Walking the Great Wall of China from Jiankou to Mutianyu

Walking the Great Wall of China from Jiankou to Mutianyu is  a wonderful experience. Jiankou Great Wall is one of the most rustic areas of the wall because it is in its original state.  Mutianyu is fully restored, Visiting Jiankou & Mutianyu gives you a chance to see the wall in a beautiful historic state.

The adventure begins at Xizhazi village–587m /1926ft above sea level. Once you leave the village, the hike is a decent uphill to reach the ruined tower-Zhengbeilou–830m / 2723ft above sea level.

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The strenuous climb up is a great warm up for your day hike.

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Approx. 1 hour walk through the hilly trail, you will reach the ruined tower- Zhengbeikou . You will be rewarded with a spectacular panorama of Jiankou and true nature of Jiankou basin.

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Hiking from Zhengbeikou and Ox Horn Edge is like walking on an obstacle…stepping over piles of stone blocks. Here the steps are missing, the wall is broken, and trees growing on the towers.

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Take a look back at Zhengbeilou,  Listen to the silence of the mountains…

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At times you will walk right along the edge of the wall, quite high above the ground as the stone railings had fallen away.

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Halfway through hiking Jiankou, you’ll reach Ox Horn Edge–a dangerous section as it looks like ox horn in shape – 1011m / 3317ft above sea level.  The climb up over rough terrain is  challenging due to overgrown bushes and loose stone, pebbles.

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Going up is hard. It’s a very steep descent on a slippery stone trail.

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The steep slopes with loose bricks and stones, making it difficult to climb up.

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Going down just may be harder than going up!

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Descending back down the Ox Horn Edge is challenging for most hikers. This is the most dangerous part of wall between Jiankou and Mutianyu.

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A few more quick climbs and descents before you get to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall

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A short walk to the fully restored Mutianyu.

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Resorted section at Mutianyu

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First snow of the season hits Jinshanling & Jiankou & Mutianyu Great Wall

The first significant snowfall of the season hit the Jinshanling , Jiankou and Mutianyu Sunday morning – and so far, it’s sticking. The Great Wall  of China is looking beautiful this morning, and today’s snow served as a helpful reminder that skiers and snowboarders are running out of time to buy this year’s season pass.

Both Mutianyu and Jinshanling reported that light snow was falling Sunday morning. The Great Wall is breathtakingly beautiful on the mountain top and remind us how small we are.

There was some light accumulation on the roads, but traffic was moving. This can make it difficult for the Great Wall visitors. People driving through Jinshanling / Jiankou area should be prepared for cold, snowy conditions. In addition, the snow has been falling at ski resort.

Jinshanling Great Wall

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Jinshanling Great Wall

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Jiankou Great Wall

 

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Jiankou Great Wall

 

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Jiankou Great Wall

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Jiankou Great Wall

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Mutianyu Great Wall

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Mutianyu Great Wall

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Mutianyu Great Wall

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Which part of the Great Wall is the best to visit

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Besides being the gateway to East Asia, China offers numerous breathtaking options for exploration. Famed bustling cities, tranquil ancient temples, authentic Chinese cuisine, spiritual healing customs as well as great man-made and natural features are just a few of the attractions the Orient country supplies. Off all these attractions, The Great Wall is arguably the embodiment of China’s history and culture. No wonder it is one of the Greatest wonders of the world, and listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage.

Due to its popularity, the wall is always jam packed with both foreigners and locals, especially during the holidays. The huge crowd, however, should not discourage you from visiting interesting spots of the wall such as the Badaling.

The wall itself is quite extensive covering an estimated 3100 miles consisting of several separate sections. What people refer to as the Great Wall of China is the area close to Beijing. This section is the most integrated and well preserved. It is however not practical to visit the entire wall, since visiting some parts can take an entire day. So which part of the wall is the best for you to visit? The answer to this question varies from person to person. You must, therefore, do your research and plan carefully the areas you wish to explore. Answering the following questions can help you determine where to travel.

What to consider when deciding which part of the wall to tour

• Do you want to view the wall in its original un-restored state or you prefer seeing the restored wall?

• Would you prefer, going alone or in a full group?

• Do you intend to trek daily, camp overnight on the wall, or fly over the point of interest in a helicopter?

• The amount of time you have is it one hour, two hours or the entire day?

• How long is your vacation?

• What is your budget for the trip?

• Will you wish to take photos?

• Will you require the services of a tour guide?

• From which area in Beijing will you be traveling?

Your answers will help identify the most exciting and rewarding sections of the wall worth visiting. For instance, if you only have a few hours per day, the Badaling, Juyongguan, Mutianyu and Shuiguan sections would be convenient for you. However, if you have an entire day in your hands, the Huanghuacheng, Jinshanling, Gubeikou and Jiankou areas will suffice. Similarly, in case your trip is during winter, nothing will be more satisfying than visiting the Badaling, Mutianyu, and Juyongguan.

