8 days

Walking the Great Wall

Walking the Great Wall

Walk on remote sections of the Great Wall

The Forbidden City

Trip rating
  • In China there is an old saying that goes “... you are not a man until you have been to the Great Wall!” This famous icon stretches 8,851.8 kilometres from the Shanhaiguan Pass on the eastern coast to the Jiayuguan Pass in the Gobi Desert. The first emperor to unify all of China in 221 BC, Qin Shihuang, had a workforce of up to a million people link previously existing walls from smaller kingdoms and build new sections, in order to keep out northern invaders. Subsequent dynasties continued to strengthen and further extend the wall; however this was not enough to prevent the Mongols from invading China in 1271 AD and forming the Yuan Dynasty.

    This trip is designed for those who are fit, energetic and enjoy trekking. We travel through the mountainous areas northeast and east of Beijing. A fascinating journey on the backroads allows you to observe closely the everyday life of villagers and offers perfect opportunities to interact with the locals. We visit the Eastern Qing Tombs, and explore the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. A highlight of this tour is hiking in remote areas, away from the crowded tourist spots.

    Why we love it

    • In China there is an old saying that goes “... you are not a man until you have been to the Great Wall”. This is your chance to become a man!
    • This famous icon stretches 8,851.8 kilometres from the Shanhaiguan Pass on the eastern coast to the Jiayuguan Pass in the Gobi Desert.
    • The first emperor to unify all of China in 221 BC, Qin Shihuang, had a workforce of up to a million people link previously existing walls from smaller kingdoms and build new sections, in order to keep out northern invaders.
    • Subsequent dynasties continued to strengthen and further extend the wall; however this was not enough to prevent the Mongols from invading China in 1271 AD and forming the Yuan Dynasty.
    • This trip is designed for those who are fit, energetic and enjoy trekking.
    • You will travel through the mountainous areas northeast and east of Beijing.
    • A fascinating journey on the backroads allows you to observe closely the everyday life of villagers and offers perfect opportunities to interact with the locals.
    • You will visit the Eastern Qing Tombs, and explore the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven.
    • Hiking in remote areas means you will stay away from the crowded tourist spots.

    Itinerary

    Day 1 - Beijing

    • On arrival in Beijing you will be transferred to your hotel. In the evening you will meet your tour leader and the other group members for a pre-tour briefing. This is generally followed by an optional group dinner at a local restaurant - Peking Duck is often a popular choice.

    Dong Fang Hotel or similar

    Day 2 - Beijing

    • Beijing offers endless opportunities for exploration. You will visit the enormous Forbidden City, built more than 500 years ago, and off-limits to commoners for almost all that time, is a truly amazing place. Its size might surprise you (it is huge!), but what makes it truly fascinating is that every square metre is interesting, from the intricately carved walkways to the colourful painted ceilings. You will also visit the Temple of Heaven - a fine example of extraordinary workmanship. Your hotel is centrally located, and a short walk in any direction will unveil all sorts of wonderful surprises, such as fascinating small lane ways, known as hutongs. You will have a chance to enjoy the Beijing Opera or the spectacular acrobat show in the evening.

    Dong Fang Hotel or similar
    Breakfast

    Day 3 - Taipingzhai - Huangyaguan

    • You will have an early departure today, as you will be driving to Taipingzhai, which is a three to four hour journey. Along the way you will stop at Eastern Qing Tombs, the largest and most complete of their kind in China. These tombs, located in Hebei province 125 kilometres from Beijing, are the final resting-places for five Qing emperors, their empresses, concubines and daughters. The infamous Empress Dowager Cixi is one of those buried here. Time permitting; you may stop at a trout farm for lunch before hiking for three to four hours on the Great Wall from Taipingzhai to Huangyaguan. The wall is completely unreconstructed at the Huangyaguan section, so requires good negotiation and careful attention. It is quite solid and rough scrambling though various scrubs, berry plants and on the wall's rubble. Originally built in 557 AD, the Huangyanguan Great Wall was repaired for the first time in the Ming Dynasty with bricks and then restored again in 1985. It is 41 kilometres in length, with its walls and towers built on a mountain ridge with an average altitude of 738 metres. The name Huangyaguan translates to 'Yellow Cliff Pass' and is named after the yellowish hills and rocks nearby. It is unique in that it has various different-shaped watchtowers. There are not many tourists in this area, as it is a remote and seldom visited location. The most unique feature here is the Street of the Eight Diagrams, an architectural wonder of the Ming Dynasty lying just below the pass. A labyrinth set up to confuse and entrap invading armies, this fortification design is based on the ancient trigrams of the Book of Changes. UNESCO placed Huangyaguan Great Wall on the UN list of the World Heritage. In May each year, marathon runners from around the world come here to participate in one of the worlds most demanding courses, with exhausting ascents, steep descents and more than 3,700 steps. You will only walk this section once, rather than completing the circuit twice as is required of the marathon runners. You will spend the night in the Huangyaguan Guesthouse, located at the base of the wall.

