Hiking along the wild Great Wall

 

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What is the best way to experience the Great Wall? Should you simply visit the Badaling section, take a photo of yourself there, and then post it on Facebook or Instagram to show your friends and family that you have been the Great Wall?

Most visitors would say ‘Yes’, but not us.

The Badaling portion of the Great Wall is the most famous according to any tour guidebook, because it is the most ‘complete’ one. It has been rebuilt to show how majestic the Great Wall once looked. Most of it is relatively new and easy to climb. However, some people argue that the Badaling portion is not the “real” Great Wall; it just has many big steps and was built on top of a part of the Great Wall.

The Great Wall has more than 2,300 years of history behind it. But the surviving parts of the Great Wall are mostly just relics of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), even those ones that are around the Beijing area. However, even if these portions of the Great Wall only date back to the Ming Dynasty, that still means they have been standing for nearly 600 years. The Badaling portion of the Great Wall has been so well maintained that it arguably demonstrates what the Great Wall would have looked like during the Ming Dynasty. However, other parts of the Great Wall have suffered from lack of regular maintenance but these parts may help you get a feel of the historical import of this monument much more so than the Badaling portion would.

We have selected five parts of the Great Wall, which are all near Beijing, to show you what the real Great Wall looks like. The plan both includes parts of the Great Wall that are in their original condition and haven’t undergone any maintenance, and also some parts that have been repaired but not to the same extent as the Badaling portion.

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During this tour, we will

  1. see the wild parts of the Great Wall;
  2. hike along the Great Wall;
  3. learn about the history of the Great Wall;
  4. enjoy authentic Beijing Cuisine and traditional snacks;
  5. experience life in a Chinese Quadrangle.
  6. have open discussions about the Great Wall and Chinese culture with like-minded people.

This tour includes:

  • Hiking along five unique parts of the Great Wall near Beijing;
  • The services of an English speaking guide who has specialist knowledge of the Great Wall’s History and hiking experience in these five spots;
  • Small group sizes (no more than 10 people);
  • Enough private time to enjoy your tour alone;
  • A pdf file with important and interesting information about the Great Wall.
  • A tour of three of the most famous districts in the old part of Beijing.

Please Note:

  1. On this tour you will be required to sleep in a real village hotel for two nights. You are advised to bring your own sleeping bag with you, and the shower facilities at the hotel may not always be available. Regretfully these are the only hotels in the area so we ask that participants be accepting of the basic nature of the hotels.
  2. This tour is only for people who have at least some hiking experience and are fit and healthy. Some parts of the hike are very tough; please get an idea of the level of difficulty from the following photo:

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More details about the activity

 

Summary:

This is a 5-day hiking tour. We will hike along five parts of the Great Wall over the course of four days. There will be an interval on the third day, and you will be given a tour of the old part of Beijing. On the rest day, we will have Chinese afternoon tea to heighten your experience of what life in Beijing may have been like in the past.

 

Introduction to the spots we will visit:

 

The Jiankou Portion of the Great Wall  (箭扣)

 

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“Jian” (箭) means “arrow” in Chinese. The term “Jiankou” (箭扣) implies that an arrow is on the bow and ready to shoot. This part of the Great Wall looks like a sideways “W”, i.e. like a bow with its arrow ready to shoot. Its unusual appearance is what earned it the name Jiankou.

 The Jiankou portion of the Great Wall is more than 20 kilometres long. The most popular part, the “W” part, always attracts lots of visitors. But most of them just stay there and look at the Great Wall since it is too challenging for them to finish the whole hike.

Some parts of the Great Wall are just plain walls, so you can also enjoy some rock climbing on these walls whilst you’re there.

 

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The Mutianyu Portion of the Great Wall (慕田峪)

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This was once a battlefield where many famous wars took place during the Ming dynasty. It was an important military fort because it protected one of the gates that gave access to the city of Beijing. Because of its important defensive function, it was repaired many times during the Ming Dynasty. Thanks to these regular repairs, it is now one of the most well-preserved parts of the Great Wall.

In fact at its eastern point the Mutianyu portion of the Great Wall is connected to the Jiankou portion.

Mutianyu great wall 02Mutianyu is a well-developed tour location, but it is not as popular as Badaling. Many foreign visitors choose to go here as part of their Great Wall tour because it is not as crowded as Badaling, but it is still easy to get to.

 

 

The Simatai Portion of the Great Wall (司马台)

Simatai great wall05 The Simatai portion of the Great Wall should be famous seeing as it has been listed as a world heritage site since 1987. Yet, strangely, not many people know of it.