A reveler looking for a captivating Wall touring experience will find the Simatai, Jiankou Jinshanling sections interesting. In case you are interested in capturing fascinating sunset and sunrise images of the wall, areas like the Jinshanling, Simatai, and Jiankou offer breathtaking viewpoints. Other sections ideal for photo shoots includes the Huanghuacheng, Mutianyu.

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Badaling

Badaling is the most famous, most visited and most restored section of the Great Wall. Nearly all tour groups and guides include this thrilling section as part of their Beijing trip package. It is easily accessible and conveniently equipped with useful facilities like restaurants, guardrails, cable cars, pulleys, viewing telescopes as well as a long row of souvenir market stalls. In comparison to the Wild Great Wall sections like the Jinshanling, Gubeikou, Jiankou, and Mutianyu, however, Badaling offers less wild scenery and landscapes. Furthermore, it is noisier. Still, it is possible to enjoy a quiet time at the Badaling, by walking towards its southwestern part, which is less crowded, as most revelers and guides prefer walking towards its northeastern side.

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Mutianyu

If you have an entire day and prefer a less crowded section of the Great Wall, Mutianyu is a perfect choice. It offers a better alternative to the noisy and jammed Badaling, in that it is greener, quieter and has very few tour buses. Mutianyu is well established and boasts of features like the Toboggan ride, cable cars or chair lifts which make visiting the Mutianyu an unforgettable experience. Thanks to the cable cars, you can avoid the tiring steep climbing, experienced when visiting the Gubeikou or Jinshanling sections of the Great Wall. If the weather is favorable, you are likely to view magical stretches of the wall and even take photos of the scenery effortlessly as you ascend the wall. Once you are through with your exploration, the fun does not end there. The Toboggan offers a thrilling, fast ride descent back to the entrance. For more details about Mutianyu, you can check out the Mutianyu travel guide.

The sun sets fiery red behind a watchtower at the Jiankou section of the Great Wall of China.

Jiankou

In comparison to Mutianyu or Jinshanling, Jiankou is more wild and secluded. It has a few broken sections, missing steps, while the towers have native plants and trees growing on them. If you are into hiking in the wild, or you find the prospect of trekking in the wilderness adventurous, Jiankou will be a turn-on for you. A word of caution, though, the section can get extremely dangerous when it snows or rains. Traveling to Jiankou offers the rare opportunity for you to explore both the unrestored and the fully restored sections of the Great Wall. From Jiankou, a hiker can easily reach Mutianyu after which he or she can enjoy an exciting downhill ride of the famous Toboggan.

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Jinshanling to Simatai West (East Gate)

One of the hallmarks of a Jinshanling to Simatai West (East Gate) hiking expedition is the breathtaking view. That is precisely what the Jinshanling Great Wall offers. It has magical pristine landscapes, an unmatched sunrise, and sunset view, as well as unique features guaranteed to amaze you. The hike from Jinshanling to Simatai West has petite traffic, meaning it is not noisy, and you can move freely. From the Jinshanling entrance, you can either trek east towards Simatai or to Gubeikou in the west. However, if you decide to go east, you can only do so halfway up to tower 22 towards the East Gate or Simatai West, since the Simatai East is closed. Hiking along the wall has very few challenges. You only must make prior arrangements of booking a tour or hiring a taxi. The good thing is that both the Jinshanling and Simatai are safe, and you can camp on either wall or spend the night in any of the local farmer’s guesthouses.

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Gubeikou

If you need a quiet, less-crowded section that gives a full feel of nature, your search stops at Gubeikou. It is an exciting place for a weekend excursion or a day trip in that it offers the perfect setup of a wild trail adventure. You must, however, be careful. The wall goes through a military zone, making some parts of the wall to be off-limits. Unfortunately, there is no signage to point out the detour from the army area. One more thing you need to be wary of when touring the wall during spring or summer are the sharp spines from the surrounding plants, which can scratch you or even rip your garments.

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Huanghuacheng

If you enjoy striking sceneries, alluring mountains, and calm lakes, you will find a tour of the Huanghuacheng reassuring. You might just find yourself wishing the day doesn’t end while walking along the Huanghuacheng to Xishuiyu. Just like Badaling, Huanghuacheng is a well-restored wall. It is, however, remote and accessing it can be challenging if you are traveling from Beijing, since from the city, there are no direct buses.

