The Great Wall of China (长城 Chángchéng) stretches westward across the provinces and municipalities of Liaoning, Hebei, Tianjin, Beijing, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Ningxia Autonomous Region to Gansu in the west.
The Great Wall of China at Jinshanling
The Great Wall of China can be visited at many places along its length of several thousand kilometers. Its condition ranges from excellent to ruined, and ease of accessibility varies straightforward to quite difficult. Note that different sections also each have their own admission fees, e.g. if you want to hike from Jinshaling to Simatai then you probably have to pay twice.
The geography of Northern China ranges from mountainous in northeast Liaoning and Hebei provinces, through the grasslands of Ningxia, semi-arid desert of China's loess plateau, and borders the sand dunes of the Tengger desert of Inner Mongolia. It is the area around Hebei and Beijing that most people associate with the Great Wall, but most of the Great Wall lies in the desert regions of the country.
Flora and fauna
Chinese wildlife is diverse, considering all of the different habitats available along the length of the Great Wall. From the rare Siberian tiger in the northeast to the protected and rare Giant Panda which lives in southern Gansu, Sichuan, and Shaanxi, you never know what you might see on a given day.
Wild mammals can be found in the north, such as the Manchurian weasel, brown and black bears, northern pika, and mandarin vole. Deer species include Sitka deer, roe deer and the long-sought-after spotted deer, which has many uses in Chinese medicine.
The birds of the region include various pheasants, black grouse, pine grosbeak, various woodpeckers, mandarin duck, and the fairy pitta, a rare migratory bird. Cranes are especially revered in China. Common, demoiselle, white-napes, hooded, and red-crowned cranes all breed in China.
You can find many tonic plants along the Great Wall, such as the rare ginseng (Panax ginseng). Chinese medicine has had many thousands of years to discover and use these tonic plants for the benefit of mankind.
Northern China has all four seasons and they arrive with a vengeance. Summer and winter temperatures normally reach extremes of over 40 degrees Celsius (105+ °F) and -20 degrees Celsius (-4 °F) respectively.
- Hike from Jinshanling to Simatai The majority of the Wall east of Jinshanling is also unrestored. The hike from Jinshangling to Simatai is roughly 10 km (6 mi). It is a significant hike in distance but more so in the elevation change, but you will be rewarded with spectacular views and a good day of exercise. Expect to spend anywhere from 2.5 hours to 6 hours on the wall, depending on your fitness level, ambition and frequency of photo ops. When you are half way between the two sections, there are hardly any tourists. In fact, more foreign tourists are seen doing this thorough hike than domestic Chinese tourists. Comfortable shoes and clothes are needed, as you will be hiking on moving bricks sometimes combined with steep climbs. Water and snacks should be in your backpack. But you will find some local vendors selling water and sometimes snacks on the wall. When you descend down from Simatai, there is a zip line available for ¥40. It's roughly 400m, and is over a river. It will take you down to the other side of the river, and includes a short boat ride back to catch your ground transport. During the middle of this hike, collectors will charge you again because you are entering another part of the Wall. If you are going between sections, there is little you can do about it other than turn back. As of July 2015 it is no longer allowed to go east from Jinshanling to Simatai. A guard is posted two towers east of the Five Window Tower in Jinshanling to turn hikers back should they try.
- Tips to get to Jinshanling easily without much expense There are many options to arrive in Jinshanling and some are more expensive than others. Here is one trick, up to date as July 2015 : From Beijing, get to Wangjing West Station, accessible from subway lines 13 and 15. Go out of Exit C and then turn right, cross the street and turn right again. There is a big red sign that says something in English about Jianshanling Tourist Bus or something like that. Exit D also works. But head out straight, cross the road, and take a left. The big red sign will be to the right, and probably above your head. (39°59'38.5"N 116°26'39.9"E) Take the bus at 07:00, 7:30 or 8:00 (I for sure took the one at 8) 望竟西 - 滦平 (Wangjing West - Luanping). This bus does only one stop before destination (Luanping), and it is at Jinshanling Resting Area, so there is virtually no way you could eventually miss the stop if you pay attention. This bus make the trip every hour and cost only ¥22.5RMB (13 in cash and 9.5 swiped from the subway card) (¥32 if you don't have the transportation card; which cost ¥20 that you can get back by giving back your card at any Service center of any Subway station). Once you arrive there, DO NOT look for a taxi, and DO NOT accept any ride offer beside the free shuttle. If people ask you for money to get you there, then refuse; it might cost you between ¥20-100! It is actually really easy to get to Jinshanling from the Resting Area. If you have to hurry, you can try to walk there. Once you arrive at the resting area, follow the expressway from where you came by still staying inside the area, you will soon (50m further) notice the signage indicating you the road to reach the place. Walk down the road for 2-3kms after the toll gate, just underneath the expressway and you will arrive at the East Gate. Add 4-5 km to reach the West Gate. As July 2014, the entrance ticket will cost you ¥65; so if we had to sum up all this you will spend : 22.5*2 + 65 (without cable-car) = ¥110, way under what any tour will propose to you. Make the right choice ! One last thing: to go back to Beijing, make yourself visible for the bus; It will make a very quick U-Turn right in from of the tiny visitor's center at the resting area. The bus will stop literally for few seconds and you will have to wait one more hour to get the next one.
- See the sunset and sunrise in Jinshanling Follow the same way than the section above to reach Jinshanling. When you arrive at the service station, you should get offers to find accommodation. Prices seem to go from 50 to 80 rmb per person, don't hesitate to bargain. If not follow the road on the south east side of the station (left of the tunnel), it turns right and passes under the highway. After 5-8mn walk you will find guesthouses. To climb the wall, after 5pm, you should be able to sneak at the East Gate (10mn walk along the road) and avoid the 65rmb fee. You can also ask your host to drive you to the main entrance if you are in a hurry for sunset, he may ask you 20-30rmb to drive and wait, and they still ask for a ticket after 5pm, even when it is supposed to be closed. Take the same way back and go on the East Gate in the morning for sunrise for best views. Ask your host to know how to sneak in. There might be a small path on East of the East gate. If you end up in Hua Lou Gou village, there might be a path on West of the West gate to.
- Hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu This hikes start in Xi Zha Zi village (village fee: ¥20 as of Feb 2014), at the foot of Jiankou Great Wall section. After buying the tickets take the first road left (Yi Dui - there should be staff around, who can confirm, that this is Yi Dui). Follow the road for a bit, until you see a blue sign to your left, saying this part of the Great Wall is closed. Take the path on the right of it (follow the red arrow! Do not take the left path, even though it is "a narrow dirt path" as mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide-book.) There will be more red arrows and dots along the way, eventually leading you to the Great Wall (Feb. 2014). You walk about a hour in medium-rough terrain where you will encounter some local villagers' ladders which you will have to use in order to climb the wall (¥5, none of those in Feb. 2014). After arriving at the Great Wall, head left (east) towards Mutianyu, a hike that will take you about 2-3 hours. The first 1,5 hours is on the unrestored area of the wall, the rest on the restored area. Add 0,5-1 hour if you choose to walk the Ox Horn, which is a more rough part of the wall (you can also skip it by following the signs). The hike can be done in sneakers, but hiking shoes would be a much better choice. Don't try to do the hike when it's wet, because it has some very (!) steep and slippery parts. While it would be totally possible to do the hike the other way round (from Mutianyu to Jiankou), finding transportation (probably back to Huairou) would be much harder to find.
- Visit the Great Wall Museum Down the "Badaling Pedestrian Street" and up a hill behind the "Circle Vision Theater" is the under-appreciated Great Wall Museum. The walk-through exhibits provide a good overview of the wall's multi-dynasty history, along with many artifacts from those time periods and photo-worthy models of watchtowers, scaling ladders, etc. The bathrooms are also probably the cleanest you'll find at Badaling (there's even a Western-style toilet). Best of all, admission is free! (closed M, 09:00-16:00). Great wall circle-vision theater (¥40).
- Downhill on the toboggan run The Mutianyu section offers two chairlift lines which run to different parts of the Great Wall section, a more modern one with bubble cabins and a less modern one with two-seater chairs. If you feel up to it and the weather is clear, the return ticket for the less modern lift is also good for a ride down the toboggan run. Though if you prefer, tickets can easily be purchased separately for the toboggan ride of course - just walk up to the ticket office at the beginning of the ride, then off you go down the wall. Note that the tickets for the lifts cost the same but are not interchangeable. If you can't read Chinese check the picture on the ticket, and if you get wrong one with a picture of the bubble cabins, it's not a problem to immediately get your money back and take it to the other ticket counter.
- HereIsBeijing, [email protected], ☎ (+86) 15601234491; (+86) 13347123412, . John at 'Here is Beijing' provided a very convenient pick-up service for our hike from JianKou to Mutianyu. He was really helpful and even walked with us for a while in order to make sure we got on the right path. We can really recommend his services!
Bring a jacket against the wind or cold in the chillier seasons. In summer you will need lots of water, but there are plenty of vendors at the most visited sections. Be prepared for the possibility of sudden, short, but rather violent thunderstorms.
Do not leave any trace of your visit. Even if it is not an uncommon sight, resist the urge to add your name to the carvings in the wall, or take a piece home as a souvenir. If the wall should be damaged by your actions, the authorities may very well take action with fines and other punishments.
Hiking as a recreational sport is not well understood yet in China so the etiquette of crossing state and private land has not yet been established. Remember that the Wall is mostly mud and poorly supported stones, and that you are on your own if you're outside the maintained areas. Even if you are not walking on the wall, you will find few trails to follow and at some parts, the area the Wall traverses are vertical, treacherous and very unsafe. Besides that, it is difficult to obtain clean drinking water and some areas may even have no water at all. Other areas will have man made obstacles, like roads and motorways that have solid fencing. Villages where you could get supplies may be few and far between. Some may take you miles away from the Wall. Poor cartography is still a problem here since maps of less than 1:450,000 are not easy to get a hold of due to the military applications of such maps. Besides that, guides who know the areas along the Great Wall are few and far between. The last item to think about regarding hiking the Great Wall is that China has no system of mountain/wilderness rescue personnel. You will be on your own should something happen to you.
Scams - Beware of bus scams that may ruin your day. Also try to avoid organized tours to the Great Wall costing 100-150 Yuan. These are advertised by people handing out flyers around the Forbidden City in Beijing  for example (the real bus service to the Great Wall only costs 20 Yuan!). Also, the driver might just stop and set you off before your destination.
Walking safely don't run around as you may trip which may result in an injury as the steps are uneven.
Phones use your phone only for taking images, stop tweeting or updating your Facebook status and actually admire the scene for once as you may never get an opportunity like this again (this will also save you battery which you can then use in case of an emergency)
Badaling Take bus 919 back to Beijing (¥12) or the train from either the Badaling or Qinglong Qiao stations (¥14). The last bus 919 leaves at 17:00.
There are plenty trains going to Badaling station. Very cheap and super easy from Beijing station.
For other sections hopefully you've come with a tour that is picking you up from that section. Taxis back to Beijing can be quite expensive (even from Badaling, it will probably be over ¥100).
Ming Tombs Many tour operators or private drivers will combine the wall and the Ming Tombs in a day trip. The Ming Tombs are nothing special and are quite plain. Tourists usually skip them unless they are Chinese history buffs.
|This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!