to take foreigners. One is listed below, the other is a smaller and cheaper place just south of the old town (if anyone stays there, please fill in the details). To find it, ask around at the train station (e.g. other hotels, taxi drivers). Taking a taxi to either of the two hotels should cost Y5.
Jing Shan Hotel (京山宾馆), (directly north of the entrance to the First Pass under Heaven). Mid-range hotel that takes foreigners, consists of several buildings both north and south of the First Pass with courtyards between them. Rooms start at about Y180 (September, possibly higher in July/August).