Our client Randy’s Wonderful Huanghaucheng Hike

The distance between Beijing and the Great Wall

  1. Beijing (about 103 km) The Jiankou Great Wall;
  2. Beijing (about 150 km) The Gubeikou Great Wall;
  3. Beijing (about 157 km) The Jinshanling Great Wall;
  4. Beijing (about 149 km) The Simatai Great Wall;
  5. Beijing (about 81 km) The Mutianyu Great Wall;
  6. Beijing (about 80 km) The Huahaucheng Great Wall;
  7. Beijing (about 59 km) The Juyongguan Great Wall;
  8. Beijing (about 69 km) The Badaling Great Wall.

The distance between Beijing airport and the Great Wall

  1. Beijing airport (about 66 km) Mutianyu Great Wall, 1.5 hourS by road;
  2. Beijing airport (about 68 km) Juyongguan Great Wall, 1.5 hourS by road;
  3. Beijing airport (about 78 km) Badaling Great Wall, 1.5 -2 hours by road;
  4. Beijing airport (about 90 km) Jiankou Great Wall, 2.5 hours by road;
  5. Beijing airport (about 77 km) Huanghuacheng Great Wall, 2 hours by road;
  6. Beijing airport (about 144 km) Jinshanling Great Wall, 2.5 hours by road;
  7. Beijing airport (about 139 km) Gubeikou Great Wall , 2.5 hours by road;
  8. Beijing airport (about 139 km) Simatai Great Wall , 2.5 hours by road.

Great Wall Map in Beijing Region (right-click to enlarge or print)

best sections of the Great Wall to visit

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Interesting Myths about the Great Wall of China

Interesting Myths about the Great Wall of China

 

Even though people celebrate the Great Wall as a magnificent national heritage, within the walls lie mixed tales of pain, anguish, bloodshed, triumph and regret. These tales, are in the form of myths and legends explaining how some of the prominent features of the wall came to be. Some are familiar stories, while others assert the contribution of a supernatural hand in the construction of the Great Wall of China. Though these legends are numerous, all serve to keep the Chinese Culture and history alive. The following are a few of the interesting myths about the Great Wall of China.

Myth of the Meng Jiangnu

The legend holds that during the Qin Dynasty, the federal officials arrested a peasant by the name of Fan Qiliang, the husband of Meng Jiangnu, and forcefully sent him to build the wall. After many days of unsuccessfully trying to locate her husband, Meng Jiangnu finally reached the Great Wall. Unfortunately, by the time she got to where her husband worked, she discovered that he was no more. The demise of Fan Qiliang distressed her greatly, and she wept bitterly. Her wailing was so loud that it caused some parts of the great Wall to collapse.

The Jiayuguan Pass

The tale is about a proficient arithmetician during the Ming Dynasty, called Yi Kaizhan. Yi Kaizhan was so gifted that he projected it would require 99,999 bricks to construct the Jiayuguan Pass. The supervisor at that time, perhaps driven by envy of the mathematician’s talent, did not only doubt him but threatened to punish all the workers with three years of hard labor in case Yi Kaizhan’s calculation was wrong even if by one brick. Surprisingly, to the delight of the supervisor, one stone remained behind the Xiwong City Gate after the completion of the project. Just as the supervisor was about to make good his threat, Yi Kaizhan proclaimed that a supernatural being placed the brick there to prevent the wall from collapsing. To date, the brick is still on the Jiayuguan Pass tower.

Metal Soup Great Wall

This myth is about the construction of the Huanghuacheng Great Wall located sixty kilometers north of downtown Beijing. During the Ming Dynasty, the emperor ordered General Cai Kai to oversee the building of the Wall. The wall took many years to finish, and immediately after completion, General Cai Kai, went to the capital to update the emperor of the accomplishment. Ironically, Emperor Wanli instantly put him to death. Apparently, the emperor’s ministers had misled the emperor into believing the general had wasted money and done a shoddy work. Later on, however, the Emperor discovered he was lied to as the Huanghuaheng Great Wall was not only solid but the best workmanship his eyes had ever seen. Remorsefully, he ordered the building of a tomb and memorial in honor of the General. The Emperor also wrote the words “Jin Tang”(Metal Soup) on a huge rock below the wall, to indicate the wall was solid and firm.

The Happy Meeting Fortress

There is an interesting tale of how the Happy Meeting or the Xifeng Kou Fortress came to be. During the wall construction times, soldiers had to stay on guard throughout the year without leaving their duty. Being distant from family members obviously was distressing. A father whose son, the only surviving family member, was guarding the wall couldn’t stand being apart from his son. So he set on a journey to locate his son who was defending the Northern Territory of the wall. He managed to find his child, and they embraced happily. In their mixed emotion of laughter, joy, grief, and relief, they both collapsed and died on the spot. Those who witnessed the ordeal were not only shocked but surprised. In memory of the loving father and his son, they named fortress where the two met Xifeng Kou, and their burial place, the Xifeng Kou Pass.

