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Hike the Great Wall at Simatai

Listed under Walking in Beijing, China.

  • Photo of Hike the Great Wall at Simatai
  • Photo of Hike the Great Wall at Simatai
  • Photo of Hike the Great Wall at Simatai
Photo of Hike the Great Wall at Simatai
Photo by flickr user beggs
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Gazing upon an iconic World Wonder is one thing but hiking along one is another thing entirely. To stand on top of a watchtower and see this ancient fortification snake across the rolling hills is one of the more evocative and awe-inspiring experiences in China.

As one of the more remote sections of the wall in the Beijing area this part sees fewer visitors than some of the nearer sections that draw thousands of people every day. It is also more authentic as only small parts were restored to provide easy and safe access for visitors.

Given the time it takes to reach this section and the phenomenal views on a clear day I highly recommend hiking the stretch between Jinshanling and Simatai. This moderately strenuous hike follows the wall across the rolling landscape for about 12km (8 miles) until it disappears into a narrow canyon. From there it is a short and easy walk on a paved path to the car park and restaurants.

The weather can be unforgiving and a single day often makes the difference between bright, clear sunshine or clouded, misty drizzle. Prepare for any weather scenario. When the sun does come out it tends to swelter, especially between June and September. Don't even think of doing the hike without strong walking shoes, plenty of water, sunscreen and hat. Some measly overpriced snacks can be purchased on and near the wall but packing a nice lunch and enjoying it from the lofty heights of a watchtower is a better option.

Despite the relatively low numbers of visitors (don't expect to be completely on your own though) the wall is still plagued by persistent hawkers. It is usually best to accept them as a fact of life and grin at them until they get bored with you. Anger is a poor way of handling any situation in China and this goes here as well. Unless you hold some sort of Olympics record don't even think of outrunning them as many locals do this on a daily basis and have the fitness to prove it.

The wall can be reached from down town Beijing in about 3 hours depending on your mode of transportation. Public buses go as far as Gubeikou and can be a pain. Organize a private car for your party or join one of the daily bus transfers from most hotels and youth hostels.

Carve your initials into this World Heritage site if you feel like exploring the inside of an overcrowded Chinese prison or getting booted out of the country.

Written by  Marc Mekki.

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