    Huangyaguan Great Wall Guesthouse or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 4 - Jinshanling - Erchu - Jinshanling

    • Jinshanling was the name given to an eleven-kilometre section of the wall situated on the Jinshan Mountains. The earliest part of this structure was built in the 6th Century AD, but most of what you see now dates from the Ming Dynasty. This section of the wall has 67 watchtowers, each built in a different style of architecture. The walkway along the top is paved with square bricks providing a level surface wide enough to construct or erect batteries. Poems and tablet writings can be found on the Jinshanling Great Wall, these are from the era when General Qi Jiguang directed the building of this section of the wall. Some of the towers were storerooms for food, hay and weapons. Jinshanling to Erchu is a moderate to difficult trek of approximately 5 kilometres (2-3 hours) along a largely un-restored section of the wall that goes all the way to Simatai. Unfortunately you can only walk as far as Erchu as the area around Simatai has been closed for restoration. This area has earned the reputation of being one of the most beautiful sections of the Great Wall. 500 years old, it was built during the Ming Dynasty and towers over the nearby villages and farmland, as it winds its way like the spiny back of a dragon over the sharply clipped peaks of the mountains. Because this section has retained many of its original features, it is quite precarious in parts for trekkers and special care must be taken. Towards the end of your walk, you will descend from the wall and walk along a path for one kilometre, in order to bypass a military area. You will spend the night in the Jinshanling Hotel.

    Jinshanling Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 5 - Jinshanling - Gubeikou

    • From Jinshanling you will trek to your next section of the wall, Gubeikou (5–6 hrs). Gubeikou is located 146 kilometres north of Beijing. It has the Panlong (Coiling Dragon) and Wohu (Crouching Tiger) mountains in the background and is linked to the Qingfeng (Green Wind) and Dicui (Piled Verdure) peaks. The Chaohe River runs across the foot of the wall from north to south. In 1378 (the 11th year of Emperor Hongwu's reign in the Ming Dynasty), General Xu Da ordered this section of the Great Wall to be rebuilt. Gubeikou has probably seen more battles than any other part of the Great Wall, including some of the most famous in Chinese history. On the southern slope of Gubeikou stands a temple dedicated to Yang Ye, a famous Great Wall garrison general of the Song Dynasty. There are quite a few temples in China dedicated to this general, but this one is perhaps the oldest. Your walk takes you westward along the old city wall, passing numerous watchtowers and other parts of the wall that have not yet been restored. You will spend the night in a simple home stay in Gubeikou.

    Gubeikou Guesthouse (Ye Shu Fang Homestay) or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 6-7 - Mutianyu - Beijing

    • You will say goodbye to your village hosts and drive to Mutianyu Great Wall. You will trek around here and also around the Jiankou Great Wall. Situated in the northern part of Huairou County, some 70 kilometres north-east of Beijing, the restored 2250 metre-long Mutianyu section of the wall has 22 watchtowers built at regular intervals, which vary from being complex structures of more than one storey to simple beacons. The most famous is Zheng Bei Tai, a castle complex that consists of three inner-connected watchtowers. These combined towers ensured the defending forces could control any attempt at an invasion. Most parts of the Great Wall have outer defensive parapets to provide cover for the soldiers and a low parapet on the inner side (called Nu Qiang) to prevent soldiers or horses from falling. The construction of these sections was started in the mid-6th century during China's Northern Dynasties (386-581) and the main restoration took place during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The panoramic sweeping views are most impressive. The Jiankou Great Wall is located 10 kilometres west of Mutianyu, with the Huanghuacheng Great Wall situated much further west. Jiankou was built in 1368 during the period of the Ming Dynasty. Constructed out of large white hill rocks, it is very noticeable from a distance. The major section of this Great Wall was built along a mountain ridge with large cliffs on each side, and due to the lack of repairs, it is now one of the most dangerous sections of the entire Great Wall. Trekking in Jiankou is an optional activity due the degree of difficulty, but if you are up for it, there is time to undertake this one last challenge before meeting the minibus and heading back to Beijing. As this is a walking tour, we will give all those who wish to trek in Jiankou every opportunity to do so, so we may not arrive back in Beijing until late afternoon or early evening.