Historically it was considered the most impenetrable stronghold along the Great Wall. It was built across a particularly unforgiving stretch of mountains. Between towers No.15 and No.16 of the Simatai portion there is a wall that is just 30cm wide, with a sheer cliff on its south side.

 

 

 

The Jinshanling Portion of the Great Wall(金山岭)

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At its western point Jinshanling is connected with Simatai and, together with Simatai, it is also listed as a world heritage site.

The Jinshanling portion of the Great Wall consists of 67 towers and is 10 and a half kilometres long. It has been repaired several times and appears to be as well developed as Badaling. However, thus far there are far fewer tourists here than at Badaling. That being said, if you want to witness the Great Wall in its complete glory, Jinshanling is the best place to go. The refurbishment that it has undergone has not altered its original appearance too much. All of the components of the original Great Wall – the tower, the gate, the fire beacon tower—are still there.

The Qiangzilu Portion of the Great Wall (墙子路)

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Hiding in the mountains, having never received any kind of maintenance, Qiangzilu seems to have been forgotten by the world.

Yet surprisingly, among all of the parts of the Great Wall, Qiangzilu is relatively new. It was first built during the Ming Dynasty, under the reign of Emperor Hongwu (1368-1398), and was repaired in 1575. It contained the east fort, which was used to protect the city of Beijing.

Most parts of Qiangzilu have now been damaged or destroyed by natural forces, so it has become known as a ‘wild’ part of the Great Wall.  Many outdoorsy people are still drawn to Qiangzilu every year simply because of its natural, wild appearance.

The most famous feature of the Qiangzilu portion of the Great Wall is the large ‘V’ shaped wall there.

Guozijian Hutong District

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Guozijian was the most esteemed institute of higher learning in China (like the Imperial Academy) during the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties.

There is a Confucian Temple about 500 metres away from Guozijian. Even now many young students go to this temple to pray before big examinations, such as gaokao (the University entrance examination).

For more information about this Hutong district please read the article entitled Hutongs in Beijing.

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Accommodation:

  • For 3 nights we will stay in a Quadrangle Courtyard hotel in old Beijing, which is equipped with all modern amenities;
  • For 2 nights, whilst we are in the regions surrounding parts of the Great Wall, we will have to stay in a countryside guesthouse;

Please Note:

  • Since we will be staying in a Hutong district for part of the tour, there will be plenty of time and ample opportunity for you to explore the Hutongs there.
  • The photo of the Quadrangle Courtyard hotel shown here is just an example, we cannot guarantee that this is the exact hotel you will be staying in on your tour. However, they are all very similar in style and appearance.

The meals that are included in the tour price are as follows:

    • A welcome dinner in Beijing on day 2 consisting of authentic Beijing-style cuisine;
    • 2 dinners consisting of delicious, local cuisine whilst staying in the countryside near the Great Wall;
    • 1 lunch in Beijing and 1 lunch in the countryside guesthouse;
    • 1 breakfast whilst staying in the countryside near the Great Wall;
    • Chinese afternoon tea in a Quadrangle Courtyard.
  • We suggest that participants bring simple food (e.g. sandwiches) on the hikes for their lunch.
  • The Quadrangle hotel is in the centre of the old part of town, so you will have ample opportunity to explore the area and try some delicious and interesting food by yourself when you are in the city.Please find further details of meal arrangements in the Itinerary section. 

Transportation:

  • All transportation costs within designated tour times are included;
  • You will be brought to the countryside near the Great Wall by our minibus;
  • We will mainly rely on the underground whilst we are in the city of Beijing.

Time arrangement:

For hiking hours, please find specific information in the Itinerary section. We don’t have to be together for the entirety of the tour, but we must follow some guidelines when hiking to ensure we have enough time to finish the hike and to avoid losing people whilst on the hike.

Cost:

  • £650 per person;
  • £780 per person if you want a single room during our stay in Beijing;
  • £720 per person if you need us to meet you and provide accommodation on the day before the tour begins. This includes the cost of the hotel room for an extra night and the service fee for picking you up from the railway station or the tube station. If you would like us to pick you up from the airport, please let us know in advance;
  • All three of the above prices also include as standard: 5 nights’ accommodation (3 nights in a Quadrangle Courtyard hotel and 2 nights in the countryside guesthouse); 3 dinners, 2 lunches, 1 breakfast, and Chinese afternoon tea; all tickets and entrance fees for the specified attractions; all transportation costs during the designated tour times; the service of an English speaking guide; a pdf file with important and interesting information about the Great Wall; information for further travel in Beijing; help with any further traveling you may do around China after the tour (e.g. designing your travel plan, booking hotels and attractions etc.).