The Ten Brothers

This myth holds that there were ten brothers each gifted differently. The eldest could hear voices from long distances while the second one could see an object from as far as 500km away. The third son was as strong as a bull, and the fourth had a head as hard as steel. The fifth brother’s body was steel-hard, and the sixth had very long legs. The seventh had a gigantic head, while the eighth had incredibly large feet. The ninth and the youngest brothers had a large mouth and enormous eyes respectively.

Now, one day as the brothers were working on their farm, the eldest brother heard cries. Upon looking, the second brother observed the calls for help were coming from hunger-stricken Great Wall Builders. Angry about the situation, the third brother went to help the workers, but the officials chopped off his head. Annoyed, the fifth brother dashed to aid his brother, but the officials decided to drown him in the sea. Fortunately for him, the sixth brother had long legs and was able to save him from drowning. In the process, the sixth brother caught about 30kg of fish, which the seventh brother scooped with his big hat. The ninth brother swallowed all the fish in one bite causing the youngest brother to cry. Since he had big eyes, his tears resulted in the flooding and ruining of some sections of the Great Wall. It explains why sections of the Huanghuacheng Great Wall is partially under water.

Whether these myths are just stories or they took place for real is hard to tell. But they make visiting the Great Wall a magical experience.


The Great Wall of China for kids

The Great Wall of China for kids

 

Most parents avoid visiting the Great Wall, especially when traveling with their young ones because they presume it is only suitable for grownups and inappropriate for kids. Their concern arises from the fact that some sections of the wall are unrestored, slippery, crowded and exhausting. While their worries are understandable, still, there are sections of the Great Wall suitable for kids. These sections of the wall offer various fun packed activities guaranteed to thrill your youngsters. The following are some of the fun activities you and children can enjoy.

a. Chairlift and Cable car rides

If you are worried the steep steps will make your kids exhausted, there are sections of the wall such as the Badaling Wall that conveniently have well-maintained cable cars. It will be fun for the youngsters to sit back, and enjoy the magnificent view of the Wall as they ascend the Wall.

b. Exploring the wall

Kids are curious by nature, and they naturally enjoy exploring stuff. Visiting the Great Wall presents an ideal setting for your children to soothe their curiosity. They will learn about the history of the Wall, as well as the interesting facts and myths about it. Furthermore, your kids will have uninterrupted fun exploring the watchtowers, and forts, while stirring their imaginations into reliving the ancient Great Wall history. Just select a section that is safe and well restored.

The Great Wall of China for kids

c. Breathtaking Photoshoots

The Great Wall has magical landscapes and mythical backdrops for taking photos. Your kids will cherish the opportunity to take pictures in such a setting. Furthermore, the pictures would make an excellent addition to the family album photos.

d. The Great Wall Toboggan Ride

If there is a feature that kids find captivating it is the Toboggan ride. You could identify one of the less challenging sections of the Wall and have fun exploring with your family. When you are through with your tour, just hop in the Toboggan and enjoy the exhilarating ride back to the bottom of the wall. It is one experience that your kids will cherish forever.

e. Museum, and Shops

The Wall has a Museum and many stalls where vendors sell souvenirs. Your children will be grateful to shop around the stalls in search of relics and memorabilia. The prospect of getting a personalized gift with a Great Wall theme is motivation enough to get your youngsters impatient for the trip.

f. Exotic cuisine

Beijing has a reputation for having one of the best cuisines in the world. The Great Wall sections like the Mutianyu has several hotels and restaurants that serve delicious meals as well as creepy crawlies. Both you and the kids will have a thrill daring each other to swallow the unusual foods like spiders, scorpions, and snails. Moreover, if your children fancy tamer meal options, they will find the Chinese pancake a pleasant treat.

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How to maximize your Great Wall visit when touring with Kids

If you intend to travel with children, make sure to schedule your visit when the scenic attractions are less crowded. The ideal time is in Spring and Fall when the weather is neither too hot nor cold. Also, avoid going on the weekend or during major holidays so as to beat the crowds.

Next, you need to prep your kids well in readiness for the trip. Tell them interesting stories about the wall, so as to arouse their interest and curiosity in anticipation for the tour. You could, for instance, narrate the history and the fascinating myths of the wall.

Since the visit of the wall involves spending a considerable amount of time outdoors, make sure you prepare well for the experience. Carry along an adequate supply of water for the family members to stay hydrated, and hats or waterproofs to offer protection from harsh weather conditions. As a precaution make sure you have a carrier just in case one of your offspring gets overwhelmed and needs carrying.

Last but not least, enlist the services of reputable city tour guides, who are conversant with the different sections of the Great Wall. Not only will they advise you on the safe areas to visit, but they will suggest attractions where your kids will enjoy their visit the most.