    Great Wall Mutianyu Hotel or similar
    Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner

    Day 8 - Beijing

    • Your tour will come to an end after breakfast. A transfer to the airport is not included, however, your tour leader will be on hand to advise you as to the options available.

    Breakfast
  • What to Know

    What's Included

    • An experienced, English-speaking local Peregrine leader and specialist local guides at some sites
    • Authentic Accommodation: 3 nights comfortable hotel, 3 nights local guesthouse, 1 night basic hotel
    • Meals: 7 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners.
    • Arrival transfer
    • Trekking on remote and seldom-visited sections of the Great Wall
    • Rural experiences in a local village and staying at farmers’ inn
    • Sightseeing (including entrance fees where applicable): Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven Park & the Eastern Qing Tombs
    • Chinese visa support

    Not Included

    • International flights
    • Airport departure taxes
    • Departure transfer
    • Visas
    • Meals unless specified in the itinerary
    • Insurance
    • Laundry - may be available at locations where we stay two or more nights
    • Optional tours or activities during free time
    • Tips - this is something to consider, and it might be worthwhile speaking to your group about making a group contribution at the end of the trip

    Safety Information

    China is a safe country to travel in and very few travellers will experience any safetly concerns. Serious crime against foreigners is relatively rare, but incidents do occur. Foreigners can be targeted for passports, laptops, mobile phones, purses and handbags. Major tourist sites and areas frequented by foreigners attract thieves and pickpockets. Take extra care at major tourist sites, street markets, Beijing International Airport, major international events and conferences and popular bar areas after dark.

    There are occasional incidents with taxi and pedicab drivers who insist the passenger misunderstood the fare. Avoid travelling in unmarked or unmetered ‘taxis’ and insist on paying only the meter fare. Ask the driver for a receipt (fapiao), on which the taxi number should be printed. You can take this to the police to lodge a complaint.

    Counterfeit bank notes (especially RMB100) are increasingly common. They are generally crumpled to avoid detection. Unscrupulous traders may try to switch your genuine bank notes for counterfeits. Check carefully before accepting notes. It is quite normal to do so.

    Beware of scams particularly in popular tourist areas. A regular example is the ‘tea tasting’ scam. Scams usually involve a foreign national being invited to visit a bar, shop or cafe – for example to practice English or meet a girl - but results in demands for an exorbitant fee, often payable by credit card. This can result in threats of violence or credit card fraud.

    Fire protection standards in Chinese accommodation are not always the same as at home. Check fire precautions including access to fire exits.

  • Map Itinerary

  • Past Travellers' Ratings & Comments

    At the end of each trip, we ask our travellers to provide feedback. We publish the positive, negative and neutral feedback on this page to give you an overall idea of what to expect on this trip.

    Walking the Great Wall

    Raeleen - Australia, 26 May, 2012
    5
    Overall Rating

    Walking the Great Wall

    Marie - Australia, 8 Sep, 2012
    5
    Overall Rating

    To enjoy the trip you would need to have a fair degree of fitness especially in the legs - do lots of squats leading up to the trip. Expect that accommodation and toilet facilities are mostly very basic. Have an open mind and be accepting about China and its people.

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Trip at a glance

Trip Code PCGW
Group size 4 - 16
Start City: Beijing, China
End City: Beijing, China

What to know

You will need an excellent level of fitness to get the most out of this trip. Expect to walk from 2 to 5 hours per day over 4 days of walking, plus other optional walks. Many sections of the wall are extremely steep, with many steps and unrestored sections. 

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