Minimum number of participants required to run the tour: 4

Maximum number of participants for this tour: 10

Tour dates: 22nd of May 2017 – 26th of May 2017

Final Deadline for Subscription: 16th of March, 2017

Itinerary:

 

Day 1
Introductory Lunch;

Purchasing of necessity items for hiking;

Arrival at the village of Xizhazi

11:30 Have lunch together
13:00 – 14:00 Purchase necessity items for hiking e.g. food, water, tissues.
14:30 – 16:30 Travel to Xizhazi village
16:30 – 17:00 Attend meeting to discuss hiking plan for the following day
18:30 Have dinner together
Please Note: we ask that you please get everything you will need for the hike during the designated shopping hours. You will have time in the evening to explore the village alone but you may not be able to purchase some necessary items there easily.

 

Day 2
Hiking from Jiankou to Mutianyu; Roughly 10 – 11 hours 6:30 Depart from Xizhazi village
≈ 8:30 Take a 20 minute break at a fire beacon tower
≈ 11:30 Reach the designated picnic spot near the end of Jiankou; Have lunch
12:00 Head for Mutianyu
≈ 14:00 Take a 20 minute break
≈ 16:00 – 18:00 Finish hiking, head back to Beijing
19:00 Have Dinner
Please Note:

  1. It is vitally important that you have breakfast before our departure;
  2. Since we acknowledge that everyone’s hiking speed will be different, you will be given a picture of the break spots so that you will recognize them as you are hiking. Please wait at the designated break spots for other members.
  3. Please DO NOT go out hiking alone, we ask that at least two members travel together at all times. There are some very steep and potentially dangerous steps and walls which some of you may need assistance climbing.

 

Day 3
Tour in Guozijian Hutong District in Beijing City;Chinese afternoon tea in Quadrangle Courtyard Morning time Enjoy some private time wandering Beijing or have a good rest
14:30 – 15:00  Tour of Guozijian Hutong district with our guide.
15:00 – 16:00 (you can choose how long you wish to stay.) Chinese Afternoon Tea
16:00 – Enjoy your tour in the old part of Beijing City
Please Note: Our hotel is in the old part of town so it is a very good location for you to venture out and explore Beijing. If you have any questions or want some tips on where to go, please feel free to ask our guide.

 

Day 4
Hiking along the Qiangzilu portion of the Great Wall;

Arrival at the village under the Simatai portion of the Great Wall

9:00 Depart by coach.
11:00 Arrive at the village under the Great Wall
11:00 – 16:00 Hike along the Qiangzilu portion of the Great Wall
16:00 – 17:00 Arrive at the village under Simatai
18:00 Dinner
Please Note:

  1. We will have lunch during the hike;
  2. Feel free to hike at your own speed, but we ask that you please DO NOT walk too much faster than the others as you may cross the line out of the Qiangzilu area without realizing.

 

Day 5
Climbing on the top of the mountain to enjoy the scenery of Simatai portion of the Great Wall;Hiking along the Jinshanling portion of the Great Wall 6:30 – 7:00 Have breakfast.
7:00 – 8:30 Arrive at Wangjing Tower; Enjoy the view of the Great Wall for approximately 30 mins
9:00 – 10:00 Return to the village
11:00 Arrive at Jinshanling and have lunch
12:00 – 16:00 Hike along the Jinshanling portion of the Great Wall
16: 30 – 19: 30 Head back to Beijing
Please Note: The hiking plan in Simatai is simply to go to the first fire beacon tower and take in the beautiful scenery there. The Great Wall in the Simatai portion is very steep and dangerous. Accidents occur at Simatai every year. We do not advise any of our participants to attempt to hike along this part of the Great Wall. Because Simatai is considered dangerous for climbers, there is sometimes a checkpoint at the entrance to the village. If we are unlucky enough to encounter the checkpoint, we will regrettably have to cancel this part of the tour.

Please Note:

  • You can choose to stick to this tour entirely, or you can just incorporate it as part of your wider plans to travel across China. We can provide you with information and help you with any other travel plans you may have if you need us to. We also provide a hotel booking service and a flight or train booking service for all of our members’ traveling in China outside of the 4 designated days of the tour. We will also provide a consultancy service for you, which will help you to plan your journey across China and give you useful tips on traveling in China.
  • If you want to see any other parts of the Great Wall (such as Badaling or the Juyong Gate), we can help you plan your travel there as well. All of these services, including the aforementioned consultancy and booking services, are free for all members that have taken this tour or any other tour with us, but we ask that all participants inform us of their desire to travel to other parts of the Great Wall before they take our tour so that we will have enough time to make arrangements for their further travel. If you have any requests, please let us know as soon as possible.

 

We hope that you will have a wonderful time traveling with us!

 

For further information, please contact us at info@asiaculturaltravel.co.uk.

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